Why Credit Card Checks Are [Usually] Subpar Offers

Q: Dear CreditCardGuru, I used to get those convenience checks in the mail all the time but lately haven’t gotten any. Do you know if there’s any way I can request them? And if so, how can I get the best deal?

A: As with most things in life, you pay more for convenience. Credit card checks are no exception.

You could call customer service and try requesting them – but almost always – the 0% promotional rate they offer you is for a shorter duration than what you will get if you were to apply for a new account. You won’t be getting the best deal.

For example, the checks I receive on an almost monthly basis from Citibank are typically peddling a 0% intro rate for the first 12 months. However if I were to apply for their Simplicity card I would get a longer 0% intro (and speaking of Citi, they will let you deposit a balance transfer into your checking account).

However keep in mind that most banks will classify the transaction as a “cash advance” when you use a convenience check.

When that’s the case, interest begins accruing immediately (there’s no grace period). To add insult to injury, you may also have to pay an upfront fee of 3-5%.

The lesson? Don’t use a credit card check, nor the direct deposit into your bank account, if possible.

What is it that you need the money for? Because you may have another option, even if the other party normally doesn’t accept credit cards.

For example, you may be able to pay them using PayPal – that’s preferable since PayPal transactions are typically classified as a purchase. If you have a 0% intro APR on purchases, that could save you money. Whatever path you decide to take, just make sure you read the fine print and follow the card issuer’s rules when using a zero percent introductory offer.

This post was written or last updated October 21, 2013

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