All That One Should Know About Credit Cards

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All That One Should Know About Credit Cards

A Credit card is a thin plastic card which contains the name of the account holder, name of the bank or financial institution which has issued the card, 16 digit account number, magnetic strip which stores all information about your name, PIN, expiry date, credit limit and also the logo displaying the type of card such as Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, etc.

Technically speaking its a card that allows its holder to buy goods or services on a credit. So its nothing but an unsecured loan. This means that unlike a secured loan, which is advanced by a bank or a financial institution, a Credit card is offered against without any security. So, the bank or financial institution take necessary steps to ensure that only those meeting certain parameters are qualified to get a Credit card.

A Credit card establishes a revolving credit agreement between you and the issuing bank. You are given an account with a certain credit limit and once you pay back the amount which you have spent by charging your card, the money is once again available to use up to the credit limit. But you must pay at least a minimum amount by the due date, generally once every month. You will pay a finance charge or interest on any amount you do not pay by the due date.

There are a wide variety of Credit cards with many different features and advantages. For instance, Gold and Platinum cards are for customers with a high income. They have higher credit limit and also perks.

Applying for a Credit Card:

Any individual above the age of 18 is entitled to have a Credit card. So when you you apply for a Credit card, your application is carefully screened and a credit limit is worked out for you based on your financial capability,age, qualifications etc. So based on these parameters the bank issues you a Credit card. The bank which issues the Credit card is called the issuing bank.

What is a Credit limit?

Credit limit is the maximum amount you could spend or borrow using your Credit card. This limit is determined by various details like your income, source of income etc. The credit limit is normally revised upwards or downwards based on your previous year’s track record in terms of spending and repayment.

What are add-on cards?

Add-on cards are those that are given to the spouse or close relative of the primary card member. The amount and period of credit as well the eligibility criteria are all dependent on the primary card member’s eligibility. So the add-on card member usually shares the same credit limit as assigned to the primary card member.

How does a it work?

The working of the Credit card business is based on a mutually beneficial arrangement which is supported by an elaborate behind the scene system between the issuing bank, international networks such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express, etc and merchant establishments such as hotels, shopping malls, travel agencies etc.

So when you buy a product or service at such merchant establishments, your card is swiped on a swipe machine. This machine is connected to a central computer belonging to the network, which in turn is connected to all issuing banks. The system is devised is such a manner that it verifies with your issuing bank whether you have sufficient credit to cover the purchase within a few seconds and approves or rejects the transaction. Once the transaction is approved, you will be asked by the merchant to sign the charge slip which is verified with the signature present on the back of the card. Both you and the merchant keep a copy of the receipt. The merchant then deposits the receipt with their bank which credits their account in the amount charged. The bank then sends this transaction electronically to the international network (Visa, Master Card, Discover etc) which in turn continues the transaction by crediting the bank and then charges the issuer of the card. The issuer of the card completes the transaction cycle by sending the bill to the card holder for the purchase amount.

Advantages & Disadvantages of owning a Credit card:

Advantages:

The advantage of having a credit card is that you can make purchases in advance in anticipation of salary or any other future income. Further you don’t have to carry cash all the time to make purchases. Its also a blessing for persons who want to fund big purchases which is not within their budget.

You can also use Credit card for emergencies like unexpected car repairs etc when you don’t have the cash to cover the expenses.  Moreover, due to the simplified processes of the Credit card operations, Credit cards payments are indeed becoming very popular everywhere as the hassles of staying on queue for the cash payments are avoided. And there is no necessity to cross check even if you are paying the correct amount of money as your Credit card will do every thing. So its convenient both for the customer as well as the merchant.

The other vital plus point in having a Credit card and that is you may shop online from the comfort of your home. In these days of heavy internet use, the concept of online shopping is gaining rapid popularity. Almost each and every object is merchandised through the online shopping. So if you own a Credit card then you may buy anything available at the online store. Finally, using a Credit card gives you a credit history, which helps to get home loans and other credit in the future.

Disadvantages:

Credit cards though a boon can be a curse as well. But fortunately their disadvantages can be averted if we know how to use them carefully. For instance, if your Credit card is lost and if it goes to wrong hands, then he will swipe your card may be to the maximum credit limit and incur huge loss to you. So one should always keep the card safely. So in case your Credit card is lost or stolen, then you must inform your Credit card service provider as early as possible so that any possible misuse of your card can be avoided.

The other disadvantage is that its a curse for persons who have a tendency to overspend as they end up getting into huge debts and sometimes even face nightmarish experience trying to juggle with their assets to clear the outstanding dues. But this drawback is also manageable too and can be overcome by using your Credit card properly and paying the balance in time.

Dos & Don’t

Credit cards have their pros and cons and so a through knowledge of Do’s and Don’t is very essential to safeguard our plastic money.

Dos:

Sign your card as soon as you receive it as unsigned cards are nothing but an invitation to misuse.
Keep your card in a safe place in your wallet so that you can immediately notice that your card is missing.
Treat the card just like you would keep cash, checks etc and always protect it so that no one can have access to it.
Make sure that whenever you make a purchase you get back your card and always ensure that the card you get back is yours only because many times chances are that cards get exchanged at shopping centres, service stations etc.
Keep a record of all card numbers,expiry date and contact number of the issuing bank at a secure place for ready reference.
When you use your card at an ATM, enter PIN in such a way that no one can easily memorize your keystrokes and make sure that the transaction is done by you in complete privacy.
Please ensure that the card is swiped in your presence only.
When you make any transactions, please make sure that the charge slip is complete before signing.
Check your monthly statement to make sure that all the charges are your own, and in case you notice any errors or unauthorized charges in the bill, then inform the issuing bank immediately.
Inform change of address to the issuing bank and also postal authorities so that the monthly bill is forwarded to you without any undue delay.
Inform the issuing bank immediately if your card is lost.

Don’t:

Never reveal your card number or expiry date or personal details pertaining to the card to anyone unless you are totally sure that you can trust that person.
Never leave your receipt behind at the ATM.
Never get carried away by strangers who try to help you to use the ATM machine.
Please do not hand over the card to anyone, even if he/she claims to represent the Bank.
Do not use your card for any internet transaction on the internet unless you are sure that the site is hacker safe and always look for signs of security. Identify security clues such as a lock image at the bottom of your browser, or a URL that begins with https://.  These signs indicate that only you and the merchant can view your payment information.
In case you use your Credit card for online transactions in Internet cafes or public-use computers, please ensure that you erase the history of websites visited/accessed.
Do not expose the card to direct sunlight or excessive heat.
Do not throw away your Credit card statement, receipts etc without first shredding them.
Never give your card number over telephone unless you initiated the call.
Do not disclose your PIN (Personal Identification Number) to anyone.
Do not bend or scratch the card particularly the magnetic strip of the card.
Do not keep two cards with magnetic strips together.