Be Cautious with Credit
August 19, 2015
Young adults across Arkansas are determining the best course of action to manage upcoming expenses. One option many will consider is signing up for a credit card.
Credit cards serve a great purpose, but consumers need to remember that carrying balances on credit cards can be quite costly, especially if cardholders make only the minimum monthly payments because late charges and accrued interest continue to build on the unpaid balance.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to warn young consumers about the potential downfalls of entering the credit market.
“Buy now, pay later credit plans may seem like an easy way to cover expenses in the short term,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But these could lead to long-term problems if consumers take out cards with high interest rates or reach the credit limits. Consumers can establish a respectable credit history with credit cards by using them responsibly.”
Attorney General Rutledge offered the following tips to consider when signing up for a credit card:
- Though credit card offers may be appealing, avoid accepting too many offers. Having too much credit can lead to unmanageable debt.
- Choose a card based on the cost of credit, which includes the interest rate charged on credit balances and other fees.
- Submit payments on time. Consistently making timely payments is the only way to improve your credit ratings and qualify for less expensive credit.
- Pay the balance owed each month. Although it may seem easier to pay the minimum balance, doing so costs more in the long run, and it takes much longer to pay off the debt.
- Be aware of promotional or introductory interest rates. Many cards start out with low rates but eventually move up to higher rates. Make sure you know when the high rate begins.
- Steer clear of “over-the-limit” protection. It can be very expensive over time, especially on small transactions.
- Protect your credit score by refraining from “maxing out” a credit card.
- Read the fine print. Remember, a credit card application is a contract.
In 1999, the Arkansas General Assembly enacted legislation to restrict the practice of marketing credit cards on college campuses in order to combat high pressure solicitations that were targeting college students. A decade later, Congress took additional steps to limit solicitations. Some credit card companies are offering specific student credit cards that come with additional financial education and support for college students.
For more information on managing credit cards and other consumer-related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.