5 Fine Print Items to Watch Out For

Estimated read time: 2 minutes

You can look anywhere and find the benefits of a credit card offer. These benefits could include a $500 signup bonus, 0% for 18 months, or even 5% cash back on gas. However, behind the fancy marketing and grandiose offers lies the "fine print." The fine print is the most important, yet rarely-visited, section of your credit card agreement. If you are not careful, the fine print can turn dazzling offers into duds.

Most people skip the fine print because it is microscopic, complicated, and downright dull. But ignoring the fine print can leave you prone to surprise fees, lesser benefits, and an all-around bad deal. This article aims to give you five fine print items that you need to watch out for on your next credit card application.

  1. Annual percentage rates

    The annual percentage rate (APR) is the range of interest rates that issuers charge on your monthly balance. Most credit cards have variable interest rates which means the issuer can change them. The better your credit history, the better rate you will receive and vice versa. You can also see how your issuer calculates your interest in this section.

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  2. Signup bonus rules

    Signup bonuses can be an enticing benefit for new customers. However, most bonuses come with strings attached that you should be aware of, such as required spending and eligibility.

    Required spending is what you will need to spend to receive your bonus. For example, you may need to spend $2,000 in the first three months of opening your account. You should also determine your eligibility for the bonus. For instance, some issuers limit customers to one bonus.

  3. Rewards program rules

    The fine print will tell you how your rewards program works. You want to be sure that you are getting the perks and rewards that you are expecting. In this section, you should look out for rewards caps, eligible purchases, merchant category definitions, and travel expenditure definitions.

  4. Cardholder agreements

    You can also uncover some good news in the fine print. The cardholder agreement section can detail purchase protection, extended warranty covered, and car rental insurance. It can also require you to settle disputes through arbitration.

  5. Change of terms

    Believe it or not, your card issuer can change terms after you have become a customer. The card issuer must notify you of any changes, but you will need to re-visit the fine print to see what has changed.

Credit card issuers make many claims. However, the fancy marketing does not always seem to agree with the fine print. Before you turn in your credit card application, you should be reading the fine print. Doing so will enable you to confirm your decision or discover a deal breaker. While reading the fine print is never fun, it is necessary.