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Balance transfer deals lengthen

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The credit card market has changed significantly in recent years, as balance transfer fees become the norm, according to Moneyfacts.

Research from the financial comparison site has revealed that, although the length of balance transfer deals is on the increase, many lenders have increased the fee for transferring a balance and some have even introduced uncapped charges. Card providers have also started to tighten their credit scoring criteria, so an almost spotless credit history tends to be required to be accepted for such deals.

Moneyfacts found that two years ago cards offering 0% for 12 months were top of the best buy tables, with the majority offering at least nine months. At the moment the top balance transfer card offers 0% for 15 months, with many other providers offering 13 month deals.

However, this is offset by increasing balance transfer fees, which in some cases are uncapped, according to Samantha Owens, head of personal finance at Moneyfacts. “Capital One Bank has bucked the trend and recently launched a credit card offering balance transfers without a balance transfer fee,” she added. “But as with everything there is a downside: the card offers 0% until 1 August 08, meaning that the length of the 0% term is nine months less than the market leading card from Virgin Money. That said, the lack of fee will make this a good option for anyone who can afford to repay the debt over the short term of six months.”

Owens also warned those borrowers that do take advantage of a balance transfer card to be aware of the ‘revert to’ interest rate.

“Lenders recoup their costs and start to make their money once the card reverts to the standard purchase rate after the introductory balance transfer term has ended,” she explained. “Some of these can really hit your wallet hard.”

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