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Buy now pay later usage drops off during COVID-19
Fewer Australians are using buy now pay later services during the pandemic, while credit cards are still preferred by most.
If you’ve been comparing credit cards, you may have noticed that many cards advertise an interest-free period. Credit cards that have an interest-free period are a great way to manage your cash flow without adding additional interest to your credit card balance. Taking advantage of a credit card with interest-free days can save you paying interest on purchases for 60 days within each billing cycle. Here’s what you need to know about credit cards with at least 60 interest-free days.
What are interest-free days?
Most credit cards offer an interest-free period every statement cycle. This window of opportunity is essentially a grace period to pay the bank back without adding any interest charges. Think of it like an interest-free loan for a set period of time. Knowing how to make the most of the interest-free days can save you paying unwanted interest every month. To use the incentive to your advantage, it helps to understand how interest-free days work.
Most people tend to assume that the interest-free period kicks in when you get your bill. Sadly, this is misleading, as you don’t get 60 days interest-free on each individual purchase you make.
Interest-free days start when your credit card statement cycle begins. For example, if your billing cycle starts on the first of the month and you make a purchase that day, you’ve got the full 60 days to pay that money back before interest kicks in. If you buy something using your credit card on the fourth day of your billing cycle, you’ve then got 56 days interest-free. The easiest way to keep track of your interest-free days is to check your credit card statement, make a note of when your billing cycle starts and count back from then.
Some credit cards might give you the flexibility to change the date of your statement cycle. This can be especially useful if you’re in between paydays and trying to balance your short-term cash flow with other payments like your mortgage.
Paying off your credit card balance within the interest-free days will allow you to make purchases without paying interest. This could be ideal if you use a credit card to earn rewards or for short-term cash flow such as spending between monthly paydays.
How do interest-free days work?
To understand how your interest-free period will work, you’ll first need to find out when your statement period starts. You can find this by looking at your credit card statement or by calling your credit card provider.
Say you’ve chosen a credit card with 60 days interest-free and a billing cycle starting on the 1st of the month, running through till the 30th.
If you buy a new couch on day 1, you have 60 interest-free days to pay that money back before you get charged interest. When the billing cycle ends and your statement arrives, you’ll have two options. The first option is to pay the balance in full by the due date specified. This is the option to take if you want to take advantage of your interest-free period. If you don’t have the funds or can’t pay the full amount by the due date, you’ll miss out on the interest-free period and be charged interest on the closing balance until it’s all paid in full. The interest charges will usually appear on your next statement.
What are common interest-free traps?
The most common interest-free misconception is assuming the interest-free period kicks in from the date of purchase. Every billing cycle and credit card have different conditions, so before you purchase any big ticket items, make sure you check the details to avoid incurring extra fees.
Depending on your cash flow, it might make sense to hold off on any major purchases towards the end of the cycle. Purchases made at the beginning of the cycle enjoy more interest-free days. Delaying your spending till a new billing cycle ticks over lets you take full advantage of the 60 interest-free days.
Interest-free cards work best if you pay your credit card balance in full each month. Missing the payment date defeats the interest-free period and if the card has a high-interest rate, it could end up costing you more in interest. If you find that you’re not able to pay the full closing balance each month, you might be better off transferring your card over to a lower interest rate credit card or a 0 per cent purchase offer credit card.
Are interest-free days valid if you have an outstanding balance?
You’ll only be able to take full advantage of interest-free days if there’s no unpaid balance by the payment due date. To use the interest-free period, you’ll have to pay your full closing balance on time, every billing cycle. If you have an outstanding balance, you’ll be charged interest on the amount listed on the statement. The outstanding balance amount will roll over and continue to accrue interest until it’s paid in full.
If you manage to keep on top of your credit card and pay your full balance each cycle, a credit card with 60 interest-free days can be a very flexible and affordable way to manage your cash flow. Before you choose a card, make sure you do your research and compare a range of different interest-free options.
Property Personal Finance Writer
A property and personal finance writer, Nick Bendel covers property, loans, credit cards, superannuation, and other bank products. Nick has previously written for The Adviser, Mortgage Business, Lifehacker, Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, and InvestorDaily, and loves getting elbow-deep in the latest ABS, APRA and RBA data.
If you have a bad credit score, you might encounter two main problems. First, the lower your credit score, the more likely you are to be rejected when you apply for a loan or any other credit product. Second, if your application is accepted, the less likely you are to qualify for the lowest interest rates.
The reason Equifax, Experian and Illion use different scores is because they are independent companies with their own different methodologies. As a result, a score of, say, 700 would mean different things at different credit reporting bureaus.
However, the one thing they have in common is that they divide their scores into five tiers. So if you receive a tier-two credit score from one bureau, you will probably receive a tier-two score from the others, as well.
Yes, as credit card providers look at your annual income amount as well as your occupation. Minimum income requirements tend to be between $30,000 – $40,000 for standard and rewards credit cards, however low income credit cards can have minimum income requirements as low as $15,000 per year.
There are two reasons you should check your credit rating: so you have a better understanding of your financial position, and so you can take action (if necessary) to improve your credit rating.
Lenders use credit ratings or credit scores to assess loan applications. The higher your score, the more likely you are to get approved, and the more likely you are to be charged lower interest rates and lower fees. Conversely, the lower your credit score, the less likely you are to get approved, and the more likely you are to be charged higher interest rates and higher fees.
Credit cards are a quick and convenient way to pay for items in store, online or over the phone. You can use a credit card as a cashless way to pay for goods or services, both locally and overseas. You can also use a credit card to make a cash advance, which gives you the flexibility to withdraw cash from your credit card account. Because a credit card uses the bank’s funds instead of your own, you will be charged interest on the money you spend – unless you pay off the entire debt within the interest-free period. If you pay the minimum monthly repayment, you will be charged interest. There are many different credit card options on the market, all offering different interest rates and reward options.
A balance transfer credit card lets you transfer your debt balance from one credit card to another. A balance transfer credit card generally has a 0 per cent interest rate for a set period of time. When you roll your debt balance over to a new credit card, you’ll be able to take advantage of the interest-free period to pay your credit card debt off faster without accruing additional interest charges. If your application is approved, the provider will pay out your old credit card and transfer your debt balance over to the new card.
For most Australians, there are no great barriers to applying for and getting approved for a credit card. Here are some points that a lender will consider when assessing your credit card application.
Credit score: A bad credit score is not the be all and end all of your application, but it may stop you being approved for a higher credit limit. If your credit score is less than perfect, apply for the credit limit that you need, rather than the one you want.
Annual income: Most credit cards have minimum annual income requirements. Make sure you’re applying for a card where you meet the minimum.
Age & residency: You need to be at least 18 years old to apply for a credit card in Australia, and most require that you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident. However, there are some credit cards available to temporary residents.
There is no one-size-fits-all best rewards credit card. It's best you research what type of rewards program you'd like, as well as the fees, interest rate and conditions associated with those types of cards before making a choice.
Rewards credit cards can also come with high annual fees that may end up nullifying the rewards, so think how often you use the card to decide whether the benefits outweigh the extra cost for you. A card with a lower annual fee might require a lot of spending to get any useful rewards, while another card with a higher annual fee might need fewer purchases to get a reward.
Losing your credit card is a serious situation, and could land you in financial trouble. Here is a simple guide detailing what to do when you lose your credit card.
Lock you card – Contact your provider and inform them about your lost credit card. From here lock, block or cancel your card.
Keep track of transactions – Look out for unauthorised credit card transactions. Most banks protect against fraudulent transactions.
Address recurring charges – If your card is linked to recurring charges (gym membership, rent, utilities), contact those businesses.
Check credit rate – To ensure you’re not the victim of identity theft, check your credit rating a month or two after you lose your credit card.