Credit Cards Are Convenient – But Can Cost You A Lot Of Money

     It was a relatively unheard-of method a few short decades ago, but credit cards have quickly become a common means of paying bills. It is convenient to do so, of course, because you avoid making cash payments from your pocket. You can also rack up some serious air mileage points. Credit cards though, despite being easy to use, come with all sorts of fees that are charged by your credit card company — resulting in more money coming out of your wallet in the long run. If you are going to do it and you are not the only one, trust me, it is essential to pay credit card fees on time during the grace period in order to minimize these finance charges and stay out of crippling debt.

Credit card companies charge a penalty for late fees.
     The average penalty fee for the late payment of a bill was about 12 dollars in 1994; by 2004, it rose to over 32 dollars. Now, it is around 40 bucks. If you think that phone bill was steep before, take a look at the total after paying it off with plastic and then missing your due date. Yikes.
     The other dangerous feature of a lot of credit card agreements is the "Universal Default Clause" . This policy stipulates that a credit card company can increase your APR on your card with them if you are late on another company’s card. This is true even if you have perfect payment history with this particular credit card company.

Tips to keep credit card fees to an absolute minimum.
     1. Maybe needless to say, the best way to avoid late fees is to familiarize yourself with all the terms and restrictions related to your card. All of the information and guidelines should be readily available in your user agreement and on the back of the credit card bill you receive each month. Try to adhere to the specified payment instructions in order to make certain that your money gets where it’s going on time.
     2. Having a good payment history can come in very handy if things do not go exactly as planned once or twice. If you are able to simply maintain a good record of on-time payment, many card issuers will make considerations on your behalf. They do this as a courtesy to customers in sound standing, and you should feel free to request this consideration if you’re normally on time.
     3. If you do forget to make a payment and catch the mistake in the 11th hour, you can often avoid the late fees by paying over the telephone. Call the toll-free number on the back of your card and have a. check number and a bank routing number handy. You can find these numbers at the bottom of any personal check, and the customer service representative will help you identify them. Once you make the payment, put the check aside and make sure not to use it again. Note that, while some credit card companies offer this option for free, others charge up to 20 dollars. Make sure to ask about potential charges if they aren’t mentioned to you.
     4. Have you tried paying online? Plenty of companies accept payment over the Internet, and it’s usually pretty quick to arrive in their hands this way. It is a handy tool if you are traveling, and it saves you the cost of a stamp as well.
     5. If you just do not have the cash to pay your bill and the due date is coming up, talk to your credit card company and negotiate a new due date for a time when you know you will have money. Often times the company will allow you to pay late without an extra charge if you’ve warned them in advance.
     It is best to pay your bills with a check or directly from your bank account, but if you are going to use credit cards, knowing the tools you have at your disposal can at least keep you out of hot water.
      Josh Michaels is a freelance writer who survives on very little income and carefully considered financial decisions. This combination has allowed him to have fun, travel the world, and start a retirement account – all without the pleasure of holding a full-time job. He can be reached at: