Pick a card - but not just any card
Ruth Jackson Mar 25, 2011
Some great credit-card deals are coming onto the market
It's a great time to get a credit card. And it's about time. After the banking crisis good credit-card deals disappeared – the best balance-transfer deals only lasted six months and balance-transfer fees were so high it wasn't really worth the bother. But now you can get 0% balance-transfer deals for up to almost two years. So how can you secure the best one?
Barclaycard, MBNA and Virgin have taken the bull by the horns. A few weeks ago, Barclaycard extended its 0% balance transfer period from 16 months to 18. Now, just days after, MBNA and Virgin have matched that offer. Barclaycard responded by extending its deal to 20 months, putting it back at the top of the table – for now. The BarclayCard deal comes with a 3.2% balance-transfer fee. That's slightly higher than the norm, but the deal still beats the rest and undercuts most personal loan offers. Just make sure you don’t stick with it once the 0% period runs out as the interest rate then jumps to 17.5% APR.
Away from the balance-transfer deals, the cash-back card market has also had a shake-up. MBNA has launched two new cash-back credit cards that allow customers to earn an unlimited amount back on their card purchases. The MBNA American Express card gives 1.5% cash back on supermarket and fuel purchases and 0.75% on all other card purchases. The MBNA Visa card gives 1.25% cash back on supermarket and fuel purchases and 0.75% on all other shopping. The interest rate on both cards is a hefty 18.9%APR, though, so this is only a sensible option for those who clear their full balance each month.
So why all these fabulous deals now? Well, a lot of us won't be eligible for them. Up until recently credit-card issuers could only advertise a particular rate if 66% of customers were getting it. But under new European Union rules, firms can publish a 'representative rate', provided just 51% of customers are benefiting. That means almost half of us can be turned down for these new deals. For example, Nationwide advertises a representative rate of 15.9% on their credit card, but concede that customers could end up paying anywhere between 9.9%APR and 19.9%APR depending on their credit rating.
If you are worried about your credit rating, try using MoneySupermarket.com's personal credit profiling tool. This asks you a few questions about your financial history and then tells you which card is most appropriate – ie, likely to be issued. Every time you apply for a credit card an imprint, visible to other lenders, is left on your credit record. Lots of imprints are bad news if you want the best deals.