Credit Cards

Tips, news, reviews, caveats, trends, updates and analysis related to consumer and business credit cards, and prepaid debit cards. From the interest rate specialists @ FedPrimeRate.com

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Average Credit Card APR's Rise

The average annual percentage rate (APR) on credit cards increased this week, according to the folks @ IndexCreditCards.com. More details can be found below in the clip from today's press release:

"Average credit card rates rose again this week, but, with most every major issuer having implemented increases this year, they may be due for a lull, according to the weekly IndexCreditCards.com Credit Card Monitor.

The average credit card rate for standard, non-reward credit cards jumped to 13.27% this week, up from 13.17% a week ago and 12.60% at the beginning of 2006. Credit cards offering rewards had an average rate of 14.33%, up from 14.26% last week and 13.80% at the beginning of the year. For consumers with the very best credit ratings, the averages are 10.53% and 11.79%, respectively.

Credit cards marketed to college students continue to raise their rates as well. The average student credit card rate is now 15.84%, up from 15.77% last week and 15.18% at the beginning of the year.

Business credit card rates rose also, although as a group they continue to offer the lowest rates. The average non-reward business card offers an 11.49% APR, up from 11.43% last week and 11.33% on January 1. Business credit cards offering rewards have an average 13.42% APR, up from 13.36% last week and 13.21% at the year’s start.

'After a surprising rise in the first month and a half of this year, rates should hold steady for at least a short while,' says Justin McHenry, Research Director of IndexCreditCards.com. 'They almost have to -- everyone’s already raised their rates.'

Financial institutions represented in the survey include Advanta, American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citi, Discover, MBNA, National City, Providian, Pulaski Bank, U.S. Bank, Wachovia, Wells Fargo and more."


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The Average Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for Business Credit Cards Rose This Week

According to the latest IndexCreditCards.com press release, the average annual percentage rate (APR) on business credit cards rose this week. Here's a snippet from today's release:

"...Business credit card rates rose also, although as a group they continue to offer the lowest rates. The average non-reward business card offers an 11.49% APR, up from 11.43% last week and 11.33% on January 1. Business credit cards offering rewards have an average 13.42% APR, up from 13.36% last week and 13.21% at the year’s start..."


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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Federal, State and Local Governments Jump Onto The Prepaid Debit Card Bandwagon

It's really no surprise that federal, state and local governments are starting to use prepaid debit cards for all types of payments and disbursements, like child support disbursements. It's all about efficiency, and I think we all like the idea of our government agencies focusing on improving efficiency!

Here's a snippet from an interesting press release that was issued today:

"Fidelity National Information Services (NYSE: FIS), formerly known as Certegy, today announced a three-year exclusive agreement with Official Payments Corp.® , a subsidiary of Tier Technologies (Nasdaq: TIERE) of Reston, Virginia, to issue Visa® prepaid debit cards.

Through its relationships with federal, state and local government entities, Official Payments Corp. facilitates payments between individuals and governments using comprehensive technology solutions. Under the terms of the agreement, Certegy will provide Official Payments with Visa-branded prepaid debit products as part of an initiative to convert government disbursements to electronic prepaid card solutions. The relationship will initially focus on the conversion of child support disbursements, expanding to include additional prepaid debit programs in the future.

Through this innovative solution, child support disbursements will be loaded on prepaid stored value cards, which automatically reload as future payments are received. Official Payments will distribute VISA, Interlink® and Allpoint branded cards. This unique payment program will allow recipients to receive their child support payments faster, with no-cost access to their funds.

'The convenience and cost-saving implications of a prepaid debit card program of this type are significant,' said Gary Norcross, president of Integrated Financial Solutions for Fidelity. 'We are very excited to partner with Official Payments to enable consumers to receive payments in a fast, safe and easy manner.'

'We are delighted to work with Fidelity National Information Services to provide prepaid debit card payment options to government entities across the nation,' said T. Jack Williams, senior vice president, strategic programs for Tier Technologies. 'Their experience and leadership in the transaction processing and payment services industry will enable us to meet the needs of our customers more effectively.'

About Fidelity National Information Services, Inc.
Fidelity National Information Services, Inc. (NYSE: FIS) is a leading provider of core processing for financial institutions; card issuer and transaction processing services; mortgage loan processing and mortgage-related information products; and outsourcing services to financial institutions, retailers, mortgage lenders and real estate professionals. FIS has processing and technology relationships with 35 of the top 50 global banks, including nine of the top ten. Nearly 50 percent of all U.S. residential mortgages are processed using FIS software. Headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, FIS maintains a strong global presence, serving over 7,800 financial institutions and over 100,000 retailers in more than 60 countries worldwide. For more information on Fidelity National Information Services, please visit http://www.fidelityinfoservices.com.

FIS is a majority-owned subsidiary of Fidelity National Financial Inc. (NYSE: FNF), number 261 on the Fortune 500. More information about FNF can be found at http://www.fnf.com.

About Official Payments Corp.
Official Payments Corp., a Tier company (Nasdaq: TIERE), delivers innovative financial transaction processing services to governments, businesses and consumers in the U.S. and abroad. Headquartered in Reston, Virginia, Official Payments' clients are comprised of more than 2,000 federal, state, and local governments and agencies including the IRS, educational institutions, utilities and commercial clients. Official Payments' solutions drive financial transaction processing for a diverse range of markets. From the electronic government payments market Official Payments pioneered in 1996, to the rapidly growing prepaid card industry, to leading-edge markets such as biometric payment systems, Official Payments is committed to making payments go faster, smarter and safer. For more information, visit http://www.officialpayments.com."


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Monday, February 06, 2006

Latest Balance Transfer Offers from BJ's MasterCard (Chase)

Got a pretty good offer in the mail on Friday from BJ's MasterCard®; this was not an offer to open a new account, as I already have a BJ's MasterCard in my wallet (BJ's is a membership-based, wholesale warehouse "club" a la Costco; the BJ's MasterCard is co-branded with Chase Bank USA [a.k.a. JP Morgan Chase].) The letter began:

"We want to be your number one credit card. We noticed that you recently made a large payment to your BJ's MasterCard® account [via a balance transfer] and want to make sure we're not losing your business. That's why we want to remind you again of these low-rate reasons to stay--it's our way of showing you that your business is important to us."

OK, so far I'm liking the tone of this letter. The letter goes on:

"You can choose which offer is best for you:
  • 0% fixed annual percentage rate (APR) for 6 billing cycles with check number [check #1] and [check #2].
  • 3.99% fixed APR until the balance is paid off with check number [check #3], [check #4] and [check #5]
Use your low-APR checks to save with your BJ's MasterCard account, to deposit for extra cash, or consolidate higher-interest balances. Write them for any amount up to the unused portion of your available credit--and enjoy the money-saving result."

Not bad. The 0% for 6 months offer is too short for my tastes, but the "3.99% until the transferred balance is paid off" offer is quite appealing and I may use it to pay off my Bank of America Visa card which has a balance of about $3,500 right now.

If I do take advantage of the 3.99% offer, I won't be able to use my BJ's credit card until the transferred balance is paid in full; not because of a restriction associated with the balance transfer offer--no, it's because if I were to make any purchases on the card, those purchases would be subject to high interest charges, and I would have to continue to pay the higher monthly finance charges until the account balance is reduced to zero. Making purchases on a credit card to which you've transferred a balance is one of the ways that the credit card companies "get you" with these deals. It's not devious or underhanded, it simply punishes those who don't have the discipline to either a) read the terms and conditions of the balance transfer offer completely, or b) stop using the credit card to which a balance has been transferred. Make a purchase on a card to which you've transferred a balance, and most banks / credit card companies will apply any and all monthly installment payments to the lower-interest, transferred balance(s) first, leaving all other purchases and cash advances subject to the card's standard (and sometimes higher than standard!) annual percentage rate, and they'll keep doing this until the transferred balance is paid in full.

My dilemma is this: my BJ's MasterCard is currently the only credit card I'm using for temporary financing of the usual odds and ends of life. This is because all my other credit cards are either tied up in balance transfer deals or have a standard APR that is relatively high (for me, relatively high means anything higher than 9.99% APR.) I could just transfer my Bank of America Visa card balance using the above deal, then start using my Bank of America card for everyday financing, but then I would lose all the great rewards benefits that are built into the BJ's card.

No big deal, really. I'm probably going to transfer my Bank of America Visa balance and start using that card, because even though the BJ's card rewards are great, they require one to spend quite a bit in order to take maximum advantage of the rewards, and I don't plan on making any major purchases any time soon.

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for the latest on my adventures in the world of credit card balance transfers.

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