Comparison shopping for credit cards is made easier by the Truth in Lending Act, or TILA, because it requires issuers to clearly disclose details about the terms and conditions of the credit cards they offer.
Passed in 1968, TILA has been updated multiple times, but its intent remains the same: to help ensure that borrowers are informed about the true costs of credit by requiring that credit card issuers disclose on all credit and charge card applications and solicitations:
- Annual Percentage Range (APR) for purchases (or interest rate), which may include introductory and long-term rates
- Other APRs – interest rates for balance transfers, cash advances, default, etc.
- Variable rate information (if applicable) – explaining that your interest rate can (and will) change.
- Grace Period – the period of time after your bill when interest charges are not yet applied on your debts.
- Finance calculation method – applies if the credit card balance is not paid in full each month.
- Finance Charges – the minimum amount charged if a balance is carried over month to month.
- Annual Fee (if applicable)
- Other fees – transaction fees, balance transfers, cash advances, late payments, over-limit, etc.
Credit card issuers provide this information in an easy-to-read table called a “Schumer Box,” which is the standardized format required by TILA.
TILA also requires that issuers spell out a card’s balance computation method such as average daily balance. And under TILA, cardholders are not responsible for more than $50 in unauthorized purchases if the error or fraud is reported within 60 days of receiving the account statement. It’s good to keep in mind, however, that cardholders lose some leverage with credit card companies if they wait longer than that to request an investigation.
What Is the Truth in Lending Act?
Don’t be confused if you ever hear these disclosures referred to as Regulation Z. It is the exact same Federal Reserve Board rule that requires lenders to disclose this information and is used interchangeably with TILA and Truth in Lending. You can learn more about the Truth in Lending Act at debt.org.
How to Comparison Shop for Credit Cards
You probably already know that the better your credit score, the lower the interest rate you are likely to be offered by card issuers when you are shopping for a credit card. But how do you find the best card for your current credit situation?
There are numerous online tools that can help you do side-by-side comparisons among different categories of cards. For example, Credit.com’s credit card finder tool can help you discover cards that are a good match for you and easily compare more than 120 offers from our partners.
Before you begin comparing cards, though, it’s a good idea to check your credit scores to know exactly where you stand. You can find out how your credit score is faring by getting your two free credit scores on Credit.com. You’ll also get customized credit advice from experts on improving your score.