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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.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

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Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


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Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


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Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

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L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

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Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

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All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.