Credit check

It's still possible to get good deals and favorable terms

Credit card holders today are more likely to live fast, max-out young and leave a horrendous-looking balance behind than ever before. This leaves a far bigger dent in their creditworthiness than it used to, since credit card companies are now rejecting applicants in record numbers.

The classic credit card maxim still holds true: those who carry a monthly balance should find the lowest annual percentage rate (APR), while those who don’t should look for cards with the lowest (or no) annual fee. But card issuers are getting more sophisticated at the art of squeezing those couple of extra dollars out of you each month, according to industry sources who follow credit cards.

According to a recent survey by Bankrate.com, a financial advice Website, Wachovia Bank Card Services of New Castle, Delaware, offers the best overall deal, with an APR of 7.75%, an annual fee of $88 and a grace period of 20 days before it begins charging interest.

Shoppers who prefer to wipe their debt slate clean every month would be better off with the Richmond, Virginia-based Capital One Bank card, which levies a 9.9% APR on your balance and has no annual fee. Capital One’s 25 interest-free days can come in handy when you’re stretched thin, too. Wachovia also offers a similar card tailored to this market, with the same APR and no annual fee, although its interest-free period lasts for only 20 days.

If you’ve already snipped up your old card and are thinking about sending away for one with a better deal, industry experts like Consumer Action, an advocacy group in San Francisco, advise consumers to be wary of some common stumbling blocks. If you are tempted to sign up for a card with a suspiciously low introductory rate, pay your bills on time. If you’re late, some issuers will charge you their standard APR and may also add on a higher-than-usual late fee.

Retail store cards are also a great temptation for shoppers because they often come with substantial introductory discounts. “The one instance where I’d advise someone to get a retailer’s card is when someone has poor or no credit. Usually, retailers are a little more lenient [than other issuers],” says Linda Sherry, a spokesperson for Consumer Action. She stresses that other cardholders should be wary of the high APRs that department stores usually charge on their cards, and says that the discounts are often eaten up by the high APRs and late fees tacked on to card bills by retailers.

Best Deals for Consumers Who Carry Balances

Institution/Location

Phone Number

Rate

Fee

Interest-Free Days

Wachovia Bank Card Services/New Castle, DE (800) 241-7990 7.75% $88 20/B
Huntington National Bank/ Columbus, OH (800) 480-2265 8.75% $39 25/B
USAA Savings Bank/Las Vegas, NV (800) 922-9092 8.75% $45 25/B
Pulaski Bank & Trust Co./Little Rock, AR (800) 980-2265
Pages: 1 2
ACROSS THE WEB