Starting in 2009, credit card companies began to tighten their requirements for extending credit. Often called the credit crunch, this was in response to the global recession and near implosion of the American banking system in 2008. There were also a number of laws passed in 2009 designed to protect consumers from predatory interest rates and ensure greater transparency in the credit industry.
A 2014 study found that these laws, in particular the CARD Act, have saved American consumers $11.9 billion per year in decreased costs to consumers. In response, credit card companies looked for new ways to make money off their customers. The answer was to charge fees for everything imaginable.
Annual fees have become standard just to maintain an account and application fees are often charge to even try and get a credit card. There are also fees for making late payments, going over your credit limit, and even keeping too low a balance or having no balance on the account at all.
Consumers often transfer balances from high interest accounts to cards with lower interest rates, so of course there is balance transfer fee that is generally a percentage of the balance.
There are also fees for taking a cash advance, using the card in a foreign country, receiving a paper statement by mail, and even, get this, an inactivity fee that is essentially a penalty for not using the card and running up interest and incurring other fees.
In 2009 alone, credit card companies collected over $13 billion in fees on top of the billions of dollars they already collect in interest charges. When shopping for a credit card, don’t just look for the best interest rate but also find out which of these fees they charge. Heck, by the time you read this the card companies will probably have invented new fees, so watch out for those too.