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Significant Differences in Credit Card Costs

There are significant differences in the costs associated with credit cards. Annual fees for credit cards can vary by up to 35 percent depending on the bank or financial institution offering them. The average Finn with credit cards pays hundreds of euros in fees annually. The Finnish credit card payment company Luottokunta estimates that there are nearly as many credit cards as there are people living in Finland - roughly 5 million. The use of credit cards has increased by about 10 percent each year since 2000. This year, credit card payments are expected to top six billion euros. YLE asked six Finnish banks to estimate the real annual interest rate paid on credit cards. The real rate includes all costs incurred by the cardholder, including the reference rate, the bank's marginal rate of interest and other costs such as billing and annual fees. The banks were asked to base their calculations on a hypothetical card with a 4,000 euro limit. By far the cheapest annual rate was given by the Mortgage Society of Finland (Hypo) which specialises in housing loans. Hypo's annual real rate of interest amounted to 9.9 percent. Hypo also offers customers the lowest marginal rate, at 5 percent, charges no annual fee, and the only extra payment is a two euro billing fee. All the banks based their calculations on a three-month euribor interest rate. The survey revealed that while Hypo offered the lowest marginal rate, Nordea's rate was the highest, at 7.5 percent - others fell between the two extremes. Nordea also turned in the most expensive estimate for the real annual rate charged on a 4,000 euro credit card - 13.4 percent. Annual Costs up to 450 Euros

Suomen Rahatieto is an independent organisation that offers financial information to households and small businesses. It says that singles are paying between 200 and 300 euros in annual costs, while 50-year-old couples are spending up to 450 euros each year.

In the survey, the difference between the lowest and highest annual costs quoted for the hypothetical 400 euro credit card used in the survey ran up to 140 euros a year.

The other institutions contacted for the survey included Aktia Savings Bank, OP Bank in Helsinki and Tampere, Tapiola Bank and Sampo Bank.

On average, the real annual interest rate charged on credit cards fell between 11 and 12 percent. Consumers could save roughly 35 percent on costs by switching their credit card business from the most expensive to the cheapest institution.

The financial institutions also acknowledged the difference between the interest rates applied to credit cards and to regular consumer loans. Within the same bank, the difference between rates for consumer credit and credit cards varied by up to six percent.

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