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Are you paying higher interest on your credit cards than you signed up for?

Many credit card holders sign up for a credit card account with a low 8.9% interest rate and then later see that their interest rate has been raised to 27.4%. Take these six precautions to make sure you don't get charged more interest than you agreed to pay.

Many credit card holders agree to a credit card account with an 8.9% interest rate and then later realize that their interest rate has been bumped to 27.4%. Why?

You know that your credit score affects the credit card rates that you qualify for. But, did you know that a little clause in the fine print of the credit card terms and agreements, called the "Universal Default Penalty Clause" may mean that you're already paying a higher interest than when you signed up for the credit card? What does this fine print mean to you?

If your credit score goes down or one of your other credit conditions change, then your interest rate increases significantly. This doesn't mean any new charges you make to this particular credit card account: the higher rate affects the entire balance. Yes, even items you purchased with the understanding that your interest rate would remain at the original rate.

Your credit grantors periodically review your credit report. Almost half of all credit card companies take advantage of you when you are perceived as a delinquent or high-risk borrower. The small print in your account information may include the universal default penalty, which allows the credit card company to increase your interest rate if it uncovers any of these six changes in your credit report:

1.  You have a late payment on any credit account. The company doesn't care if you've never made a late payment to them.

2.  You go over your available credit line on any credit account. Even if you unknowingly charge a small amount over the credit limit, which many credit card issuers let you do; your interest rate can be raised.

3.  Your credit score declines. Just one late payment hurts your credit score. Experian reports that people with no late or missed payments in the last year had an average credit score of 759; consumers with one or more late payments in the past year had an average score of 598.

4.  You charge up too much on one account or many credit cards. If you charge up your credit card near the limit, or even charge up some of your credit cards over the preferred proportional amounts owed, you could pay extra interest charges. The amount owed on a credit line compared to the available credit is termed the proportional amount owed. Owing less than ten percent of the available balance gives you the best possible rating. On the other hand, owing over $4,500 on an account with a limit of $5,000 lowers your score considerably, especially if you have too many credit cards and other loans with high balances compared to available credit lines.

5.  Your charge activities indicate a high debt-to-income ratio. If your credit card issuer sees that you've made many new charges and believes that you're getting in over your head, they may raise your interest rate. Even if this is a temporary situation, like new home owners who make many purchases in a single month, the companies take advantage of the unsuspecting credit card holder.

6.  You open new accounts. Opening new credit lines, especially consumer finance company accounts, lowers your credit score. Notations like "Too many consumer accounts" get added to your credit report. Once again, your credit card company may take advantage of this to raise your interest rate.

Credit cards that start with a low interest rate can jump to interest rates as high as 29.99%, if they find any of these new conditions listed on your credit report.

Check your credit card statements closely; look to see if your creditor raised your interest rates. If you find that you're paying more than you thought, call your creditor and ask the reason. Once you determine the cause, work on your credit issue. After you've fixed the problem, call your credit card company back and ask for a reduction in your interest rate.

Copyright (c) 2005 Jeanette J. Fisher  All Rights Reserved.

Article Tags: Credit Card Company, Higher Interest, Credit Cards, Many Credit, Credit Card, Interest Rate, Credit Score, Credit Report, Take Advantage, Card Company, Late Payment, Available Credit

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Jeanette Fisher teaches real estate investing and interior design college courses. She became a credit expert to help her students buy their dream home and multiple investment properties. Jeanette is the author of "Credit Help! Get the Credit You Need to Buy Real Estate" and other books. For a free download on

Credit Tips for Mortgage Financing, visit the Real Estate Credit Help Center

Credit questions? Ask Jeanette:

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