June 19 2013 Latest news:
Adam Aiken, Editor
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Now could be the time to strike for credit-card users who want to juggle their debts, with a record number of cards offering long-term interest-free deals.
There are now more than 50 cards on the market that offer 0pc deals for a year or longer.
At the same time, the average interest-free balance-transfer period is now more than 12 months, up from less than 10 months a year ago.
“Even though the economy remains in a fragile state, there are a number of factors in the card providers’ favour enabling them to offer these record-breaking deals,” said Andrew Hagger, of Moneynet, which produced the data.
“Not only are borrowing costs very low, the Consumer Credit Directive – which came into effect in February – means lenders can be more selective. “They now have to offer the best deals to only 51pc of successful applicants, compared with the previous requirement of 66pc.”
The longest 0pc deal available at the moment is a 20-month offer from Barclaycard Platinum.
Elsewhere, MBNA, Virgin Money, Bank of Scotland and Natwest are offering 18-month deals (although bear in mind that virtually all 0pc cards levy balance-transfer fees, usually of about 3pc).
Bank of England figures suggest there is nearly £60bn of outstanding borrowing on credit cards, giving the card providers plenty of opportunity to cherry-pick new customers.
Although card issuers offer interest-free balance transfer periods as loss leaders, they hope that any consumers they manage to attract will remain loyal – either deliberately or through inertia – once the initial deal has expired.
Mr Hagger said another attraction for the card companies was the publicity generated by the exposure of their brands in the best-buy comparison tables.
“Offering long-term 0pc deals generates massive free advertising exposure,” he said.
“The downside for consumers is that even though lower borrowing costs have enabled providers to offer extended interest-free terms, once the promotional deals expire the ‘revert-to’ interest rates remain stubbornly high.”
If you want to switch your balance to an interest-free deal, remember that you will still need to make the minimum monthly repayments – and it’s crucial that you don’t miss a payment or be late with one.
If you do fall foul of the rules, it’s likely that your card provider will cancel the interest-free deal immediately.
Then you will find yourself stranded on a high interest rate – with no guarantee that you’ll be able to shift the balance once again to another 0pc card.