Free online financial comparison experts, money.co.uk, report a 40% surge in credit card balance transfer enquiries on the second Monday of every January, which this year falls on January 11th. The news comes on the back of research by money.co.uk that reveals 34% of UK adults will be taking credit card debt into 2021.
T-Day (or Transfer Day) sees a huge spike in applications for new 0% interest credit cards, allowing Brits to transfer their existing balances and take advantage of incurring no interest on their monthly repayments.
The money.co.uk study polled 2,000 UK adults in December 2020 and reveals that the average British adult ended last year with £9,246 worth of total debt. Some £2,465 of the average debt is owed on credit cards, according to the research. Those aged 45-54 have the most credit card debt (£3,121) with those aged 18-24 having the least (£1,640). One in five Brits plan on paying off their debt by consolidating the different debts they owe, up 7% compared to the previous year.
Salman Haqqi, a personal finance expert at money.co.uk, said: “0% balance transfer credit cards are a great way to reduce the amount of interest you are paying on debts, as long as you can afford the monthly repayments.
“While using 0% interest balance transfer cards can provide invaluable breathing space for those seeking to clear their debt, they do require careful management. Even though introductory offers are generous, consumers must resist the temptation to use their card to make purchases as most will charge a high rate of interest on any new debt.”
In 2020, 61.9 million UK residents had credit cards with an average purchase via credit card of £54.09. The previous year, 2019, the total credit card debt in the UK was £72.6 billion, which equates to £2,649 credit card debt per household or £1,386 per adult.
Total credit card spending has been on a steady upward climb in the UK since 1993. October 2018 saw the biggest month on record with £18.45 billion spent. As well as this general increasing trend, each year follows a distinct pattern, having a sharp increase in credit card spending in the months leading up to Christmas, followed by a steep drop around February.
While 0% balance transfer credit cards are a great way to cut down on interest payments, they do come with a variety of terms and conditions that money.co.uk’s Haqqi cautions people to be aware of.
He said: “People will also need to transfer their balances within a short time frame, typically within the first 60-90 days, in order to qualify for the 0% term. Failing to do so means that the higher interest rate kicks in immediately, cancelling out the whole purpose of taking out a 0% card in the first place.
“It also pays to double-check the length of the interest-free period, as you can be caught out by an unexpected hike in interest rates and the corresponding rise in your repayments.
“Setting up a direct debit to ensure that the minimum payment is met each month is sensible as if you miss a repayment, you could forfeit your 0% offer and see the interest rate jump up to 20%. Another useful trick is to set yourself a reminder for when the interest-free period ends, giving you plenty of time to pay off your debt or transfer it to a different card before the interest is hiked.
“Most importantly make sure you have a plan to pay off your debts. Making and sticking to a budget and using comparison tools is the simplest way to take control of your money. It’ll save you from paying more for your debts than necessary and or get into any debt difficulties.”