As a regular Money254 user, you have probably already read our articles on how to get yourself a credit card and use it responsibly. We have explained how and for whom a credit card can be useful, how to utilise the interest-free period in order to enjoy interest-free spending, how a credit card can save you money, and so on.
If you have made the decision to get a credit card, or are at least considering getting one, you must know that every credit card issuer will have their own terms and conditions that may determine whether their card will meet your needs or not.
This article equips you with questions to ask your potential credit card issuer before deciding to sign up with them.
This is one of the best questions to ask your issuer while you are discussing your credit card terms. Choosing your payment due date is a great way to stay in control of your cash flow and consequently help you settle your bill on time. When you pick the date, you can pick a day that your cash flow is the healthiest and money isn’t tight.
So ask your issuer if they can allow you to choose the day your payment is due every month. But keep in mind that you can’t choose dates 29th, 30th or 31st because not all months have these dates.
If you have been a great customer but you are now carrying a balance, you can ask your provider to review your interest rate. But before you do that, it helps to be prepared with facts to help argue your case.
For example, if you have been receiving offers from other credit card issuers, you can use this as leverage. Also, if you have been a long-term client, you can remind the customer care representative of that fact and request long-term customer benefits.
When you are applying for the first time, it can be a good idea to negotiate for a lower interest rate than the quoted rate. It is possible your issuer may consider your request.
Some credit card issuers charge a penalty interest rate on their card. This is a rate the issuer charges you that’s higher than your regular interest if your existing balance is late for more than a specific number of days (usually 60 days).
It is, therefore, crucial to know what the rate is and all the terms associated with it so that you are better prepared in case you are late on a payment.
Some of the best credit card issuers in the market charge an annual fee. If you decide to take a credit card with an annual fee, make sure that the perks are worth it.
The first step is to fully understand how much the annual charge is and if the charges change in the subsequent years. This is because, in the first year, the issuers are in competition to gain customers and therefore may offer the juicy sign-up bonuses (e.g. waive the annual fee the first year), which might not be available in the subsequent years.
Many credit cardholders do not know that this is a question they can ask their card issuer. The truth is, you can ask your provider to raise your credit limit if you consistently use your card responsibly - consistently pay your bill on time.
However, there are both advantages and disadvantages to raising your credit limit. The main advantage is raising your limit can help improve your credit history. And the main disadvantage is that increasing the money may encourage you to overspend. So if you don’t have good financial discipline, it might not be a good idea to ask for an increase.
Not all rewards points are equal. Some reward points are tied to specific merchants and you can not spend them anywhere else. For instance, some issuers offer flight ticket discount points that can only be redeemed at a specific airline. Also, different issuers have different policies on how and when to redeem the points.
It is therefore important to ensure you fully understand how your issuers reward points work.
Not all perks will benefit you. For example, travel perks are only beneficial to people who love to travel - for work or for leisure. If you do not travel often enough or do not travel at all, then a discount on flight tickets might be a useless perk for you.
Therefore, ask your issuer to let you pick a reward that will actually benefit you. For example, you can pick reward points that give you dinner discounts if you love to eat out.
You, of course, have the choice of picking a credit card that offers rewards that are best suited to your spending needs.
Learn more: 6 Ways Credit Cards Can Save You Money.
If rewards or points are what attracted you to take a credit card in the first place, this is a very important question to ask your issuer. On many occasions, credit card issuers include a policy that allows them to reduce or revoke rewards for specific reasons.
Although this is bad for business and issuers might actually never do it, it is still important to ensure that you have all the facts at hand. For example, an issuer might have a policy that blocks you from redeeming your points if your account is in default.
Of course, paying every month on time should be on top of your priorities. But who are we kidding? Life happens and you will miss a payment or two when you least expect it. It can be due to a shift in your cash flow or due to unavoidable circumstances like sickness. ‘
So it is useful to ask your issuer in what circumstances they can overlook a late payment. Some credit card issuers have a policy on forgiveness, while others provide their customers with a variety of tools to help them honor the payment due date. Whatever the case, it is better to be informed and know what to expect.
In Kenya, if you default on a debt for a certain period of time, your personal information is forwarded to the Credit Reference Bureau (CRB). The grace period before your personal information is forwarded to CRB varies from lender to lender.
Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to ask so that you are prepared in case of any eventualities.
Credit cards can be a great way to save while earning various perks, rewards, and points. But on the other hand, if you are not careful, they can be a source of stress due to debt accumulation. But just like anything in life, preparation counts.
So be smart and do thorough research beforehand to know everything there is to know. And the best place to start is your issuer. You will be surprised how much information you can get if you ask.