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A Schumer box is a summary of a credit card's rates and fees—it lets you know what a given credit card is likely to cost you if you use the card overseas, take out cash advances or pay late. It also includes information about grace periods and penalty rates.
What Is a Schumer Box?
A Schumer box is a standardized table that summarizes a credit card's rates and fees, in a format that is easy to read. It is required as an amendment to the 1968 Truth in Lending Act.
The disclosure takes its name from Sen. Chuck Schumer, who proposed the legislation. It was passed in 1988 and enacted in 2000.
Part of Regulation Z, which standardizes how lenders communicate the cost of borrowing to consumers, the Schumer box requires that information about rates be in 18-point type and that other graphic techniques, such as bolding text, be used.
Where Can I Find a Schumer Box?
The Schumer box must be included with credit card statements and credit card offers.
If you get paper statements (or PDFs), it's on the first page of your statement. The larger fonts, bold type and box make it hard to miss.
If you are applying for a card online, the Schumer box may not be as easy to find, but the information is available. You can try looking at the bottom of the page for something like "cardmember agreement," "terms and conditions" or "pricing."
The purpose of a Schumer box is to offer consumers a clear understanding of the cost of using a particular credit card. It can be useful if you are already a cardholder or if you are comparing credit card offers to decide which card is most appropriate for you.
What Does a Schumer Box Tell You?
Primarily, a Schumer box tells you about rates and fees. Those include:
Purchase Annual Percentage Rate
The purchase annual percentage rate (APR) is the interest rate you will pay if you do not pay your statement in full before the grace period ends. If there is a 0% interest introductory rate, you'll find the details of the offer, including when it expires, in the box. If you are looking at an application or offer, you'll likely see a range, with your actual APR depending on your creditworthiness.
Interest rates for cash advances and balance transfers are different from those charged when you use a credit card to buy things. Interest rates for cash advances are typically higher than those charged for purchases; balance transfer rates are typically lower. The Schumer box contains information on both.
Your statement or application should tell you what triggers a penalty APR, the maximum interest rate and how long it lasts. Penalty APRs can be avoided by paying balances before the due date.
Some credit cards charge annual fees. If you carry cards that charge them, it's smart to evaluate from time to time whether the fee is still worth it to you. The Schumer box makes it easy to see what you are paying.
Cash Advance Fees
In addition to carrying higher interest rates than purchases, cash advances tend to come with fees. Credit card companies are required to disclose these prominently.
Balance Transfer Fees
If you transfer a balance from one card to another to get a lower interest rate, or even a 0% intro rate, you'll typically have to pay a fee of 3% to 5% of the amount transferred.
Credit cards often charge fees if your payment is past due. While a payment is not reported late to credit bureaus until 30 days after the due date, a late fee can be imposed if the payment has not been received by the due date.
Returned Payment Fees
In addition to late fees, you can be charged if your credit card company can't process a payment because there are insufficient funds in the account you are paying from.
Foreign Transaction Fees
A foreign transaction fee is assessed when you use your credit card overseas or when you use it to purchase items in a currency other than U.S. dollars. Many cards do not have them, but if your card does, you'll find the fees in your statement's Schumer box.
Minimum Finance Charges
Finance charges are the minimum you will be charged for carrying a balance month to month. As with foreign transaction fees, not all cards have them.
The grace period is the time between the end of your billing cycle and when your payment is due. Credit card companies are not required to offer one, but in practice, most do. Because federal law requires that credit card companies send you a bill within 21 days of the due date, you effectively have a minimum of 21 days.
How a Schumer Box Can Help You Evaluate Credit Card Offers
If you already have credit cards, a Schumer box can help you decide which one to use for a purchase you are going to pay off over a few months, or which to use if you plan to travel to another country or purchase in another currency. It's also an easy way to compare annual fees you pay on various cards to decide if you still think they are worth it with your current lifestyle.
If you are shopping for a new credit card, a Schumer box can help you compare annual fees and choose a card without foreign transaction fees, if that's a consideration. You can also compare fees for balance transfers. Until you have actually applied, though, you are unlikely to be able to directly compare interest rates.
While Schumer boxes are useful when you are comparing potential new cards, you may want to consider additional information, such as cash back or travel rewards that are not included. It's still worth it to read the fine print to get all the details on various card offers.
The Bottom Line
You can use a Schumer box to assess or reassess your credit cards, or to know at a glance what interest rates or fees you are likely to incur. It's valuable consumer information that is required by law.
If you're choosing a new credit card, though, you may want more information. If you're in the market for a new credit card, Experian CreditMatch™ can help you weigh your options to find a credit card that is right for you and give you approval odds. And, before applying for credit card offers, check your credit score to get an idea of what offers you may be eligible for when you do decide.