Martin Lewis, 46, urged viewers to think about helping to clear their credit card debt by switching to a 0 per cent card – but warned the length of time offered on these cards is getting shorter and shorter.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain, he said: “For anyone with debts on existing credit and store cards, a zero per cent balance transfer is your key weapon.
“It allows you to get a new card that pays off debts on other cards for you, so you owe it instead, but with no interest.
“Yet these balance transfer deals are rapidly worsening. In May 2017 you could shift to a massive 43mths zero per cent, last week it was 36mths, now it’s just 34mths. The direction of travel isn’t good, so for safety, if you’re paying interest, sort it now.”
Martin’s three key tips for those looking to switch were:
1) Find the card most likely to accept you BEFORE you apply by using Martin’s balance transfer eligibility calculator. It’ll tell you your chances of getting the card before you apply, without impacting your creditworthiness.
2) Go for the lowest fee in the time you’re sure you can repay. Most cards charge a one-off fee on the amount transferred – try to minimise this (factor in cashback, more on that below). Yet if you’re not sure how long you need, play safe and go LONG.
3) Some cards are ‘up to’ which means you could get a shorter zero per cent deal if accepted. So if your chances of getting the card are slim, it’s likely you’ll be given a shorterzero per cent deal; instead opt for a non-up to card, which you have higher chance on getting.
He continued: “Ok on to the top cards…The longest zero per cent card on the market is Halifax’s up to 34months deal for a one-off three per cent fee.
“Yet my top pick is HSBC’s 32 month zero per cent card, which charges a 1.4 per cent fee, and gives £25 cashback if you shift £300+; which for anyone shifting under £1,800 covers the fee. Plus as it’s not an up to if accepted you’ll get the full 32mths.
“Alternatively, if you can clear your debt in 27 months or less, then Santander’s 27month zero per cent card charges NO BT fee – so for larger balance transfers it can be cheaper than HSBC.
“And remember my Golden Rules…
a) Never miss the min monthly repayment, or you could lose the zero per cent deal and it’ll cost far more.
b) Clear the card or balance transfer again before the zero per cent ends, or the rate rockets to the higher APR.
c) Don’t spend/withdraw cash on these. It usually isn’t at the cheap rate.
d) You must usually do the balance transfer within 60 days to get the zero per cent and/or cashback.”
Martin then went on to share some other quick deals, and said: “If you’ve not bought Amazon gift vouchers in the past three years, you may be eligible for a free £6 credit when you buy £30 of Amazon gift cards. Click this Amazon link and log into your account.
“For those who are, it will say ‘You have successfully registered for the promotion’. If so buy £30 of Amazon gift cards in a single purchase, and you’ll automatically be credited with £6 credit in your account (you should be notified by email in two days).
“As gift cards are valid for ten years, this is effectively a ‘if you’ll spend £30 on Amazon in the next ten years here’s a free £6’ deal. The £6 credit need to be used by Jan 2019.”
Finally, he shared a half term activity for teens, and said: “It’s the autumn half-term in a couple of weeks, and if you want to get your teenager doing something fun and productive, you can send them on a one-week National Citizen Service activity programme.
“It includes a four-day trip where teenagers (aged 16-17, they don’t necessarily need to be in school) can learn life skills away from home, such as cooking and managing a budget, as well as outdoor activities like abseiling and canoeing. They also take part in voluntary work in the community.
“Usually it costs £50, but enter the code AUTUMN25 by 11.59 Sunday 28 October, and you get 50 per cent off, making it £25 (some may get it free if you’re on low income or receiving certain benefits). All food, transport, activities and accommodation is included. Unfortunately if your child has been before they can’t go again.
“To apply, enter your details on the National Citizen Service registration page and it will contact you to explain more, or you can also call the centre directly on 0800 197 8010. Register as soon as possible as once places are gone, they’re gone.”