Credit Cards

Credit cards at Wise Money- your guide to unsecured loans in plain english credit cards and unsecured loans

What exactly is a credit card?
How do credit cards work?
Do all credit cards offer the same service?
How do I get a credit card?
Am I obligated to accept the offer if I apply?
What if my application is rejected?
Are there any credit card traps?
How is my credit limit determined?
How am I judged when applying for a credit card?
How do I check my credit rating?
Does applying for a credit card affect my credit status?
Why do providers put so much importance on a good credit history?
I’ve had credit problems. Can I still qualify for a credit card?
How much do they cost?
How are interest charges calculated?
What does ‘grace’ or ‘interest free’ period mean?
How should I pay the bill?
Must I pay the full bill each month?
How can I make sure I never miss paying my bill on time?
What will happen if I can’t afford to pay the outstanding balance?
What is a balance transfer?
What is Payment Protection?
What is an affinity card?
What is a secured card?
What is a guaranteed card?
What is an unsecured card?
What is a debit card?
Is a credit card the same as a charge card?
Do all cards offer travel rewards?
I thought ATM cards had PIN numbers. Why do credit cards have them?
Where can I withdraw money using my credit card?
Can I get cash on my credit card?
Why am I charged more interest when I use my credit card to get cash?
Are credit cards cheap to use when abroad?
How can I be sure that I make the right choice?
Are credit cards safe?
Is it safe to give out my credit card number when buying goods or services by phone or on the Internet?
Do I get proper consumer protection if I use a credit card?
If I have a problem with my credit card whom should I contact?
What if I lose my card?
How do I know where to find your website again?
What is a cookie?

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What exactly is a credit card?
A credit card represents a loan agreement where you are offered credit, providing you pay off a minimum amount each month. You can charge purchases up to the amount of your credit limit and pay for them later.
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How do credit cards work?
With a credit card, as long as you do not exceed your credit limit, you can spend whatever you wish, wherever your credit card is accepted. You are required to pay a minimum amount off the balance each time you receive a billing statement. The usual minimum payment is approximately 3% – 5% of the balance. You can sign for purchases or you can purchase by telephone or the Internet. There are many different card issuers, but most operate through two worldwide credit card networks – VISA and MasterCard.
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Do all credit cards offer the same service?
No, there are huge differences in the services provided by credit card issuers. For example, there are cards available to people at a set minimum income level, e.g. Gold/Platinum cards, and these may provide more benefits to the customer. With Affinity and Charity cards, a small percentage of what you spend is donated to an affiliated organisation. Reward programmes offer air miles, shopping points, cash rebates or special discounts. If you do not pay your balance, you may lose these benefits. Other features include access to cash machines, travel insurance, and special introductory rates. Purchase Protection is available in the case of loss, theft or damage to goods you purchase with your card.
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How do I get a credit card?
It’s easy! Just complete the following 5 steps:

Through our Find the Right Card option, you can interactively search for a credit card based on the features most valuable to you. You can compare using your own personalised criteria, whether its price, brand or reward programmes.
The results of this comparison will be presented in graphical format together with the relative importance in percentage of the most valued features to you.
After comparing your most valuable features, you will be presented with a list of ten suitable credit cards. Each card is given a percentage so you can see how close each product matches your preferences. You can view the details for each of the credit cards in the list to help make a decision.
For our on-line partners, you can complete the application form for their products on this site and send it off. All aspects of your application are assessed by the product provider, and a decision is provided within 24 hours.
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Am I obligated to accept the offer if I apply?
If you apply and are approved for a credit card, you are under no obligation to accept the offer. An offer will be sent to your listed address and you choose to accept by returning the signed document to the product provider.
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What if my application is rejected?
If your application is rejected, you can ask your credit card provider to review the application. If a credit reporting agency has been used, you can ask for the agency name and address. Write to them requesting any details held on you. Remember that you can apply for more than one card – however for credit rating reasons it is not advisable to apply for more than five cards within a 6-month period.
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Are there any credit card traps?
With credit cards it’s very easy to borrow without realising how much, until you receive your monthly statement. So, try to keep track of your spending. Credit cards can be a costly form of borrowing so look out for other loans, such as personal loans, that might better suit your needs. Always keep your receipts and check them against your statement. If you do not recognise an item on your statement, contact the provider immediately. Note that if you use your card overseas, sometimes it takes longer for items to appear on your statement.
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How is my credit limit determined?
Your credit limit is determined by a combination of things, including your credit history, income and amount of debt. These conditions are also used to determine what type of card you may be offered. For example, some standard cards have credit limits of up to 3,000. Gold and platinum cards may offer extended credit limits to customers with well established and very favourable credit histories. Customers without a credit history or with blemished credit histories tend to be offered secured cards or unsecured standard cards with lower credit limits. Once a cardholder’s credit history is established or improved, cards with higher credit limits can be obtained.
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How am I judged when applying for a credit card?
Judgement criteria can vary from one card provider to another. However, your income and your credit history are the two main criteria. Many card providers rely on data from credit reporting agencies.
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How do I check my credit rating?
First of all, you need to understand how the system works. Remember that you do not have a right to credit, and before giving you credit, lenders such as banks and loan companies want to check that you are an acceptable risk. To help them do this, they check with firms called credit reference agencies (CRAs) to get details about you and your credit record.
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Does applying for a credit card affect my credit status?
Yes. Every time you apply for a credit card, an inquiry is made as to your credit status. This inquiry is noted with the respective credit agency. Although these inquiries will remain on the report for approximately one year, providers will be primarily concerned with the number of inquiries over the last 6 months. Providers do become concerned if there are more than 10 inquiries during that time. They interpret this as an indication that you are badly in need of credit, and thereby consider you high risk. As a result, they will be less likely to grant you the credit card you are applying for. It is therefore important that you do not apply for an excessive amount of credit cards unless absolutely necessary.
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Why do providers put so much importance on a good credit history?
When issuing you with a credit card, providers give you credit. They take this risk based on your ability to repay that money. Your credit history shows how you have repaid loans in the past. This is taken as an indication of how you will repay loans in the future. If you have a good credit history you are considered low risk. A good credit history can help you get more than credit card privileges. It can also help get loans for those bigger life purchases such as a car or a house. A good credit history speaks well for you. A poor credit history can be improved over time and people have opportunities to make that happen.
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I’ve had credit problems. Can I still qualify for a credit card?
If you are trying to re-establish credit, it is likely that you will be issued with a ‘secured’ card, which means that your credit agreement may have to be guaranteed or “secured” with a cash deposit up front. This deposit guarantees you will repay money borrowed using your credit card. The limit on the card is usually the same as the guaranteed deposit.

Otherwise, you may be issued an ‘unsecured’ card – where no money guarantee is required. However, the card charges may be higher because you are considered a higher risk. Once a good credit history has been established you will qualify for more credit card privileges.
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How much do they cost?
The cost can vary, depending on whether the card provider charges an annual fee, the interest rate charged for borrowing, the interest-free period offered, etc. Additional charges can include those for cash withdrawals, late/returned payments, and exceeding your credit limit.
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How are interest charges calculated?
How interest is calculated is important and decides how much you’re charged on your unpaid account balances. There are 3 ways to decide what your unpaid account balances are:
Average Daily Balance (ADB)
Adjusted Balance (AB)
Previous Balance (PB)
The ADB is each day’s balance added up for the month and divided by the number of days in a billing cycle. This is the most common way to calculate your balance and proves the most costly to you. If you don’t pay your bill in full, the interest is charged from the day a charge is billed to your account.

The AB is the balance that remains after adjusting for payments and credits posted during the billing cycle. This is the least costly method to you.

The PB is the outstanding balance at the end of the previous month. This is less costly to you than the ADB but more costly than the AB.
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What does ‘grace’ or ‘interest free’ period mean?
This is the number of days of interest-free credit. You are not charged interest on your account balance for a specific number of days. The number of days can vary from about 20 to 56.
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How should I pay the bill?
You can pay your bill in many ways – by direct debit, for example. Be careful, though, as there may be a charge for some methods. Your payment might also be delayed for some reason which can result in charges if it’s late. As a general rule, you should try and pay your bill in full and by the monthly due date.
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Must I pay the full bill each month?
No, you do not have to pay the full bill, but the majority of card providers will require a minimum payment of approximately 3-5% of the outstanding balance on your account. The less you pay off your bill, the more interest you will be charged. If you do not wish to pay unnecessary interest charges, pay your bill in full and on time every month.
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How can I make sure I never miss paying my bill on time?
Set up a direct debit to ensure that the monthly payment is made automatically. It is worth considering this payment option because if you miss the deadline, the interest may be backdated to the date of purchase.
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What will happen if I can’t afford to pay the outstanding balance?
Contact the provider to discuss your predicament. They may recommend an alternative solution as it is in their interest to have the problem solved. Alternatively, you could discuss this with a voluntary organisation that provides free advice and may help you manage your debts.
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What is a balance transfer?
If you already have a credit card and you apply for a new one, you can transfer your existing balance on the previous card to the new one. The new credit card provider will assume the outstanding debt that you owe on the previous card by paying off the credit card provider and then billing you for it.
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What is Payment Protection?
Payment Protection is insurance that will protect you in the event you are unable to make payments under qualified circumstances.
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What is an affinity card?
An affinity card is a credit card that is linked to a particular charity. When a card is issued to you, a donation is made to the affiliated charity, and a small percentage will be donated for every transaction made on the card.
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What is a secured card?
Secured cards require you to make a cash deposit up front. The limit on the card is usually related to the amount of the bank deposit. The bank has the right to take money from your deposit if you do not pay your credit card bill.
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What is a guaranteed card?
A guaranteed card is the same as a secured card.
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What is an unsecured card?
You probably won’t hear this term often because it is the norm. A normal credit card is unsecured. The card provider cannot take specific assets of yours in the event you do not pay your bill. Your card provider would have to sue you to collect the debt.
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What is a debit card?
The amount you spend using a debit card is immediately deducted from your current account. Your banking institution issues you with a debit card. Debit cards offer less protection than credit cards in the event of a billing dispute. In addition, if your debit card is stolen, it is possible that your debit card account could be emptied.
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Is a credit card the same as a charge card?
No. Like a credit card, a charge card allows you to charge a purchase and pay for it later. But, a credit card offers a revolving line of credit. This means you don’t have to pay off the total loan – as long as you make a minimum monthly payment. With a charge card, however, everything you spend on the card must be paid in full each month. Charge cards often incur an annual fee because you don’t pay interest on purchases. But, they tend to offer very competitive reward programmes in exchange for the higher fee. An example of a charge card is American Express or Diner’s Club.
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Do all cards offer travel rewards?
No. Only a travel card offers the opportunity to accumulate travel points for purchases made with a card. If you want a card that offers travel rewards, you should apply for a card that is associated with an airline or travel program you’re interested in.

A travel card usually has an annual fee, which can pay for itself if you earn enough travel rewards. Make sure you use the card for purchases that make good sense, and not just to earn travel benefits.
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I thought ATM cards had PIN numbers. Why do credit cards have them?
A PIN is a numerical password that goes with your credit card. If you have a PIN, you can get a cash advance at an ATM displaying the symbol of the credit card network your card is with. You can also get a cash advance in another country and in the local currency.
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Where can I withdraw money using my credit card?
Once you have a PIN number, you can use your credit card to withdraw money at most cash machines in hundreds of countries around the world. Your credit card network will be identified on the cash machines that accept your card.
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Can I get cash on my credit card?
Yes. For this service you pay a cash handling fee and there’s no interest-free period.
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Why am I charged more interest when I use my credit card to get cash?
Credit card networks don’t always charge higher interest rates on cash advances. In fact, most don’t. They do charge a cash handling fee, which is usually a minimum charge of £2.00 or 1.5% of the cash amount you withdraw. Interest charges on cash advances, however, accrue from the moment you withdraw the cash. When using your card normally, interest is often charged only if you fail to pay off your full account balance on time.
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Are credit cards cheap to use when abroad?
Credit cards generally work out cheaper to use abroad than changing to foreign currency or using travellers cheques.
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How can I be sure that I make the right choice?
Our unique selection process, guides you through the decision-making process and provides credit cards to match your requirements. For example, you will be asked for your preferences relative to different credit card features, such as APR, Payment Brand and Reward Programmes. You will then evaluate a series of hypothetical products and make trade-offs between different card features. After comparing these features, you will be presented with a list of ten suitable credit cards, based on your preferences.

Some general guidelines: If you pay your bill in full each month, then a card with a long interest free period and no annual fee may well be the best choice. For ongoing borrowing, a card with lower interest charges and shorter interest free time may be more suitable. If you go abroad or travel frequently, then consider cards with automated bill payment methods such as direct debit. Ensure that what is on offer meets your needs – a benefit is only a benefit if you make use of it.
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Are credit cards safe?
Yes. Credit cards are a safe, convenient way to buy things in stores, over the telephone or on the Internet with a reputable merchant. And, if your card is ever lost or stolen, a phone call to the card provider cancels the card and has it replaced. Once you report the loss, you will not be held responsible for any unauthorised charges. Remember, for your protection, always:

Sign and activate a new credit card immediately
Save your credit card sales slip to check against your monthly statements
See that you get your card back after every purchase and carry it in the same secure place
Tear up the sales slips if and when you throw them away
Check your billing statement for accuracy each month
Check the Terms and Conditions of any cards you apply for.
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Is it safe to give out my credit card number when buying goods or services by phone or on the Internet?
Make sure that your reputable online retailer like Wise Money uses a “Secure Socket Layer” or SSL that encrypts your personal details Most retailers and service providers are genuine and allow purchases to be made safely and securely. Problems may arise if an unauthorised person accesses your name, card number and card expiry date. They could use these details to carry out a transaction over the phone or on the Internet.

To limit access to these details you should use a telephone land line when ordering by phone. Business conducted using cordless or cellular phones is easier to intercept.

As a security measure, most card providers check that your purchases are delivered to your billing address. If an unusually high number of purchases are being carried out using your card, the card may be deactivated or you may be contacted.

The credit card details you give over the phone are not enough to enable an unauthorised person to make a counterfeit card. The card itself must be presented to buy in shops, restaurants etc. and to get a cash advance from an ATM.
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If I have a problem with my credit card whom should I contact?
In all cases you should contact your credit card provider. If your card is lost or stolen, telephone the provider immediately. If you have a billing query, you should contact your card provider. It is your right to dispute a purchase or service which appears on your bill and which you did not make. If you wish to renew your card, you should contact your card provider. It only takes a few days to order a new card over the telephone and to receive it by post.
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What if I lose my card?
Telephone the provider immediately. They will ‘stop’ the card and issue a replacement. So it’s important to keep a note of the telephone number and card number separate from the card. Don’t, under any circumstances, keep a note of the PIN (personal identification number) with the card or anywhere else. Memorise it. You can register your cards with a card protection company for a fee and with one call, they will deal with the cancellation and replacement on your behalf. Some providers also offer insurance against loss and misuse.
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How do I know where to find your website again?
It’s easy to get lost on the Web. To avoid Web disorientation, make frequent use of your browser’s bookmarking feature. This feature allows you to mark the website you are navigating so you can access it again at a later date without having to memorise it’s location.

To bookmark a web page in Netscape browser, simply select Bookmarks from the menu bar at the top of the page and click on the ‘Add Bookmark’ option. This will save the location of the site you are navigating. To access this website at a later date, select Bookmarks from the menu bar and browse through your list of bookmarked sites to select the appropriate one. Once selected you will automatically be navigated to that page.

To bookmark a web page in Internet Explorer, simply select Favourites from the menu bar at the top of the page and click on the ‘Add to Favourites’ option. This will save the location of the site you are navigating. To access this website at a later date, select Favourites from the menu bar and browse through your list of bookmarked sites to select the appropriate one. Once selected you will automatically be navigated to that page.
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What is a cookie?
A cookie is a piece of information sent to your PC when you access a website. It stores information about you that should save you time when filling in forms. For more information please go to the Cookie Central site at http://www.cookiecentral.com for more information.
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