5 credit card dilemmas and how to avoid them

If you have a credit card – and who doesn’t – it’s likely that you’ve been seeing some changes, sometimes too many changes to even keep up with. We’ve rounded up several dilemmas you might face with your credit cards so you can be prepared with how to address them.

Credit card dilemma #1 – You’ve become a victim of identity theft. Identity theft affects close to 10 million Americans annually. It pays to keep a close eye on your cards, especially because so many merchants don’t require a signature for purchases of $25 or less. A thief could make an awful lot of charges on your card before you even noticed it was missing. What should you do if you start noticing unauthorized charges on your card? First, contact the bank that issued the card; be armed with the information on what the charge was and who the merchant is before you call the bank. Be proactive – check with your bank’s credit card fraud protection services are.

Common sense is your most useful tool. Continually scrutinize your statement, sign the back of your card, shop with merchants that know you, don’t give out financial information over the phone, and don’t leave your card unattended.

Dilemma #2 – Your card was stolen or you simply lost it. Again, the first thing to do is notify your credit card issuer. The bank can shut the card down and issue you a new one. If you pay your bills or have recurring payments attached to that credit card, contact your creditors so you don’t miss a payment.

Dilemma #3 – You’ve fallen behind on a payment (which could potentially lead to Dilemma #4). Missing even one payment can trash your credit score. The longer you go without making a payment the more damage it does. A payment that is more than 120 days late equates to having had a vehicle repossessed – as it rates on a credit score. If you think you’re going to be late, call your credit card issuer immediately; they may be willing to work with you to get you caught up and an early phone call may help you avoid penalties.

Late fees also fall into this dilemma. If you’re late the company automatically assesses late fees. There may be steps to take to get those reversed and if you call the credit card issuer they might refund the late fee if you’ve made arrangements to get your payment caught up.

Dilemma #4 – Don’t be caught off guard by an increased payment because your credit card issuer hiked up your interest rate. Sure, they have to notify you, but sometimes the fine print is so small that item gets buried in it. Many banks are willing to work with clients to keep the interest rate at an affordable level and find a solution to address the rate increase. You should have 45 days following the notice of a rate increase to contact your credit card issuer and ask for the reasons behind the increase. Sometimes, it might be more beneficial to close that card – as it will stay at the original rate of interest – and look for a new card and roll your balances over.

Dilemma #5 – It’s the Catch-22 you need to have credit to get credit so what do you do if you’re denied. Rather than just waiting for the denial letter to come in the mail, contact the bank and ask why you were denied. Ask if there is something specific on your credit report that led to the denial and ask if there are any alternatives you might be eligible for.

The bottom line with all of these dilemmas is to be proactive and contact your bank as soon as you find yourself facing any of them. It’s best to try and work out the issues directly with the bank, rather than hoping they will simply go away because they won’t.

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