Open up your credit card agreement, and you'll probably find the word "fee" scattered heavily throughout. Though most credit cards do come with fees, the good news is that many of them are in fact avoidable. For example, you can find a no annual fee credit card and save yourself money that way. Or, if you travel a lot, there are a host of cards that don't impose a foreign transaction fee. Here, we'll discuss some popular credit card fees, like ones for getting a cash advance, paying late, and transferring a balance, and introduce some of our favorite cards that can help you steer clear of them.
Your annual fee is the sum you'll pay right off the bat for the privilege of having your credit card. It could be a modest fee or one that's several hundred dollars, depending on the nature of your card. While annual fees aren't a given, they're popular among travel credit cards. Furthermore, cards that offer generous rewards often compensate by charging annual fees.
While paying an annual fee doesn't always make sense, you might come out ahead if you chose a low-fee card with a superior rewards program. Say you're looking at a card with a $100 annual fee that offers 5% cash back on grocery purchases with no limit, and you typically spend $10,000 a year at the supermarket. That's $400 back in your pocket when you subtract the $100 fee. Even if another no-fee card offers 3% cash back on groceries, you'll be better off opting for the first one. That said, if you're opposed to paying an annual fee, you can check out our list check of the best no-annual-fee cards available.
The benefit of transferring a balance from one card to another is not only consolidating your debts to make your payments more manageable, but lowering your interest rate on your existing debt (because, ideally, you'll be transferring your balance to a card with a lower rate). While some cards impose a balance-transfer fee, there are a number of cards that don't that you can look into as well. Keep in mind, however, that cards with no balance-transfer fee typically come with certain restrictions -- namely, that you make the transfer within 60 days of opening the account.
Many credit cards impose foreign-transaction fees for making purchases oversees, and these fees are typically calculated as a percentage of what you buy. Travel credit cards, however, usually offer the benefit of no such fees. You can review our list of the best travel cards to learn more about the perks they come with.
When you need money in a hurry, you might consider a cash advance from your credit card. But doing so will come at a cost, because most cards charge a cash-advance fee for this privilege. Of course, you might ultimately lose far more money than what you pay in a fee alone, because if you don't repay your balance right away, you'll accrue interest charges that could be significant. That's why it pays to have emergency savings available at all times; it's a no-cost option for accessing cash immediately when you need it.
Late-payment fees are among the costliest credit card fees you might encounter -- but they're also the most avoidable. All you need to do to prevent a late fee is make your minimum payment by its due date. It's that simple. But if you don't pay your bills on time, you'll not only incur unnecessary charges but also ding your credit score in the process. In fact, according to FICO data, a single 30-day late payment could cause a 780 credit score to drop 90 to 110 points, even if it's the cardholder's first offense. Furthermore, a missed payment might stay on your credit record for up to seven years. Yikes.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, over the typical three-month period, 20% of consumers will wind up paying a late fee. To avoid being one of them, set a recurring calendar reminder to coincide with the end of your billing cycle, or arrange for automatic payments through your bank, where you authorize your card to pull funds from your checking or savings account up to a preset amount. As long as that amount covers your minimum payment due, you won't have to worry about being late month after month.
Educating yourself about credit card fees can help you avoid pointless charges. The next time you receive a copy of your credit card agreement, do yourself a favor and read the fine print. It could end up saving you a load of cash and a world of hassle.