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When Choosing a Credit Card, Pay Attention to Fees


When Choosing a Credit Card, Pay Attention to Fees


If you’re in the market for a new credit card, there are several things to weigh before making a decision. The card’s annual percentage rate or rewards program may be the first things you zero in on, but don’t overlook the fees a card carries.

Why fees make a difference when choosing a card

Credit cards can come with a number of fees, all of which can add to its cost. For example, some of the most common fees include:

    • Annual fees

    • Late fees

    • Balance transfer fees

    • Cash advance fees

  • Foreign transaction fees

The more fees a card charges, the more you may pay to use it. That matters if you’re relying on your card to earn travel miles, cash back or other rewards, or you’ve chosen a particular card because it’s loaded with juicy travel perks, such as free checked bags or annual travel credits.

Even though you’re getting rewards or other benefits, they may be offset by the fees you pay to use the card. For example, you may earn $300 cash back each year with your card but if you’re paying a $99 annual fee, you’re only netting $201 in rewards.

If you don’t use the card as frequently to make purchases and earn rewards, you likely aren’t getting as much bang for your buck in exchange for the fees. Knowing what you may pay in fees helps to put a card’s true value to you in perspective.

How credit card fees compare

Credit card fees aren’t one-size-fits-all. In other words, the fees you may pay can vary greatly from one card to another.

The U.S. News 2019 Credit Card Fee Study revealed some interesting findings about credit card fees and how they add up. For instance, the study found that:

    • 32 percent of credit cards charge an annual fee

    • The average annual fee across cards that charge one is nearly $110

    • The average credit card late fee is just over $36 (the maximum late fee allowed is $39)

    • 72 percent of credit cards that allow balance transfers charge a 3 percent balance transfer fee

    • Only a slim 4 percent of cards that allow balance transfers don’t charge a balance transfer fee

    • 54 percent of cards that allow cash advances charge a 2 to 4 percent cash advance fee

  • Almost 50 percent of all credit cards charge a 3 percent foreign transaction fee

In terms of cards with the highest fees overall, there’s no single card category that proved more expensive than another. But you’re more likely to pay an annual fee with a travel credit card, while student credit cards typically have the highest late fees. And you can expect to pay the highest average APR with a secured credit card, which usually requires a cash deposit to open.

Tips for managing fees when choosing a credit card

If you’re looking for a new card, it’s important to strike the right balance between the fees and what you expect to get from the card. With that in mind, here’s how to narrow down the field and find the card that’s right for you:

Start with low-fee options.

A basic card with a low APR and/or minimal rewards may charge fewer fees than a card with more bells and whistles. Check out low- or no annual fee options first to see whether those cards fit your spending style.

Consider which fees you’d most like to avoid.

The fees you’re willing to pay–and the ones you aren’t–may hinge on how you plan to use the card. If you’re transferring a large balance, for example, you may want a card with no balance transfer fee. Or if you travel abroad regularly, you might prefer a card with no foreign transaction fee. Knowing what you are (or aren’t) comfortable paying in fees can help you weed out cards that aren’t a good match.

Do the math on rewards and other card benefits.

If you’re looking at a card with a higher annual fee, compare that to what you could gain from using it. For example, according to the U.S. News fee study, the average travel card annual fee is around $93. But, that may seem like a small price to pay to earn several hundred dollars in air miles towards free flights each year or take advantage of extras like complimentary lounge access and special travel upgrades.

Ask the credit card company for a deal.

Lastly, don’t assume credit card fees are set in stone. If you’ve found a card that you think is the one but you’re not in love with the fees, reach out to the credit card company directly. Ask if they can waive fees or reduce them to make the card a more affordable fit for your wallet.

You May Also Be Interested In: How to Save Money for a House: A Quick Guide

Writer: US News Money

Disclaimer: All investing can potentially be risky. Investing or borrowing can lead into financial losses. All content on Bay Street Blog are solely for educational purposes. All other information are obtained from credible and authoritative references. Bay Street Blog is not responsible for any financial losses from the information provided. When investing or borrowing, always consult with an industry professional.

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