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Zero Interest Faux Pas

Not a major Faux Pas, but one that can cost you if you are playing the float on zero interest credit card loans.

For those of you not familiar with this, let me start with a description of what I am discussing. Despite the state of the economy and credit crunch we are in, a number of credit card issuers are still offering zero interest cash withdrawals for as long as 12 months, and some with no transfer fees. The no-fee deals make it tempting to borrow the money, put it in a CD, and just pay it back when the zero rate comes to an end. Of course, this is not for everyone. You set yourself up for the risk of a missed payment, (in my case I set up monthly automatic payments on line), or the temptation to spend that money instead of putting it into a CD. For others, the credit line offered isn’t high enough to justify the effort.

Now, to my recent mistake. When you have an outstanding zero interest loan, any new charges are typically incurring the standard interest rate. So, with an outstanding zero interest loan, I forgot that I had this same card set up to charge my eBay account seller fees. I recently had a sale that had a fee of $2.47. So this amount will accrue interest until I pay this card off in January. Now, interest on this tiny charge would normally be about three cents per month, but BOA credit cards have a minimum $1.50 per month finance charge. So the account will be subject to $7.50 in finance charges over these five months or about 1450% when annualized. Not enough to cancel out the interest I earned on this deal, but enough to offer this as a warning. If it’s early in the free year, and you accidentally pull out the wrong card to make a large purchase, you may find you’ve just negated the saving for the whole year’s deal.

(To be clear, I have no issue with BOA, their rules are clear, the $1.50 min finance charge is stated on their agreement as well as on the checks I used to draw the loan. This is just one of the ‘got ya’s to watch out for.)

Joe

  • SavingDiva August 30, 2008, 10:47 pm

    I’m sure that I would do something even worse if I was trying to play the 0% credit card game….

    At least you were able to calculate the cost and realize that you’re going to still be able to make more money by leaving it…

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