One of the most important things to understand about your credit card is its interest rate.
An interest rate is the price you pay for borrowing money. For credit cards, the interest rates are stated as a yearly rate, called the annual percentage rate (APR).
On most cards, you can avoid paying interest on purchases if you pay your balance in full each month.
Use the credit card repayment calculator to figure out how long it may take you to pay off your specific balance with your current APR.
One credit card may have several APRs. Here are some common APR terms you should know:
Typically, your APR(s) will be fixed or variable:
- Different APRs for different types of transactions. Your credit card will always have a purchase APR--the amount of interest you will pay on purchases. For many cards, you only have to pay interest on purchases if you carry over a balance. Your card likely will also have a different--often higher--APR for cash advances or balance transfers.
- Introductory APR. Your card may have a lower APR during an introductory period and a higher rate after that period ends. Under Federal law, the introductory period must last at least six months, and the credit card company must tell you what your rate will be after the introductory period expires. For example, your introductory rate may be 8.9 percent for six months and then go up to 17.9 percent.
- Penalty APR. Your APR may increase if you trigger one of the penalty terms, for example, by paying your bill late or making a payment that is returned.
- A Fixed-rate APR is set at a certain percent and cannot change during the period of time outlined in your credit card agreement. If your company does not specify a time period, the rate cannot change as long as your account is open.
- A Variable-rate APR may change depending upon an index that is outside of the credit card company's control, such as the prime rate or Treasury bill rate. The credit card application and agreement will tell you how often your card's APR may change.
Card issuers may offer combinations of fixed and variable rates--for example, a fixed-rate APR that becomes a variable rate after your introductory period ends. Read your credit card agreement carefully to understand when or if your APR may change.
Last Update Date: June 15, 2010
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