Standard Credit Card Features

Used to their full advantage, credit card features can help you build your credit score, furnish your pad, or even save for a dream vacation. The basic features of credit cards will shape your user experience. That’s why paying attention to the details as you choose a new credit card is essential.

Let’s break down standard credit card features and how they’re impacted by factors like the type of credit card you have, its terms, and your payment schedule. Plus, we’ll make sure you know all about the hidden gems, like the benefits you’ll find with credit union credit card features available through your local credit union.

Credit union credit card features

Standard Credit Card Features

While terms and conditions vary by card, there are some basic features that all credit cards share, whether they’re credit union credit cards or come from another financial institution. The more familiar you are with these features, the better equipped you will be to choose the right card for your budget, lifestyle, and goals.

Here are some of the standard features of credit cards:

Types of Credit Cards

As you might imagine, credit card features vary based on the type of credit card you choose. Check out our post on seven types of credit cards to consider for a full breakdown, but overall, you can expect your credit card company to emphasize certain features that align with a card’s intended objective.

Here’s a brief overview:

The Difference Between Credit Card APR and Interest

Now that you’ve got an idea of the types of cards, you can zero in on the details, like APR vs. interest. You’ve likely seen credit card ads that highlight APR in bold letters, but few explain what the acronym means. Simply put, the APR, or annual percentage rate, is the rate you pay over a year to use the credit, which sounds an awful lot like the interest rate. So, are APR and interest the same thing?

In mortgages and other consumer loans, the APR is higher than the interest rate because it bundles fees or additional charges the lender includes. However, credit cards rarely include fees or other costs in their APR. This is because lenders can’t predict what kind of late fees, balance transfer fees, foreign transaction fees, or other costs customers might rack up. 

So, in most cases, your credit card’s APR and interest rate are the same. However, it never hurts to double-check, because finance charges can snowball if you don’t pay them off each month.

What to Know About Credit Card Limits

Your credit card limit is the largest amount of money the lender will allow you to borrow. You won’t have that top-dollar amount available at all times, because your current balance is part of the picture. To see how much credit you have available, subtract your card’s balance from the limit. 

Lenders use several factors to set your credit limit. They’ll check your credit history to see if you usually pay your debts on time. They will also consider your income to establish an amount they think you can reasonably pay back. How much of your existing credit you’re using will also come into play. Most experts recommend using 30% or less of your existing credit, ideally.

Having a high credit limit sounds good on paper, but in reality, it can be a mixed bag. It does give you more flexibility for major purchases and emergencies. But that wiggle room makes overspending easier if you aren’t cautious. So responsible use should always be the target, regardless of your credit limit. 

What's Involved in Paying a Credit Card Bill?

So, you’ve reached the end of the billing cycle, and your credit card bill is due. What happens next is a numbers game. Ideally, you’ll pay off your balance, which is the total amount you owe. Your balance includes the amount you’ve charged, as well as any accrued fees or other costs assessed during the billing cycle. 

If you don’t pay your balance in full, the unpaid portion carries forward to the next cycle and starts collecting interest. That accrued interest is commonly known as a finance charge. Finance charges may also include late payment fees, depending on the terms of your card. 

Many lenders set hard-and-fast payment deadlines, and missing them means you'll get hit with finance charges immediately. Others give customers a grace period. You won't have any finance charges if you pay in full during the grace period. Most grace periods run around 21 days, but they only apply if you're not carrying a balance from the previous month. And if you make the minimum or partial payment, you'll still owe the interest on the unpaid amount.


Common fees and costs include:

Credit Card Perks

Credit card terms and conditions aren’t all cause to be wary. Both traditional credit card and credit union credit card features can include fun perks that benefit their customers.

As noted under types of cards, rewards cards let customers rack up bonuses with each purchase. Generally, you'll earn points toward gift cards, airline flights, or hotel stays. Other cards even give you a percentage of what you spent as cash-back or credits on your monthly statement.

Several credit cards give customers discounts at their favorite restaurants, stores, and other outlets. These cards are often affiliated with a particular retail company and reward spending at that store and partner shops. Sometimes, cards give customers special offers on hotel stays, cruises, or special events. Others may provide financial offers, like a low- or zero-percent APR for a promotional period. 

Many lenders reward customers when they sign up for a new card, including credit union credit cards. These bonuses may include cash, gift cards, travel miles, or other incentives. 

Further Resources on Standard Credit Card Features

For more information on standard credit card features and how their details may vary by card, check out these additional sources. Learn more about:

Credit cards can be a powerful tool for building a solid financial future, especially when you fully understand the features of credit cards. Use our Credit Union Locator to find your nearest location and discover how credit union credit card features can help you meet your goals. 

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Did you know?

Credit union credit cards are built around features that highlight members’ needs, from cards tailored for small business owners to students, and everyone in between. From longer grace periods to amazing low rates, you’ll often find credit union credit card features have a more personal touch and better perks than banks. 

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