You have a solid credit score and you apply for a new card, expecting it to be hassle-free. But afterward, you look at the cardholder agreement and do a double-take. Yeah, you were approved, but with a sky-high APR. What gives?
This happened to me recently when I applied for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, was approved, but then got socked with an ultra-high interest rate of 23.74%. Ouch. If you find yourself in this predicament, here are a few steps you should take:
Check your credit report
The best interest rates are typically reserved for those with the best credit. If you have just OK credit, you're typically granted less favorable terms.
Check your credit for free at AnnualCreditReport.com to see whether there are any marks on your report that might be dragging down your score. There could be a mistake. Or maybe you'd just applied for another type of credit line — like a mortgage or auto loan — which can also adversely impact your score and, in turn, affect the rates you're offered.
In our case, my husband and I had applied in late fall to refinance our mortgage. During that process, several potential lenders ran credit checks, which counted as a hard inquiry on my credit report. I had also applied and was approved for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express two months before applying for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card.
With the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, I was granted an interest rate in line with what I expected, in this case, 18.74%, but it also meant another inquiry on my credit report. Multiple "hard pulls" like these can temporarily ding your score and are a red flag to credit issuers.
If possible, wait at least six months after applying for one line of credit before going for another.
Ask the issuer for a lower rate
Most credit cards offer a variable-rate APR, meaning they offer an interest-rate range that should be clearly shown in the cardholder agreement when you apply. Although issuers won't say exactly what their offers are based on, your credit score likely plays the largest role in determining the rate you're given. If you know there are lower rates to be had on your card, try calling the issuer and asking for better terms.
When I saw I was given the highest possible APR on my new Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, I called the issuer and asked for better terms. Unfortunately, I was denied, but the agent made a note in my file and said they'd reconsider in four months and that I was welcome to check back.
Avoid carrying a balance
If you pay your bill in full and on time every month, it won't matter how high the finance charges are because you'll never have to pay them. If you do carry a balance every month — and many people do — having a card with a high APR can be a significant cost. Use a debt calculator to help determine how long it will take to pay off the bill and end the finance charges.
If carrying a balance is unavoidable, consider looking for a card with a 0% promotional APR or a low ongoing rate to reduce how much you're charged.
Information related to the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuers of this card.