Everyday Economy

When terms change, pick up the phone

Kiplinger.com's latest "15-minute Tip" has some useful advice for people who've been getting those sometimes indecipherable notices from their credit-card companies lately.

As a lot of us are learning, the notices often leave a little to be desired when it comes to a full explanation of what's actually changing. They might notify you of your new interest rate, for example, without bothering to specify exactly how much higher it is than your previous one.

So here are a few ways you can take charge and force a little accountability, courtesy of the Kiplinger's piece, authored by author and financial expert Jennifer Openshaw:

  • Call an agent: Pick up the phone immediately and find a live agent willing to explain the changes.
  • Get a comparison: Have the agent clarify what changed, not just what your card's terms are today or after the change. If your effective APR went from "prime plus 14.08%" to "prime plus 17.99%," have them explain that and also what the resulting rate actually is. For any changed fees, ask them what the new and old fees are. Have them do an example if necessary to illustrate total cost.
  • Be persistent: When they're done, ask if there's anything else you should know. I found out that the "penalty period" for the higher default APR if you miss a payment had increased from six months to 12 months. Hard to find in the fine print, and it didn't come with the first explanation.

Read the full article here.

Have you had any luck working through the dense thicket of information on your change-of-terms notices? Have you tried to negotiate different terms with your card issuer?




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Shawn Vestal
Shawn Vestal writes a news column three times a week.

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