A 0% interest balance transfer might solve your credit card problem

A 0% interest balance transfer might solve your credit card problem

Credit card debt can be crippling, because high monthly interest charges can make it hard to pay down the principal.

That’s why one possible solution for some Australians might be to do a balance transfer.

A balance transfer is when you transfer the debt from your existing credit card to a new credit card – generally in return for an interest-free period, and possibly a lower interest rate as well.

The idea is that you use this interest-free period to pay down or even pay off your debt, because now that you don’t have to pay interest, all that money can go to debt reduction.

No interest for 18 months

To illustrate the point, let’s look at a hypothetical case study involving Chris, a 40-year-old teacher with a credit card debt of $5,400 and an interest rate of 19.99 per cent.

If Chris made the minimum credit card repayment each month, it would take him 47 years and three months to pay off the entire debt, and it would cost him $26,507, according to ASIC’s credit card calculator.

If Chris made higher repayments of $300 per month, it would take him 22 months to pay off his credit card debt at a total cost of $6,346.

However, imagine Chris did a balance transfer with the Bendigo Bank Low Rate Mastercard, which offers an 18-month interest-free period for balance transfers. If Chris paid the same $300 per month, he’d repay the entire $5,400 debt during those 18 months, which means he wouldn’t have to pay a cent of interest. That said, he would have to pay a 2 per cent balance transfer fee, or $108. The total bill would come to $5,508.

Scenario

Time to pay off debt

Total repayments

Minimum repayments at 19.99%

47 years 3 months

$26,507

$300/month at 19.99%

22 months

$6,346

$300/month at 0%, with 2% balance transfer fee

18 months

$5,508

Beware of balance transfer traps

One point to bear in mind with balance transfers is that the interest-free period generally applies just to the debt you transfer across.

So you will generally be charged interest if you make purchases or do cash advances with the new credit card. You might also be charged an annual fee. Also, you will be charged interest on any unpaid debt at the end of the balance transfer period. 

Another point to bear in mind is that you might want to close your old credit card once you open the new credit card. Otherwise, you might be charged two annual fees and face greater temptation to spend money.

About the Bendigo Bank Low Rate Mastercard

  • Interest rate = 11.99%
  • Cash advance rate = 13.99%
  • Annual fee = $45
  • Maximum interest-free period = 55 days
  • Balance transfer interest rate = 0% for 18 months
  • Balance transfer fee = 2%
  • Balance transfer limit = 80% of your credit limit

* Data accurate as of 24 October 2019

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Learn more about credit cards

What is a balance transfer credit card?

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. 

How is credit card interest charged?

Your credit card will be charged interest when you don’t pay off the balance on your credit card. Your card provider or bank charges you the individual interest rate that is associated with your card, which is usually between 10 and 20 per cent. 

The interest will be added onto your bill each month or billing period if you don’t pay off the balance, unless you are in an interest-free period.

You will be charged interest on anything that hasn’t been paid for inside the interest-free period. Usually you will receive a notice on your bill or statement saying you will be charged interest so you have some form of notice before you’re charged.

How does credit card interest work?

Generally, when we talk about credit card interest, we mean the purchase interest rate, which is the interest charged on purchases you make with your credit card.

If you don’t pay your full balance each month (or even if you pay the minimum amount), you are charged interest on all the outstanding transactions and the remaining balance. However, interest is also charged on cash advances, balance transfers, special rate offers and, in some cases, even the fees charged by the company.

The interest rate can vary, depending on the credit card. Some have an interest-free period, otherwise you start paying interest from the day you make a purchase or from the day your monthly statement is issued. So avoid interest by paying the full amount promptly.

How to pay a credit card from another bank

Paying or transferring debt from one lender to the other is called a balance transfer. This involves transferring part or all of the debt from a credit card with one lender to a credit card with another. As part of the process, your new lender will pay out the old lender, so that you now owe the same amount of money but to a new institution.

Many credit card providers offer an interest-free period on balance transfers to help new applicants better handle their debt. During this period, cardholders are not required to pay interest on the debt they brought over from the other card. This can be a great opportunity for consumers to pay off credit card debt with no interest. There are often fees associated with balance transfers; normally, these are a percentage of the amount transferred.

So make sure you read the terms and conditions of the card before transferring any debt across.

How to calculate credit card interest

Credit card interest can quickly turn a manageable balance into unmovable debt. So being able to understand how interest rates translate into dollars is an important skill to acquire.

The common mistake people make is focusing on the credit card’s annual percentage rate (APR), which often sits between 15 and 20 per cent. While the APR does provide a rough idea of how much interest you’ll pay, it’s not entirely accurate.

This is because you actually accrue interest on your balance daily, not annually. So, you need to work out your daily periodic rate (DPR). To do this, divide your card’s APR by the number of days in a year (e.g. 16.9 per cent divided by 365, or 0.05 per cent). You can then apply this figure to the daily balance on your credit card.

Can I transfer money from my American Express credit card to my bank account?

If you’re an American Express credit card customer, you may not be able to transfer money from your credit card to your bank account. However, you may be eligible for cash advances, which involves withdrawing money through an ATM. 

To qualify for a cash advance, you’ll likely have to enrol for American Express Membership Rewards. Consider checking your online credit card account to see if you can withdraw a cash advance and, if so, the fees and charges you’ll incur for this transaction. 

You should remember that cash advances are different from balance transfers, which were available with some American Express credit cards earlier. Balance transfers allow customers to consolidate debt from high-interest credit cards to a credit card offering a lower interest rate. If you only recently applied for an American Express credit card, balance transfers may not be available irrespective of the card you own. 

How do you use a credit card?

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.

How do you use credit cards?

A credit card can be an easy way to make purchases online, in person or over the phone. When used properly, a credit card can even help you manage your cash flow. But before applying for a credit card, it’s good to know how they work. A credit card is essentially a personal line of credit which lets you buy things and pay for them later. As a card holder, you’ll be given a credit limit and (potentially) charged interest on the money the bank lends you. At the end of each billing period, the bank will send you a statement which shows your outstanding balance and the minimum amount you need to pay back. If you don’t pay back the full balance amount, the bank will begin charging you interest.

How do you pay off credit cards?

The best way to pay off a credit card bill is to set a realistic spending budget and stick to it. Each month, you’ll get a credit card statement detailing how much you owe and how long it will take to pay off the balance by making minimum repayments. If you only make the minimum repayments, it will take you years to pay off your outstanding balance and add extra costs in interest charges. To avoid any extra charges, you should pay the entire bill. 

Do I get HSBC credit card insurance on purchases I make?

As an HSBC credit card (HSBC Platinum, HSBC Platinum Qantas and HSBC Premier World) cardholder, you may be entitled to complimentary international and domestic travel insurance. This HSBC credit card insurance covers you for hospital stays and medical expenses, flight cancellations or delays, as well as lost luggage or personal items.

To be eligible for the insurance, you should have paid for at least 90 per cent of your overseas return travel ticket with your HSBC credit card. The cover is automatically activated without a need to contact HSBC. However, it’s always best to let your card issuer know when you travel overseas. If you have pre-existing medical conditions, you’ll need to contact Allianz directly to organise cover for these as they aren’t covered by the insurance. You can call Allianz on 1800 648 093.

The complimentary international travel insurance that comes with your HSBC Platinum credit card is valid for up to four months from the date of your departure from Australia. Your HSBC credit card insurance cover also covers your spouse and dependent children if 90 per cent of their travel ticket is purchased using your HSBC card.

 

What coverage does Coles credit card insurance offer?

Most customers who own a Coles credit card may be eligible for complimentary purchase protection insurance, but low rate card owners won’t receive this benefit. 

Some premium credit cards issued by Coles include transit accident insurance and extended warranty cover in addition to purchase protection insurance. Covered items paid for at least partially with your Coles credit card usually qualify for purchase protection insurance.

However, you may only be eligible for transit accident and extended warranty coverage if the entire travel cost or purchase price is billed to the eligible card. Additionally, the extended warranty coverage matches the manufacturer’s warranty up to a maximum of five years. If your credit card offers extended warranty, but the covered item comes with a six-year warranty, you're unlikely to receive the benefit.

How does the ANZ credit card instalment plan work?

While you usually need to settle all or part of your credit card dues at the end of your statement period, some credit cards afford you the option of setting up instalment plans. This allows you to settle your credit card debt at a pace that's more convenient for you, paying a fixed amount over a fixed period, thus making it easier to budget your repayments every month.

With the ANZ credit card instalment plan, you can set up a structured repayment schedule for part or all of your balance, or even for specific purchases over a certain value.

Some of the benefits of instalment repayment include: 

  • Structured repayments: You’ll have a fixed sum to pay each month.
  • Easier to budget: A fixed repayment sum makes it easier to make your monthly budget.
  • Account benefits: You might also get benefits such as discounted interest rates or debt-tracking tools.

There are disadvantages of opting for instalment repayment, however, and they include:

  • Less flexibility: You will not be able to pay a smaller amount once you set an instalment plan.
  • Different interest charges: In case the instalment plan only covers part of the balance, different interest charges could apply, making it challenging to budget.
  • Additional fees: You might have to pay fees or penalty charges in case of missed payments.

How to increase your Bendigo Bank credit card limit?

As a Bendigo Bank credit cardholder, you can avail a minimum limit of $500, but if you use your card regularly, you may want to consider increasing it. To increase your Bendigo Bank credit card limit, you can contact the bank’s credit card team on 1300 236 344 and talk to the bank directly.

You can also apply for a credit card limit increase through online banking, by logging into Bendigo Bank web portal or through the app on your phone or tablet. Once you’ve successfully logged in, you'll want  to send a secure message to Bendigo Bank asking them to increase your credit card limit. 

If you cannot access the online portal or the app, you can also apply to increase your credit card limit through the online enquiry form. Simply add relevant information in the required fields and click ‘Submit’. Once you have completed the application, Bendigo Bank should verify your details and analyse your current financial standing. Based on this assessment, the bank will either accept your application to increase your credit card limit or deny it. 

How to increase my Commonwealth credit card limit?

Commonwealth Bank credit cards are extremely popular in Australia for everyday purchases and big ticket items alikers. A number of the card’s functions can be customised, depending on your needs and desires. If you wish to increase your Commonwealth credit card limit using the CommBank, you can usually do so on the app or via NetBank.

In the CommBank app, tap on the ‘Cards’ icon and choose your credit card. Then, click on ‘Credit Limit’ and select the ‘Increasing your limit’ option. If you don’t have the CommBank app, you can also increase your Commonwealth Bank credit card limit through NetBank. Simply log on and go to Settings, then click on ‘Product Requests’ and then choose ‘Credit Card Limit Changes’. 

Once the bank has received your application, they will review your account and payment history. Based on this assessment, your application will either be approved or denied. If approved, your new limit will be applied to your card instantly. 

While increasing your credit card limit may be an easy process, it’s important to remember that you should only request limits that you can manage. A high limit increases the risk of having a larger debt, even with cards that provide low-interest rate options. So, it’s important to think carefully and seek advice from people you trust before increasing your Commonwealth Bank credit card limit.