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Credit Cards and Home Equity Loans - Read the Fine Print

Written by: Charles Essmeier

These days, everyone's lives are burdened with paperwork. With newspapers, magazines, bills, junk mail, and who-knows-what taking up space in their day, few people have time to look at every piece of paper that comes their way. Unfortunately, it's becoming more and more necessary to carefully examine bills and contracts, as various penalties are finding their way into the fine print of credit card bills, home equity loan and mortgage contracts. It truly pays to take the time to read the fine print in these documents.

Up to one third of major credit card issuers now include a "universal default clause" in their credit card terms. The UDC allows the credit card company to raise the interest rate on the account if the cardholder pays his or her bills late. This can apply even if the credit card bill is paid on time! It is important to find out if your credit card terms include a UDC, as your interest rate could be affected by whether or not you pay your telephone bill on time. This is just one of many ways that credit card companies are increasing their profits, but it isn't one that they're willing to advertise. When a letter comes in the mail from your credit card company that says "change in your credit card terms" or something like it, make sure that you read it. Failure to do so could raise the interest rate on your credit card substantially.

Another "fine print" issue that has been turning up recently is the prepayment penalty that is now being attached to up to half of all mortgages and home equity loans. The volatile nature of interest rates in the lending market has inspired many homeowners to repeatedly refinance their homes in the last few years. Lenders often hold a mortgage for only a few months before the borrower finds a lower rate and refinances, paying off the original loan. In order to "protect" the profits from lending the money, up to half of all lenders are now requiring a substantial penalty if the loan is paid off prior to a specified date. These fees can amount to several thousand dollars on a primary mortgage and several hundred dollars on a home equity loan. Most borrowers would not be pleased to go through the process of refinancing their home, only to find out at closing that they owed a penalty of five thousand dollars. Instead, be sure to read the fine print in your mortgage or home equity loan documents before you sign them.

As the lending and credit markets become more and more competitive, lenders are doing more and more to increase their profits. They are not necessarily doing so in obvious ways, however, so it is always in your best interests to read any document carefully before you sign. Your failure to do so could cost you quite a bit of money.

About the Author

©Copyright 2005 by Retro Marketing. Charles Essmeier is the owner of Retro Marketing, a firm devoted to informational Websites, including End-Your-Debt.com, a site devoted to debt consolidation and credit counseling, and HomeEquityHelp.com, a site devoted to information regarding home equity loans.

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