Fees a crowd as January bills arrive

Early January can typically be a tough period as we trudge back to work after the revelries of Christmas and the New Year.

But as if going back to work wasn’t hard enough, returning home to a pile of bills can be a nightmare.

At the top of the list for most people come credit card debts and energy bills, but with credit card companies still allowed to charge you a flat fee for missing a payment, you need to have your wits about you to avoid a serious sting – and filling the pockets of card providers.

MoneyExpert.com gives you some top tips on how best to manage and avoid credit card fees.

Hanging in the balance transfer

Recent MoneyExpert.com research revealed that one in 10 credit card users hadn’t cleared the debts they’d run up on Christmas spending in 2006 before the great day rolled along this year. So it’s a fair bet that many of us will be facing some fairly heavy numbers when the January bill pops through the door.

With hundreds of companies now offering rates of 0% on balance transfers, many are taking the sensible option (though many aren’t!) of switching their credit card provider.

However, aware that credit card users aren’t the most loyal breed, companies, while keen to attract with the 0% deals, are charging increasingly high balance transfer fees.

If you’re looking to switch your balance and take advantage of a better deal, make sure you check what transfer fee, if any, you’ll be charged. If you have a considerable debt but think you can clear it by November 2008 the Platinum Master card from Capital One is a good bet with a fee of only 1.7% – but click here to compare all balance transfer cards.

Don’t be late!

Charges such as late payment fees or missed payment charges are still controversial and the legality of such charges being made by banks is currently being tested in court.

But while bank charges remain a cause for concern, credit card companies have already had their knuckles wrapped and their charging structure changed. So, if you pay late, you’ll have to pay up. Typically you can expect to fork out £12 for posting your cheque a little later than you had hoped.

Attention to detail

Charges and fees aren’t something that your credit card company will be desperate to shout about and so details of any charges will normally be tucked away in the terms and conditions of an application form. However, providers should be making more of an effort to explain charges to you, so look out for example boxes during the application process.

The bottom line is that responsibility ultimately lies with you to familiarise yourself with credit card fees – but if in doubt, the best bet is simply to pick up the phone and ask.

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