Reading the fine print on credit card rates

7 On Your Side

When you were deciding on which credit card to apply for, interest rates probably played a big part in your decision. That's good in theory, but in reality it may not matter much.

"People think they get one rate and they'll stick with that rate if they pay late or do something bad, but even if you don't do anything bad they can change your rate," says Linda Sherry with Consumer Action

And it's not just can, they do. Sherry is one of the nation's foremost credit card experts and she says issuers have given themselves a lot of wiggle room when it comes to what you pay.

"And they are changing it a lot for this kind of nebulous reason called market conditions, economic conditions . What that basically means to me is they are losing money so they're going to make it up from the cardholder's hide," says Sherry.

Worse yet, the new upped rate is applied to your current balance. So if you've charged $1,000 thinking you were going to be paying a 10 percent interest rate, you could get nailed with a 30 percent rate instead.

This is all perfectly legal, so you need to read your credit card statements every month to stay on top of what you are being charged.

LINK: 2008 Consumer Action Credit Card Survey

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