Of all the financial advice anyone with a credit card can give you, maybe the most likely thing you would hear again and again is, “Beware of the special offers.” People are inherently trusting and seeking acceptance. But that’s one of the things you need to be most cautious about when you are dealing with credit cards. They are like vultures. They prey on the behaviors and patterns of the weak, and how many of us won’t use something like credit when it is offered to us? Take this financial advice and be wary of these 5 ways in which credit cards manipulate you into greater chasms of debt:
- Introductory Interest Rates: Oftentimes providers will start their duplicity at the very beginning of your relationship. By offering you “introductory 0% interest rates for six months,” you may think that you can just keep spending and that those purchases don’t charge you any interest rates. That is true — for the period of six months. If you pay off your balance in full in 179 days or less, you have won. You are not charged any interest. If, however you don’t pay for your purchases by the time the introductory period is up, then in some cases you will pay for all the interest compounded since Day 1. It’s a tricky thing and something you should look over when they first mail you those really tiny print notices.
- Promotional Offer Rates: Another thing that credit cards may do that you have to watch out for is offering you promotional offer rates — say for all purchases made between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, you will pay very low interest rates. However if these balances are not settled in full, again, you could be on the hook for the whole amount due. Just because there was no interest over that time period, you need to be wise to the terms of the agreement or you could be on the hook for the whole thing.
- Loyalty Programs: A third reason to reach out for some deeper financial advice is when credit cards begin offering you loyalty programs. Because you are a “preferred customer,” they will entice you to want to spend more by dangling offers in your face that you just can’t say no to. Maybe they will offer you some “rewards bucks” or allow you “special offer days.” Whatever the offer is, these loyalty programs are just interested in getting you to spend more money than you want to.
- Shopping Days Bonuses: Another way that credit providers lull you into economic submission is through their special programs offering “shopping days bonuses!” If they want you to use their credit card, say, on Black Friday or the weekend after Thanksgiving, the credit providers can offer you special incentives to spend more over that time period and in return you will get some silly little trinket. Even when credit providers offer substantive rewards, it is usually only because their customers have spent sizeable amounts of money.
- Extension of Credit: A final reason to cry for financial advice is when a credit provider offers you, as a regular, on-time paying credit card customer, more credit. Extending more credit, particularly to those waylaid by maxed out cards already, is dubious for sure. People who have reached their credit limit may feel as though they need to take a step back and settle their debts. But when a credit card says, “No, it’s OK. Here, take more!” they are deliberately making the easily victimized, victims themselves.
Jeffrey Sterner writes and blogs about personal financial well-being and issues that influence it for Debt.org, America’s Debt Help Organization.