Credit cards can be very secure and convenient methods of payment, but they aren’t perfect. Credit card users will make mistakes, and cards carry fees and penalties that will in a sense “punish” you for your bad behavior.
Thankfully, the most common credit card problems also have solutions. So when you find yourself wrestling with one your cards, consider these five common credit card problems, and how to fix them.
1. Your Card Is Declined
There are few things more frustrating than having your credit card purchase declined by a merchant, but there are several reasons why this can happen. Your first step should be to contact the card issuer and ask what’s going on. Their customer service should be able to tell you whether they can see that the merchant attempted to process the charge, and if so, the reason why it failed. Your bank or credit union will also notify you if your card has been suspended due to a late payment or an exhausted credit line. But in many cases, card issuers will decline a charge pending verification because they suspect that it may be being used fraudulently. To avoid this problem, always contact your card issuer before making a major purchase or traveling to a foreign country, and avoid making repeated charges to the same merchant for the identical amount during a single visit, which can get flagged as duplicates.
2. Your Payments Are Late or Missing
If your payments are sometimes marked as late or missing, you will be charged costly late fees and penalty interest rates on most credit cards. To avoid the problem of forgetting to make payments on-time, you can utilize the email and text alerts offered by nearly all credit card issuers. In addition, your card issuer might also offer some form of automatic bill payment. Finally, if you are still sending checks in the mail, it’s time to use your bank’s electronic bill pay system to eliminate the chance of the post office losing or delaying your check.
If you commonly make late payments and don’t see that changing anytime soon, you may also want to consider shopping for a credit card that doesn’t penalize you. For example, the Citi Simplicity card has no late fee or penalty APR for cardholders. (You can read a full review of Citi Simplicity here.)
3. Your Annual Fee Is Too High
There are some really great credit cards offered, but many of the best ones come with an annual fee. Sometimes, these annual fees become too much for cardholders and they are looking for a way to reduce them. First, try contacting your card issuer and asking to have the annual fee waived. Sometimes, this request is granted, while other times customers are presented with retention offers in the form of additional points or miles. Another option is to have your account transitioned to a similar credit card with no annual fee, although it will feature less generous rewards and benefits. Finally, you can always cancel your card and receive a credit for the annual fee shortly after its billed. Then, you can shop for a competing product with no annual fee.
4. You Have Too Much Debt
One of the biggest problems that credit card users can face is incurring too much debt relative to their available credit. To get out of this situation, start by taking a break from your cards and use other forms of payment as much as possible. Then, you can apply for a new credit card with a 0% APR balance transfer offer for a limited time period (here are picks for America’s Best Balance-Transfer Cards). These 0% offers allow you to avoid interest charges while you pay down your debt, although nearly all require the payment of a 3% balance transfer fee. (An exception is the Chase Slate, which is reviewed here). And since all of your payments will be applied to the principal, you will be able to get out of debt much sooner than if you were also paying interest charges.
5. Your Credit Card Doesn’t Work in Foreign Countries
If you travel outside the U.S., your credit might not work for one of two different reasons. First, many foreign countries now use credit card readers that require an EMV smart chip. While the U.S. is quickly deploying these readers along with upgraded cards, you might have to contact your credit card issuer to have a replacement card sent with the latest technology. The other problem you can face is that your card issuer might flag your foreign transactions as potentially fraudulent. So be sure to notify your bank or credit union of your travels before you leave home. And keep in mind that many cards charge an extra fee for charges made outside of the U.S. If you travel often, you may find it worthwhile to sign up for a card with no foreign transaction fees. The Capital One VentureOne Rewards and the Venture Rewards cards both come with no foreign transaction fees, for example. (You can compare the two cards and figure out if one is right for you here.)
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.
More on Credit Cards:
- Credit.com’s Expert Credit Card Shopping Tips
- How to Get a Credit Card With Bad Credit
- An Expert Guide to Credit Cards with Rewards