What are the best credit card rates?
What are the worst forms of credit?

To help you shop for credit, for the last sixteen years, Consumers League has given away the list below of lower interest credit cards free to people who send us a stamped, self-addressed, long envelope. Now on the Web, feel free to print out our list for your personal use. Please note that this list is not updated a often as we'd like, so the banks listed may well have changed their rates. However, the list is important because, by and large, the banks listed have had low rates for many years, which is why they were included on the CLNJ list. For the most up to date rate quote, ask the bank itself.

CLNJ has been supplying this data because many banks have kept their consumer loan rates artificially high. Since 1981, the chief effects of interest rate deregulation have been that when we deposit our funds in the bank, we receive interest at 0.25%-5%; but when we borrow from the bank on credit cards, we pay 10% to 25%. Click here for the CLNJ "Greed Ratio" a comparison of meager deposit interest apid with sky-high credit card interest.

The Consumers League list is free to all as a public service. But if you would like to see it continue, we could use a donation. Join Consumers League, and show us your appreciation.

The list is national. Banks are arranged by state. Click here for New Jersey. Most of the following banks extend credit nationally. For each bank below, we list the annual percentage rate, the annual "fee," and late charges, if we know them. The banks have a grace period for paying the purchases without interest, unless otherwise stated. Many banks have a series of rates, some better, and some worse than those quoted here. Some banks will actually give you a hard time, and refuse to quote a rate until after you apply for credit. Skip those banks!

V= Variable, F= Fixed, Late= Late charge.
"Fee" means Annual Membership Fee;

Lower rate Credit Cards:

Metropolitan National Bank ARK 800-883-2511
10.98%, $25 fee; Late charge $10

Pulaski B&T ARK
8.75% $35 fee, $20 late charge

Simmons First Nat'l Bank ARK 800-636-5151
10.5%, $35 fee, Late charge $15

Washington Mutual CA/WA 800-533-5600
13.99%, no fee, Late charge $20

Liberty Savings Bank
CO, FL, OH, SC only
13.9%F, No fee, Late charge: $5/ 5%

People's Bank, (CT)
13.99%, $25 fee, Late charge: $29

AARP/First USA Bank, DEL
13.99%, No fee, Late: $20
AARP members only

American Express Blue
10.99% No fee

AmTrust Bank FL
13.25%, $22 fee

SunTrust (FLA)
14.99%, No fee, Late: $25

Fidelity National GA
14.9%, no fee

Security First Network Bank GA
12.9% No fee

Wachovia Bank, GA
10.9% No fee, Late $29

Amalgamated Trust & S Bk, IL 800-365-6464
14%, No fee

New Jersey
Atlantic Stewardship Bank,
201 444 7100
11.99% Var, $15 fee (0 if bank customer), NJ residents only

Commerce Bank,
800 YES 2000
13.9%, gold card, No fee, NJ only

First Union, NC/NJ
14%, No Fee: 0-$39, Late charge $29

Great Falls Bank,
11.88% interest, $15/25 fee, $20 late
New Jersey residents only

Hudson United Bank
13.2%, no fee, Late charge $20
New Jersey residents only

Central Carolina Bk (NC) 800-577-1680
13.99%, no fee

U.S. Bank (ND)
12.4%V, $20 fee, $29 late charge

Huntington National (OH)
13.99% No fee, Late charge $20

Ohio Savings Bank
800 987 6446
14.75%F, no fee; or 13.25%V, $22

USAA Federal Sav Bk, OKL 800-922-9092
13.4% Var. & up, no annual fee, Late: $20

Armed Forces Benefit Ass'n VA 800-776-2322
12.4%V, No fee; Late charge $20

If you saved you more than $20, why not donate $20 and become a member of the Consumers League. Join!

Want credit card rates updates?
Try these commercial services:
www.imoneynet.com, or

  Which bank is best for you? Two thirds of customers carry balances from month to month: never getting the benefit of a grace period. These consumers should look for low interest rates. If you usually pay 100% of purchases each month, be sure to get a card with a grace period. This means that no interest is charged on purchases, if you paid all purchases last month, and you pay all purchases in the current month. Look for banks in states with strong usury laws. It only takes 15 minutes to change banks and save money. To "transfer" your high interest debts to a low interest bank— apply for a low interest card, then pay off the old balances with a cash advance. Everyone should use credit wisely— credit cards can be an expensive way to borrow! Watch out for $29 late charges, they are unfair and excessive! This list may not detail all the late charges for every bank. Just ask when applying. A Truth in Lending disclosure will tell you what they are.

While this information was checked by phone, we can't be responsible for mistakes, and since rates do change, (variable rates will change with an index), call the bank directly before you apply. For updates, call the bank directly. Credit card interest rates are, unfortunately, changeable at the whim of the bank.

What are the

Rent to Own

CLNJ thinks that 18%-21% for credit cards is way too high. But did you know that people who don't have credit cards get robbed in an even more cruel way?

For 21% at a department store, you might pay $12/month for a TV, but RENT TO OWN charges $12 per week! Some RENT TO OWN stores in the inner cities have sold TVs, appliances and furniture at rates of 50% to 310%! These are not misprints. RTO claims it is "exempt" (i.e., above the law), so it does not bother to obey NJ's 30% criminal usury limit. No one is told the Annual Percentage Rate. Some states (not New Jersey) have actually legalized RTO exploitation at interest rates over 100% annual percentage rate. Such laws represent a return to the dark ages.

Consumers League has a free pamphlet "With Rent to Own Your Paycheck's Blown." For schools, government and charities, we have a large poster. For the radio, TV (and groups) we have a song/public service announcement on audio cassette: the RENT TO OWN RAP!

Payday loans

Another abominable form of credit is "Payday loans." A payday lender might loan you $200 until your next payday, for a $38 interest charge. What do you think the Annual Percentage Rate is for this loan? If the loan is for two weeks, the annual percentage rate is 494%! Almost ten percent per week! Consumers League does not believe that civilized states should condone the exploitation of consumers. In New Jersey, a civil usury limit of 16%, a requirement to get a license from the Banking Department, and a criminal usury law with 30% maximum interest, make payday lending illegal.

Copyright by
Consumers League Education Fund
60 South Fullerton Avenue
Montclair N.J. 07042

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Excerpt from the January 2001 Consumers League Newsletter:
Consumers Loan Money to Banks at 0.25%, Banks Loan it Back to Them at 25%
Greed Ratio Chart

Checking Acct:
Interest Paid for our money
Savings Acct:
Interest Paid
by Bank
Credit Card
Greed Ratio Credit Card to Checking
Bank of NY 0.50% 1.25% 25% * 50 to 1
First Union 0.90% 1.88% 15% 16 to 1
Fleet 0.50% 1.75% 29.47% 59 to 1
PNC 0.55% 1.61% 24.98% @ 45 to 1
Summit Bank 0.25% 1.70% 16.4% # 66 to 1
Trustcompany Bank 1.02% 2.02% 18% # 18 to 1
Note: Banks with *, @, # - Credit cards provided to customers of the bank by a different bank through arrangement or purchase of accounts:* Chase; @ MBNA; # First USA Bank

** Greed ratio is the Credit Card interest charged divided by the Checking account interest paid. Most banks have several credit card rates, with lower credit card rates for richer customers and those deemed more creditworthy. This chart assumes a lower income customer with low deposit balances who is assigned a high rate card. Many banks no longer quote their credit card rates to customers, stating they will let you know your rate after you apply and they "evaluate" you. Figures are from January 2001.