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

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

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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Learn more about credit cards

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 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.

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 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.

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. 

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.

What is a credit card?

A credit card is a payment method which lets you pay for goods and services without using your own money. It’s essentially a short-term loan which lets you borrow the bank’s money to pay for things which you can pay back – potentially with interest – at a later date. Credit cards can also be used to withdraw money from an ATM, which is known as a cash advance. Because you’re borrowing money from a bank, credit cards charge you interest on the money you use (unless you repay the entire debt during the interest-free period). When you apply for a credit card, the bank gives you a credit limit which sets the maximum amount you can borrow using your card. Credit cards are one of the most popular methods of payments and can be a convenient way of paying for goods and services in store, online and all around the globe.

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.

 

How to increase your Qantas Premier credit card limit

When your income or spending habits change, you might wish to increase your credit card limit. The Qantas Premier credit card allows you to do this over the phone. You can contact Qantas Premier Card Support by calling on 1300 992 700. Unlike some other credit providers, Qantas doesn’t give you the option to increase your limit online.

Qantas will only accept your application if you have a good history of repayment and have not increased your credit or bought another credit product from Qantas in the past six months.

Before approving your Qantas Premier credit card limit increase, Qantas will perform a credit assessment on your current financial circumstances and ask why you would like to increase your credit limit.

To ensure that there are no bumps in your application process, you must provide accurate and recent information about your financial situation. You should also account for any future changes you’re anticipating which could hinder your ability to repay the loan.

Once the assessment is complete, Qantas will either approve or deny your application. If they approve it, you will need to sign a credit limit increase agreement - and you can request a written copy of the credit assessment. However, if your application is rejected, Qantas can opt not to provide a copy of the assessment.

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.

How to increase your HSBC credit card limit

You can opt to increase your HSBC credit card limit in multiple ways. 

The easiest way to change your HSBC credit card limit is through online banking. Log on to your account and click on ‘Manage your account’. Then, click on ‘My Cards’ and choose to change your credit card limit. Simply complete the HSBC credit card limit increase form and click on ‘Submit’. 

You can also request to increase your credit card limit by calling HSBC’s customer service hotline on 1300 303 168. 

Lastly, you can visit any HSBC branch to apply to lift your card limit. 

If you are facing challenges while trying to complete an HSBC credit card credit limit increase online, you can chat with a representative using internet banking. Click on the ‘Need Help’ button on the right of the dashboard and open the chat window to speak with the customer service officer. 

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.

Does St. George Bank offer any credit card insurance?

Depending on the type of card they hold St. George Bank credit cardholders can benefit from a host of various credit card insurance offerings including:

Complimentary overseas travel insurance, covering:

  • Medical and hospital expenses incurred while travelling overseas, with the exclusion of pre-existing conditions
  • Loss or damage to personal property
  • Legal liabilities
  • Loss or damage to rental vehicles
  • Unexpected cancellation of travel arrangements or any other unforeseen expenses

Complimentary purchase security insurance may be available to level 1 cardholders for four months and three months of complimentary insurance accessed by level 2 cardholders. This type of insurance covers loss, theft, and damage costs to eligible products purchased anywhere around the world, provided that the product was purchased using the St. George Bank credit card. 

Extended warranty insurance may be available to St. George Bank credit cardholders, which extends the manufacturer’s Australian warranty on certain products purchased. For example, if you purchase a pair of headphones that comes with 11 months of warranty, St. George Bank will provide an extended warranty of 11 months, provided the entire purchase is charged to the St. George Bank credit card. 

Select cardholders may be able to take advantage of St. George Bank’s rental vehicle excess insurance, which covers up to $5,500 for any excess or deductible which the cardholder is legally liable to pay during the rental period.