How often do you sign something without reading the fine print or how easy is it to click ‘agree to terms and conditions’ online without even a second thought. What you might not be aware of is just what you are agreeing to by not examining the fineprint. If something seems too good to be true, it most likely is!
Sometimes the fine print is simply one paragraph at the end of a contract, statement or other legally binding document but a lot of the time it can be pages and pages of terms and conditions often full of legal terminology. It is vital you do not skim over these but take the time to fully understand what is being said and what you are agreeing to, this way you cannot be taken advantage of or exploited.
Always check your financial statements for hidden costs that you may not have been aware you were paying. If a cost is not on your statement you should not be charged for it. Often the rate you are quoted from financial industries or other businesses is a marketing technique to grab your attention. For example, ‘Teaser fees’ are common practice, where an impressively low figure is quoted but this is nowhere near what appears on the bottom line. This often results in people being surprised by what they are charged for in the end, when in fact it was always there in the fine print. Late fees, overdraft charges, cancellation fees are all costs you could end up paying more than you anticipated for if you overlook the fine print. One research found that 33% of credit card users didn’t read/understand the fine print of their contract, 20% didn’t know their card limit, 44% didn’t know the APR on their cards and a staggering 70% were unaware of ‘universal default’ policies yet all still signed on the dotted line of their contracts.
If you want an effective contract and real savings it is vital that you understand what you are signing, take the time to read everything or enlist the help of professionals to explain your contract to you. Some problems are unavoidable but a bad experience is completely avoidable if you know exactly what you are agreeing to. You are the one making the deal, the people who wrote the contract know what is in the fine print, it is vital that you do too.
Always remember the smaller the writing usually the more important the information.
Tips for reading the fine print:
1. Read Slowly: Read and re-read, taking notes until you understand everything being said
2. Look for keywords: In financial statements look for words like APR, fees, interest rates to quickly find the information you are looking for
3. Contact your customer service representative for clarification: If you are having trouble understanding something call your representative, read the sentence/paragraph in question and demand they explain in layman terms what is meant
4. Question everything: Don’t be fooled by big promises and catchy ads. Remember if it seems too good to be true it probably is
5. Ask first: Ask your customer service representative if there is anything else you should know. Get them to put in writing anything explained to you before you sign any deal