Aussie retailers turn Christmas Grinch

Fears of increase credit debt as Aussie retailers turn Christmas Grinch

The Christmas season is known as a time of generosity and giving — something that has generally been borne out by retailers, who tend to start offering more and more discounts in the lead up to the holidays. By offering products for cheaper prices, retailers increase temptation for buyers to start pulling out their credit cards to take advantage of the deals. 

Whether this will be the case this year remains to be seen, however.

“[W]e may see fewer retailers engaging in store wide discounting compared to previous Christmases,” stated Deloitte’s Retail Review for November 2014. 

Nearly half (49 percent) of those surveyed expected that they would increase their margins this December. With such confidence among retailers, the report predicted that the “slash and burn” discounts that Australian consumers are used to benefiting from over the season are less likely. 

Retailers to start discounting later

Not only could Australians see fewer crossed-out price tags this year, they could also see them popping up on products a lot later. According to Deloitte’s survey results, 24 percent or respondents are planning to begin discounting over 27-29 December this year, a higher proportion than in previous years. In 2013, for instance, only 18 percent chose this date as the starting point for discounts. 

Likewise, only 19 percent stated their intention to start discounting in early December — a sharp drop from last year, when 24 percent had planned on doing so. 

This may come as a shock for shoppers used to seeing Christmas come a bit earlier. It’s become the norm for Christmas festivities — which not only include tinsel and trees, but the traditional price reductions — to appear earlier in the month, even as early as November. 

Discount-less shopping strategies

This could all present a dilemma for consumers. What’s the course of action for those unable to depend on product markdowns these holidays but unwilling to dip into their savings account to make up the difference?

There are a number of smart shopping strategies buyers could try for the silly season. One method is price matching — showing a retailer evidence of a competitor’s lower price and asking them to match it. This can be particularly effective when taking prices from online retailers, which tend to offer substantially lower prices. 

In fact, that brings up another point — looking to online stores may bring your transaction account some much-needed benefits over Christmas. While you may not be able to obtain products at short notice, with a little bit of foresight you could make significant savings. 

Finally, you could opt out of store-bought gifts entirely this Christmas, orienting the family toward home-made presents.

For those who are dead-set on pulling out the plastic this December, however, things may not be as bleak as they sound. According to Deloitte, 17 percent of retailers are still to decide on their discount strategy — so there may be hope for the more discount-focussed among us. 

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Learn more about credit cards

How to get a free credit card

There's no such thing as a free lunch. All credit cards come with associated costs when used to make purchases, even if it’s simply the cost of making repayments.

However, many lenders offer incentives for customers such as a $0 annual fee or 0 per cent interest on purchases during an introductory period. Additionally, paying off your balance in full during an interest-free period means you could only have to pay back the cost of purchases without interest. You could also be eligible for additional rewards such as cashback during that time, saving you more money.

How to get money from a credit card

You can get money from a credit card, but generally it will cost you.

Withdrawing money from a credit card is called a cash advance, as it operates more as a loan than a simple cash withdrawal. Because it is a loan, you may be charged interest on your cash advance as soon as you make the withdrawal. Interest rates are also usually much higher for cash advances than standard credit card purchases.

In addition to the interest rate, you may also be charged a cash advance fee. This could be a flat rate, or a percentage of your total cash advance. If you are considering a cash advance, make sure to add up how much it will cost you before committing.

Is instant approval possible for credit cards?

Instant approval may be possible – but please note that the term may be misleading. “Instant” approval tends to mean that when you apply online the lender will let you know the likeliness of your eligibility for a credit card within 60 seconds of receiving your application.

Why should I check my credit rating?

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.

What should you do when you lose your credit card?

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.

How long does it take to get a credit card?

There are a few stages you need to go through to get a credit card; each one takes a different length of time.

Applying for the card online, over the phone or in person is the fastest step. This usually takes around 15 minutes, provided you have all of your documents handy.

After submitting your application, it usually takes between one to 10 business days for the lender to assess your eligibility. Some lenders offer instant approval, although you will need to send supporting documents before it is official.

Once your application has been approved, expect to wait between one to 14 days to receive your card in the mail. Keep in mind that delays can happen during busy periods, such as if the lender has launched a special deal.

How do I apply for a credit card online?

How to get cash with just a credit card number

Banks and merchants usually will not allow you to access cash without a physical card, because doing so would open up opportunities for fraudulent activities. Even most non-cash credit card transactions (such as shopping online) require you to know the expiry date and CVV on your credit card in addition to the card number.

However, some banks offer cardless cash for transaction accounts. Using a secure app installed on your mobile phone, you can log onto an ATM and withdraw the money you need. This could be a practical and secure solution if you don’t have a card and need cash.

Where can I get a credit card?

Looking to get your first credit card? You might be confused as to exactly where to go to apply for one. Here’s where to go when you are ready to put in that application.

The bank: Your bank is a great place to start, provided that you have a good banking history. Since you already have a financial history, you have more chance of your application being approved.

Credit card provider: Another option is to apply for a credit card directly from the issuer, such as Visa, Mastercard or Amex. This will most likely be an online application, so do your research and apply for a suitable card for your circumstances.

Major retailers: Coles, Woolworths, Myer and David Jones all have credit cards available. But watch out for the interest rate and annual fees – these cards are designed to help you spend more in store.

Can a pensioner get a credit card?

It is possible to get a credit card as a pensioner. There are some factors to keep in mind, including:

  • Annual income. Look for credit cards with minimum annual income requirements you can meet. 
  • Annual fees. If high fees are a concern for you, opt for a card with a low or $0 annual fee. 
  • Interest rate. Make sure you won’t have any nasty surprises on your credit card bill. Compare cards with a low interest rates to minimise risk.

Should I get a credit card?

Once you've compared credit card interest rates and deals and found the right card for you, the actual process of getting a credit card is quite straightforward. You can apply for a credit card online, over the phone or in person at a bank branch. 

How to pay a credit card

There are a few ways to pay a credit card bill. These include:

  • BPAY - allows you to safely make credit card payments online.
  • Direct debits - set up an automatic payment from your bank account to pay your credit card bill each month. You can choose how much you want to pay of your credit card bill when you set up the auto payments.
  • In a branch.
  • Via your credit card provider's app.

What is CVV on a credit card?

CVV stands for ‘card verification value’, and is also sometimes referred to as a CVC or card verification code.

A CVV code is usually needed when the card is used online or over the phone as an anti-fraud measure. Without the cardholder being physically present to sign or verify the purchase, the CVV provides an extra layer of protection. 

If you’re using Mastercard or Visa, the CVV is the three digits located on the back of the card. If you’re using an American Express, the CVV is usually four digits and is on the front of the card.

Do you need a credit card to get a loan?

You do not need a credit card to get a loan, but you usually need to have a credit history. Without a credit history, a financial institution cannot assess your ‘credit worthiness’, or your capacity to pay off the loan.

If you don’t have a credit card, your credit history can reflect any record of paying off an asset. Without any credit credit history, you’re limited in the type of loans you can apply for. But you may be able to obtain a secured loan against an asset. For more information on improving your credit score, go here