One of the fundamental, written rules concerning credit that is of utmost importance is the one where you’re told, in no uncertain terms: The fine print counts too. In fact, it often counts more than the “headlines” or promised benefits of any deal you encounter. How do banks, credit card companies, retail creditors and others tell you that the fine print counts? It’s when they make legal disclosures and statements like these:
- Terms and conditions
- Certain restrictions apply
- Consult rules for further information
- Complete details listed below
- Full terms, rates, fees, and other costs on back
- Limitations and exclusions
- Please see application for all details
- Pricing and terms
- Consult disclosures for important information
The Fine Print Counts Too
Did you catch that the last item listed above wasn’t words, but just the asterisk symbol? When you see that asterisk, pay as close attention as you would if you saw “Terms and conditions” because that’s exactly what it means. That asterisk is telling you that there is some other fine print you have to find elsewhere to learn all the details involved.
So now you’ve been warned: If you ever see language like the statements listed above, that’s your cue that you need to read the fine print for any product, service, or any deal you’re thinking about taking. In many cases, if you took the time to read the fine print, all sorts of red flags would pop up, telling you to slow down and fully understand what you’re about to do.
All Credit-Related Offers Contain The Hook And The Fine Print
Oh, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard people complain (myself included) about some aspect of their credit and debt that was tied to fine print. I’d be a very wealthy woman indeed. Here’s what happens in many of these cases.
We get wowed by a marketing message or so vested in getting a certain deal that before we know it we’re caught up in a transaction where we don’t understand the fine print. Or worse, we don’t bother to even read it. Or perhaps we ignore the fine print thinking that only the bold-faced marketing message counts, especially when it seems to work in our favor.
Like the balance-transfer promotion for a new credit card that says “0% for balance transfers.” But after you read the fine print of this seemingly attractive offer, you find out that the balance transfer fees are exorbitant, or that the interest rate on standard purchases is sky high. You know what I’m talking about, right?
That’s why it’s critical for you to never, ever forget that the fine print counts too. After all, the institutions you deal with aren’t forgetting about the fine print. On the contrary, they’re counting on it to work in their favor.
The Big Print Giveth, The Little Print Taketh Away
It’s been said that “The big print giveth, and the little print taketh away.” In many ways, that’s true. Here’s why the fine print counts too – often more than the bold-faced advertising or marketing message you may have seen in an offer.
The fine print is where you’ll learn what you must do to qualify for something.
The fine print is where you’ll find out when the benefits promised apply, when they don’t, and when they can change, expire, or be revoked.
The fine print is where you will discover all the restrictions, exclusions and other rules that impact a deal.
It’s Up To You To Read the Fine Print Before Saying Yes or No
Therefore, you must always think about any loan, credit offer, agreement or special deal as having two parts: the hook and the fine print. The hook is designed to do just that – “hook” you into saying “Yes.” The hook is the bold-faced advertisement, or the marketing message that grabs your attention.
It will be something enticing, like “No Money Down,” “Low 4.9% APR,” “Only $9.95” “Cash Back Bonus” or “Free.” The fine print invariably has less-appealing language. It covers the nitty-gritty details of the offer, including its limitations, critical information about pricing, fees, terms and conditions. The hook is always prominently displayed.
But the fine print is most often displayed in small type, or perhaps is simply not as pronounced, and is usually located far at the end of, or in back of, an offer or agreement. In the case of online offers, the fine print is typically one or more click away from the hook. While the fine print may be more difficult to read, harder to find, and sometimes complex to understand, it is there nonetheless, and it’s your responsibility to read it.
If not, you could put your credit standing and your finances at serious risk. Or you may simply enter into an agreement without fully understanding its terms.