Credit card lenders roll out interest-free deals ahead of the silly season



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Credit card companies are ramping up their interest-free credit card deals in a bid to woo new customers ahead of the busy Christmas spending season. 

RateCity.com.au research shows there are currently 15 zero per cent deals on the market, offering interest-free periods of up to 15 months – up from 14 months last year. 

Purchase cards are credit cards where you don’t pay any interest on the balance until the interest-free period ends. But instead of getting the 45- or 55-days interest free, they offer up to 15 months with no interest. 

RateCity.com.au research shows Coles currently offers the longest interest-free period at 15 months on all of its cards. 

St George, BankSA, Bank of Melbourne and Virgin Money have the second longest offers, with 14 months’ interest-free on selected cards. 

Sally Tindall, research director at RateCity.com.au, said that while interest-free purchase cards can be tempting, they should be approached with caution. 

“Being able to shop for Christmas and not have to pay a cent of interest until February 2020 is an incredibly attractive proposition…until you have to pay it back,” she said. 

“Lenders are counting on customers to go silly in the holiday season and put more purchases on the card than they can afford to repay, leaving them with a costly debt hangover. And the interest rates on these cards can often carry a pretty big sting. 

“If you do take out one of these cards, set yourself a strict limit and set up a fool-proof plan to pay every cent back, within the interest-free period. 

“Lastly, make sure you cancel the old card. There’s no point having two credit cards; that means double the annual fees and potentially double the debt by the time the Christmas tree is back in its box.” 

How to beat the banks using an interest-free purchase card

  • Set your own credit limit (don’t just accept the maximum limit the lender gives you);
  • Plan to pay the card off in chunks throughout the interest free period, so you’re not hit with a big bill at the end;
  • Cancel your old credit card before taking out a new one;
  • If you’re not planning on keeping the card for more than a year, cancel it before the second annual fee is due.

Tips for looking for an interest-free purchase card

  • Find a card with at least six months’ interest-free to give you time to pay off your debt;
  • Look for a card with a low annual fee;
  • Try and find a card with a low ongoing interest rate. Be aware that some cards revert to the cash advance rate.

Some of the longest interest-free purchase card deals

Company Product name Interest rates Annual fee
Coles No Annual Fee Mastercard 0% for 15 months, then 19.99% $0 
BankSA, Bank of Melbourne, St.George Bank Amplify Classic (Amplify Rewards) 0% for 14 months, then 19.49% $79 
Virgin Money Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card 0% for 14 months, then 20.74% $129 
Bankwest Breeze Classic 0% for 13 months, then 12.99% $79 
NAB Low Rate Platinum 0% for 9 months, then 13.99% $100 

Data is accurate as at 27 November, 2018. Cards are ranked by the longest interest-free period, then by the lowest annual fee.

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