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Considering new credit cards? Read fine print, choose carefully

November 2, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you're thinking about getting a new credit card, now could be a good time. Fewer credit-card applications are being turned down, according to a just-released Consumer Reports national survey of cardholders. But you need to choose carefully.

That's partly because in the Consumer Reports survey, not everyone is happy with their credit cards. In other words, if you want to transfer a balance from one credit card to another card with a lower interest rate, make sure you understand the details of the offer.

If you don't like your credit card, you're not alone, according to Consumer Reports.

"One out of three people we surveyed said they had a problem in the past year with things like a new annual fee, higher interest rates, or fewer rewards," said Daugherty.

Meanwhile, the sheer volume of credit-card offers is up, with enticing low initial-interest rates and attractive cash-back offers. But Consumer Reports says before you jump at an offer, check out the fine print.

"If you carry a balance on your card, the key features to look for in a new card are low balance-transfer fees and low interest rates," said Daugherty. "And make sure you know how long that new interest rate will last."

Consumer Reports checked out a variety of cards and found three good deals for people who want to transfer a balance and don't plan to pay it off right away.

Iberia Bank Visa Classic charges a 2-percent balance-transfer fee and just 1.99 percent interest for six months on balances transferred.

Simmons First Visa Platinum has no balance-transfer fee, and charges a 7.25 variable interest rate on transfers and any new purchases.

The PenFed Promise Visa has no fees of any kind and a low 4.99-percent interest on balance transfers for 24 months.

"With this card, you do need to join the PenFed credit union," said Daugherty. "Membership is free for members of the military and employees of the U.S. government, but anyone else can join for just a few dollars."

Since the average interest rate on new cards is about 14 percent, these cards are well worth considering.

Cards that offer rewards can look enticing, but Consumer Reports says they generally have higher interest rates. If you don't pay off your balances every month, the interest could easily wipe out any rewards you might earn.

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