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Paying your electric bill late can now increase your credit card interest rate.

Consumers have often wondered what they did to earn high interest rates on their credit card. Below you can find out another reason for the increased rate and an explanation of “universal default”.

A growing number of credit card issuers are imposing high-risk interest rates on customers who miss any monthly payment — such as a utility bill, mortgage payment, bank loan or credit card bill.

Called “universal default,� the clause is used by about 45% of credit card issuers. The clause, generally spelled out in the fine print of the credit card agreement, says that if you are late on payments to anyone, the interest rate on your credit card could skyrocket while your credit score is damaged.

Considering the average American has a credit card balance of about $8,500, this does add up to a lot of money. With the increase in utility bills this winter, the universal default clause could become even more important.

Paying a utility bill or any other bill after the grace period (generally 30 days) is all it would take. The increase can be extreme from an 11 percent interest rate to more than 20 percent.

Credit card issuers say that at least half of consumers don’t even carry balances and many avoid fees by making prompt payments. But consumer advocates say many consumers don’t know companies have the right to hit them with that high penalty rate.

Most credit card holders probably do not know whether their cards have a “universal default� term because they fail to read the fine print on the agreement.

Some tips, read the fine print on your credit cards to determine if the card can apply the “universal default” clause and pay all your bills on time.

Are you also someone that may “forget” to get the utility deposit money returned to you? If you would like to know if there could be money that you have in an abandoned safe deposit box or any other of the many ways to lose track of your personal assets, log on to www.CashUnclaimed.com and do a search. You will know in a very short time if there is money waiting for you to claim. You will also find needed information on how to claim your found money.

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