Last week, we reported that credit card borrowers are due to get more help repaying their debts. Our latest figures show that this help can't come soon enough, as the interest-free term on balance transfer cards has been slowly but surely going down over the past 12 months.
As the table below shows, the longest introductory 0% balance transfer card term stood at an impressive 43 months last March. Today, it is down to just 37 months, offered by both MBNA and nuba. This means that borrowers would now have half a year less to repay their credit card debt before they start paying interest – if they pick the longest-term offer.
Source: moneyfacts.co.uk (correct as at 06.03.2018)
What's more, Rachel Springall, finance expert at moneyfacts.co.uk, warns that the new rules that are due to be implemented by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) could see providers be forced to cancel customers' credit cards if they can't agree to a repayment plan. "Clearly, this is a worst-case scenario, but for many who are just about managing, sometimes the minimum repayment on a credit card is all they can reasonably afford," she said.
Unfortunately, it's exactly those borrowers who need help the most who will likely have the most trouble repaying more than the monthly minimum to get themselves out of debt before an interest-free term ends. While the new rules are designed to help people avoid getting into too much debt (calculated over an 18-month period), having their credit card cancelled could force them to turn to more expensive forms of short-term borrowing.
That's why now might be the ideal time to seek help if you are struggling to deal with debt, before the new rules come into force. Rachel suggests websites that offer debt advice or even contacting a debt charity. As a first step, there's also our own guide with tips on how to get out of debt.
"It is hoped that the FCA's remedies will encourage customers to see the benefits in setting their minimum repayments higher and perhaps it will become more commonplace," said Rachel. "However, it will take time for the market to adjust to these changes. Borrowers would be wise to take advantage of any interest-free offers in the meantime, and try to pay over the minimum repayment if they can afford it."
One way to reduce credit card debt is to consolidate it all on a single 0% interest balance transfer card which has a long interest-free term and a decent fee. Don't just go for the longest deal on the market, however; look at the cost of transferring debt as well the term, so you don't end up paying more than you have to.
Luckily, our 0% balance transfer credit card chart can be rearranged based on fee, so you can easily see the lowest fee as well as the highest term. Just remember to cut up and cancel all your old credit cards once you've transferred over, so you don't get tempted to add new debt.
Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.