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Posing tough credit card questions to your bank

Jeremy Simon

Before making a major purchase — such as a car, home or costly appliance — you probably ask the salesperson some tough questions. But do you pose similarly challenging inquiries to the bank when you’re applying for a credit card?

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The Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) thinks you should. With that aim, the consumer advocacy group has created the “Keep your balance: A shopper’s guide to better banking” online worksheet, which is designed “to identify bank practices that make it easier for you to hang on to your money,” as the center’s website explains. “It will help you choose the best financial institution for your needs.”

According to the guide’s categorized tabs, you should be asking about checking account practices, credit card terms and cash advances. Under each of those three category tabs, consumers select between two options (a “green flag” and “red flag”) in response to several questions. Not surprisingly, a “red flag” represents “something to look out for.”

If you’re in the market for plastic, here’s the checklist of questions the CRL says potential credit cardholders should pose to their banks:

  1. What happens if I make a late payment?

 

  • Does your credit card have a minimum finance charge? 
  • Do you use information about where I shop and what I buy in determining whether to make changes to my account, such as adjusting the line of credit? 
  • Do you sell “add-ons” to your credit card such as credit protection, identity theft protection or credit monitoring?

 

Are your palms sweating before even picking up that phone? If so, just remember that “the customer representative you interview may not be accustomed to discussing these specific problem practices. If you are hesitant to ask questions that may seem to challenge them, keep in mind that it shows you are a responsible, informed consumer,” the CRL notes.

Here are a few more questions I think are worth asking:

  • Do you report my on-time payments and other responsible borrowing behavior to the credit bureaus to help me build (or improve) my credit history?
  • If I do incur a penalty rate, will you review my account and restore my original interest rate after a certain number of consecutive on-time payments? After how many payments?
  • How long is your grace period before I get charged interest?

Those questions were for the banks, but now I have one for the you: What else should consumers ask their credit card issuers before giving them business?

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  • Connie

    No one should hesitate to call an issuer and ask questions about their credit card contract.