Finance and Business

Sneaky Ways Credit Cards Get You To Spend More Money

Credit card debt in the US hit $870 billion at the end of 2018. That’s a record high. In fact, over half of
Americans who own credit cards have debt on them. And part of what gets
us into these debt holes are the tempting offers
from credit card companies. Hidden fees and reward
programs can trick customers into spending more than
they otherwise might. Clip: Wow, look at all the signs. Narrator: And if that balance
isn’t paid off in full, those rewards points aren’t
going to be worth it in the end. Let’s start with the reward programs. They offer a variety of benefits,
including airline miles, cash back, and points you
can put towards shopping. This can be great for customers. I mean, who doesn’t like free stuff? And credit card companies
can boost the rewards when you first sign up for the
cards as an extra incentive. For example, the American
Express Platinum card currently offers 60,000 reward points if you spend $5,000 in
the first three months. Now, if you’re about
to make a big purchase, those points are a nice bonus. But if you end up spending
more than you otherwise would just to hit that $5,000
mark, consider this. One point is typically worth
only between $0.01 and $0.02, making those 60,000 points worth somewhere between $600 and $1,200. So, let’s do the math. Say you usually spend $500 on
your credit card per month, and you increase that to
$1,666 for three months to get those 60,000 points. You’ve now spent $3,500 more
than you otherwise would. And, yes, you may get
$1,200 back in points. But that leaves a difference of $2,300. That’s $2,300 more that you spent overall and that you’re never getting back. But $1,200 back is the
max you’ll likely get. It might be less. And figuring out exactly
how much you’re getting for every dollar spent can be tricky. In the AmEx Platinum’s
rates and fees section, it says, “The value of
Membership Rewards points varies according to how
you choose to use them.” So it’s hard to be sure how much value you’re actually getting. And the eagerness to spend for points can get you into trouble. Sarah Silbert: Obviously,
it’s very attractive to get points or miles
from your credit card, but if you’re not paying
off your balance in full, the points or miles that you’re
earning are not worth it. Narrator: Because you’re going to get hit with that interest charge. A credit card’s interest rate is also called the APR,
or annual percentage rate. The APR determines how
much you’ll be charged if you don’t pay your balance
in full by the due date. On average, the APR for new
credit card offers is about 19%. But store credit cards from places like Banana Republic, The
Home Depot, and Target have some of the highest
rates in the business. And if you’re not paying attention, those charges can add up. The average household
with credit card debt pays $1,292 in interest each year. Now, some credit cards
will waive interest fees for the first few months to a year. And you might think, well, this is only a problem
for people with bad spending habits who don’t pay off
their card in full each time. Clip: But there’s a lot
more to it than that. Narrator: Even if you’re
responsible with your payments, there’s still other ways
credit cards can cost you. Silbert: There are lots
of credit card hidden fees that you could be surprised by
if you’re not aware of them. These fees are hidden in the sense that they’re buried in the fine print. They’re definitely documented, and you can find them
if you look for them. But they’re not super
apparent if you’re just glancing at the credit
card application online. Narrator: Some cards
have fees you can’t avoid by diligently paying your card on time. Like a foreign transaction fee. These are fees placed on
purchases you make abroad. But they can also be charged on any transaction processed abroad, even if you yourself are not traveling. So, if you’re making a
hotel reservation in Bali or buying a cool pair of
pants from a Japanese website, you might want to make
sure the card provider isn’t charging you a fee
to make that purchase. Foreign transaction fees
typically run around 3%, so for a hotel room
that costs $150 a night, you’re paying an additional $4.50. Just think, you could have bought yourself an iced coffee with that money. Other fees to look out for
are balance transfer fees, authorized user fees, late
payment fees, and an annual fee. You could get charged an
annual fee once a year just for having the card. On some cards, it can be quite high, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which has an annual fee of $450. Ouch. But the Sapphire Reserve also
offers a $300 travel credit and a hefty sign-up bonus, so if you’re using it for travel and are a big spender
anyway, it might be worth it. So, with all these sneaky
fees and incentives, how do you avoid a credit card
bill at the end of the month that’s higher than you expected? Silbert: The best way to use credit cards is to treat them like debit cards. So that means don’t spend
anything more than you can afford, you need to pay your balance off in full, and that way, any rewards
that you’re earning are really rewards in something extra.
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