By Real Simple
Updated November 15, 2007
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Wallet with credit cards
Credit: James Baigrie

Q. Can my credit-card issuer change the terms of the credit agreement without my permission?

A. Yes, a card issuer can change credit terms anytime―an important point that’s probably in the fine print of your original credit agreement. The bank must notify you at least 15 days before the change takes effect. Unfortunately, the message usually arrives in an easily overlooked mailer, and continuing to use the card is an acceptance of the new terms.

If you’re not happy with the new terms, you have the option of closing the account, and some banks will then let you pay your balance under the old terms, says Joe Ridout, a spokesperson for Consumer Action, a nonprofit education and advocacy group.

Q. How often can I transfer balances? Is it bad to transfer to a new 0 percent card every time I get an offer?

A. You can move your debt around as much as you like. And that certainly seems smart if it means you’ll pay off debt quicker because no interest is accumulating. But always read the terms carefully so you know what you’re getting―which may be (after an initial-offer period) a higher interest rate. Be sure, also, that there are no costly fees. And don’t forget that when you apply for a new card, the resulting credit-report inquiry may drop your score.