Responding to findings that many credit card holders are transferring their debts onto another card, debt management company Gregory Pennington said that this is another sign of rising costs of living limiting people’s ability to repay debts, and warned of the risks involved in transferring debts between credit cards.
Abbey said that borrowers are opting for cards with 0% interest periods in order to avoid their debts getting any bigger, and switching to another card once the 0% period is over.
A spokesperson for Gregory Pennington commented: “Most of us are now feeling the pressure of a weakening economy in one way or another, and for those people in debt, it can be an extremely worrying time.
“Credit cards with 0% interest periods can be very tempting, because they essentially stand for ‘free’ money, if only for a limited time. Unlike many forms of debt, interest won’t grow in these accounts until the 0% interest period finishes, which is very appealing to people struggling with debt.
“This particularly applies to people with credit card debts, because once the lenders do start charging interest, it tends to be very high. The average APR on a credit card is currently around 17.4%.”
Taking advantage of the best deals around makes sense, but the spokesperson warned that ‘juggling’ debts between credit cards is potentially dangerous if used as a means of debt management, and should not be considered a long-term solution.
“Every credit card you take out will be listed on your credit rating, and while abiding by the terms of a credit card reflects well on the borrower, some creditors may become concerned if they see you have had a string of credit cards for only a few months at a time,” she said. “In this sense, your credit rating could suffer.
“Eventually, it’s possible that lenders will start refusing applications, or reduce the credit limit – which is especially a risk with the credit crunch ongoing. If that happens, borrowers can either repay the debt in full, or face high interest rates that can cause the debt to grow very quickly.”
The spokesperson continued that there are cheaper, more effective debt solutions available. “A debt management plan or debt consolidation loan might be a better option for people trying to manage their credit card debts. Both set out affordable payment plans that can be scheduled over a longer period of time – although it’s important to realise that the longer the repayment, the more interest can build up in the long run.
“For those with more serious debts of around £15,000 or more, an IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement) could help. An IVA allows people in debt to repay only what they can realistically afford. They do this over a fixed period, normally five years, after which any outstanding debt is written off. An IVA may, however, require a homeowner to free up some of the equity in their home. It also requires a real commitment to making regular monthly payments and has a significant impact on an individual’s credit rating. We advise people to speak to an expert debt adviser before making a decision.”