What to know about credit card agreements
If you have just received your new credit card in the mail, it’s understandable if you want to activate it and start using it right away. However, the cardmember agreement that accompanies the card—particularly the terms and conditions—are of vital importance, as they explain the finer points of card usage. These details may seem a tad intimidating to digest at first, but they are essential to understanding your cardmember contract. These details include the APR, billing cycles, how to earn and use rewards points and more.
Below we’ll focus on some of the more important aspects of your cardmember agreement, and why the details matter. Read on for a checklist of some important aspects of your cardmember agreement:
The basics of cardmember agreements
Reviewing your cardmember agreement can help you understand the basic facts about your credit card, so you can avoid costly fees, better understand technicalities and use your card with confidence. Items that your cardmember agreement will detail include the following:
- The APR (introductory and regular interest rates), including an explanation as to how the APR is calculated for your card
- Your billing date, closing date, and any applicable grace period (where a late payment will not result in added interest)
- Fees issued for late payments and other consequences such as penalty APRs, which may be applied when payments are missed
- Any new cardmember sign-up bonus offer and the dates by which you must spend or set up autopay for a bill or bills using the card to receive it—this is typically within the first 60 to 90 days of activating your card
- The cash back percentage and type of purchases on which you receive cash back, if applicable
- Rewards points/airline or hotel miles and eligibility, if your card offers points
- Balance transfer information, if your card came with a balance transfer offer or could offer you one in the future
- Other information applicable to your specific card
0% APR and other introductory offers in your cardmember agreement
If your card offers rewards points or miles, knowing how to earn them can help you maximize the value accrued from your card purchases. Understanding when any introductory 0% or low APR rate offer you may receive ends can be especially important for making big purchases such as home appliances, furniture or booking vacations with the card. It can also be important for planning a balance transfer to pay attention to any 0% or low introductory offer that may be available to you.
A new cardmember sign-up bonus may also be contingent on meeting or exceeding a minimal required amount of spending to qualify or signing up for monthly automatic payments.
Read on to find out when you can expect to receive your cardmember agreement and federal laws that are designed to make the fine print more comprehensible for you, the consumer.
Where can you find the fine print in your credit card agreement
Your credit card agreement should arrive in the mail, usually in the same envelope as your card. If you did not receive the agreement or somehow it was lost in the mail, the card issuer must make it available to you upon request. According to federal law, the issuer must either resend it to you or provide you with online access to the agreement. For Chase customers, if you accidentally misplace the paper copy of your agreement, no worries. You can download a copy at Chase.com or call the number on the back of your card to request a copy be mailed to you.
The 2009 CARD Act also has provisions requiring the language of the terms and conditions to be clear and straightforward, with the APR and any annual fee disclosed in a way consumers can readily understand. To help consumers better understand their cardmember agreements, federal law says the APR must be prominently listed in a table at or near the top of the document. This means cardmember agreements are required to print the APR in a table that the customer can easily read.
Where to find your APR on the cardmember agreement
The table in which you can find your APR and fees at a glance is known as a Schumer Box. In general, the Schumer Box will be prominently featured near the top of the first page or sometimes on the second page of the cardmember agreement. The Schumer Box is named for then New York Congressman and later U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who mandated it in legislation he co-sponsored in 1988.
Additional important parts of your credit card agreement
With the Schumer Box, you should also see a description of how the APR gets calculated by the card issuer. Some additional information to look out for in the agreement include:
- APR on any cash advances you may take from an ATM or bank branch using your card
- Foreign transaction fees, if applicable in case you use your credit card while outside the United States—some student and travel oriented credit cards do not charge this type of fee
- How and under what conditions the card issuer may send you new credit card offers or offer to upgrade your card
Cardmember agreements: know your miles and points
One factor people consider when choosing a credit card is the potential rewards points or hotel and airline travel miles they can earn with their purchases.
When reviewing your cardmember agreement, it’s important to read the fine print to better understand:
- How rewards points are earned, including the types of spending that may earn more rewards—such as restaurants, grocery stores or select retailers. This typically varies by card.
- How to earn airline and hotel miles or points and whether they can be transferred to the card issuer’s co-branded or travel partners.
- All of the information in your terms and conditions that describe your card’s rewards points, including any exclusions.
- Any cardmember travel protections, if applicable, such as trip delay or lost luggage insurance. Your agreement may also explain how to file a claim with the cardmember benefits center.
Chase resources on credit card agreements
Visit our credit card glossary to learn more about what certain terms and phrases in your cardmember agreement mean. Additionally, Chase Credit Journey® can help you understand the factors affecting your credit score and monitor it for free. You could also enroll in a free personalized action plan provided by Experian™ to help improve your score and financial literacy.