The number of credit cards is skyrocketing across the U.S. these days, as consumers turn to debt to ease the pain of inflation and credit card companies look to cash in. In fact, in Q2 of 2022 alone, there were almost as many brand new credit cards issued as people over 18 in America!
With each of those new cards, the bank, credit scores, interest rate, reward points or miles, and how we use them will differ, but one thing is consistent: the credit card companies know what makes you tick, and they prey on that to entice you to open more cards and rack up more debt.
Today, let’s cover just 5 of the many tricks and tactics credit cards use to drag you in.
- Sending out preapproved offers.
Credit card companies routinely mail out millions of preapproved offers every month, and these days it’s even easier because they can email them out to you as well.
But what does “preapproved” really mean? In fact, that terminology basically just means that a bank, lender, or credit card company purchasd your data (usually from the credit bureaus!) based on specific criteria. They may request everyone in the Sacramento area with a credit score over 700 and no bankruptcies, for instance (although that’s simplified).
If you match those criteria, the creditor considers you “preapproved” and can send out offers with that verbiage. But you STILL have to apply for a new account, and they still have to approve you. They can actually deny you (or just change terms and limits) once you respond to their preapproved offer!
- Reward points and cash back aren’t very rewarding.
Everyone loves to boast about how many reward points or cash back they’ve accrued with their favorite credit card, but do they really add up in your favor? According to analysts, one credit card point only has a real-world value of around one penny. Not so enticing anymore, huh?
With most cards, they’ll assign one point for every dollar you charge, so you’re getting one cent back.
Of course, they know that you’ll end up paying far more than one cent in interest for that same dollar you charge, not to mention that cards with rewards points or cash back often have high annual fees that counteract any financial benefit.
- Your fixed rate may not really be set in stone.
Credit card holders are largely in the dark when it comes to what their actual interest rate is. Of course, there are plenty of introductory offers and fixed rates promised when you sign up, but that’s misleading.
A credit card fixed rate isn’t “locked in” like the rate on a 30-year mortgage, for instance, but it just means it’s not directly tied to a benchmark (as is the case with variable rates). But your credit card’s fixed rate CAN change, and it’s basically just at the credit card company’s discretion, as long as it’s outside of the introductory period.
That’s right, deep in the fine print is a clause that allows your card to bump up your APR just about any time they want, as long as they send you formal notice.
- Do you really think you’re paying 0% on 0% offers?
Credit card companies and lenders flood us with offers for 0% financing, everywhere from in our mail to at the mall to online.
But do you think that an offer for 0% financing really means you end up paying 0%?! Of course not!
The critical element of 0% offers is that there’s typically a key deadline by which you need to pay it all back, or else interest payments do kick in, including for past months. Of course, they don’t inform you of that deadline or those terms (other than buried deep in the fine print), and they certainly won’t remind you.
Add it all up, and 0% financing usually means just deferred interest payments – and when they do kick in, they’re a whole lot higher than typical financing offers, often as high as 25%!
- Point-of-purchase offers are traps.
This is all-too-familiar; you’re in line at _______ (insert name of your favorite store here) with a sizable purchase stacked up in your cart.
The friendly and smiling person working the cash register asks you, “Would you like to apply for a ________ (insert name of your favorite store here again!) card today and get a 10% discount?”
It sounds good – and the savings could be significant on your purchase that day.
Retailers and financing companies understand the psychology that will entice you to say yes. They want to cultivate the pressure you feel to make a quick decision, limit the time you have to think about it, and have the discount dangled in front of you only when your final bill is being tallied.
Notice how they offer that at the cash register when you’re checking out – not when you’re first walking into the store!
And once you do say yes and sign up, that 10% discount one time will probably cost you exponentially more in finance charges and even fees down the road.
These are just a few of the seemingly endless tricks and tactics the credit card companies employ against you every single day!
But when it comes to debt, credit, and credit scores, you do have an advocate on your side: Blue Water Credit.
Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to know how you can save big money by rehabilitating your credit score!