Fine print, Living with credit, Protecting yourself

Card issuer’s clarity on fees is a little scary, too

John Egan

You certainly can learn a lot about your credit cards when you read the documents that card issuers send in the mail – documents that we often discard as junk mail.

Case in point: The “Clarity Commitment” I recently received after being approved for a Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard. While perusing the two-page commitment, I discovered that this card – like any credit card – comes with a dazzling array of fees.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers

The “Clarity Commitment” just puts these fees front and center. No need to hunt around a card issuer’s website searching for the fees that you might be charged one day.

(I should note that on its website, Bank of America boasts that it is the only major issuers of credit cards for small businesses “to ensure fairness and transparency” in line with Credit CARD Act  protections afforded to holders of consumer cards.)

I decided to apply for the Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard after setting up a second business entity to complement the one I already have for my freelance writing business.

To help keep each business’s expenses separate, I wanted to maintain one credit card for the freelance writing business (an American Express SimplyCash Plus card) and another card for the second business (the Bank of America card).

Fees spelled out in black and white

I was drawn to the Bank of America card for two reasons: I’ve been a customer of the bank since 1996, and the card had no annual fee (unlike my AmEx). But I must not have initially paid much attention to the other fees that were detailed in the “Clarity Commitment”:

(My fingers almost cramped up just typing all of that fee information.)

No fees, please

Fortunately, I doubt I’ll be required to pay any of those fees. Why is that?

I won’t be using the card for cash advances or balance transfers.

I won’t be using this card abroad so I won’t be charged foreign transaction fees.

I’m diligent about dodging overdrafts, late payments and returned payments.

A virtual fee-fest

Unfortunately, any cardholder can be clobbered by fees – fees that rake in billions of dollars for card issuers.

A 2017 survey of 100 widely held credit cards found that overdraft protection fees are uncommon, while more and more cards are eliminating foreign transaction fees. However, Bank of America is in the majority among card issuers that charge the other fees I pointed out.

As emphasized in’s story about the 2017 survey, you can avoid paying these fees.

“It’s all about being as careful as you can when it comes to using your card. Be as educated as possible,” Kimberly Gartner, founder and CEO of the Kimberly Gartner Group, a consulting firm specializing in financial services, told last year.

Familiarize yourself with fees

And that’s the point I’m trying to make here: Educate yourself about the menu of fees for each of your cards.

I quite easily could have ignored the “Clarity Commitment” that Bank of America mailed to me. The bank promotes it as a “quick reference guide” that’s not intended to replace the more voluminous, more formal credit card agreement that accompanied my new card.

Since I’d already received my credit card, I was intrigued by this follow-up mailing; I initially thought the envelope might contain a PIN for the card.

Now, after reviewing the follow-up mailing, I am firm in my commitment to escape each of the dismaying fees with my Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard. A little education goes a long way.

See related: 6 credit card fees you might not know about, What is a foreign transaction fee?

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