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Consumer Credit - Financial Regulation

While some people prefer to deal only in cash, having a credit card or access to credit is often seen as an important part of daily life in today’s economy. Credit cards may be needed when carrying around large amounts of cash is not feasible, especially for emergencies or things such as paying for a hotel. For larger purchases, and depending on your credit account, you’re more likely to have additional security and dispute options than you otherwise would if you used cash or a debit card. If you’re looking to buy a house or car in the future, showing a positive credit payment history may help you in obtaining a loan approval with better terms.

Having a credit card or credit account comes with responsibility. Making late payments or having too many accounts can have a negative effect on your ability to get or maintain credit in the future. Having credit accounts includes paying interest and finance charges if the balance is not paid in full each month (or as provided for in your agreement with your credit provider) which means borrowing money comes with added costs. Credit accounts, such as credit cards or lines of credit, make it more tempting to buy things that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.

Before you apply for a credit card, it is helpful to learn more about how credit cards work, how to read credit card statements and common credit terms. Adventures in Education has a free online module on managing credit cards where you can get educated on how to read a credit card statement and learn about common credit card terms.

Prepayment penalties may be permissible under certain Maryland law and are subject to certain limitations. However, many Maryland laws do not permit prepayment penalties. The language in the contract governs and must be reviewed carefully. A prepayment penalty may be allowed depending on the contract.

Whether you’re applying for your first credit card or you currently have a credit card, look closely at the terms and conditions of the credit card:

  • If it comes with a low introductory rate, ask how long does that rate last.
  • What will be the new rate after the introductory rate expires? Many 0% initial rate offers go up to a rate much higher, which will increase the total cost of the debt if the balance is not paid in full each month (or as provided for in your agreement with the credit card company).
  • If you transfer a balance from another card to get a low introductory rate, does that rate apply to new purchases? Is there a fee to transfer balances?
  • What is the penalty for making late payments?
  • Is there an annual fee to have the card?

Also know that an offer in the mail does not constitute approval. Approval for a card and any introductory rates are based on your credit history. If you would prefer to opt out of pre-screened offers of credit or insurance, you can submit your request at Optoutprescreen.com. You can also reduce the number of unwanted sales calls you get by signing up for the National Do Not Call Registry at no charge. If you have an issue with your credit card company, you can file a complaint with the credit card company and its regulator.

Additional Information on Credit & Loans: