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 @

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

New Card from Chase: 15 Month Zero Percent Intro APR, with No Balance Transfer Fee

Slate credit card from Chase, featuring a zero percent introductory interest rate, and no balance transfer feeChase has a new version on their Slate card that offers a zero percent introductory interest rate on both new purchases and transferred balances for 15 months, with no balance transfer fee. This new card is the second card listed on our No Fee Balance Transfer page.

Great news, especially for those still loaded with Christmas shopping-related credit-card debt.

Actually, it's great news for just about anyone who's currently paying interest on any credit-card balance.

Even better: no "limited-time" attached to this new Chase offer, so this one is probably going to be around for a while.

To review other attractive credit-card offers from Chase, check out this page.

As always: enjoy! And stay tuned.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Discover Lowers Balance Transfer Fee from 4% to 3% On Two Very Popular Cards

0% Credit CardsRight now, the two most popular cards we recommend are both issued by Discover. They are the:

Transfer a balance to either card above, and you used to be subject to a 4% balance transfer fee. No longer. The transfer fee has been lowered to 3% for both cards. You have 6 months to take advantage of the 3% transfer fee -- plenty of time. After that, if you want to perform a transfer, the fee is 5%.

Obviously, the lower transfer fee makes these cards more competitive. But I think Discover is going to have to bring back their 24 Month Balance Transfer card, which offered zero intro APR on transferred balances for a full 2 years, if the company wants to stay ahead of Citi® in the balance transfer game (Discover pulled their 24 Month Promotional card from the market back May.)

Right now, Citi has no less than four credit cards that feature zero percent intro APR on both transferred balances AND new purchases for 21 months, with a transfer fee of 3%. Very competitive. These cards are:

So don't be surprised if Discover reintroduces anSlate from Chase card, featuring 0% intro APR and No Balance Transfer Fee ultra-long duration, 0% balance transfer card, or a "no balance transfer fee" 0% card, or a card that combines both competition-trumping benefits, in the near future.

Chase recently upped the ante by introducing a version of its Slate card that features zero percent intro APR on transferred balances for 15 months, with no balance transfer fee. You can find this card at the top of this page.

Despite the increased competition, Discover remains the top choice for visitors who apply for credit accounts via this website. Discover's reputation for offering exceptional customer service (1) is very appealing to all types of credit consumers. And it doesn't hurt that Discover has (arguably) the best cashback rewards program in the industry.

All of the above cards will be very popular from January through March, as Americans do their best to minimize debt related to holiday shopping. Christmas spending is great for the economy, and it's great for all the kids in your circle of family and friends. But try to take it easy. All things in moderation. The housing sector is still weak, unemployment still elevated and growth remains anemic. If your financial situation is great, then by all means spend away and enjoy all the juicy rewards that credit cards have to offer. If not, then please think twice hard before you upgrade that iPhone or that XBox 360.

As the economy slowly but surely thaws over the next three quarters, credit-card deals will get more and more doubt. Stay tuned, and have yourself a superlative holiday season.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Chase Sapphire: Living the Good Life (A Review)

The Chase Sapphire Credit CardIt seems that many rewards cards today try to restrict the way you redeem your rewards, forcing you to choose between either cash back, merchandise, or miles. The Chase Sapphire card is strikingly different. Cardholders have the flexibility to redeem their rewards points on just about anything-hotel rooms, airfare, or simply cash back. Alluring sign-up incentives and decent card terms make the Chase Sapphire card a cut above the regular plastic.

Oscar Wilde once said, “I can resist everything except temptation,” and the Chase Sapphire card certainly is not lacking in that department. With 10,000 bonus points after your first purchase and no earnings cap or rewards expiration, the Sapphire makes it hard for even the most disciplined individual to say no. The Sapphire card boasts a low 12.24% APR on purchases and balance transfers, has no annual fee, and earning one point for every dollar spent gives you the ability to rack up points to choose a reward(s) that truly suits you.

The Ultimate Rewards program is one of the most generous rewards programs out there today. With no points expiration or black-out dates, if you can dream it, Chase will make it happen. Ever wanted to swim with dolphins? Treat that special someone to a VIP concert experience? How about a five-star dining experience to spoil your family? By using the Sapphire card, you can turn an ordinary day into an extraordinary one that won‘t soon be forgotten. Many of the events offered through Ultimate Rewards are exclusive to cardholders, making each excursion truly one-of-a-kind.

Racking up rewards points is as easy as swiping your card. Earning one point for every dollar is great, but when you shop within the Chase online mall portal that has over 300 merchants, you have the potential to earn up to ten points per dollar spent. You can even earn double points when you book your airline seats through the Travel Booking Tool. But worry not. If travel rewards aren’t quite your thing, you can redeem your points for gift cards to spend at your favorite stores. Rewards start at $25 for 2500 points. Or you can even choose to “pay yourself back” by using your points for a statement credit.

In addition to the Ultimate Rewards program, the Chase Sapphire card has all the attractive features people have come to expect from Chase. The features include Trip Cancellation and Travel Accident Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Zero Liability for fraudulent purchases, and a personal concierge. One of the best features included for wielding the Sapphire card is the ability to talk directly to a customer service person. By calling the number on the back of your card, you instantly are connected to a live person instead of “Pressing 3 to…” Chase also gives its cardholders extra peace of mind if their card is lost or stolen. They will expedite a replacement card to you and even arrange emergency cash for you until your new card arrives.

For those that like to keep a close eye on their finances, the Chase Sapphire also comes standard with Blueprint. By using Blueprint, you can decide how you’d like to pay down those larger purchases and watch your balance drop. Chase also sends you a year-end report, organized by purchase type. This easily helps you track your spending for the past year as well as making filing your tax return that much easier.

Unfortunately many of us will never have the opportunity to enjoy the luxuries this card has to offer; it is designed for those in the top 15% of household earnings. Even still, it is an excellent choice for those who do qualify, giving them the chance to make their every dream come true. As for the rest of us…well, we can still browse, right?

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Chase Freedom Credit Card, A Review

Credit Card Review: The Chase Freedom Credit CardSummary: If you are looking for a no-hassle rewards card, look no further than Chase Freedom. With its simple rewards platform and easy reward redemption process, earning and using your rewards has never been simpler.

Finding that perfect rewards card can be likened to finding a needle in a haystack. With so many options from so many different credit card companies, it is easy to become overwhelmed. If you are looking for a simple, easy-to-use rewards card look no further than the Chase Freedom card. Chase has designed a simple rewards platform that makes it easy to earn and redeem your rewards. Coupled with no annual fee, unlimited rewards, and rewards that never expire, how can you go wrong?

The Nitty-Gritty

With the Chase Freedom card, you can enjoy a zero-percent APR (annual percentage rate) for the first six months your account is open. Your creditworthiness will determine your APR, which starts as low as 12.99%. The Freedom card also gives you the ability to transfer balances to your card at zero percent interest for the first twelve months your account is open, but it must be done when you initially apply for the card. Otherwise a minimum 12.99% rate applies for any balance transfer, again, depending on your credit history. You’ll want to stay on top of your payments; any account over 60 days past due reverts to the default 29.99% APR, potentially reducing any rewards you might accrue if you carry a balance. It should be noted that to even be considered for this credit card, you must have a good credit history. In addition, employment status and annual income are also important factors when determining your creditworthiness.

Chase Blueprint

Once you are approved for the Chase Freedom card, be sure to enroll in Chase Blueprint to begin managing your account. Blueprint allows you to take control of your finances, providing you with the necessary tools to pay down/pay off your account balance. This service is free to all Chase Freedom cardholders, and can be altered as needed to meet your needs. You can specify which purchases you’d like to pay in full to avoid interest charges as well as which purchases you’d like to pay for over time, called Split. You can split the payments up over however many months you’ll need, and Blueprint will track your progress on each statement until it is paid off. Their Finish It tool shows you how long it will take to pay off a large balance, showing you the amount in interest you will save as well as how many fewer payments you’ll have to make.


At the core of the rewards program, you earn a full 1% cash back on every purchase with no earnings cap. Chase has also taken a leaf from Discover’s page and added rotating rewards and a shopping portal to earn additional rewards on purchases. The rotating rewards program allows you to earn 5% back on purchases made in various categories that change every three months. Quarterly enrollment is required to ensure that your purchases are properly tracked, and earnings are capped at $600 per month. Using the Chase shopping portal allows the participating merchants to track your purchases and issue your rewards. Merchants like Bath & Body Works, Best Buy, Home Depot, iTunes, and Wal-Mart all allow you to earn percentages from each purchase ranging from 1% to as high as 20%. There are a few merchants that give you a preset dollar amount per purchase rather than a percentage, so be sure to check before you buy.

Rewards Redemption

Redeeming your hard-earned rewards is always the best part, and Chase offers several redemption options to choose from. You can opt to redeem your points for travel by booking online through Chase travel, which is powered by Orbitz. You can also redeem your rewards for gift cards from merchants like Best Buy, Dunkin Donuts, Lowes, or Target. Of course, you can also choose to receive the good ‘ole greenback to do whatever your heart desires. With the Chase Freedom card, the sky is the limit and the choice is yours.

Bottom Line

The Chase Freedom card is an excellent rewards card for those who want either cash back or gift cards to their favorite stores. This card is easy-to-use, has a simple reward calculation formula, and has an easy rewards redemption process. However, in order to enjoy the benefits this card offers you must have a good credit rating. Chase Freedom also has higher interest rates than some of the other rewards cards out there which do not translate well for those who will carry a balance. If you are a frequent flier, you may want to find a card that allows you to amass airline miles coupled with the other frequent traveler perks other cards offer.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Slate: A New 0% Credit Card from Chase

Slate from Chase
Slate from Chase
The government continues to report positive macroeconomic news. Yesterday, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) released its Purchasing Manager's Index (PMI) for October 2009. The PMI came in at 55.7%, better than what Wall Street economists were expecting, and better than the September figure. For the PMI, any figure above 50% is a strong indication that the American manufacturing sector is expanding.

Though an economic recovery appears to be taking hold, too many Americans are still dealing with various forms of oppressive debt, a home mortgage balance that's higher than their home's value, and job insecurity. In fact, earlier today Johnson & Johnson, a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) and number 29 on the Fortune 500, announced that the company will be cutting 7,000 jobs (that's between 6% - 7% of its workforce.) National unemployment, already at 9.8%, will almost certainly rise during the fourth quarter and into Q1 2010. A jobless economic recovery? Yes: we're in it right now.

The whole world is relieved that the subprime debt-inspired credit crisis, which precipitated the worst recession since the early 1980's, and which brought the American financial system to its knees, has almost run its course. The liquidity maelstrom of 2008 and 2009 prompted the banks which survived the subprime debacle to cutback on all kinds of loans, including credit cards.

But financial markets are on the mend, as evidenced by low LIBOR rates, a healthy TED spread and the return of generous 0% intro APR credit cards.

Credit cards that offer a 0% intro APR period of at least 12 months all but disappeared from the market last year. But they're back. JPMorgan Chase Bank, commonly known simply as Chase, recently revealed a new credit card called Slate. Here are the vitals on Slate:

  • 0% introductory APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles
  • 0% introductory APR on transferred balances for 12 billing cycles
  • Balance transfer fee of 3% of each transaction, with a minimum of $5
  • NB: The 0% intro APR is reserved for those who qualify for "Elite" or "Premium" pricing. Those who can only qualify for "Standard" pricing cannot take advantage of any interest-free introductory period with this particular card.
  • For those who qualify for Elite pricing, the "goto" rate (also known as the ongoing rate) is 13.24% (the U.S. Prime Rate plus 9.99%); for Premium pricing it's 17.24% (Prime plus 13.99%.) For Standard pricing, the introductory and goto rate is 22.24% (Prime plus 18.99%.)

If you have a good FICO® credit score (above 700), you will probably qualify for either Elite or Premium pricing.

Slate is a very timely credit card: it has arrived in time for the fast approaching Christmas shopping season. With Slate, cardholders can do their holiday shopping and have plenty of time (12 billing cycles) to pay their credit card balance down to zero without having to worry about interest charges.

The goto rate with the Slate card, however, is relatively high when compared to consumer-friendly credit card offers that were available before the global credit crisis (likely a direct result of new rules included in the Credit Card Act of 2009.) For the consummate borrower who qualifies for Elite pricing, the rate charged on any balance remaining after the interest-free, introductory period ends is Prime (currently 3.25%) plus 9.99%, which translates to 13.24%.

But the U.S. Prime Rate is as low as it can possibly go. As the economy heats up, it will certainly rises, and it will likely do so at a relatively fast clip as the Fed works to contain future inflation. There is no way of knowing exactly how high the Prime Rate will be a year from now, but if we plug in the median U.S. Prime Rate -- 8.75% -- then we get a rate of 18.74%, which anyone would agree is not consumer-friendly. In fact, any rate above 15% would be too much of a financial burden for the typical credit card consumer.

That's why we recommend Slate for anyone who can pay their balance down to zero over 12 months or so, which shouldn't be that hard to do (no need to go crazy with the Christmas shopping!)

As always, your comments are welcome and appreciated.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Confessions of A Customer Service Rep: A Must-Read for Anyone with A Credit Card

Credit Cards
Credit Cards
Pay all your bills on time, keep your credit score high and keep all your credit accounts immaculate, and you will be able to take advantage of just about all the 0% credit card offers available in the market. You can surf 0% offers and avoid paying interest on your credit card debt for years if you want, but only if you keep all your accounts in excellent shape.

Many consumers believe that the credit-card companies are basically very greedy and will do anything to make money off their customers. This, in my opinion, is a very simplistic view of credit-card banks. As I've told many friends and family members over the years: keep your credit score and credit accounts in top shape, and the credit-card banks will work for you. It's true. That's why people who have tons of money in the bank still use credit cards. They pay their balances in full every month and therefore pay no interest and no fees, and they take advantage of the generous rewards programs that most credit card companies offer these days. Moreover, they get the added benefit of fraud protection, which means no worries about dishonest retailers, lost credit cards or charges that they didn't make. That, quite simply, is the bank working for you!

Today, I came across an excellent article on titled 10 Confessions Of A Chase Customer Service Rep. In my opinion, this article is an absolute must-read for anyone and everyone who has a credit card. This article contains insider information that will make you a much better credit consumer. If you've ever wondered why you weren't able to get your way when you called your credit card company about e.g. waiving a fee or getting your APR lowered, then this article will educate you. If you've ever wondered why credit card companies will let you go over your limit instead of simply denying the charge, then this article will enlighten you. Read the article, and pass it on to your friends and family.

My favorite quote from the article:

"...If you use credit cards wisely, you can make the bank work for you, but instead, we see banks with profits in the billions of dollars every year."


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Sunday, September 30, 2007

I Paid A Fee, Willingly, for Transferring A Credit-Card Balance

Balance Transfer Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
For obvious reasons, the most popular credit cards recommended at this site are those which offer a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for at least 6 months and don't charge a fee for transferring balances. So you may find it surprising that recently, I willingly paid a fee to transfer a balance, even though I could have easily qualified for a quality credit card that doesn't charge a fee for the privilege.

The reason I willingly paid a fee? Because, in my situation, it was worth it.

My business credit card debt was a bit high for my tastes (~$7,000) and, even though I could have paid the balance down to zero within 2 billing cycles, I wasn't interested in using up a large percentage of my free cash to clear the debt. The best solution, I thought, was to transfer the balance to a new business credit card with an attractive balance transfer offer and the best possible, fixed "goto" rate, then pay down the balance over 4 or 5 billing cycles.

I chose to transfer my business credit card balance to the Chase Premier Cash Rebate card, and I did so via an unsolicited offer I received in the mail! Critical offer details were:

  • 0% Intro APR on new purchases, balance transfers and balance transfer checks for 12 months.
  • Purchase APR (the "goto" rate) of 9.99% fixed.
  • Balance transfer fee: 3% of transaction, with a minimum of $5 and a maximum of $99.

Here's why I chose this card:

  • I've been yearning for a business credit card with a low and fixed interest rate (my idea of low is below 10% APR) for many years now. I like business credit cards because they afford me an attractive level of anonymity when I do business and shop online, and because they really do a great job of building the credit rating of my business. I applied for a similar Chase business credit card about 2 years ago, and that application was rejected even though my personal and business credit rating was good. I was disappointed, but not totally surprised by the rejection, because banks are very careful when it comes to business credit cards (unsecured debt) that have a very competitive interest rate.
  • Even though I really don't like the idea of responding to unsolicited mail (the idea is anathema to me, almost as bad as responding to a spam email message, in my opinion), I had to make an exception for this card. As soon as I received the latest iteration of this particular offer (I get unsolicited business credit card offer from Chase about once per month!) I scoured the Internet to see if I could find the same deal online. I failed. The lowest goto APR for a Chase business card I could find online was 11%, and that was variable. I already have a business credit card from both Citi and Bank of America. I used to have a Capital One Business credit card, but I canceled it long ago because the credit line was wimpy ($500) and they wouldn't increase it. The Advanta Platinum Business Card with Rewards Options card was very, very tempting, with a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 16 months, and a goto APR of Prime minus 0.26%, but the goto APR is variable, and there's no 0% intro APR for new purchases.

    Bottom line: big credit card companies often reserve the very best offers for the solicitations they send out to well-qualified, prescreened consumers.

    Actually, what I hate most about those wasteful credit card solicitations is the fact that they are the reason why identity theft is so prevalent these days. Many banks like to cast a very wide net so as to generate as much business as they can, but this tactic ends up making it easy for the crooks to get hold of our sensitive information. You can elect to opt out, of course, but I choose not to, because these offers are often the best deals around. So, yeah: I have a true love/hate relationship with unsolicited credit card offers. Of course, I have a very powerful and efficient shredder, so I can shred all the discarded offers 10 at a time.

    I sometimes wonder: if my mailbox was on the street and easy to access, would I be wrestling with a serious identity theft situation right now? It's the stuff of nightmares!
  • After years of taking advantage of 0% deals in my never-ending quest to pay as little interest as possible, I now find myself loaded up with more personal credit cards than I need, and I don't want to add another personal card to my collection. Furthermore, canceling one or more of them would likely cause my personal credit score to drop, and I don't want that. I've worked hard to eliminate my personal credit card debt and simultaneously get my credit score to a happy place (my TransUnion score is 813 now) and I don't want to do anything to mess it up (I'm planning on buying some property in the not-too-distant future.)

So, as of right now, and thanks to a recent credit line increase on my Citi® Business card, I have $40,000 of unsecured credit available to me for business spending. Furthermore, I now have a business card with a low, fixed APR that I can use for all my temporary financing needs. So I am quite pleased...for now. Depending on how things go, I may signup for that sexy Advanta card in the future.

If you like 0% offers, then check out those unsolicited snail-mail offers at least once in a while. And make sure you have a good shredder.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Executives from Chase, Citi and Bank of America Testify Before The U.S. Senate

Credit Cards
A lot of folks out there like to bash credit card companies for their high fees and draconian penalties but I don't buy a lot of it, mostly because I've been able to surf 0% offers and enjoy interest-free loans for years now, which has enabled me to do great things from both a business and personal perspective. Bottom line: if you're a responsible borrower then the banks will treat you accordingly. It's really that simple. And I'm writing from experience: I am now a very responsible borrower, and, many years ago, I was the exact opposite (and then some!)

I was watching Bank of America's Bruce Hammonds, Citigroup's Vikram Atal and Chase Bank's Richard Srednicki testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on C-Span today. The hearing's title was "Credit Card Practices: Fees, Interest Rates, and Grace Periods." It was a very good discussion and I'm glad I caught it. Lots of hard questions were asked, and I learned quite a bit from the responses, comments and complaints made by hearing participants.

I was actually quite surprised to find myself on the side of the banks more often than I was against them. Four industry practices I don't like:

  • 1) I'm very much against the marketing of credit cards to high school and college students. My credit woes (which are now ancient history) began in college when I lost my head with a credit card. I just learned today that the credit card companies pay schools for the right to shower kids with credit card offers. Should a kid with no experience with finances, working (maybe) a part-time job at minimum wage have a credit card? I don't think so! A college or high school student should have a prepaid debit card that can be monitored by parents online. Yup. Of course, the credit card companies should not shoulder all the blame: by accepting money from banks and credit card firms, colleges and universities are complicit with this dubious practice. Not good.
  • 2) The way the credit card companies calculate the so called "grace period" needs to be fixed. There are credit consumers out there who pay their balance in full each and every month and still get stuck with interest charges because they don't really understand how the grace period rules work. Bottom line: the grace period rules are confusing, and industry leaders need work on improving the way grace periods are structured.
  • 3) I understand the reasoning behind Universal Default, but the credit card companies have taken it too far. Credit card companies should either scale it back, or get rid of it altogether (see below for some positive news related to Universal Default.)
  • 4) The use of the term "pre-approved." Nonsense. Some time ago I had an application declined, and it was initiated from a so-called "pre-approved" credit card offer. The experience really boiled my blood, especially because any rejection can cause your credit score to decline.
  • 5) In my opinion, "fixed" should mean fixed, all the time, every time. Is that too much to ask? Under current federal law, a "fixed" annual percentage rate (APR) on a credit card means that the credit card company can change the so-called "fixed" rate as long as they give you 15 days notice of the change. To be fair to consumers -- especially those who are new to credit cards -- credit card companies should instead use the term "conditionally fixed" or "provisionally fixed."
A guy named Wesley Wannemacher, who had money problems back in 2001, testified about how a $3,200 credit card debt ended up costing him a total of $6,300, and, according to last month's credit card statement, he still owed $4,400! Yikes! Wannemacher was charged an over-the-limit fee 47 times. Chase Bank's Richard Srednicki apologized to Wannemacher for the experience, and pledged to have Wannemacher's credit card debt forgiven. Yup: he actually apologized. Now that was something to behold.

OK, now I present the positive side, the way I see it:

  • O% Intro APR offers: love 'em!
  • Credit card debt is unsecured! even if you decide to totally blow off your credit card debt, no one will come and take your home, your car, your first-born child, etc.
  • Fraud protection: with most credit cards out there, if you get ripped off and you paid with a consumer credit card, you can dispute the charges (chargeback.) Furthermore, If someone gets hold of your credit card and goes crazy, in most cases you won't be responsible for those charges.
  • The Internet makes it easier than ever to pay your bill on time. Even if you don't have an Internet connection, you can always stop by your local library and get online from there. And the industry should be commended for instituting payment tools like scheduled payments, automatic payments and email alerts (I use them all), so even the laziest of the lazy need not worry about late payments.
  • Competition and regulation keep the banks and credit card firms in check. Don't like the terms with one card? Switch to another!
  • No one is forced to open a credit card account!
  • Convenience and Tracking: Who wants to carry wads of cash around all the time? Plus, it's much easier to track your spending when you use a credit card.
  • Compared to 20-30 years ago (yes, I'm quite old!), credit is very easy to get today. Furthermore, interest rates were in the 20% range for everybody back then! And the fees! How many credit cards (credit cards, not charge cards) do you have in your wallet that charge and annual fee? I'm willing to bet none.
Individuals with credit card accounts who run into serious financial dire straits should keep in contact with each credit card company and workout a payment plan. I think a lot of people who run in to trouble with their finances get scared and try their best to hide from their creditors. Big mistake!

It's my opinion that credit card offers will only improve over time. Just last week, the folks at Citigroup announced that they won't play the Universal Default game anymore. Check out this clip from a recent press release:

"...Citi is eliminating the industry practice of increasing interest rates for individual cardholders due to their defaults on financial commitments with other parties, sometimes known as “universal default”. Until now, Citi has given customers the right to opt out of any such increase. But with this announcement, Citi is going even further, abandoning the practice altogether for all customers.

Citi is also eliminating “any time for any reason” increases to the rates and fees of its customers’ accounts. Traditionally, credit card issuers have taken the position that they can increase the rates and fees of a cardholder’s account at any time for any reason; for example, to respond to general conditions in the financial markets. As a result of the new policy, Citi will not voluntarily increase the rates and fees of the account until the card expires and a new card is issued (typically two years).

Now, the only reason the rates and fees will increase before the card expires is if a customer pays Citi late, exceeds the credit limit or pays with a check that bounces. When the interest rate on the card is linked to the prime rate, the rate would change only as the prime rate moves up or down..."
Kudos to you, Citi, for moving in the right direction.

Bank of America does not today, and has not in the past, engaged in the practice of Universal Default. Kudos to you, BofA.

The folks at Discover Card recently agreed to remove the Universal Default clause from the terms & conditions related to their credit card offerings. A gold star for you, Discover.

Double-cycle billing is one way that you can end up paying interest on charges even though you've been paying your balance in full each and every month. The folks at Chase recently announced that they won't engage in the practice of double-cycle billing anymore. They also announced that once an account is assessed an over-the-limit fee, Chase will stop adding new over-the-limit fees after 90 days.

Some interesting numbers:

  • In 2006, Chase Card Service made $3,206,000,000 in profit, accounting for 22% of Chase's overall earnings.
  • Profitability for large credit card issuers was in the 3.6% to 4.1% range between 2003 and 2005.
  • Right now there are 6,000 credit card issuers in the United States.
  • 41% of credit card account holders pay their balance in full each month.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Chase Ups The Ante with A 15 Month Interest-Free Period on Balance Transfers

For some time now, Discover has been offering some of the longest interest-free periods on their balance transfer offers for new credit card accounts. But now it looks like the good folks at Chase are making a bid to break away from the pack by offering 0% on transferred balances for up to 15 months with the Chase Platinum card. A bold move on the part of Chase--no doubt--as the U.S. Prime Rate will probably increase by another 0.25 percentage points next month, and higher interest rates have a tendency to dampen the overall credit market.

There is a bit of a catch related to the 15 month interest-free period on balance transfers for the Chase Platinum card: you have to have a good credit rating in order to qualify for the "Elite" or "Premium" pricing levels, as only those who qualify for Elite or Premium pricing will be able to take advantage of the 15 month interest-free term on balance transfers. If you are still working on building or repairing your credit, then you'll probably have to settle for "Standard" pricing, which would get you a 0% APR on transferred balances for 3 months.

The other major credit card companies are still offering some highly attractive interest-free periods right now. Currently, both Discover and Citibank have many credit cards with 12 month, 0% balance transfer offers associated with them, and some of these credit cards come with excellent rewards programs to boot.

It's been a while since I've seen 18 month interest-free periods on balance transfer offers from the major credit card companies and banks; maybe the latest move by Chase will result in a return of the 18 month offers, or maybe even 24 month offers? Keep your fingers crossed!

The Latest Balance Transfer Offers Related to Credit Card Accounts I Already Have Open
Regarding the latest snail mail balance transfer solicitations that I've received--the ones associated with the credit card accounts I already have open--I don't have anything exciting to report. In fact, the offers appear to be somewhat less favorable, from a consumer point of view.

  • Providian (which is now Washington Mutual) offered me 1.99% APR on balance transfers until October, 2006. Not bad, but the low APR period is too short for my tastes. Pass!

  • BJ's (which is a Chase co-branded credit card) presented me with an offer of:

    0.99% fixed APR until October 1, 2006


    6.99% fixed APR until the transferred balance is paid off.

And the game continues.

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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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