QoD: 90% of credit card company terms and conditions require reading at what grade level?

Mar 06, 2019
Credit Cards, Question of the Day, Personal Finance, Research

Answer: College 


  • Do you think it's important to read the terms and conditions for financial products? Why or why not?
  • Did you ever wish that you had read the terms and conditions for anything that you have ever bought? Explain. 
  • What do you think are some terms that you would want to know about before signing up for a credit card? 

Here's the ready-to-go slides for this Question of the Day that you can use in your classroom.

Behind the numbers (from Visible Thread): 

In Q4 of 2018, VisibleThread conducted research into credit card terms to see if leading card providers communicate clearly with their audience. The results clearly showed this not to be the case:

  • 90% of Terms & Conditions require a college education to be understood.
  • Outsourcing credit card services alienates up to 60.8% of customers.
  • Only one (out of 50) sets of terms is easier to read than Moby Dick.
  • Only 2 sets of terms have an acceptable complex word density.
  • All sets of terms analyzed communicate in an academic tone with overuse of passive voice.
  • No credit card sets of terms score at the recommended level of long sentences.


So, we know this is challenging reading...but we still need to do it! We have Fine Prints focused on reading, yes, you guessed it, the fine print. Here's our Fine Print: Credit Card Agreement.



About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.