What Are Credit Card Terms And Conditions?

Terms and conditions for a credit card is a formal statement of the rules and guidelines that govern the relationship between a credit card issuer and a credit cardholder.

The document containing a card’s terms and conditions sometimes goes by a different name, such as disclosures; rates, rewards, and cost information; or pricing and terms.

Understanding Credit Card Terms And Conditions

Terms and conditions for a credit card spell out the fees and interest charges you could incur as a cardholder. This document provides the credit card’s annual percentage rate (APR) for purchases, APR for balance transfers, APR for cash advances, and penalty APR. It also states how long the grace period is, what the minimum interest charge is if you carry a balance, the annual fee, balance transfer fee, cash advance fee, foreign transaction fee, late payment fee and returned payment fee.

If the credit card has a rewards program, the terms and conditions or sometimes a separate document will explain the basic rules of the rewards program, including the types of transactions that earn rewards—for example, purchases—and the ones that don't, like, perhaps, balance transfers. If the credit card has a promotional offer, such as a sign-up bonus or low introductory rate, the terms and conditions will also describe how to qualify for the offer. 

In addition to providing dollar amounts and percentages for fees and interest rates associated with a credit card, the terms and conditions also describe how the credit card company will calculate your balance, meaning whether they will be using the daily balance including current transactions method, for example. The terms and conditions document also explains what actions will trigger the penalty APR, such as missing the minimum payment deadline. It also describes how the company will apply payments to your account, including options such as applying payments to your lowest APR balances first, up to the minimum payment due, then applying payments to the highest APR balance.

Key Takeaways

  • A credit card's terms and conditions officially document the rules and guidelines of the agreement between a credit card issuer and a cardholder.
  • Common terms and conditions include the fees, interest rate, and annual percentage rate carried by the credit card.
  • Terms and conditions of a credit card should be available before a consumer makes an application, and should also be mailed to the consumer with the new card itself.

Special Considerations for Credit Card Terms and Conditions

All of a credit card’s terms and conditions should be available when the consumer applies for the card. It will also be mailed to the consumer when a new card is issued.

Consumers should read the terms and conditions carefully before applying and again upon receiving the new card to make sure they fully understand any fees and interest charges they might incur. Consumers should also read the terms and conditions to make sure they understand how to qualify for any promotions and rewards associated with the card.

The CARD Act's Effect on Credit Card Terms and Agreements

The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act) of 2009 helped standardize the terms and conditions of credit cards. It made the language, terms, and disclosure of penalties and fees much more transparent and understandable, both in the initial card agreements and in monthly statements. It also mandated the use of Schumer boxes (named for Senator Charles Schumer), easy-to-read tables that allowed consumers to see at glance important information, and to be able to compare different cards' terms.