What is a Schumer box?

A Schumer box is a standardized summary of a credit card’s key terms and conditions. All credit card issuers are required by law to include a Schumer box in their applications and account opening disclosures. 

Learn more about what information you can find in Schumer boxes, how to read them and how they might help with comparing credit cards

Key takeaways

  • A Schumer box is a table that summarizes a credit card’s important terms, like interest rates and fees.
  • Schumer boxes are standardized and required by law to appear in all credit card agreements—including online and printed versions.
  • The box gets its name from Sen. Charles Schumer and is required by the Truth in Lending Act. 
  • The purpose of Schumer boxes is to make it easier for consumers to access, understand and compare credit cards’ key terms and costs. 

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Schumer box definition

A Schumer box is a table that gives consumers a uniform summary of a credit card’s important terms, like interest rates and fees. 

All credit card issuers are required by law to include a Schumer box in their online and printed credit card agreements.

The Schumer box is part of the Truth in Lending Act and gets its name from New York Senator Charles Schumer. That’s because Schumer—who was a congressman at the time—pushed for the legislation that required the box. 

What’s the purpose of a Schumer box?

Schumer boxes are meant to present key credit card terms in a clear, easy-to-understand way. That way, the average person can more easily understand the terms of a credit card and compare cards against each other without needing to decipher long, complicated legal language.

Plus, Schumer boxes make card information easy to reference after opening a card. Since Schumer boxes are standard across all credit card issuers, you always know where to look and how to read the table. And knowing the details of how your credit card works is an important part of using credit responsibly.

In short, Schumer boxes help make complex credit card terms and information more accessible. 

An illustration of hands holding a Schumer box.

How to read a Schumer box

A Schumer box is a table that typically has two main sections. The first section outlines a credit card’s interest rates and charges. The second summarizes the card’s fees. 

Schumer boxes can make it easier to understand the potential costs associated with using a credit card. And that can simplify the process of comparing cards. But it’s also a good idea to read a card’s full terms and conditions closely before opening an account. 

Here’s some information that might be included in a Schumer box:

Annual percentage rate (APR) for purchases

APR is the price you pay for borrowing money, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The Schumer box will give a rundown of how a credit card’s purchase APR works. That may include the range of possible purchase APRs that may be offered based on the applicant’s creditworthiness

Most credit cards have a variable APR. And if that’s the case, the Schumer box will also give additional information, such as whether the purchase APR is calculated based on the prime rate. And the Schumer box will likely also state a card’s minimum interest charges. 

Plus, if there’s an introductory APR offer, the Schumer box will give the details on the offer, including when it ends and any conditions for keeping the introductory rate.

Balance transfer APR 

A balance transfer is when someone moves an unpaid credit card balance to a different credit card account. It’s often used as a way to consolidate debt and pay down debt faster. That’s because some credit cards offer a temporary introductory or promotional rate for balance transfers that’s lower than the card’s standard purchase APR. 

Cash advance APR 

A cash advance lets a cardholder borrow money against their credit card’s line of credit. It’s like using a debit card to get cash. But instead of coming from your bank account, the money is added to your credit card balance. 

Cash advances generally have a higher APR than typical credit card purchases do. Balance transfers and cash advances might both also come with fees. But those are covered in a different part of the Schumer box. 

Penalty APRs 

If a cardholder violates the terms of a credit card agreement, it might trigger an APR increase called a penalty APR. 

Doing things like making late payments or going over a card’s credit limit can trigger a penalty APR. You can find information about if a card has a penalty APR, what triggers it, how long it lasts and more in the card’s Schumer box. 

Minimum interest charges 

The Schumer box will likely also state a card’s minimum interest charges. So if the credit card account accrues interest, you know that it won’t be less than that set amount.

Grace period

A grace period is an amount of time when interest isn’t charged on a credit card balance. 

The Schumer box will lay out information about how long the card’s grace period is and when it applies. Be aware that grace period information might appear under a heading that reads something like “how to avoid paying interest on purchases” in the Schumer box. 

Annual fee

Some credit cards charge an annual fee, also known as an annual membership fee. The credit card fees section of the Schumer box will typically have information about whether a card has an annual fee, how much it is and any other details about how the annual fee works. 

And if a card charges any other account fees—like an account setup fee or account maintenance fee—those will be in the Schumer box too. 

Transaction fees

Some credit cards charge fees for certain transactions like cash advances, balance transfers and foreign transactions

If a card charges any transaction fees, they’ll appear in the Schumer box. The Schumer box also explains how fees are calculated, like whether they’re a percentage of the transaction amount or a flat fee.

Penalty fees

Penalty fees can include things like late payment fees, fees for going over a card’s credit limit and returned payment fees. 

Schumer boxes in a nutshell

Knowing how to read a Schumer box can make comparing credit card terms easier and more accessible. 

Capital One also has a credit card comparison tool that helps you search by credit level, card type and rewards to find the right credit card for you. If you find one you like, you can see if you’re pre-approved, right from the page. It’s quick and won’t hurt your credit score.

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