Fewer credit card products but interest-free purchase period rises
As shoppers turn their attention to Christmas, it’s vital to check what rates and benefits a credit card offers before spending to keep debt at bay.
Over the past two years, interest-free purchase periods on credit cards have lengthened, with 31 months offered by the Sainsbury’s Nectar purchase credit card. This is four months longer than the best deal two years ago.
However, the number of credit cards available today is down 20% to 210 today.
Of those, half (105) offer an introductory interest-free period on purchases, varying from three to 31 months. However, this number is also down from the 148 recorded two years ago, according to financial information provider Defaqto.
Interest-free credit cards offer free credit for a period, but it’s important to note that interest will start to be charged on any outstanding balance at the end of the deal period.
Defaqto warns that this can be an expensive shock for those who haven’t budgeted properly for the cost. It’s important to plan ahead to clear the debt before the interest-free period is up.
Another point for shoppers to note is that some deals are only available to those with better credit scores. Ahead of the busy Christmas shopping spree, it’s a good idea to check your credit rating before applying for credit.
There are a number of providers that allow customers to find out whether they’re eligible for a particular credit card without it impacting your credit score.
If you have a good credit score and can clear the balance off each month, a credit card offering cashback could work to your advantage. They tend to have a minimum monthly or annual spend requirement so make sure you read the small print before applying.
Here are the leading cashback cards with cashback examples on spending:
For those who are planning to spend a lot in one month, a cashback credit card with an enhanced introductory rate may be suitable.
There are two cashback credit cards on the market at the moment offering enhanced introductory rates for the first three months. These are both offered by American Express, but they are credit cards and so the balance doesn’t have to be cleared each month.
Cashback cards with enhanced introductory rates:
Brian Brown, head of insight at Defaqto, said: “It’s easy to get carried away with the festive spirit and end up spending more than you planned to, or worse – more than you can afford. You don’t want to start the New Year with a debt hangover because you spent too much at Christmas, so it is important to have a plan and be disciplined with your spending and having access to interest free credit can help spread the cost of this expense throughout the year. If you are getting a new credit card, it is worth checking what the best deals are first to get the most from your spending.”
It’s launched a new Defaqto credit card tool to help consumers check what rates and benefits are offered by different card providers.
Related: See YourMoney.com’s Credit card glossary for more information.