If there's one phrase likely to strike dread into most consumers, it's 'small print'; tiny jargon-packed text, seemingly written by a thesaurus-powered army of legal eagles, with the express intention of making it 100% unintelligible to the average person. We know we should read it, but there simply aren't enough hours in a lifetime. On a wing and prayer, we ignore it, hoping the small print won't cause us big problems.
Financial services have long been associated with such impenetrable documents, and perhaps for good reason. However, since 2004, credit cards have led the way in demystifying product details with the introduction of standardised information.
The UK credit card industry committed to providing a Credit Card Summary Box, following a House of Commons (Treasury Committee) report which found that existing charges were difficult for consumers to understand.
The Credit Card Summary Box was designed to provide applicants with a simple reference they could use to compare key features of credit cards quickly, and whilst the summary information can still appear unwieldy, it is a vast improvement, perhaps because it restricts the amount of information card issuers can disclose.
What's in a Credit Card Summary Box?
Every credit card marketed in UK is done so alongside a Credit Card Summary Box which includes the following standard information, in the same format and the same order.
The APR that at least 51% of successful applicants will receive.
Other Interest Rates
Credit cards offer you the ability to borrow using their card in different ways.
- Cash Transactions
- Balance Transfers
- Money Transfers
All of the standard interest rates for balances acquired in these various ways are detailed here, in both monthly and annual terms. Any promotional, or introductory, rates for these particular functions are also detailed.
The interest-free period represents the longest period you can get interest-free purchases on your card, between billing cycles.
i.e. If you bought an item on day 1 of a billing cycle, you would have XX days before the balance it was contained within would be due.
Interest Charging Information
Credit card charges can be applied at and from different intervals, this box details how the particular charges are applied to the card (charges are typically applied on a daily basis from the original purchase date).
Allocation of Payments
Credit card issuers are now legally obliged to use payments to clear the most expensive debt first, but if two or more types of debt have the same interest rate, the order in which they are cleared are defined here.
Each credit card issuer uses their own way of calculating the minimum payment required on a particular balance, which is detailed here.
Most card issuers will not disclose a credit limit until they understand the circumstances of an applicant, so this box typically reads, "subject to status".
Fees & Charges
Although it is unusual, some credit cards in the UK charge an annual fee. If they do, it is disclosed here. Equally, other fees and charges (both promotional and standard) should be detailed, including
- Cash transaction fees
- Balance transfer fees
- Money transfer fees
- Statement copy fees
Foreign Use If you use your card abroad, non-sterling transaction fees and charges will apply. Of course, specific currency exchange rates fluctuate continually, so issuers tend to include a link to a website hosting information regarding the rates that applied to particular days. Given that a particular day's exchange rate is unknown until the day’s trading has ended, these exchange rates are never available on that day.
These charges are applied to your account for late payment, payments that 'bounce' (do not clear), or accounts that exceed their credit limit.
Where do I find my Credit Card Summary Box?
Assuming you are applying for a card online, as most people do now, the Credit Card Summary Box should be available on the product page of the product you wish to apply for. In some instances, they are not immediately available if an issuer uses a pre-qualification tool. In these cases, they are only available to those who have successfully met the issuer’s eligibility criteria.
If you are applying offline, a Credit Card Summary Box should be made available to you with the application form. If you can’t find it, you should contact your card issuer who will be able to provide it.
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