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A credit card system is a type of retail transaction settlement and credit system, named after the small plastic card issued to users of the system.
A credit card is different from a debit card in that the credit card issuer lends the consumer money rather than having the money removed from an account. It is also different from a charge card (though this name is sometimes used by the public to describe credit cards) in that charge cards require that the balance be paid in full each month. In contrast, a credit card allows the consumer to 'revolve' their balance, at the cost of having interest charged. Most credit cards are the same shape and size, as specified by the ISO 7810 standard.
How credit cards work:
A user is issued a credit card after an account has been approved by the credit provider (often a general bank, but sometimes a captive bank created to issue a particular brand of credit card, such as American Express Centurion Bank), with which he or she will be able to make purchases from merchants accepting that credit card up to a preestablished credit limit.
Each month, the credit card user is sent a statement indicating the purchases undertaken with the card, and the total amount owed. The cardholder must then pay a minimum proportion of the bill by a due date, and may choose to pay the entire amount owed or more. The credit provider charges interest on the amount owed (typically at a much higher rate than most other forms of debt). Some financial institutions can arrange for automatic payments to be deducted from the user's accounts.
Credit card issuers usually waive interest charges if the balance is paid in full each month, but typically will charge full interest on the entire outstanding balance from the date of each purchase if the total balance is not paid.
For example, if a user had a $1,000. outstanding balance for purchases and pays the entire $1,000. there would be no interest charged. If, however, even $1.00 of the total balance remained unpaid, interest would be charged on the full $1,000 from the date of purchase until the payment is received. The precise manner in which interest is charged is usually detailed in a cardholder agreement which may be summarized on the back of the monthly statement.
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The credit card may simply serve as a form of revolving credit, or it may become a complicated financial instrument with multiple balance segments each at a different interest rate, possibly with a single umbrella credit limit, or possibly with separate credit limits applicable to the various balance segments. Usually this compartmentalization is the result of special incentive offers from the issuing bank, either to incent balance transfers from cards of other issuers, or to incent more spending on the part of the customer. In the event that several interest rates apply to various balance segments, payment allocation is generally at the discretion of the issuing bank, and payments will therefore usually be allocated towards the lowest rate balances until paid in full before any money is paid towards higher rate balances. Interest rates can vary considerably from card to card, and the interest rate on a particular card may jump dramatically if the card user is late with a payment on that card or any other credit instrument.
• Annual percentage rate
Because profit margins in the credit card industry can be quite high, credit providers often offer incentives such as frequent flier miles, gift certificates, or cash back (typically 1 percent) to try to attract customers to their program.
Low interest credit cards or even 0% interest credit cards are available. The only downside to consumers is that the period of low interest credit cards is limited to a fixed term, usually between 6 and 12 months. However, services are available which alert credit card holders when their low interest period is due to expire. Most such services charge a monthly or annual fee.
Bank of America created the BankAmericard in 1958, a product which eventually evolved into the Visa system ("Chargex" also became Visa). MasterCard came to being in 1966 when a group of credit-issuing banks established MasterCharge. The fractured nature of the US banking system meant that credit cards became an effective way for those who were travelling around the country to, in effect, move their credit to places where they could not directly use their banking facilities.
Credit card networks:
Fair Credit Reporting Act
Adverse Credit History
Credit rating agency
Credit reference agency
Card Security Code
Credit card debt
Credit card fraud
Credit card hijacking
Credit card interest
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