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Credit-card deals often loaded with fees

Most credit-card offers that arrive in the mail end up in the recycling bin. But those who do sign up for a new card may be surprised to learn of some hidden and new fees. Experts also point out that several card issuers have set limits on how low their interest rates can fall (between 11 percent and 15 percent, in several cases). Some of what FDIC Consumer News says to watch out for:

Monthly maintenance fees: Instead of an annual fee, some lenders charge a monthly fee of $6 to $12 regardless of whether the card is used.

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Balance-transfer fees: These are huge fees tacked on when debt is moved to a lower-interest card. Interest often begins accruing as soon as the transfer is completed.

Cash-advance fees: Using your credit card to get cash from an ATM will incur interest charges immediately. You may also be charged a transaction fee by the financial institution that holds the credit card and the bank that owns the ATM.

Late-payment penalties: Paying your bill after the due date may cost anywhere from $15 to $29. The company can also raise your interest rate or cancel your card altogether.

Paying less than the monthly minimum payment: Anything less than the minimum can be considered late (see penalty above).

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor