Learn how to manage your holiday spending credit card this silly season, so you don’t end up paying for it in the new year. Nearly all credit cards offer Interest-free days on purchases, and some cards give you extended interest-free terms, with many months to pay back what you’ve spent. If you do end up spending more than you can afford, consider applying for a balance transfer credit card and benefit from a break in interest repayments.
Make use of your credit card’s features and special promotions so you glide through your Christmas shopping and holiday spending without it putting a severe dent in your bank account.
Credit cards to help avoid Christmas debt
Remember, credit cards are a credit product and should be used responsibly. Borrowing money costs you money, but there are cards that offer interest-free purchases this Christmas. Ninety-nine percent of credit cards come with interest-free days, which is a credit card feature that allows you to make interest-free purchases with your credit card as long as you pay back what you spend when your statement arrives.
How long do you think you will need to pay back your holiday spending? If you need longer than six weeks, you may want to go for a credit card with an extended low interest or interest free promotion on purchases. These cards give you an extended period to pay back the balance without incurring interest.
0% purchase offer credit cards
A credit card with a 0% purchase rate promotion allows you to make interest-free purchases for the length of the promotional period. At the end of this period, the ongoing purchase rate of interest is charged on anything you have not yet paid back. These cards can be a cheap and easy form of finance over the holiday period.
Low-interest rate credit cards
Low-interest rate credit cards cost less to use for purchases. As well as a low rate of interest, they have’ a number of interest-free days on purchases, which makes them ideal if you plan on carrying a balance into the new year.
Reward credit cards
In the table, you can see reward credits cards that also offer interest-free terms. While the purchase rate promotion is active, you will earn rewards or Airpoints on the eligible purchases you charge to the account.
Credit cards to get you out of Christmas debt
A balance transfer credit card can save you money in interest repayments. If you are approved for one of these credit cards, you can take your credit card debt to the new card. If you receive a special interest rate on your balance, you can pay it off and be free of debt sooner.
Ideas for dealing with holiday credit card debt
- Put away your credit cards. Maybe not forever, but stop using them entirely until your debt is paid off. Do whatever you need to do to stop adding to your debt, and the last thing you want to do is to make matters worse by paying interest on top of interest.
- Make large payments right away. This is especially important if you have interest free days available. By paying off as much as you can afford during this period you significantly reduce the amount on your balance. This is the amount you are charged interest on, so a higher balance means paying more interest.
- Find some extra money. Sell unwanted items in your home, rent a room to a traveller. Do what you can to pay the debt.
- Set a goal that you can reach. Just because it only took you a month or two to get into holiday credit card debt does not mean it will only take that long to get out of it. Try to set an achievable goal, without stretching your finances too thin to attain it. Also, make sure you leave yourself room between the payoff date and the next holiday period, so you can breathe and enjoy being debt free.
Paying off your holiday credit card debt is essential. Too often people wind up stressed out and miserable at holiday time because they have still not paid off last years’ expenses. You need to find a debt reduction plan that works for you and stick to it.Back to top
Tips for using a credit card over Christmas
Make use of interest free days to get the most from your credit card this Christmas.
Already got a credit card?
If you already have a credit card and you’re reading this page looking for tips on how to use it these holidays, make sure you clear November’s balance so you can take advantage of the interest-free days for your December purchases.
We’ve covered how to manage purchases and your statement to maximise the number of interest-free days you get. However, a useful way to manage things is to pay your balance back in full when your statement arrives so you can make interest free purchases every month.
Are you getting a new credit card for Christmas?
If you want to apply for a credit card, you need to know what you want to use the card for and how you’re going to pay it back. Are you getting a credit card purely to use for shopping and holiday spending? Compare credit cards with extended interest-free terms. This gives you a couple of months extra to pay back what you’ve spent without incurring interest charges.
If you’re confident you can pay back what you’ve spent within the interest-free period, you may also want to consider a rewards product. These credit cards give you rewards or Airpoints when you make an eligible purchase. However, the interest charges are high on these credit cards, and if interest is charged, it often negates the value of the rewards.
Safe holiday shopping online
How safe is it to use your credit card on the Internet to shop at Christmas time?
Using your credit card on the Internet is a great way to make purchases. You can track down pretty much anything you want, in any part of the world, and have it winging its way to you within a matter of hours.
If the worst happens, and your credit card details are misappropriated and used fraudulently, don’t panic. Mastercard, Visa and American Express have no liability guarantees in place, which mean you’re not held liable for the unauthorised use of your credit card provided you comply with the terms of their agreements, available on their respective websites. Be aware, lending a wayward sibling your credit card for one purchase and then them splurging on thousands of dollars worth of goods is not considered fraud. That is your liability.
Card providers should also be using an automated fraud detection service that monitors card purchases. If something looks wrong, you will be immediately contacted to verify the purchase. When you’re shopping online, look for a little-locked padlock symbol when you are at the checkout area of a website. You should also make sure the site address starts with https, not just http, as https means it’s a secure site. Assess the look of the site , and if you have any doubts, shop elsewhere.Back to top
How to find the ideal credit card for you at Christmas
Rewards or low rate credit card?
A low rate credit card costs you less to make purchases than a rewards credit card. However, the interest rate doesn’t matter if you clear your balance each month, as you’ receive interest-free days on your purchases. Ask yourself whether you can avoid interest costs by making use of the interest-free days feature.
If you know you can’t pay back what you’re planning on spending, a card with an extended promotion on purchases may be good value. If you can pay back what you owe when your statement arrives, and you plan on spending a lot this holiday season, why not compare and apply for a credit card with rewards? You can use these cards to make interest-free purchases, and use your Christmas spending to give your Airpoints balance a kick.
Store credit cards can be an enemy rather than a friend
Pay attention to the fine print if you take up in-store finance. Some institutions have arrangements with different merchants and consumers receive interest free terms for periods longer than a year when they apply for finance and shop at a particular merchant. If you keep spending on these cards once you’ve used it for its primary purpose, you’ll be stung by high-interest charges and may end up paying more than you want!
The revert rate
Everyday credit cards, with extended purchase rate promotional periods, also revert to the ongoing purchase rate of interest once the promotion ends. This rate is higher than the promotional rate and could see your interest repayments shoot up when you get your statement.Back to top
Avoid a budget blowout
At some stage, most of us have probably talked our way out of a particularly expensive purchase when questioned by our wife or hubby. Comically, we ALWAYS try to justify our purchase, no matter the usefulness or expense.
If you indulge in impulse buying, what is your vice? Are you a technology lover, do you own hundreds of pairs of shoes, or can’t get enough of sports paraphernalia? Tell us; we want to know your guilty shopping pleasures.
How to prevent A rude awakening
Consider the following, so you can enjoy the rosy afterglow of a great trip away from home or a splurge at Christmas.
- Do you REALLY NEED this? Before you swipe your card for that sexy new dress, or the glitzy Jimmy Choo’s, you need to ask yourself whether you really need to make this purchase. It often helps to sleep on a decision before you actually buy.
- Do you want this item because of your current state of emotion? You’d be surprised to learn how often we buy because of our feelings. When we are sad; frustrated or angry, we are sometimes in need of a quick fix – shopping. Learn to recognise these signs and avoid the trap, then treat yourself to a cheaper way to fix the issue at hand. Try a cup of coffee, yoga, a brisk walk, or talking to your partner instead.
- Avoid peer pressure – Peer pressure is as big if not bigger than at school. If you travel with an adult friend, who can afford to spend more money than you, it’s easy to get sucked into their flashy lifestyle. Don’t! Unless you are ready to deal with the consequences when you get home. A sensible way to avoid this trap is not travelling with wealthy friends unless they pay the bill!