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Why should I read my credit card summary box?

woman in blue stripey top reading credit card summary box

When deciding what credit card is right for you, it’s easy to get caught up in all the percentages, limited offers and overall terms and conditions while trying to compare deals. Thankfully, credit card providers all use a standardised summary box to show the most important information when it comes to that particular credit card.

To understand what you can expect to find included in your summary box, we’ve put together a short guide to help you out. If the key information around credit cards makes you go as crossed-eyed as the Guru comparing two great deals at the same time, it’s probably worth reading on to find out more.

What is included in a credit card summary box?

The credit card summary box is designed to display the key details for a consumer to understand. The fact that card providers stick to a standardised layout means that there can’t be any hidden details that are easy to miss.

The following information is what you will be presented with when you’re sent the summary box for your credit card deal:

APR

The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is one of the most important aspects of your credit card, indicating how much interest you’re likely to pay on top of the outstanding balance. The lower the rate, the less will be added on as part of your monthly repayments. That means having a low APR is very favourable amongst borrowers, with the lowest rates reserved for those consumers with an excellent credit rating.

Interest rates

Wondering how does credit card interest work for the deal you’ve chosen? Alongside the APR, there are also interest rates that apply to other aspects of your credit card. They are usually displayed as a monthly and an annual rate for clarity.

  • Purchases – applies to any purchases made on the credit card whether online or in a shop
  • Cash withdrawals/advances – applies to any cash withdrawn from the account through an ATM
  • Balance transfers – applies to any balance transfers made to the account from another account

Interest free period

Many popular credit cards will come with an initial period where you will pay no interest on purchases or balance transfers. This can be very useful for those who have planned to make a large purchase but want to spread the cost over several months. A 0% purchase card is ideal for this circumstance and will allow you to plan how to pay off the credit card without incurring additional charges.

On the other hand, if you have several credit or store cards and would like to transfer the balances onto one card, having an interest free period can make this a lot easier to handle, especially if you can pay off the balance within the initial period. If this is the reason for getting a credit card, check out some 0% balance transfer cards instead.

Interest charging information

This section details how interest will be applied to your credit card within certain circumstances. For example: if you fail to repay your balance in full and on time, you will be charged the standard rate of interest detailed in the interest rate section. Being charged will occur from the date the amount is debited from your account until it is paid off. However, if you have a credit card with an interest free period you can avoid this altogether.

Allocation of payments

This section indicates how the monthly repayments you make are allocated by your card provider and what they pay off first if you have made multiple purchases on the account (for example). This section also details what happens if your account is in arrears (if the payment is overdue).

Minimum repayment

You can find out here how much you can expect to pay as a minimum repayment on the credit card. By keeping above this minimum amount you can avoid any further penalties. The more you pay off the total amount every month, the quicker your balance will return to 0 and you will avoid paying the standard rate of interest, especially if you repay the amount within an interest free period.

Credit limit

Very clearly, this section will show what your minimum credit limit is, along with a maximum credit limit. This simply, this shows how much the card provider is willing to lend you as a borrower. Exceeding this credit limit (if stated) will incur further penalties and charges.

Fees

There can sometimes be a fee for owning a premium credit card, which is usually paid on an annual basis. However, for most regular cards there is usually not a fee included.

Charges

Along with the interest charged to your card for performing certain actions such as withdrawing cash, you will also be faced with a charge (basically an additional percentage fee) for performing that action. It can also be referred to as a handling fee. It’s worth bearing these in mind when looking at your credit card statement if you’re unsure of where certain charges have come from.

Foreign usage

This section will list the charges you can expect to incur if you use the credit card outside of the UK. They include a non-sterling transaction fee (often called a load fee), a cash withdrawal fee and a cash transaction fee. There will also be a note of where to find the most recent exchange rates for when you’re paying in another currency. The best credit cards to reduce these charges are travel credit cards.

Default charges/fees

If you make a late repayment or spend over your limit on the chosen credit card, this section will detail the fees you will have to pay. These are usually a set charge rather than a percentage rate.

What now?

Now that you’ve had a full explanation of what your credit card summary box means, you can be safe in the knowledge that you can compare credit card deals without missing out on key details that could sway you one way or the other.

If you haven’t done so already, head over to our main credit cards page to start comparing – each deal should have a link to the related summary box document for you to read at your leisure. You can also use moneymatcher, our free online comparison tool to check your eligibility for free, without affecting your credit score.