Lower your credit card rate

By Gerri Willis, CNN personal finance editor


NEW YORK (CNN) -- Tired of your old credit card rate? Skyrocketing fees and shrinking credit limits? In the first of our series on Financial Resolutions -- here's how you can find the best terms.

It's been a rough year

If you're fed up with your credit card, you have every right to be.

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Credit card issuers, on average, have raised rates up to 15% since January, according to billshrink.com. The average American is likely have paid about $110 more in credit card interest fees since the beginning of the year, or $10 billion for Americans as a whole. The worst offenders here: Capital One (COF, Fortune 500), Citi (C, Fortune 500) and Discover (DFS, Fortune 500) according to Billshrink.com. Their cardholders were socked with an average 32% rate increase since January.

Fortunately, the end of arbitrary rate hikes is coming very soon. The House voted to enforce tougher credit card rules with the CARD Act by February 22, 2010, although not in time for the holidays when credit-card purchases skyrocket.

So, the big question is how can you find a card that best fits your needs and your wallet?

Get new plastic

First -- try a different bank. Local community banks typically have rates that are 1-2 percentage points lower that big bank cards.

If you do decide to switch to a new card, here are some things you should ask for before signing up. You should be getting an interest rate below 10%, if you have good credit. Make sure that fees are capped and that you have a grace period of 25 days to get your payments to the right place.

The top picks

We consulted with Curtis Arnold of Cardratings.com for his best picks this year. Here's the list:

  • Pentagon Federal Low Rate Visa Gold- 12.49% APR, low balance transfer fees
  • Simmons First VISA Platinum-7.25% APR, no balance transfer fees
  • IberiaBank Visa Classic - 25 day grace period, low balance transfer fee

-- CNN's Jen Haley contributed to this article.

Talkback: Are you looking to switch credit cards in 2010?  To top of page

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