What Is a Convenience Check?
Convenience checks are blank checks that lenders, usually credit card issuers or home equity line of credit lenders, offer to their customers. The borrowers can use these checks to pay off balances on other cards, make new purchases, or secure a cash advance. These are not bank checks, though, and they come with a special set of fees and terms.
Terms usually depend on the lender’s structuring and the borrower’s usage. Borrowers should read the fine print carefully before using convenience checks for any purpose.
- Convenience checks are blank checks provided by lenders that borrowers can use to access credit lines.
- Convenience checks are typically used for purchases, balance transfers, or cash advances.
- Each lender writes their own terms for convenience check usage, which influences their advantages and risks.
How Convenience Checks Work
Convenience checks may seem, like their name, very convenient. However, it’s important to understand that they are usually tied to a loan in some way, which means you’re obligated to pay the money back even though it’s conveniently available.
Convenience checks provide borrowers with an additional channel through which they can access credit extended by their lender, usually a credit card issuer. In general, there are three main purposes for these checks:
- To make a purchase when a check is accepted or required
- To facilitate a balance transfer
- To obtain a cash advance from the lender
These checks may come with some additional terms attached. Sometimes, the funds accessed may be part of a promotion that offers a zero percent interest rate over a specified period of time. Often, the use of a convenience check may come with an extra fee. Generally, the added fee is usually known as the cash advance fee. Terms may vary depending on the type of transaction involved and the agreement with the lender.
Convenience checks may be provided to customers through the mail as part of a marketing program or tool. In some cases, customers may need to request them from the lender in order to have them on hand for use. Borrowers may have the option to opt-out of receiving them if it’s not something they would like to receive or utilize.
Risks of Using Convenience Checks
The biggest risks involved with using convenience checks are the fees that may be associated with the procedures and the loss of time in handling the entire transaction appropriately. Each of the three main transaction types can come with its own parameters and risks.
Convenience checks can commonly be part of the procedures for taking advantage of balance transfers from a lender or credit card issuer. Typically, balance transfers are utilized because of the opportunity they offer the borrower to lower their interest payments by paying off debts with new credit issuance. In this scenario, it can be important to factor in any added costs involved with using the convenience check for the transfer.
Transferring a balance to a new credit line may come with two key provisions to watch out for. First, the balance transfer may be subject to a fee based on the value, often 3% to 5%. Second, the interest on the particular transfer may come with its own annual percentage rate (APR), which can range from 0% in a promotional offer to as high as 35%.
Comprehensively, if the costs of the convenience check and balance transfer are higher than the actual interest costs saved then there can be a risk of loss on the difference plus the loss of time involved in handling the transaction.
Purchases and Cash Advances
Beyond balance transfer costs, the other two transactions—purchases and cash advances—typically come with a cash advance fee. Some purchases with convenience checks may offer a grace period as a benefit with only a small fee to pay if the balance is paid in a short time. Thus, a cardholder who is up to date on their payments is generally exempted from interest on purchases until the grace period ends.
Cash advances with convenience checks may also come with similar terms. A fee is required but a grace period may be offered or a 0% interest rate might be charged for a specified period.
Overall, as with any alternative credit transaction, the borrower is wise to read the fine print and understand the costs involved. In some cases, the cash advance fee typically associated with the use of a convenience check may be exorbitant when compared with a standard credit card transaction that requires no added fee.
In other scenarios, the promotional terms associated with the convenience check may provide for substantial savings. For the borrower, it is important to do the due diligence and compare the terms of using a convenience check against any agreements already in place. Besides the cost side, convenience checks might be a slippery slope to higher levels of debt that is not in the interest of the borrower in the long term. Hence, resist the urge to use these checks if not necessary.