Several entries provided by the Maryland Attorney General's Office in the credit card survey in yesterday's Washington Business section were incorrect. These are the correct entries: Choice card minimum monthly payment is $5 or 3 percent for purchases and for cash advances. Maryland National Bank's Master Charge cash advances exclude previous interest and finance charges from computation of the average daily balnace. AAA of Maryland, via First Virginia Bank, charges an annual fee of $10 for Visa. First American Bank of Virginia has no fee for Visa and Master Charge. United Virginia Bank charges $15 for Visa. Also, under the column headings "method of computation," INC. means the issuer includes previous finance charges or interest in the calculation of the average daily balance; EXC. means the issuer excludes the previous month's finance charge or interest, which generally costs less for the consumer.
A recent survey by the Consumer Protection Division of the Maryland Attorney General's Office shows that most credit card issuers charge 18 percent in interest rates and finance fees.
The survey of 36 issuers also shows that annual interest rates and finance charges on credit cards issued to Maryland consumers vary from 12 to 19.8 percent.
Included in the survey were institutions in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, California and the District of Columbia.
"This is the most comprehensive credit card survey ever done in Maryland," said Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs. "Its findings should help consumers shop for the best credit terms available to them, just as they shop for the best bargains in other areas of the marketplace."
The cards surveyed were Mastercard, Visa, Choice, Central Charge, Diners' Club, Carte Blanche and American Express. The survey looked at annual fees charged, annual percentage rates, minimum monthly payments, minimum finance charges, float and late fees.
The survey found that the cost of credit to the consumer depends on the buying habits of the individual and the amount of debt outstanding. Some card issuers charge an annual fee and/or a minimum finance charge and some do not. Minimum monthly payments also differ from issuer to issuer.
The Consumer Protection Division offered these hints when shopping for credit:
Always look for the annual percentage rate charged and use it to compare the interest or finance charges quoted by one lender and those quoted by another.
Ask whether there are any special requirements to obtain credit, such as keeping a certain minimum balance in a low-interest savings or checking account.
Remember that if an institution changes the terms and conditions of the card it issues, cardholders are subject to the new terms only if they either agree to them in writing or use their credit card after receiving notification of the changes.
"Consumers of credit should know that they have other options and precisely what those options are," Sachs said.