+
More

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.

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.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

popular

Woman left at the altar by her fiance decided to 'turn the day around’ and have a wedding anyway

'I didn’t want to remember the day as complete sadness.'

via Pixabay

The show must go on… and more power to her.

There are few things that feel more awful than being stranded at the altar by your spouse-to-be. That’s why people are cheering on Kayley Stead, 27, from the U.K. for turning a day of extreme disappointment into a party for her friends, family and most importantly, herself.

According to a report in The Metro, on Thursday, September 15, Stead woke up in an Airbnb with her bridemaids, having no idea that her fiance, Kallum Norton, 24, had run off early that morning. The word got to Stead’s bridesmaids at around 7 a.m. the day of the wedding.

“[A groomsman] called one of the maids of honor to explain that the groom had ‘gone.’ We were told he had left the caravan they were staying at in Oxwich Bay (the venue) at 12:30 a.m. to visit his family, who were staying in another caravan nearby and hadn’t returned. When they woke in the morning, he was not there and his car had gone,” Jordie Cullen wrote on a GoFundMe page.

Keep ReadingShow less
Education

How a 3,800-year-old stone tablet helped create modern legal systems

'Innocent until proven guilty' isn't that new of a concept.

Kind of looks like the Matrix code...

The modern justice system is certainly not without its flaws, however most can agree that the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” is one that (when not abused) stands as the foundation of what fair due process looks like. This principle, it turns out, isn’t so modern at all. It can actually be traced all the way back to nearly 3,800 years ago.

historyLady Justice, the image of impartial fairness. Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

English barrister Sir William Garrow is known for coining the "innocent until proven guilty" phrase between the 18th and 19th century, after insisting that evidence be provided by accusers and thoroughly tested in court. But this notion, as radical as it seemed at the time, can, in fact, be credited to an ancient Babylonian king who ruled Mesopotamia.

During his reign from 1792 to 1750 B.C., Hammurabi left behind a legacy of accomplishments as a ruler and a diplomat. His most influential contribution was a series of 282 laws and regulations that were painstakingly compiled after he sent legal experts throughout his kingdom to gather existing laws, then adapted or eliminated them in order to create a universal system.

Those laws were inscribed on a large, seven-foot stone monument, and they were known as the Code of Hammurabi.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

TikTok star's surprising method for finding good Chinese food is blowing people's minds

Yelp can be a helpful tool for scoping out food joints, but maybe not in the way you think.

Photo by Debbie Tea on Unsplash

Different cultures view service differently.

Content creator Freddy Wong has a brilliantly easy way to find authentic Chinese food.

As he reveals in a mega viral video that’s racked up 9.4 million views on TikTok and 7.7 million views on Twitter, the trick (assuming you live in a major metropolitan area) is to “go on Yelp and look for restaurants with 3.5 stars, and exactly 3.5 stars." Not 3. Not 4. 3.5.

He then backs up his argument with some pretty undeniable photo evidence.

First, he pulls up an image of a Yelp page from P.F. Chang’s. With only 2.5 stars, one can tell the food is “obviously bad.” Alternatively, Din Tai Fung—a globally recognized Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant—has four stars.

Sounds good right? Wrong. In this case, “too many stars” means that “too many white people like it,” indicating that the restaurant is being judged on service rather than food quality. According to Wong, if “the service is too good, the food is not as good as it could be.”

He then pulls up the Yelp page for a couple of local Chinese restaurants, both of which have 3.5 stars. The waiters at these establishments might “not pay attention to you,” he admits, adding that they might even be “rude.” But, Wong attests, “it’s going to taste better.”

@rocketjump

Why I only go to Chinese restaurants with 3.5 star ratings

♬ original sound - RocketJump

"The dumplings here are better [than Din Tai Fung's]. I've been here," he says of the 3.5 star Shanghai Dumpling House. Considering his Twitter profile boasts a “James Beard Award winning KBBQ Gourmand'' title, it seems like he knows what he’s talking about.

So, why is this 3.5 rule the “sweet spot”? As Wong explains, it all comes down to different “cultural expectations.”

“In Asia, they’re not as proactive. They’re not going to come up to you, they’re not going to just proactively give you refills, you need to flag down the waiter,” he says, noting the different interpretations of service.

"People on Yelp are insufferable,” he continues, arguing that “they're dinging all these restaurants because the service is bad,” but the food is so good that it balances out the bad service. Hence, a 3.5-star rating. His reasoning is arguably sound—people do often give absurdly scathing reviews that in no way accurately reflect a restaurant’s food quality.

“A good Yelp review doesn’t mean it’s a good restaurant — it simply means the restaurant is good at doing things that won’t hurt their online rating,” Wong said in an interview with Today, adding that “highly rated Yelp restaurants are often those with counter service and limited menus, minimizing potential negative interaction with staff.”

He also added the caveat, “I don’t have anything against those places, but I think people who only eat at the ‘highest rated’ restaurants on online review sites are only eating at the most boring restaurants.”

A ton of people in the comments seem to back Wong’s theory.

best chinese food

100% accurate, some say

TikTok

Plus, the theory seems to not be limited to just Chinese restaurants, further implying that maybe there’s more of a cultural misunderstanding, rather than any real lack of quality.

thai food near me

No drink refills but the food is fire.

TikTok

yelp reviews, yelp

2.8 is the new 5

TikTok

One of the gifts that our modern world provides is the opportunity to truly experience and appreciate other cultures. Since food is easily one of the most accessible (and enjoyable) ways to do that, perhaps we should prioritize seeking authenticity, rather than rely on a flawed and superficial rating system.

As Wong told Today, “I hope it encourages people to go out and eat more food from not only Chinese restaurants, but restaurants representing the whole world of cultural cuisines.”