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The Card-Carrying Shopper's Resource

May 23, 1999|CONNIE KOENENN

Want to know where you can find a credit card that charges an annual percentage rate as low as 2.9%? Or a card with no tacked-on fees? Or maybe, owing to some small financial reversals, you need to find an institution offering secured cards to credit risks?

All this and much, much more awaits your click onto http://www.cardweb.com. The consumer-friendly Web site provides one-stop shopping for those needing any information about credit cards. And the first bit of information you'll get is that the industry no longer says "credit card."

"We now call them 'payment cards,' " says Robert McKinley, president of Maryland-based Cardweb.Com Inc. and a longtime monitor of the world of plastic transactions, which today, he explains, include credit cards, charge cards, debit cards, smart cards, cash cards, ATM cards, stored value cards, loyalty cards and prepaid phone cards. McKinley, whose company has been following the ever-churning industry since 1986, has expanded his consumer newsletter into the Web site, which bills itself as the "payment information network."

Arriving at Cardweb.Com, the visitor finds an array of consumer categories, starting with "Cardtrak," a monthly survey that includes hundreds of the best deals in rates, fees, rebates and other categories.

"You can find the card that's right for you," McKinley says. (The monthly Cardtrak survey can also be purchased for $5 by calling [800] 344-7714.)

Other services include a card locator that sorts out cards by geographical area, a question-and-answer area ("What's the scoop on credit repair companies?"), new credit card offers and daily consumer news stories. The Web site is averaging up to 500,000 visitors a month, a figure that has doubled from last year, McKinley says.

"We have the credibility of many years following the industry. We call it like it is," he says.

In that vein, he offered a word of consumer warning on the current scene: "Don't pay credit cards late. Right now there is a fee frenzy in the card industry. They are increasing fees and creating new fees such as a surcharge on foreign purchases, but these late fees are particularly bothersome."

Some lenders slap on the late fee if the payment hasn't arrived by 8 a.m. on the due date, he said.

"And if that happens twice," McKinley says, "they might change you to the punitive rate, which can be as high as 30%."

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