Credit card interest rates are the most reviled form of hidden fees and charges in our society today. The average consumer just doesn’t understand what they are paying each month, much less the credit card company that supplies the plastic. It is not uncommon to pay more than double the amount you borrowed or even more each month. This interest rate can quickly add up and before you know it you are neck-deep in debt and wondering how you will ever get out of it. There are ways to lower your current interest rate but first you need to understand exactly what they are and then you can make a decision on how to proceed.

Many people simply do not understand the way credit cards work and therefore don’t realize that there are many different factors involved with credit card interest rates and their rates will vary from card to card. The most basic information you need to have in order to understand these factors is your credit history. The length of your credit history will determine the initial rate charged to you, the annual percentage rate (APR), the grace period between billing cycles, the number of credit cards you own and the annual percentage rate on any new purchases you make. These three factors will dictate your monthly billing cycle and the APRs charged.

Most issuers will advertise low interest rates, but this is not always the case. If the advertised low interest rates are not accompanied by low APRs, it’s best to stay away from these offers as these issuers will increase the APR after the advertised low interest rate. In fact, many credit cards offer low interest rates and then raise their APRs by five percent or even more over and above the advertised rate for the first thirty days, stating that this is a promotional rate and that the rates will then decrease to once a customer pays off the balance. Keep in mind that this is all legal and there are no legal penalties for following this plan, so be aware of this.

Some credit card issuers are known for their extreme approach to marketing. One example of this is the issuers of gas cards, which tend to have extremely high interest rates and exorbitant fees. Other issuers may charge excessively high interest rates for certain types of purchases and/or offer a sub-prime type of credit card with very high interest rates. The practice of issuers trying to attract new customers with overly aggressive marketing and fee structures is not uncommon, and you need to know what to look out for.

Always look at the fine print on the APR and base your decision on whether or not you want to continue with the card. Most credit card interest rates are introductory and do not remain low for long. If you do decide to transfer your balances to a lower APR introductory offer, you’ll probably notice that after a period of time, the new credit card interest rates will be much higher. This is because the balance transfer credit cards often have a limit on how much interest they can charge. You also need to consider any annual fees that may be incurred.

Before you apply, you should have a good idea of what your APR’s and all of the associated fees will be. Many credit cards provide an APR calculation on the back of the card. It’s also a good idea to check with your banks as some banks will offer better credit card interest rates to people with excellent credit scores. If you have poor credit scores, it may still be possible to find a card to suit your needs, but you may have to pay a higher interest rate.

Even if you do get approved, you should make sure that you know exactly what the APR will be before you use the credit card. Some credit card issuers might offer great APRs that look too good to be true. They might also have hidden fees that are added once the APR is established, which can add up fast. For example, many credit card issuers charge an annual membership fee in addition to the APR. You should absolutely avoid any credit card issuer that charges an annual membership fee; it simply means that they’re trying to nickel and dime you to death!

Another way to find out exactly what your credit card interest rates might be for a particular offer is to call the issuer directly. Most card issuers have toll-free numbers where you can contact them. If they don’t have a phone number or even a website, most likely they do not operate in your state or city. Call the card issuer to ask what the interest rate will be for a new or adjustable credit limit.