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Credit card cash advance

Cash Advances on your credit card

As well as making purchases, credit cards offer the added convenience of instant access to cash via ATM's worldwide. However, the convenience may come with a cost so find out what you need to know about cash advances.

While we are becoming an increasingly cashless society there are always times when cold hard cash is the only option. This might be particularly true if you are travelling overseas to a country with a money cash based economy or if you want to access retailers for smaller items near home such as fast food, markets or low value items.

If using your bank account ATM is not an option or you're out of money in your account you have the option of withdrawing cash from an ATM with your credit card. This process is known as a cash advance and can be very convenient. However, make sure you are aware of the potential costs of this convenience.

Should you be concerned about that?

There is no doubt that credit card cash advances provide a real service. Anyone travelling overseas and stuck for cash will be grateful of the lifeline is provides. Your credit card allows you to get a cash advance anywhere around the world, from locations as convenient as the ubiquitous ATM machine.

Before you start making credit card cash advances there are things you need to know. Typically, cash advances are going to be more expensive to you than making the purchase directly on your credit card. Consider the following:

Finance charge: There are cards that bend the rules but you will find a cash advance with most cards attract a higher APR than purchase rates. This is a common feature and can be found even among low interest credit cards. For example, a low interest credit card from an Australian bank has a cash advance rate of 18.75 percent (as at March 12, 2008), while the purchase rate is 12.99 percent. Be aware that the difference in interest rates can be very significant.

There is a reason for this. The credit card issuer earns some income from your purchases because merchants pay fees to process and receive payments for the transactions. A merchant is not involved in a cash advance transaction, so the credit card issuer does not earn fees.

Grace period: Credit card issuers normally grant a grace period on purchases, and charge interest on these only if you don't pay off the amount when it falls due. A cash advance does not get such grace period, and interest is charged from day one. A $500 credit card purchase could cost nothing in interest if you paid the bill in full on its due date; a $500 cash advance at 18 percent APR paid in full after one month would require you to pay $7.50 interest.

Special fee: Card issuers often charge a cash advance transaction fee, shown as a percentage of the cash advance made. Usually, the fee ranges from 2 to 3 percent, but with a minimum fee (e.g. $10). In the example above, you would pay $10-$15 (2-3 percent) as transaction fee on the $500 cash advance.

In the examples above, the $500 credit purchase would not cost anything in interest or feesCredit card cash advance, but the $500 cash advance would cost a total of $17.50-$22.50.

That is the bottom line: credit card cash advances are more expensive than credit purchases. The message is that cash advances should be used judiciously and only in emergency situations.

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