Credit card comparison tables can be quite tricky, so it's worth knowing how to read the summary box to decode the legal jargon
Credit card companies have a standardised method for outlining their terms and conditions behind each product.
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How much you have to pay, how often, and what interest rates are likely to be accrued are all covered in the credit card summary box.
The way this box is laid out is designed to give consumers a clear understanding of the credit card’s policies. However, the wording in the credit card summary box can sometimes leave consumers feeling uncertain about what it all means.
Our guide to the credit card summary box can help you figure out what you’re getting with each credit card and how much you’re likely to spend each month.
What’s in a credit card summary box?
As the credit card summary box is standardised among all credit cards providers, you will always find information relating to the credit card’s:
- Annual percentage rate (APR)
- Other interest rates
- Length of any interest-free periods
- Terms for any introductory offers
- Minimum monthly repayments required
- Additional charges that may be incurred
All of this information should allow you to work out the key features, benefits and limitations of the credit card. If a standard credit card comparison table does not give you all of the information you need to know, then the credit card summary box should help.
The credit card summary box explained
|The below is an example of a credit card summary box with the terms and information explained|
|APR||The typical Annual Percentage Rate charged, i.e. the annual cost of borrowing, e.g. 11.7% APR Variable|
|Purchases||The introductory rate on Purchases, e.g. 0% for the first 56 days||The monthly rate of interest on Purchases, e.g. 0.97%||The annual rate of interest is likely to be the same as the overall APR, e.g. 11.70%|
|Balance Transfers||The introductory rate on Balance Transfers, e.g. 0% for the first 56 days||The monthly rate of interest on Balance Transfers, e.g. 0.97%||The annual rate of interest on Balance Transfers, e.g. 11.70%|
|Cash Advances||It's unlikely you'll get an introductory rate on Cash Advances, so expect this box to say N/A||The monthly rate of interest on Cash Advances will be considerably higher than on Purchases, e.g. 1.08%||The annual cost of Cash Advances will be higher than on Purchases, e.g. 13%|
|Interest Free Period||This box will usually explain how long the interest free period is and what the terms are, e.g. maximum of 56 days for Purchases if you pay your balance in full and on time|
|Interest Charging Information||This will explain over which time period the interest will be charged|
|Purchases||This will show all your purchases on the card, usually from the date of transaction until your monthly statement|
|Balance Transfers||This will show all your balance transfers, again usually from the date of transaction until you've paid it in full|
|Cash Withdrawals||This will show all your cash withdrawls from the date of transaction until you've paid it in full or it will continue to accumulate at a higher rate|
|Credit Card Cheques||This will show any credit card cheques you've issues from the date debited to your account until you've paid it in full or it will continue to accumulate at a higher rate|
|Allocation of Payments||This box explains the priority each payment will be applied to in order to clear the debt. Each credit card will have their own rules but typically it will follow: 1. Cash withdrawal 2. Outstanding interest 3. Transferred balances 4. Purchases 5. Cash|
|Minimum Repayment||This will explain the minimum amount you can repay each month, but will often stipulate a priority. Some credit card providers will demand that you pay off any default charges and fees in addition to the minimum payment, while some will stipulate a minimum fee or a minimum percentage. You must pay back a minimum of £5.00 per month, but if your balance is less than £5.00, then you must pay that amount back.|
|Amount of Credit||This will explain the maximum credit limit, but this normally decided after you've made the application. It will also include the minimum credit limit.|
|Fees||This box will be empty unless the credit card has any annual or monthly fees – typically applicable to Rewards Credit Cards|
|Charges||You will find all information related to Cash withdrawal charges, overseas transaction fees and paper copies of statements. Cash withdrawals - 2% with a minimum of £2.00; Copies of statements – £1.50; Overseas transactions - 2.95%|
|Default Charges||If you're late with a payment or go over your credit limit you'll be hit with a default charge. Late payment fee - £25.00; Over credit limit - £25.00; Admin fee for returned direct debits - £15.00|
Credit card summary box pros and cons
The credit card summary box is useful for two reasons. Firstly, it's uniform and consistent across all credit card products, meaning that the information you need to compare between two credit cards is always easy to find.
Secondly, it sets out the costs you're likely to incur if you don't pay off your credit card bill by the end of the month, and in what order those costs have to be paid.
How much you have to pay, how often, and what interest rates are likely to be accrued are all covered in the credit card summaryA regular credit card comparison table will tell you the details of each credit card, but the credit card summary box for each individual credit card goes further to explain all of the possible charges and minimum monthly repayments required.
However, the language used can often be difficult to understand and the numbers are hard to make sense of when you take them out of the credit cards context.
The above credit card summary box table should be able to help you decode what all of the terms actually mean and decide what features of the credit card will be useful to you, and which limitations you can and cannot afford to handle.