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What is a Schumer box? It's a cheat sheet about a credit card — an at-a-glance reference for fees, interest rates and other key points that must be shown to card applicants, by law.
But when it comes to these kinds of credit card terms and conditions, you sometimes need a cheat sheet on reading cheat sheets. Here's our guide to reading and understanding the Schumer box.
All about the Schumer box
What does the Schumer box tell you?
Broadly, two main things: interest rates and fees.
1. The credit card's interest rates
These are expressed as APRs ("annual percentage rates"), and usually as variable ranges. This means they can change periodically in step with a benchmark figure called the prime rate — which is the lending rate that banks offer to customers with the best credit. If the prime rate rises, APRs on credit cards tend to do the same.
Those with excellent credit (FICO scores of 720 or higher) will qualify for the lowest APRs.
A card can have multiple APRs depending on the kind of transaction:
Some credit cards advertise deferred interest deals, aka "special financing." But this is not the same as a true 0% intro APR offer that you might see in a Schumer box. With deferred interest offers, you'll owe no interest if you pay off your entire purchase within the promo period. If, however, any balance remains when that window ends, you'll be charged interest retroactively for the full amount of the transaction, going back to the date of purchase. With 0% intro APR offers, interest is waived, not deferred. When the promo is over, you'll owe interest only on the remaining balance.
2. The credit card's fees
Credit cards can charge a variety of fees. Here are some of the most common:
Where do you find the Schumer box?
If you're already a cardholder, the Schumer box will be a hard-to-miss table generally found on the first page of the card agreement that was mailed to you.
If you're researching or applying for a credit card, you may need to click around that card's website to find the Schumer box. It can vary from issuer to issuer, but here's where to start for cards from major issuers:
Why's it called the Schumer box?
The Schumer box is named for the lawmaker responsible for it. Chuck Schumer, a congressman and later senator from New York, pushed for legislation requiring that rates, fees and other terms on a credit card be prominently displayed to people when they apply for the card. The legislation passed in 1988, and the standardized disclosure came to be dubbed the Schumer box.