Spring clean your credit cards

Published:
29 February 2012
Topic:
News

Millions of people stick with the same plastic year after year. If you're one of them, now's the perfect time for a credit card clear out.

Spring is the ideal time to review your credit cards and to get your finances in order, so that you don't end up paying more than you need to for your borrowing.

Here, we explain why it's so important to ditch high-interest charging cards, and uncover which providers are currently offering the best deals, whether you want a balance transfer card, or a card for purchases.

Best for balance transfers

Spring might be in the air, but many of us will still be paying off our Christmas debts and may have also recently paid for this year's summer holidays. But, in either case, you can help reduce the financial burden by switching to a card with a lengthy introductory 0% period on balance transfers.

By switching £2,000 worth of debt on a card with an average APR of 18.4% to the market-leading 22-month Barclaycard Platinum Credit Card with Extended Balance Transfer, you would save a massive £263 in the first year alone - even after the 2.9% balance transfer fee of £58 is factored in. After the introductory period ends, the card has a representative APR of 17.9% (variable).

Halifax offers an equally generous 22-month 0% introductory rate on its Balance Transfer Credit Card, but has a higher balance transfer fee of 3.5%. When the 0% period finishes, the card has 17.95% representative APR (variable).

If you have a less-than-perfect credit rating and don't qualify for the best deals, then don't despair, as Capital One has just launched the Balance card, which is suitable for anyone with an average to good credit history who is looking to transfer a balance across from another card.

This card offers an introductory rate of 0% on balance transfers until September 2012 and comes with a low balance transfer fee of 1.7%. It is unlikely to be suitable for those who owe large sums, as it comes with a credit limit of up to £1,500.

You should try and pay off what you owe within the introductory period, as if you don't, you will be charged interest at a high representative APR of 34.94% (variable).

Tim Moss, head of loans and debt at MoneySupermarket said: "Moving existing credit card debt onto a 0% deal could save Brits a tidy sum of money, but they also need to consider how much realistically they are able to repay every month in order to find an appropriate product for their situation.

"People should also be aware that even if they are accepted for a good product now, there is no guarantee this will be the case in a year's time, so careful planning is required to ensure credit card debts are cleared in the most efficient way possible."

 

Top low rate cards

If you cannot afford to repay a debt on a 0% card within the introductory period, you could consider switching to a low rate credit card instead.

Switching a balance of £3,000 to the market-leading low rate credit card from Sainsbury's at a representative APR of 6.9% (variable) and repaying £150 per month would take 22 months to clear the balance and save you £444 in interest, compared to making the same-sized monthly repayment on a credit card with the average APR of 18.4%.

Other low rate cards worth considering include Barclaycard's Platinum Simplicity card, which has a representative APR of 7.9% (variable.) However, you cannot transfer balances held on existing Barclaycards to this card.

Cheapest cards for spending

Once you've dealt with your existing credit card debts, don't be tempted to spend using same card, as usually you will be charged a much higher rate on new spending.

You should instead take out a different card for spending, and there are plenty which offer lengthy 0% introductory rates on purchases. For example, both the Marks & Spencer Credit Card and the Tesco Clubcard Credit Card, offer 0% on purchases for 15 months.

Neither of these cards has an annual fee, but you'll have to make sure you pay off your debts before the interest-free period ends or you'll be charged representative APRs of 15.9% and 16.9% (variable) respectively.

Both of these cards reward you when you spend. With the M&S card, you earn one point for every £1 spent at M&S and one point for every £2 spent elsewhere. The Tesco card gives Clubcard points at a rate of one point for every £4 spent.

The Barclaycard Platinum with purchase card is also worth considering, again provided you are confident you can pay off any spending within the 14 month 0% introductory period. After that, it has a representative APR of 18.9% (variable). This card also offers 14 months at 0% on balance transfers, subject to a 2.9% transfer fee.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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About This Author

Melanie Wright

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Financial journalist

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