Credit Cards

If you have obtained a credit card, there are certain things you should know. The AGO's Guide to Consumer Credit pdf format of consumer_credit_050510.pdf is a good start in the process of learning your rights and responsibilities.

Effective in February 2010, the CARD Act requires you to have a parent or other responsible adult co-sign the application, or have proof of income in order to obtain a credit card.

One risk is that your card balance accumulates over time, between additional purchases and accruing interest. Many people find that in a relatively short time, they are unable to pay off the balance, and thus accumulate large amounts of debt. In August of 2010, the CARD Act placed regulations on credit card fees designed to help consumers manage their debt.

Credit Report

A summary of how you have paid your bills, or repaid loans, over time - as well as what your monthly debts are, and other similar information is available for your review once a year for free.

Your credit report is reviewed each time when you apply for a credit card, a loan, or other types of credit - if you have a poor credit report, you may be denied loans, jobs, leases, etc., or may be subject to high interest rates.

Fraud

Credit card fraud is an unfortunate reality - but there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

Never share your credit card number unless you initiated the transaction. For instance, if you have called to order something on the phone or initiated an online transaction it may then be appropriate to disclose your information to complete the transaction. In an online transaction, you are well advised to ensure that there is some indicator that you are putting your card information into a secure site. However if another party initiates the transaction, calls or e-mails you with an offer and then asks for the information, you're likely falling into a trap.

Be wary of offers that require money up front.

Check your monthly statement to assure that all charges are legitimate and your own. If you encounter charges that are not your own, immediately call your credit card company to determine the origin of the charges.

If you lose your credit card, be sure to report the loss to your credit card company immediately. If you report the loss prior to any unauthorized charges, your credit card company cannot hold you liable for any of these charges; if your card is used before your report the loss, you may be liable for up to $50 in charges.