| Dec 21, 2006

Legalese - December 21, 2006

Back toHome

Legalese - December 21, 2006 Consumer Tips for Yuletide Shoppers: Part II

Peter Graham, LawyerRural Legal Services, Sharbot Lake

The Ease and Convenience of Credit Cards

Credit cards can be very useful over the holidays. For example, when used carefully, credit cards can help you pay for unexpected emergencies. They allow you to take advantage of sales or special bargains. They help you keep track of your expenses by listing purchases on a monthly statement. You also avoid the danger of carrying large amounts of cash. Bill payments are simplified by allowing you to pay for your purchases once a month.

There is, however, another side to the coin, or credit card in this case. It is easy to forget that the signing of a $100.00 sales slip is the same as handing the seller a $100.00 bill. In fact, it can amount to much more if you do not pay your account off completely each month. You will be charged interest on the outstanding balance. Interest charges can mount up quickly as interest rates charged on credit cards are generally higher than those charged on other forms of credit.


If you treat credit cards like cash and are aware of all the charges associated with them, they can be a great convenience. When you use credit cards, read and understand the rules on interest calculations. Don’t set yourself up for any nasty surprises in the New Year.

Debit Cards – An Alternative

Debit cards provide the convenience of credit cards but, because the cash is taken immediately out of your bank account, there is no risk that you will spend more than you have in your account. By not buying on credit you will not be burdened with high interest charges on your credit cards after the holidays. However, because your debit card is equivalent to cash, exercise caution when using it to avoid unauthorized access to your bank account. For example, make sure no one can see you entering your PIN at the point of sale. Also, never share your PIN and avoid obvious numbers such as birth date or phone number.

Telephone and Online Shopping

It is becoming more common to shop over the telephone or online. Before you do make sure you:

know whom you’re dealing with (i.e. seller’s name, business address and phone number)check the reputation of the business before buyingknow what you’re paying for (e.g. information on size, materials or colour options, certificates or seals of approval, and warranties and guarantees).

In addition, if you are contacted by telephone, don’t do business with telemarketers who:

ask for your credit card number, bank account number, or any other personal informationoffer you a free prize, but want to charge handling and shipping fees for delivery demand payment in advance, for any reason.

If shopping online:

don’t respond to spam (unsolicited e-mail offers)don’t fall for offers that sound too good to be true – they often areavoid getting hooked by offers for additional products with purchases and other “freebies” – they are meant to reel in the unsuspecting.

If you have any questions about the consumer tips covered in Part One or this column, do not hesitate to contact us.

We always welcome your questions and comments. To all our readers, our best wishes for the season.

Other Stories this Week View RSS feed

Support local
independant journalism by becoming a patron of the Frontenac News.