Buyer Beware: Credit card checks

(National) Feb. 9, 2005 - The blank checks from credit card companies that arrive in your mailbox look like a quick, easy way to get some money. One such offer from Discover Card says "use these checks for cash or anything you want."

But, Lisa Lee Freeman, Deputy Editor of Consumer Reports Money Adviser, cautions the so-called "convenience checks" can cost you plenty, "Two things you have to watch out for are transaction fees on each check, which can be substantial, as well as balances that can grow out of control at high interest rates."

For example, with the Discover Card checks there's a transaction fee of three percent on each check, and the interest rate is 21.99 percent.

Dear Ms. Gatson,
Read your article on-line & wanted to thank you.I think it's criminal and,at the least, misleading,that companies can send the checks out touting low interest rates for x number of months.I used one of those checks once.The next month I made a payment which virtually covered the amount of the check & then the next month I saw that I was being charged interest on the remaining balance.I called the company & the rep told me about the fine print disclaimer about the purchases with low interest rates being paid first.I complained & she made an adjustment on my account. I called a state agency & someone said that they would bring it up in a meeting.I also tried to file a report with the US gov't,but never got any feedback.Needless to say,I will never use one of those checks again & I try to spread the word.Thanks for your good work.
DF, Chapin

Sometimes the checks promise low promotional interest rates, like one offering a .99 percent APR. But, if you already have a balance on your credit card, Lisa says watch out, "The credit card company is going to apply any future payments first to that low-interest rate debt, leaving the high-interest rate debt to pile up."

Consumer Reports says the best thing to do with these checks is shred them.

Consumer Reports Money Adviser says it's important to shred credit card checks, because if they're stolen you don't have the same protection you do with a stolen credit card. With a credit card your liability can't exceed $50, but with the checks, there's no automatic limit to your liability.

by Troubleshooter Judi Gatson

posted 6:00pm by Chris Rees

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