Seductive Credit Card Offers, Sneaky Debt
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) When Mildred Baez applied for a fresh credit card with a 0% introductory rate, she transferred $5,000 from one card onto the new and proceeded to purchase a $300 leather jacket she had been eyeing in a local department store.
"I got the bill and the jacket had 14% interest tacked onto it," Baez said. "When I called the credit card company, they said the 0% introductory rate only applied to the balance transfer."
A nurse practitioner in Newark, New Jersey, Baez wasn't entitled to a full refund, because it was 30 days before she received the credit card bill and she'd already worn jacket.
"I'm stuck with the jacket and the bill," she said. "It seems like I am working just to pay off credit cards these days."
With interest rates rising on new credit card offers, now is not the time to fall prey to seductive credit card offers.
"The oldest trick is balance transfer from one card to another with a 0% introductory rate," said Mike Warren, financial advisor. "Some companies apply payments to only the balance transfer before they will apply it to recent purchases, which means that new jacket is going to cost a lot more and take a lot longer to pay off."
Interest rates on new credit card offers rose to 15.05 percent last week, according to CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.
"Every day mailboxes all around the country are filled with zero-percent financing offers and other such promises from large credit card marketers," said Howard Dvorkin, a CPA and founder of ConsolidatedCredit.org. "You just fill in the blanks and they'll do the rest. It's not reality. What a deal! Until the bill comes."
What fuels most debtors is keeping up with the Joneses not next door but on television.
"When you try to keep up with the images on TV and people who appear to make more money than most, you may become caught up and start using credit cards for things that you simply cannot afford," said Dvorkin who authored Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny (Wiley & Sons 2013). "It's a trap. As a result, we are going broke trying to maintain our memberships in a perceived class of people."
In the U.S. there are 52.5 million holders of American Express cards, 180 million carriers of MasterCard credit cards and 278 million Visa cards, according to Packaged Facts.
"The worst-case scenario is the consumer who continues to apply for new credit and use the credit on the new card to make the minimum payments on the old cards," Warren said. "Once they miss a payment, all the cards could be jacked up to 30% interest. At that rate, even if the consumer decided to get tough, stop spending and pay off the debt, it would take more than 50 years just making the minimum payment."