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A Beginner’s Guide to Using a Credit Card

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Are you thinking about opening a credit card? Or have you recently opened a card? You may be overwhelmed by the various terms associated with credit cards, but worry not — we’ve compiled a guide to walk you through the common fees you may encounter as well as how to use your credit card beneficially.

How credit cards work

On a basic level, credit cards are lines of credit that you can use over and over again as long as you pay off your balance. They’re a handy way to pay for purchases and can help you build credit when used responsibly. Credit cards usually have detailed terms and conditions that list fees, rewards, benefit restrictions and more. As a new cardholder, you may be confused by these terms, but we’re here to help you understand common features so you can avoid unnecessary fees.

Typical credit card terms

  • Annual fee: This is the fee you will be charged each year — if your card has one.
  • Credit limit: The maximum amount of credit you can charge on your card.
  • APR: This is the annual percentage rate or, simply, the interest rate you will be charged on balances carried. Since the rate is annual, divide it by 12 to get your monthly interest rate. Most often, this rate is variable and fluctuates with the prime rate, so your APR may change at any time.
  • Cash advance APR: If you use your card to take out cash, you will be charged at a higher interest rate versus regular purchases.
  • Penalty APR: This is a higher APR than you are typically charged and is often the result of a late payment or returned payment. The penalty APR can be in effect for several months or indefinitely, depending on the issuer.
  • Intro 0% period: You may be fortunate to have a credit card that offers an introductory period — upward of six months — where you can benefit from carrying a balance and not being charged interest during that time. The terms for these intro periods vary.
  • Late payment fee: If you pay late, you will incur a fee typically greater than $30.
  • Returned payment fee: Payments you submit that aren’t approved may be subject to a fee usually upward of $30.
  • Foreign transaction fee: Some cards charge a fee for purchases made outside the U.S. that is typically around 3%.
  • Cash advance fee: Cash advances you request most likely will be charged a 3%-5% fee of the amount requested.
  • Balance transfer fee: Any balances you transfer from an existing credit card to an eligible new card may be subject to a balance transfer fee, on average 3%-5% of the amount transferred.

Other common credit card features

  • Sign-up bonus: Your card may offer a sign-up bonus, which typically requires you to spend a certain amount within a given time period (usually three months) to receive a bonus.
  • Rewards: Many credit cards offer rewards programs that can earn you cash back, points and miles for purchases. This can be a great way to be rewarded for your spending, but don’t overspend and risk falling into debt for the sake of earning rewards.
  • Alerts: Issuers often let you set up fraud or balance limit alerts and reminders when it’s time for a payment.
  • Autopay: If available, set this up so you avoid late or missed payments.

Choose a card that fits your needs

There are numerous credit cards available for a wide range of needs from building credit to earning rewards, to getting out of debt and more. You should decide what your goal is with a credit card, then compare cards from various issuers prior to applying. Some issuers allow you to fill out a pre-qualification form that performs a soft pull on your credit to see if you may qualify for a card. This does not affect your credit score and is a great way to shop around for the best deals. One note: Pre-qualification is not a guarantee of approval.

Read our list of the best credit cards in a variety of categories to find a card for your needs.

Read the terms and conditions

An important step prior to applying for a credit card is to review the cardmember agreement. Each card has different rates and fees that vary based on any number of reasons, including credit history, actions you take (or don’t take), the prime rate in the market and more. It’s key to review the cardmember agreement so you’re aware of any fees you may be charged as well as how the card works. On our site, we’ve reviewed cards from top issuers as well as lesser known cards to help you make sense of some of the terms you face — but still be sure to read the cardmember agreement before you apply.

Practice responsible credit behavior

Make on-time payments. Perhaps the most important part of maintaining a credit card is to make timely payments. By doing so, you avoid late payment fees and penalty APRs that hurt your credit score. Autopay is a helpful feature to ensure your bill is paid on time, or you can set up reminders.

Pay your balance in full. A great goal is to always pay your bill in full so you don’t carry a balance. Any unpaid balance will be charged interest (unless associated with a promotion) and can cause you to rack up debt. This also negatively affects your credit score.

Avoid overspending. It’s common for people to mismanage their credit cards and be tempted to overspend, but with proper budgeting, you can avoid falling into debt. A good rule of thumb is to only spend what you can afford to pay at the time of purchase — this way you know you can pay off your balance. Also, if you have a rewards card, don’t overspend just to earn rewards because the debt you incur will counteract any rewards.

Keep a low utilization rate. The percentage of available credit you use is known as utilization, and is a factor in your credit score. It’s important to keep a low utilization rate so issuers see you’re not a risk. Constantly maxing out your card raises concerns for issuers and can cause you to fall into debt.

Check your monthly statements. By simply reviewing your monthly statements, you can proactively notice any fraud that may occur on your account and isn’t flagged by your credit card company. Most companies send notifications if they think there’s fraud on your account, but they don’t catch every instance of suspicious behavior.

Check your credit score and credit report. Checking your credit score on a monthly basis is a good habit to get into and can promote positive credit behavior. Read our guide for where to access your free credit score and other credit tips. It’s also a good idea to check your credit report every few months to make sure everything checks out and no unknown accounts are open in your name. Annualcreditreport.com is the only source for authorized credit reports from the three major credit bureaus and you can run one report every year for each bureau — we recommend spacing them out every four months.

Secure your card. Don’t leave your card unattended and don’t loan it to friends since neither of those actions have a positive result. Your card is your responsibility and should be treated with care. If you happen to lose your card or it’s stolen, contact your issuer immediately and put a hold on your account until your card is found or replaced.

Don’t request a cash advance. Cash advances are notorious for high fees and tricky terms than can draw you into debt, so it’s best to avoid them at all costs. If you need cash, look to personal loans, which may have better terms.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

Alexandria White is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alexandria at [email protected]

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Earning Cashback

Citi Double Cash Review: Twice The Cash, No Limits

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication. This site may be compensated through a credit card partnership.

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has the highest no-fee flat-rate cash back credit card on the market. If you pay your balance in full and on time every month, you can earn up to double cash back on everything you spend. You Earn 2% cash back on purchases 1% when you buy and 1% as you make payments for those purchases. If you pay your statement balance in full and deposit the cash back into your checking account, you will have earned a nice 2%.

There is no cap on the cash back you can earn, and there are no rotating categories or requirements to opt into every quarter. If you are looking to earn a lot of cash back without a lot of work, this card could be right for you.

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

The information related to Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Annual fee
$0*
Rewards Rate
Earn 2% cash back on purchases 1% when you buy and 1% as you make payments for those purchases
Regular Purchase APR
15.74% - 25.74%* (Variable)
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent, Good

How the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer works

To get double cash back, you must emulate the habits of the savviest credit card holders: use your card, and pay it off in full each month. Do anything else, and you won’t get the full benefit of the double cash back reward.

With the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer, you Earn 2% cash back on purchases 1% when you buy and 1% as you make payments for those purchases. So you get 1% cash back for every dollar you spend, and another 1% cash back for each dollar you pay off on your balance — on time — each month.

To get the maximum double cash back quickly, you should pay off your entire balance. However, as long as you pay the minimum each month, you’ll eventually receive the double cash back, although you’ll pay a lot more than 1% in interest each month.

How to redeem cash back with Citi

When your balance reaches $25, you can choose to redeem your cash reward through a gift card, check, direct deposit, or statement credit to your Citi account. Beware: if you redeem with a statement credit, you won’t get exactly double cash back, but just shy of it depending on the size of the reward.

If you redeem via gift card, you’ll select from retail, restaurant, entertainment, and electronic gift cards in Citi’s gift card marketplace. Choosing the direct deposit option will allow you to transfer your cash back directly to your bank account whether it’s a Citi account or not. If you redeem via check, you should receive a paper check at the address you have on file in 7 to 10 business days.

You can also redeem with a statement credit, but you might notice you don’t get quite double cash back. Since a $25 credit on your statement reduces the amount you’d need to pay back by some amount, you technically get a little less than 2% cash back.

For example, if you redeem $1,000 in cash back for the year, you’ll be shorted about $10 if you redeem your rewards with a statement credit. Assuming you paid off your balance each month, your cash back is reduced to about 1.98%. If you don’t want to miss out on that gap, redeem via check or direct deposit. Also, remember Citi does not count a statement credit as a payment, so you still need to make at least your minimum monthly payment by the due date or you’ll be charged a late fee.

For more details on how to get your cash back, check out this article, where we show you step-by-step how to redeem your cash back with Citi.

Disclaimer: Your rewards will expire if you don’t use your card for 12 months, so be sure to swipe at lease once a year, or redeem your cash before it expires.

How to qualify for the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Borrowers with Excellent, Good credit scores are likely to get approved for the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. That means you can still get approved with a few marks on your credit report. That’s unusual as rewards cards with a 0% introductory balance transfer offer like the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer are rare for those who lack excellent credit.

Overview of card benefits

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has the following benefits and protections to cardholders:

  • No penalty for your first missed payment. Citi won’t charge you a late fee on a first missed payment. This benefit forgives those who usually pay on time, but may miss a payment by accident. Careful, you WILL be charged a fee if you miss a second payment.
  • Citi Private Pass. Citi customers get special access to purchase presale tickets and VIP packages to events such as concerts, sporting events, dining experiences, and complimentary movie screenings.
  • Chip-enabled card. Just one warning: this is a chip and signature card (and not a chip and pin card). While that should be fine for all of your spending in America, it might make using the card overseas a bit more difficult when only chip-and-pin is accepted.
  • Citi Concierge. Citi Concierge sets you up with trained experts to help you plan your travel, shopping, dining, entertainment, and other parts of your next trip.
  • Protection against interrupted trips. If your travel plans are interrupted for some reason, Citi will reimburse you for part of your hassle. The bank will reimburse any nonrefundable travel expenses such as change fees if you paid for the ticket with your Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer.
  • Car rental and collision insurance. You can skip paying extra for the rental company’s collision loss and damage insurance if you use your Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. Citi will cover you against any theft or damage done to the rental as long as you used your Citi card to pay for it.
  • Zero liability protection. You won’t be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or account information. This is a fairly common credit card benefit.
  • Purchase protection covers repairs or refunds for your new purchases in case of damage or theft within 120 days of your making the purchase.
  • Lost wallet service. If you happen to lose your wallet and everything in it, take some comfort in knowing your Citi card, at least, will be replaced within 24 hours. Citi can also give you emergency cash up to your available cash advance limit to help out between losing your card and receiving a new one.

Why we like the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

It has the highest no-fee flat rate reward in the market.

The clearest advantage of the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is that it offers the highest flat rate cash rewards program without an annual fee on the market. The card’s double cash back feature can be a valuable feature for those known to make most everyday purchases on a credit card, and pay the card balance off each month.

The flat rate on all purchases keeps earning rewards simple.

If you like things simple, the card’s flat rate on everything will make keeping up with rewards a breeze. You’ll earn 1% on everything you buy, so there won’t be any need for you to fumble through a stack of credit cards for a specific cash back card at the grocery store. It also eliminates stressing over when or by how much rewards categories might change on your current go-to card each quarter.

It’s a good balance transfer card, too.

The card’s 0% for 18 months on Balance Transfers* offer makes it a good choice for those seeking to consolidate debt, too. The cash back rewards won’t apply to your balance transfer, but you’ll get 18 billing cycles to pay off the balance interest-free before the card’s higher ongoing interest rate kicks in, currently at 15.74% - 25.74%* (Variable) APR.

It comes with other great cardholder benefits.

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer’s other benefits aren’t bad either. The card also grants you free access to view your Equifax FICO® Score, and the Citi® Price Rewind benefit automatically reimburses you the difference on purchases made with your card if the price changes within 60 days up to $200 per item, and up to $1,000 per year. Terms apply.

What to watch out for with the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

You have to pay off your balance in full to reap the full reward.

You could pay the minimum each month and eventually see you’ve redeemed your cash back. However, the reward really only benefits you if you pay your balance in full each month. If you don’t, the full interest you’ll be charged on your purchases will eclipse the double cash back benefit.

It charges a balance transfer fee.

Although the balance transfer isn’t the main perk the card has, it’s important to note Citi charges you a balance transfer fee of 3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum. Granted, the charge isn’t much compared to the 16% on average you’d be charged in interest on your balance each month if you don’t transfer, but there are many, no-fee balance transfer alternatives (like the Discover it® or Chase Slate® cards) you could qualify for instead.’

The information related to the Chase Slate® has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

You get charged 3% to use it overseas.

You’ll pay to use this card overseas, and the fee isn’t worth it if you can avoid doing so. The 3% foreign transaction fee you’ll be charged to swipe makes the potential double cash back you’d receive on the purchase trivial.

It doesn’t come with a sign-on bonus.

With the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer, you won’t get a sign-on bonus like you’d get with other competing cash back cards like Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card ($100) or the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card. It’s not a huge pitfall among the card’s best-in-class cash back offer and other perks, but it’s something to consider when weighing your options.

Your rewards will eventually expire.

Take care to redeem your cash back before you stop using the card! If you don’t earn cash back on rewards with your Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer for 12 months, your rewards will expire. If you plan to stop using the card — maybe you accepted the offer for a specific purchase, or simply for the balance transfer offer — make sure to redeem your cash back before adding it to your credit card graveyard.

Alternatives to the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has the highest no-fee flat rate cash back reward on the market, but it might not be the best cash back card for you, depending on your spending habits.

Cards that only earn cash back in certain categories, for example, may work better for you. You might find you spend most of your income in a category such as groceries or gas, so you’d earn a greater reward with a card that earns cash back only in specific spending categories or enjoy keeping up with rotating categories.

Next we compare how the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer compares to four other cash back credit cards:

  • Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card – the other 2% cash back credit card
  • Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card – the 2.5%-3% cash back credit card with a fee
  • Chase Freedom® — the rotating category alternative
  • Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express — the bonus category alternative

Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card

The Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card earns cardholders Unlimited 2% cash back on everyday purchases. There is a $0 annual fee. The card is best for existing Fidelity customers, as the funds you earn must be deposited into a Fidelity account.

Borrowers with “good” credit need not apply for this card. Your credit score has to be above 700 to get approved for a line of credit with the Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card. Even then, you may be disappointed if you’re not a big Fidelity customer as Fidelity bases its credit limits on the total amount of assets it’s managing on your behalf.

Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card

If you don’t mind paying an annual fee, the Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card could be a viable alternative to the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer.

The Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card offers an Unlimited 3% cash back during the first year; 2.5% cash back afterwards. You’ll also forgo a foreign transaction fee if you use the card overseas. The catch is, cardholders pay a $99 annual fee, waived the first year to hold the card. Only those with excellent credit and high income will qualify for this rewards offer.

Chase Freedom® — the rotating category alternative

With Chase Freedom®, you’ll automatically Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. The card also lets you Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

The Chase Freedom® card rotates rewards categories each quarter, so you’ll need to look out for changes and opt in to the quarter’s categories before you can start earning rewards in them. You also enjoy 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months and a 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months (17.24% - 25.99% Variable, thereafter). You can also earn a $25 bonus when you add an authorized user and make your first purchase within the first three months.

If you qualify for the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer card, you have a good chance of qualifying for Chase Freedom®, too. Borrowers with Excellent/Good credit scores have the best shot at getting approved for the Chase Freedom® card.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express— the bonus category alternative

With a card like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, you’ll earn a larger amount of cash back in certain categories. The card awards holders 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), and 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations. The card also offers – NEW 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions & 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more. So, if your household spends big on gas and groceries, the rewards you’d earn with a card like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express will likely be greater that what you could earn with the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer.

Try using this tool to figure out which cash back card has the best ongoing program for your needs. Fill in how much you tend to spend each month in each spending category, and the system will generate recommendations based on your spending habits.

Who benefits the most from the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Overall, cash back cards can be a great way to put some extra money in your pocket, as long as you remember to pay your statement balance in full each month. Interest and late fees can eclipse your cash back earnings pretty quickly.

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is best for borrowers with Excellent, Good credit, who make everyday purchases with a credit card and have great payment habits. The double cash back feature is great if you already have the discipline to pay your statement balances off in full each month, and it’s the only way the card’s reward offer is valuable. If you don’t think you can consistently pay off your card each month, it’s best to get the habit set in stone before trying a rewards credit card.

If you’ve never had a rewards card, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer’s simple terms and flat rate cash back rewards make for a great starter rewards card and — so long as you pay your balance off each month — it can be a great way to earn extra pocket change without going into debt.

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer FAQs

You’ll get up to double cash back on all of your purchases, which is the logic behind advertising the card as “Double Cash” and not “2% Cash.” You’ll Earn 2% cash back on purchases 1% when you buy and 1% as you make payments for those purchases, but if you choose to redeem your cash back via statement credit on your account, you’re technically getting just shy of 2% cash back.

Yes, the cash back on the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer expires if you haven’t used your card for 12 months.

Anything over 1.5% cash back is a good deal. There are some cards that offer more — as much as 5% or 6% cash back on purchases. But sometimes those offers are too good to be true. Banks don’t like to lose money and will pepper the fine print with all sorts of limitations. For example, they may offer 5% cash back on only purchases at certain types of retailers and only for certain periods of time. And those categories may change every quarter, which can make it hard to keep track.

Don’t let those cash back promises pressure you into spending more than you can afford. If you don’t pay your statement balance in full each month, you could get slapped with sky-high interest charges. That would totally negate any benefit you might get from earning cash back. Cash back cards are only valuable if you can pay your bill in full and capture the entirety of your cash back rewards.

It depends on the card. Some cards allow you to redeem cash back dollar for dollar as a statement credit, which can help lower your total balance. Just keep in mind that applying cash back to your card statement does not count as a monthly payment. Other cards will increase the value of your cash back if you spend on certain categories, like travel. Review your terms carefully to be sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

Find the card that fits your day-to-day spending needs best, beyond the flashy sign-up bonus offers and cash back promises. Pay your bill in full each month (spend only what you can afford to pay off).

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at [email protected]

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The OCC Acts Unilaterally Against Abusive Bank Overdrafts

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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Earlier this month, the OCC (Office of the Comptroller of the Currency) quietly issued Bulletin 2015-13, which announced the publication of a revised handbook on deposit-related consumer credit. The OCC is getting tough on bank overdrafts, which have come under increasing scrutiny for being predatory. At MagnifyMoney, we have long called overdrafts one of the most expensive forms of short-term borrowing in the world.

The last booklet was issued in March 1990, and was used by OCC examiners to assess a bank’s deposit-related consumer credit activities, including overdrafts. The new handbook has established standards which would dramatically change the overdraft products currently offered by banks in the country. If the banks actually follow the rules outlined by the OCC, we should expect a revolution in the way products are designed, priced and marketed. However, banks are very good at making minimal change in the face of new rules, particularly when significant revenue is at stake. Banks generated an estimated $32 billion in overdraft fees during 2013, so they will not give up this revenue stream easily.

Bank overdrafts are marketed by banks as a “protection” that can help a consumer if they are running short of cash, or if they make a mistake.  However, they are extremely expensive. If you do not have overdraft protection (a linked account), a bank will typically charge you $35 if they approve the transaction (an overdraft charge), or $35 if they decline the transaction (an NSF, or non-sufficient funds, fee). The fee is charged on a per incident basis, regardless of the actual transaction value. If the transaction is approved, the total amount of the overdraft (which includes the shortfall and fee) is due immediately. Many banks will charge an incremental extended overdraft fee if the account balance is not brought positive quickly. For example, it could cost $70 to borrow $6 for 6 days from Bank of America, based upon their overdraft fees and rules. In addition, even the method of posting transactions has caused controversy. Rather than posting transactions as they happen, nearly half of the banks in America re-order the transactions, posting the highest value transactions first, thereby increasing the number of times that an individual can trigger an overdraft charge.

Reg E did provide some additional consumer protection. It required banks to receive opt-in for overdrafts that are triggered by ATM cards (when withdrawing cash), and debit cards (when making purchases in a store). However, the regulation did nothing to protect all other forms of transactions, which includes checks, automatic payments, billpay and others.

Bank overdrafts in the United States raise every red flag imaginable. The incredibly arcane and complicated fee structures lack transparency and exist to extract maximum value from consumer mistakes or misfortune. The costs charged by the banks for what is effectively a line of credit are obscene when compared with the actual cost of providing those services. And, although banks like to point fingers at payday lenders and focus on their CRA activities on reducing the number of unbanked, many people have left the banking sector because overdrafts are more expensive than overdrafts.

The new handbook has some shocking new requirements, which we detail below:

  • Opt-in for all overdraft products: under Reg E, customers are only required to opt-in to overdraft protection for debit/ATM overdraft protection. However, the handbook requires proof of opt-in for all protection, dramatically expanding the scope
  • Banks will have to perform underwriting of customers before extending an overdraft product. The OCC explicitly requires an analysis of income and debt. which provides information for an affordability check.
  • Our favorite requirement focuses on “prudent limitations on product costs and usage.” Most importantly, the OCC states that “while permitting appropriate returns, fees should be reasonably correlated to the actual costs of offering, underwriting, and servicing the product as well as associated risks.” The OCC is particularly concerned about “repeated usage of high-cost, short-term loans for longer-term borrowing needs.”
  • Critically, the OCC requires that “banks should structure credit terms to reduce the principal balance of the loan over a reasonable period of time.” The worst form of short-term loan offers a customer a choice: pay off the entire balance today, or renew the product for another fee. This method, a favorite of the payday loan industry and copied by many deposit advance products, creates the perfect debt trap. Consumers are unable to pay off the full balance at once, yet banks do not offer an amortizing option. So, people just pay a fee and never get out of debt.
  • Finally, the OCC suggest that “banks should consider reporting payment information to credit bureaus.” Currently, the banks tend to report negative information, on a haphazard basis, to Chex Systems. Responsible customers are not able to benefit from on-time repayment. And an alternative credit reporting universe is created, with limited transparency.

Using common sense as our guide, these new rules make a lot of sense. Before lending someone money, make sure they can afford it. Don’t force people into the product: let them have a choice before you start charging them fees. Don’t rip them off with outrageous fees. And provide a repayment method that actually gives someone the chance of getting out of debt.

Overdrafts have become so out of control, that even these new rules will really shake up the overdraft market if banks actually follow the spirit of the requirement. However, I think banks will likely hire expensive law firms to build a robust defense. They will somehow prove that it actually costs $35 for an automated computer algorithm to approve a $6 loan. I just hope the OCC backs up these rules with strict enforcement. And we hope the CFPB builds on this and issues explicit rules that remove the predatory structure of these products.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at [email protected]

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