Have You Looked at Your Credit Cards Lately?

As you’re going through your receipts for filing your taxes, one of the things that you might want to consider looking at, along with everything else, are your credit card statements for the past year… How much are you paying for interest? How many annual fees do you pay? Has your credit changed? Do you have the available credit that you need to cover any emergencies that might crop up in the new year?

If you’re not sure of the answers to these questions, now is the best time to sit down and study those bills. Make a detailed list of each credit card that you have, showing the balance on the card, the interest rate that you’re being charged, any fees that you pay, any rewards that the card offers, and how much available credit that you have on each one.

Then, take a look at your credit score over the past year. Has it changed? Is your credit score better now than it was six months or even a year ago? If so, you might qualify for a better credit card, with a lower interest rate, more rewards, and a low or even no annual fee. If you don’t have a credit card, and your score has improved, now might be the best time to apply for a credit card. (If you can only get a secured card, you might want to consider using a little bit of your tax refund to get started with a secured card!)

Once you’ve listed all the details of your current credit, then you might want to consider upgrading one or more of your credit cards to a card with features that are more aligned with your needs and your current credit score.

Here are our best picks for credit cards to give you an idea of what’s out there:

Credit Cards & Catalogs

Well, the season is here again! If your mailbox is like mine, every day it is stuffed with both catalogs and credit card offers.

Buy now! Pay later! 15 months interest free! Pre-approved! Save money on interest!

But before you fill those credit card applications out, you might just want to sit down at your computer and compare what exactly you would be getting when you sign up for that new credit card.

Are you getting the best possible interest rate for your credit score? Remember, most of those mailers are based at least partly on the demographics for your area, meaning that it’s not just your credit that is considered, but also that of your neighbors, and other people around you.

Are there hidden fees? Is the length of the balance transfer offer the best one available for your particular credit score range? Read the fine print carefully. Over the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of credit card companies charging a monthly usage fee as opposed to an annual fee, especially if you’re in the lower tiers of the credit score ranges. That monthly usage fee could apply even if you don’t carry a balance on your card.

Are you absolutely certain that the offer is legitimate? Sadly, some of the credit card offers that you receive in your mailbox could very well be identity theft scams masquerading as credit card offers. Before you fill out any application (mail-in or online), verify the source!

Here at Fresh Start Card Offers, ALL of our online applications link directly to the credit card, catalog, or loan provider, so you can be sure that your personal information is safe!

Confused by Credit Terms?

Have you ever tried to read those little “Terms & Conditions” updates you get in the mail every so often?  Or worse, have you ever tried to make any sense of the various ways that your credit card interest is calculated?  Maybe you’ve never had a credit card before and you’re confused by different things on your first statement?


While all of those different sections, boxes, and percentages may be a bit confusing at first, here’s a quick guide to what they are and, more importantly, what they mean for you:

  • Balance:  The balance on your credit card is the total amount that you on on the card at the time the statement was issued.  This balance includes any purchases that you have made before the statement closing date, less any payments you’ve made, and plus any interest charged on the account for the previous month.
  • Interest:  Interest is the amount that your credit card provider charges you for carrying a balance on the card each month.  The amount of interest charged depends on the APR (annual percentage rate) that is attached to the card.  This APR is determined based on factors in your credit report – the better your credit score, the lower the APR you will likely be charged when you apply for a new credit card.
  • Minimum Payment:  The minimum payment is the lowest payment that you can make on the card to keep your account current and in good standing.  Typically, the minimum payment is a percentage (2-4%) of the total balance due, or a set amount (like $25.00), whichever is greater.  It’s important to remember that paying only the minimum payment on your credit cards will cost more money in the long run, so even if you get something on sale, you’ll likely pay a lot more for the item over time if you only make the minimum payment.  (The amount of time that it will take to pay the card off if you make only the minimum payment is shown in a special section on your statements.  Take a look at this section and pay close attention – sometimes it can take years to pay off a balance!)
  • Grace Period:  The grace period is the amount of time that you have after you’ve bought something with the card to pay the balance in full without incurring any interest charges.  Federal law requires this grace period to be at least 21 days, however, some credit card providers will allow up to 45 days, depending on your credit terms.
  • Payment Due Date:  This is the date that you must make a payment on your credit card to keep your account in good standing.  Failure to make your payments by the due date can result in late fees or suspension of your credit privileges with your credit card provider, so it is important to make your payments on time, every time.  If you make payments by mail, allow seven to ten days when you mail your payment to ensure that it arrives on time.  If you make your payments online, don’t wait until the last minute – you run the risk of the payment not posting in time, or worse, their website may be down for maintenance, etc., and your payment could end up being late.
  • Annual Fee:  Some credit card providers charge you an annual, monthly, or other fee just to carry their credit card.  These fees are typically charged whether you carry a balance on the card or not and, if you aren’t careful, can even push the balance of your account over the credit limit.  These fees are sometimes offset by benefits that come with the card, however, pay close attention to the amount it will cost you to have the card when you apply, as it may not be worth the additional cost.

Of course, these simple explanations don’t cover all of the terms, conditions, and other information that comes along with your credit card accounts, but if you know the basics, you’re off to a good start.  Always, always pay attention to the terms and conditions of any account before you apply AND study those monthly statements that you get in the mail or via email to make sure that everything is as it should be.

Do It Yourself Credit Repair Tips

While many people believe that getting their bad credit repaired can only be done through a professional agency, this is simply not true. By going to a credit agency, you might find that it takes a great deal more time and money than if you just worked on it yourself. Before you get in touch with a professional credit repair service, refer to the steps listed below, and you
might find that repairing your own credit is not that difficult at all.


When you repair your own credit, you must understand that it is a lengthy process that requires patience. The first thing you need to do is contact credit reporting agencies in writing, and request a copy of your credit report. Federal Law states that everyone gets a free credit report annually. You can locate the three main credit-reporting agencies that you will need to get in touch with by performing an Internet search using the terms
“Credit Reporting Agencies”. You might also consult your local phone directory.

Contact the agency in writing, and include the following information in your request:

1. Request a free copy of your credit report.

2. A copy of your state identification (such as your driver’s license)

3. Copy of proof of your current address (such as a utilities bill showing
your home address)

4. Provide your previous addresses for the past 5 years.

5. A copy of your social security card.

6. Make sure you close the request with your signature.

Your credit report should take approximately 4-6 weeks to be generated and sent to you. If you receive a letter denying you credit, make a copy and enclose it with your written request for a copy of your credit report. If you have already received your free annual credit report permitted the free yearly report, you can use a denial letter of credit within 60 days of its receipt.

When you receive your reports from the agencies you contacted, look over each report for accuracy and discrepancies. Create a log in order to track the differences. If you find invalid accounts or errors in your reports, do not hesitate to file disputes. If you need to file a dispute, most agencies provide the forms to do so via their website. Each credit report should
provide contact and account information for each creditor. Keep a log of all your debt information and creditors. Most debts older than 7 years old probably won’t appear on the report, and if so, leave them alone. Most creditors after 7 years will write off the debt, though some might continue to pursue you. Whatever the case, don’t open the Pandora’s box if the account isn’t listed on your credit report.

The next step is to contact each creditor to make payment arrangements. Most of them will be willing to work with you, while some might not be so agreeable. If a creditor is being difficult, feel free to ask for his or her supervisor or speak with someone else. Expect some creditors to be rude and unwilling to work with you. Try no to feel discouraged, be persistent, and ask to speak with someone else. Offer a settlement amount. Keep a written log of the conversation, including the person’s contact information each time you speak with a creditor.

It can take as many as 6 months to feel like you are making headway on your credit repair, but rest assured that your credit will get better within a year or two.  It is very important that while you are paying off your debts
that you pay by check or money order and retain all receipts. Make sure that you request a receipt for the payment from the agency.

Continue to obtain copies of your credit reports annually from each agency. Do not create new debts while paying off your current ones. If you receive credit offers, throw them away. Remain focused on your goal to get out of debt and document your payments, contact with the creditors, their names, extension, time and date you spoke with them and list any pertinent detail
regarding your conversations.

About the Author: Nigel Frederick 
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