Transfer market heats up

The number of zero per cent balance transfer deals on the market has risen by 13 per cent in the past year as firms increasingly target credit card borrowers trying to get their debts under control, analysis from MoneyExpert.com shows.

And the average zero per cent introductory offer on balance transfers now lasts 10 months, the independent financial comparison website says. Firms are however less generous with zero per cent offers on spending – the average deal lasts just 4.57 months.

MoneyExpert.com’s research shows 11 per cent of people who owe money are now very concerned about their ability to keep control of their debts – as many as 3.4 million.

And it warns that as card firms get tough on applications and credit limits following the credit crunch borrowers should aim to reduce borrowing.

Analysis of the market shows currently 72.5 per cent of all standard credit cards now offer zero per cent balance transfer deals. That amounts to 169 cards compared with 149 at the start of the year.

Sean Gardner, Chief Executive of MoneyExpert.com, said: "Card firms are concentrating on the balance transfer market as a way of building new business with more generous offers for those who want to get their debts under control."

"The average zero per cent offer of 10 months on balance transfers will give anyone who needs to cut their borrowing some vital breathing space to sort out a plan to reduce their debts.

"Of course transferring a balance to a zero per cent deal should not be seen as a licence to keep on spending. And when you do transfer remember that there is a charge of up to three per cent of the balance you are switching."

Currently the longest zero per cent balance transfer offer is 15 months from Halifax while the longest zero per cent on purchases is from Virgin Money which also has 15 months.

Around 65 per cent of standard credit cards offer zero per cent interest on purchase rates – that equates to 152 cards.

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