The official Get Rich Slowly stance on credit cards remains: don’t use them. If you do use them, at least take a few minutes to read this list of eight things a credit card user should know from the website for Frontline’s The Secret History of the Credit Card (discussed here yesterday).

Note: Some of this information has changed as a result of the Credit Card Act of 2009. You can read about some of these changes at What the New Credit Card Laws Mean to You.

According the site, these are the things you should know if you use credit:

  1. Even if you make your credit card payments on time, the credit card bank can raise your interest rate automatically if you’re late on payments elsewhere — such as on another credit card or on a phone, car, or house payment — or simply because the bank feels you have taken on too much debt.
  2. Your credit score — known as a FICO score — has become a vital statistic for many Americans and can be widely shared. It is used to determine how much you can borrow, how much you pay for life insurance, if you can rent a home, and, as already noted, it can be a factor in determining the interest rate you pay on a credit card. (More here.)
  3. There is no limit on the amount a credit card company can charge a cardholder for being even an hour late with a payment.
  4. It’s important to read the fine print on your credit card agreement.
  5. Many Americans are inattentive about their credit card accounts.
  6. There is no federal limit on the interest rate a credit card company can charge.
  7. Significant credit card debt can put you at a markedly higher risk of bankruptcy.
  8. You can get help.

If you use credit, use it responsibly.

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