For National Credit Education Week, which ends Saturday, consumer and industry groups offered a panolpy of tips on how to use credit cards responsibly.
Organizations such as MasterCard International, the American Bankers Association and BankCard Holders of America, have made available a wealth of consumer literature.
In a newsletter to its members, BankCard Holders of America, as consumer advocacy group based in Salem, Va., focused on minimum-payment requirements.
The nonprofit group noted that this year three of the top 10 issuers have dropped their minimum payments to as low as 2% of a cardholder's current balance. Citicorp reduced its minimum payment from 2.78% to 2.1%, while MBNA Corp. and Chase Manhattan Corp. dropped theirs from 2.5% to 2%.
Four other major issuers already had minimum-balance requirements hovering at 2%.
The average minimum-payment requirement for the industry was 2.5% of the cardholder's current balance, or a minimum of $15, noted Ruth Susswein, executive director of BankCard Holders. Now it is either $10 opr 2%0 of the current balance.
But the lower requirement is not always in the consumer's best interest, Ms. Susswein noted. For example, a Citibank customer with a $1,100 credit-card balance who pays only the minimum charge at 2.1%, pays $394 more than what he or she would have at the old minimum-payment requirement.
The American Bankers Association's brochure "How to Choose, Use, And Not Abuse Your Bank Credit Card" provides basic information on when it is appropriate for consumers to choose a card with an annual fee and when a consumer should select a low-interest-rate card.
The brochure also lists questions consumers should ask issuers before deciding on a product.
New York-based MasterCard revised its "Useful Tips on Money Matters" brochure series, introuced last September. MasterCard updated statistics in the brochures to include 1993 numbers, but the consumer advice remains the same.
So far, 350,000 copies of the four brochures available from MasterCard through a toll-free number have been requested.
High School Program
Visa U.S.A., which is based in San Francisco, released a study about Choices and Decisions, a financial education program for high school students. A national survey conducted by Roper Starch Worldwide Inc. reports that teachers who use the program as part of their lesson plans say that student understanding of credit cards and other financial matters increased tenfold.
The teachers surveyed also said that students seem to be most interested in such topics as "living on your own" and "cars and car loans." Budgeting and banking-related issues like saving and investing held less interest for them.
"Choice and Decisions," which includes a 12-chapter written curriculum, is being taught in nearly 10,000 high schools across the country.
In addition to these national programs, the International Credit Association of St. Louis, Mo., which sponsors National Education Credit Week, says that many of its 9,000 members belonging to 110 chapters also developed programs honoring the week.
The nonprofit association's membership comprises issuers, not-for-profit groups, and others that service the credit-card industry.