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Checklist: Credit Cards

Your Money Weekend | Financial Planner

November 10, 2000|LIZ PULLIAM WESTON

Things to do this weekend with your money: Chances are your credit cards will get a workout this holiday season. Taking these steps now could save you money later.

* Today: Ask for a better rate, especially if you carry a balance. It's gotten harder to find very low-rate balance transfer offers, and opening up a bunch of new credit card accounts can hurt your credit rating. But many credit card companies will lower their rates for good customers who ask. If your issuer won't cooperate, you can shop for better offers at Web sites such as http://www.bankrate.com or http://www.cardweb.com.

* Saturday: If you carry a balance and decide to switch it to another card, read the fine print. Many of today's balance transfer offers come with hidden fees. A 3% balance transfer fee, for example, could wipe out some or all of the benefit of a lower rate, depending on how long you plan to carry a balance. You can find a comparison calculator at http://www.bankrate.com/brm/calc/cc_smm.asp. If the offer you're contemplating involves a fee, add the dollar amount to your balance to accurately compare your alternatives.

* Sunday: Make sure you know your limits. Many credit card companies now approve purchases that put customers over their credit limits as a "convenience" and then slap on over-limit fees of $25 to $30 per transaction. You can monitor your credit limit by phone or via the Internet; it's best not to carry a balance of more than 50% of your limit.

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