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These 5 money-saving details about your credit card are unforgettable.

These fine-print tips could help you better understand what you're signing up for.

These 5 money-saving details about your credit card are unforgettable.

When a shiny new credit card shows up in the mail, what's the first thing you do?

If you’re like most people, you activate it, peel off that sticker, and load it into your wallet like artillery in a spending cannon.


Welcome to adulthood! Image by Sean MacEntee/Flickr.

But what about all that other stuff that comes along with the card? Petite as they are, credit cards usually arrive in thick envelopes, jam-packed with all the information issuers have to disclose by law.

That, my friends, is your credit card agreement, and every time you swipe that cut of beveled plastic, you’re giving two thumbs up to everything therein.

During my first few years out of college, I had no idea what terms like "overdraft protection" or "cash advance" meant.

I paid plenty of fees as a result, some of which I got refunded by calling and asking nicely. But if I’d read and understood my credit card agreement, it would have saved me hours of frustration.

Recently the CARD Act outlawed a few of the worst practices that some credit card issuers use (things like "universal default" and "double-cycle billing"). But no matter what, you do need to know the nitty-gritty details of credit cards before you start swiping. Here are five areas of your credit card agreement that could throw you for a loop if you’re caught unaware.

1. Cash advances

First, you should definitely check out the Schumer box on your credit card agreement, which outlines stuff like annual percentage rate (APR), grace period, and annual fees (if applicable). That’s a good place to start. (If you're like me and you’ve already tossed your credit card agreement, you also can pull up a copy online, either on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s credit card agreement database or on your card issuer’s website.)

Photo by _Dinkel_/Flickr

But here’s something I found out after I’d had a credit card for a while: Many issuers charge a transaction fee for cash advances on a credit card, plus interest that starts immediately, not after a grace period. "Even if you did read all the fine print, that’s something you might not understand,” says Beverly Harzog, credit expert and author of "The Debt Escape Plan: How to Free Yourself from Credit Card Balances, Boost Your Credit Score, and Live Debt-Free."

Unfortunately, it’s easy to take a cash advance without even realizing it. For instance, if you overpay your bill and transfer the extra money back to your bank account (as I once did) or you mistakenly use your credit card instead of a debit card at an ATM.

2. Late payments

Grace periods can vary from card to card and not every card has one. Paying your bill late not only damages your credit score, but if you pay more than 60 days late, it could trigger a higher penalty APR. “You could end up with that penalty rate retroactively against your whole balance,” Harzog says.

Plus, your issuer could revoke any rewards you’ve earned (buh-bye, Bermuda trip!). "If you do make a late payment, call the issuer right away and let them know what happened," Harzog says. "If you’ve got a good payment history, they might not do anything to your rewards."

3. Fees on top of fees

You probably know you’ll be charged interest on any unpaid balances. But what about things like balance transfers, foreign transactions, and overdraft protection? Alas, you don’t even have to leave your home country to get hit with a foreign transaction fee, I’ve learned. If you’re ordering online from a company that uses a foreign bank, the fee may still apply and it typically adds 1-3% to your transaction.

Photo by wsssst/Flickr.

With a prepaid or secured credit card, your issuer may also charge you a monthly fee and other fees that you may not expect unless you read the agreement closely. Knowledge is power, people!

4. Mandatory arbitration

If something goes wrong, you can always take them to court, right? Power to the people! But not so fast ... some credit card agreements actually strip you of this right, so if something goes wrong, you can’t sue them in court. Instead, a third-party arbiter would rule on your dispute and their decision would be binding.

In some cases, you even have to pay filing fees if you initiate the claim. Total lame sauce!

5. Terms are subject to change

Now that you’ve untangled the terms of your credit card agreement, here’s the kicker: Almost everything is subject to change. That’s right: card issuers can devalue your rewards, increase your APR (although usually not in the first year you have the card), or remove perks like warranty coverage or travel accident insurance.

For most changes, they must notify you in writing, so don’t toss any communications from your credit card issuer before reading it thoroughly. If you have a card with a low introductory APR, the card issuer doesn’t have to notify you when the introductory period ends and a higher APR kicks in automatically.

The bottom line: Read your credit card terms carefully, no matter how boring they are.

That's true adulting. “If you don’t understand something, call the company and ask,” Harzog says. “If the customer rep doesn’t understand, ask to speak to their manager.”

It's better to spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with the agreement and to walk away armed with knowledge than find out the hard way about late payment fees or penalty APRs. Take it from someone who's been there.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."