ALL ABOUT CREDITCARD (SAFETY & OTHER INFO)

While shopping by credit card, important tips to keep in mind:

Whether you are paying for your dinner in a hotel, clothes at a designer outlet or cosmetics and jewels at shopping malls, nothing is more convenient than a credit card. But the question is how to get the best deal or select the right credit card for you.

The credit card market is hugely competitive. Card issuers are fighting to win you with increasingly tempting offers, such as interest-free introductory periods and perks.

Shop around for the plan that best fits your needs

With the differing rates and features of each credit card, choosing a credit card to fit individual lifestyles can be difficult. Which card is best for you depends on how you plan to use it. People use credit cards in various ways. Some basically use a credit card for identification when making hotel reservations and renting cars. The most important factors for these users would be wide acceptance of the card and the annual fee charged.

Know the grace period

For people who pay off the entire balance every month the first priority in a card is to be sure it has a grace period and to know the length of the grace period.

Also important would be the annual fee and other fees charges such as transaction fees, late charges or over-the-limit charges. These users would want to shop for a card with no annual fee. Another important factor could be the credit limit.

Low-interest rate

People who sometimes have an unpaid balance at the month end would want to choose a card with a low interest rate and a grace period. If there is no grace period, they would pay interest on the outstanding balance whenever they use the card.

Calculation of the interest

For those who usually have an outstanding balance, the most important feature is the calculation of the interest. These users want to get the lowest interest rate possible.

They won't benefit from a grace period because they have an outstanding balance. Another important consideration is how the interest is calculated.

The method used can make a big difference in how much finance charge is paid. Most banks charge 2.95% p.a.; SBI and ICICI Bank charge 2.50%, American Express charges 2.75%.

You should find out how the interest is calculated? Do they use the average daily balance, previous balance or an adjusted balance or some other method?

Fees

Almost all Banking companies charge an annual fee, along with an initial membership fee and other service charges. This can add up to a lot, so check these out before you select a card.

Cash-advance charges

A 'cash advance' means you can withdraw money from a bank against your credit limit. Check out if the bank has any ATMs near your house or workplace. This surely helps in times of emergency.

Most companies charge you for this service, so make sure you understand the fee structure. The cost component for a cash withdrawal could be classified as follows: Service fee (transaction fee) each time you take out money, and interest rate for the period for which you have used the money - until settlement date. If you are going to withdraw cash frequently, better watch out for this cost.

Other charges

Almost all card companies will penalise you each time you make a late payment. Some offer protection services against this fee; others charge a bomb. Check this out.

Acceptability

Distribution networks are important. The acceptability of the card at diverse establishments should also be considered while selecting a card. The more widespread the card-issuer's branches, the more convenient for you.

A global card is useful if you travel abroad a lot. This can be used for paying expenses in foreign currency just like you use a credit card to pay in rupees.

Nowadays, a global card is available at the same cost as a domestic one. It is better to have a global card, especially if there is no premium attached.

Lost card liability

Most card issuers mention in the brochures that lost card liability is Rs 1,000. Be careful, that this is actually after it is reported to the bank.

The liability is actually unlimited before reporting (in cases like this, you would actually be thankful for the (lower) credit limit because though the liability is unlimited - the ceiling should logically be your credit limit, and the outlets accepting your stolen card should actually check that the person who stole your card has not exceeded the credit limit).

Avoid banks that make you liable even for card misuse for a single minute after reporting it.

Free credit period

The days of credit one gets depends on the statement date and the date of transaction. On an average, you could assume you'd get around 20 days of free credit.

However, if you buy just after the statement date, you could end up getting up to 50 days of credit. Look for cards that give you the highest free credit period!

Helpline

A 24-hour helpline service from the card company helps the cardholders during the non-banking hours. Reporting of theft, checking of available credit limit and other enquiries can be made by the cardholder round-the-clock.

Peer feedback

Ask friends and acquaintances about the cards they use. They will have good and bad experiences to relate–use this information in your hunt for the perfect card.

Before deciding on a credit card, be sure to review all the information about the terms. Make a list of the features that best fit your needs and rank them according to how you plan to use the card.

Be sure you understand the terms of a credit card plan before you accept the card. And, once you decide on a credit card plan, make it a point to read all the information the credit card issuers send about the plan. The credit card issuers do make changes that you need to know and understand.

Shop around for the best deal and spend within your means and you will have an excellent means to borrow sensibly over the short term.

Track all receipts and payments (including credit cards) to get a better hold on your cash flows.

Your Responsibility

1. As a credit card user you will be very careful in handling the card. Don't give the card or PIN number to anybody.

2. Keep changing the PIN number once in 2 months of time.

3. Don't give any of your personal information i.e., Credit card number, PIN number, Security question and answer in fraud websites.

4. Have a list of notes where you used the card.

Now it is the time for applying the correct and best credit card that is opted for you, best suited to you.