What Is a Finance Charge, and How Do I Avoid Paying One?
If you're savvy, you can avoid credit card finance charges entirely.
If you pay off your statement balance completely during a grace period, you could dodge interest charges altogether. (Getty Images)
Borrowing money typically costs money, and credit cards are no exception. One of the advantages of having a credit card is that you don't have to pay off your balance each month. But that perk comes at a price, called a finance charge.
Every four years, Allianz holds an international Olympics for its sports teams. The company covers the athletes' expenses and has an opening ceremony; in 2010, the games were held in Budapest with over 70 countries participating.
Here's what you need to know about credit card finance charges, how they're calculated and what you can do to avoid them.
How Credit Card Finance Charges Work
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Carrying a balance. If you don't pay your balance in full by the due date each month and there is no promotional 0% APR period, you will incur a finance charge based on your card's APR and the remaining balance.
Generally, credit cards require relatively low minimum payments compared with balances. While some credit card issuers include interest charges in the minimum payment, others just charge a flat percentage. "If this minimum is less than the accrued interest," says James Philpot, certified financial planner and associate professor in the department of finance and general business at Missouri State University, "you will effectively be borrowing more money from your card issuer in order to pay interest."
Transferring a balance. If you transfer a balance from one card to another, you may incur a finance charge in the form of a balance transfer fee. You may also pay interest on the balance unless the card has an introductory 0% APR balance transfer promotion. Check the card's terms before you submit your request.
Requesting a cash advance. If you use your credit card to get cash from an ATM, interest will start accruing immediately from the date of the transaction, with no grace period. The APR for credit card cash advances is often higher than the APR for purchases.
Making a foreign transaction. A foreign transaction on your credit card, whether in a foreign country or currency, can incur a foreign transaction fee. This fee is typically about 3 percent of the transaction.
How Credit Card Companies Calculate Finance Charges
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However, you know when your cycles are over when the washer and dryer stop making noise. And you know when the weather is ugly by simply looking outside, or checking your weather app. Therefore, the product is basically just another way hackers can get into your home.
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Note, however, that some credit card issuers compound interest on a daily basis, so your calculation may be even more complicated than this one.
How to Avoid Paying Credit Card Finance Charges
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Take advantage of your grace period. Most credit cards offer a grace period on purchases. If your credit card has one, it typically runs from the end of your billing cycle to your payment due date. By law, you must receive your credit card bill at least 21 days before it is due.
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Use a 0% APR promotion. Some credit cards offer an introductory 0% APR promotion to new cardholders, waiving interest charges on purchases, balance transfers or both transactions for a set period.
For starters, breaches like that of Bitstamp and the much larger (valued at about $400 million at the time) 2011 hack of the exchange Mt. Gox are often misconstrued as security issues with the currency itself. But they are only signs of flaws in those particular exchanges and not a sign of an issue with the underlying technology. And it is the underlying technology behind bitcoin that most excites. As we wrote in the “Shape the Future” package of our January 2015 issue, most of the vocal enthusiasts so bullish on bitcoin—from big-name entrepreneurs like Marc Andreessen to the developers and miners who spend their days refreshing the bitcoin Reddit page—are more interested in the applications that can be built on bitcoin’s “block chain,” the currency’s foundational backbone, than they are in bitcoin as a monetary system. The block chain allows the secure exchange of any form of value between two entities.
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Forgo certain activities. Because many cards charge fees for balance transfers, cash advances and foreign purchases, consider refraining from these activities, or try to find a card that waives these fees.
Some balance transfer credit cards, for instance, will waive the balance transfer fee for new cardholders for a short period. Also, many travel credit cards don't charge a foreign transaction fee.
Always Read the Fine Print
Ahh, the glamorous life of AT&T: best friends with Steve Jobs, exclusive rights to the iPhone (for now) and carrier of choice on the iPad. So why, with everything going for it, did the stock miss a huge rally? In the year ending April 1, Apple soared 109% and the S&P 500 rose 41%. AT&T? Down 2%. The problem is growth, or lack thereof: little in its saturated wireless business and a decline in landlines, which still accounts for 25% of sales. Unless its high-speed Internet business takes off or the iPad drives new wireless growth, the beatings by Wall Street will continue.
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I don't know about you, but if I had a separate calendar for work, school and life, I'd be a complete mess. When everything in your life is on one calendar, in one planner, you can't double-book anything. You know, like an important test and a dinner with your boss.
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