How to beat credit card interest
If you’ve been scandalised by the banks’ treatment of mortgage holders, you might want to check your credit cards.
While the average standard variable mortgage rate is now 0.45 of a percentage point lower than before the two rate cuts at the end of 2012, the average credit card rate has fallen just 0.08 points, according to an exclusive analysis of 200 credit cards by data house Mozo for Financial Review Investor .
And since the height of the global financial crisis, the gouging is worse still.
The cash rate stands 1 percentage point below Mozo’s launch date in November 2008 but the average mortgage rate is 0.66 of a point less and the average credit card a mere 0.18 of a point lower.
Predictably, it’s the big banks that are hoarding interest the most, although some smaller institutions actually increased them as rates fell.
The average credit card interest rate is a ridiculous 17.73 per cent. which makes it the most expensive form of debt you can take on (leaving out the eye-watering revert rates if you don’t repay in the interest-free period money borrowed through store finance).
What’s more, the average credit card balance is $4757, based on December 20111 statistics from the Reserve Bank.
That means consumers in NSW incur an annual interest bill of almost $2 billion and in Victoria, more than $1.5 billion, as indicated by figures from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission using population data.
This is too much interest. On too much debt.
But you might not even realise how damaging credit card debt can be to your personal bottom line.
If each month you roll over the average $4757 debt on the average punitive credit card and make the huge error of only paying off the minimum each month (average 2 per cent), it will take you 44 years to clear it and cost you $12,464 in interest.
Truly. It will be the year 2056.
Up your repayments to $250 a month and you’ll knock it off in only two years and save $11,594 in interest.
Our nation’s frightening debt clock – $36 billion and counting – and a credit card calculator that assesses your own situation has been launched by ASIC: moneysmart.gov.au/borrowing-and-credit/credit-cards/credit-card-debt-clock
Just how much might you donate to your credit card provider?
And just how long will your debt hold you hostage?
It doesn’t need to be this way. Here’s how to tear up your interest bill and claw your way out of credit card debt years earlier:
Switch to a zero per cent balance transfer credit card. Find the best deals on mozo.com.au or infochoice.com.au.
Don’t do any new unfunded spending – particularly on that card but also on any other credit card.
Divide your transferred debt by the number of pay cheques in the interest-free period and try to repay that amount each time.
. And repeat as needed
If you can’t manage it, take up a second balance transfer offer afterwards and repeat the process. If you still have debt after that, though, move it to a card that charges low interest for an unlimited period - apply for too many more credit cards and it may hurt your credit rating. The cheapest rates are down near 10 per cent.
In the meantime, save for what you want. Or if the discipline of it works better for you, make like many consumers watching their wallets and re-embrace the oh-so-quaint but oh-so-clever layby.
OK, you don’t get the goods immediately but they’ll cost you no more than the price on the tag. And you’ll be extra motivated to pay them off.
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