More than 32 million of us have at least one credit card, but are we making the most of them?
If you are planning to use your card regularly, a cashback credit card that pays you money when you spend is worth getting. The American Express Platinum Cashback card gives you a generous 5% cashback on spending for the first three months (up to £125) after which it drops to 1%. There is a £25 annual fee, so you would need to use it regularly. If you are an occasional spender but want to benefit from cashback, take a look at Tandem, it pays 0.5% cashback and has no annual fee.
Borrow for FREE
Used correctly, credit cards are the cheapest way to borrow. The Post Office’s Platinum card offers 0% on purchases for 28 months. A small caveat: never miss a payment or you could very well lose the 0% deal!
Pay off your debt faster
A balance transfer credit card offers a quicker way to clear debt. Look for the one with a low transfer fee, such as M&S Transfer Plus. There’s a 0.99% fee on the amount you’re transferring and you have 32 months to pay off your balance before interest charges kick in. You should try and ensure that you pay off the debt while the card is interest free or you will be hit with interest, typically 20% or more. Look on the application form or online for the ‘respresentative’ APR (the typical cost of borrowing over a year). Knowing the interest rate that you’ll pay on outstanding debt does focus the mind!
Improve your credit score
Do you have a low credit score? The Aqua Classic or the Tesco Bank Foundation cards can help you rebuild it. Spend a little each month and pay it off in full.
Make loyalty pay
Large supermarkets have their own credit cards with extras on offer to regular customers. You will receive loyalty points wherever you shop, but they often double if you spend at the store that issued the card. With the Tesco Clubcard Credit Card for Purchases credit card, points are converted in to vouchers to spend in store or can be exchanged for days out, travel etc. It also offers up to 20 months’ interest free credit on purchases.
Alternatively check out the Sainsbury’s Bank Purchases card to collect Nectar points when you spend or the M&S Bank Reward Plus credit card, where you receive loyalty points that can be exchanged for vouchers.
Travel for less
There are a number of credit cards specifically for overseas spending. You can use your usual credit card abroad, but you are more likely to incur withdrawal and non-sterling transaction fees. Whether you are a regular traveller or a seasonal one, the Halifax Clarity card might be a good choice because it has no usage or withdrawal fees. However, you will be charged an interest rate of 18.9% on any cash that you withdraw. It’s backed by MasterCard, which is widely accepted internationally and does tend to offer competitive exchange rates. It’s worth noting that if you withdraw cash on your credit card abroad, avoid the interest charges by immediately paying it off via an app or online.
Before you apply
Always check your credit score before applying for a new card. If you’re rejected, it leaves a footprint on your record. Do this for free at Equifax, Experian or Callcredit. Some credit cards offer a ‘soft search’ before you apply, this can tell you whether you are likely to be accepted for a card without it appearing on your credit history.