While you may feel like the festive season has snuck up on you – again – Christmas has been making itself known for a while now. September saw mince pies and Christmas puddings being laid out for sale in supermarkets. October saw shopping centres hang their gaudy decorations to the ever-present sound of Christmas jingles. November saw the arrival of Santa and his team of elf photographers, ready for COVID-safe photos with the kids.
Now, December almost upon us – and with it, the festive season proper. But, are you as ready for Christmas as Christmas is ready for you?
According to a recent survey, Aussies are planning to spend a whopping $17.3 billion on Christmas this year. Worked out as an average, that means each adult will spend around $893. As you might expect, gifts top the list of expenses, with an expected spend of $391 per person. This is closely followed by travel, at $352 per person.
While some will spend less and others will spend more, there’s no denying Christmas can be an expensive time of year. So, how are we planning to cover those costs?
New retail figures compiled by Monash University researchers reveal two-thirds of Aussies plan to wait for sales or special deals before purchasing gifts, while around a quarter said they would buy less for family and friends.
Being smart with your purchases and spending wisely is a great way to get on top of Christmas costs. But, what else can you do to spread those costs and make them easier to manage?
Used correctly, a card with a 0% purchase offer could offer a solution.
So, how does it work? A 0% purchase card is a credit card with a 0% introductory offer on purchases. Essentially, it allows cardholders to spend on their credit card and not pay any interest on their purchases during the offer’s introductory period.
Depending on the card, that intro period could last anywhere between a few months and a year and a half. So, as long as you choose the right card and are smart about the way you use it, you could cover your Christmas costs and pay them all off, with no interest to worry about.
Gifts for the kids here, Secret Santa presents there. Drinks with friends, family dinners, festive treats, new decorations. While you might be great at budgeting 11 months of the year, costs always seem to spiral in December – with all those little things adding up to something big.
With a 0% purchase card, you can use the card to cover all your smaller expenses. Obviously, just because you have the card doesn’t mean you need to start overspending, just because, but you can cover the costs you need to make, and then save on interest as you pay them back over time.
Okay, so international travel is still off the table, but with internal borders opening up, domestic holidays are – very enticingly – an option again. If you’re planning on taking a trip, a 0% purchase card could offer an easy way to spread the costs.
Aside from travel, there may be any number of other big ticket items you want to splurge on this Christmas. A new TV perhaps? Some new furniture for the lounge room? New bikes for all the family? Whatever that large cost is, a 0% purchase card could cover it, giving you the time you need to pay it back, with no interest accruing.
While bills aren’t exactly festive, they still keep coming, no matter what time of year. So, can you cover government payments and other bills with a 0% purchase card?
A. It really depends on the card. While some card providers will allow you to use your card to cover those types of payments, others won’t. Check the offer details for eligible transactions, or contact the provider to find out before you apply.
A. When you have a card with a 0% purchase offer, only the purchases you make on the card will attract the offer’s 0% rate. That means any fees, such as the annual fee, will typically attract the card’s standard rate.
A. When you use your credit card to make a withdrawal at the ATM, that is called a cash advance. As this type of transaction is not a purchase, it won’t receive the card’s introductory 0% rate. Instead, it will attract the card’s much higher cash advance rate, with interest charged from the day of the withdrawal.
At the end of the intro period, the card will revert to its standard purchase rate. That means any new purchases you make on the card will attract this new rate ongoing. You can, however, continue to pay no interest as long as you pay your closing balance in full by the due date.
What happens if you still have a balance at the end of the intro period? While it will depend on the card, the balance will most likely start to attract the card’s standard purchase rate. If this rate is high – as it often is with rewards cards and platinum cards – those interest costs may start to sting.
To avoid paying out in interest – and thus lowering the value of the offer – it’s best to keep tabs on your spending throughout the offer, and make regular repayments so that the entire balance is paid off when the intro period ends.
Want to make your 0% purchase offer work for you? Compare, compare, compare. Fortunately, CreditCard.com.au makes the comparison process super easy, so you can easily find the right card – and the right offer for you.
Interest Free Offer vs. Interest Free Days
Interest free offer or interest free days? What’s the difference anyway?
A 0% purchase offer is an introductory offer provided to new, eligible cardholders. It allows those cardholders to pay no interest on their purchases throughout the card’s introductory period. After the intro period ends, all new purchases revert to the card’s standard purchase rate.
Interest free days are typically ongoing, and are offered as standard on most credit cards. Most cards offer up to 44 or 55 days interest free on purchases. To take advantage of this feature, cardholders must pay their closing balance by the due date on their statement.
With your card in hand, it’s time to start spending. Or is it? If you want to make the card – and its offer – work for you, it’s a good idea to have a plan in mind for both your spending and your repayments.
It’s Christmas. We all know how easy it is to overspend. When you have a credit card, the temptation to spend more than you should can be even greater. To avoid overspending, set a spending limit each week or each month that you can comfortably pay back.
If you have a large purchase in mind, work out how much you can afford to spend overall – and stick to it. Creating a budget can help with this process, as it should allow you to work out how much you can afford to pay back each month over the introductory period.
When you use the card every day for lots of little purchases, it’s not always easy to keep track of how much you’re spending. If you’re not careful, this could lead to you blowing the budget and spending more than you can afford to pay back.
The same applies for big ticket items such as travel, as there can be many different purchases to be made on each trip. Accommodation, flights, tours. If you take the card on holiday with you, again, there is a danger you will overuse it and spend more than you mean to.
Throughout the intro period, keep track of your spending by regularly checking your account online or using the card provider’s app. Be strict with yourself, and if you feel like you’re spending more than you should, try to cut back on future purchases where possible.
Unless you know you have a chunk of money coming your way before the offer ends, it’s best to make regular repayments throughout the intro period. If you know how much your overall spend will be, it should be easy enough to work out how much you will need to pay back each month to pay it all off in time.
Remember, while you can just make the minimum repayment, this is not recommended. If you only make the minimum repayment each month, you will not pay off your spending within the intro period. From there, your remaining balance will start attracting interest, making it more difficult to pay off.
What happens at the end of the intro period? That really depends on how you have used the card – and what you want from it now that the offer has finished.
Note, this is not an option you should depend on. You may find that you are not eligible for a balance transfer offer when you want to apply, which would leave you paying off the balance at your current card’s standard purchase rate.
Using CreditCard.com.au, you can easily compare a wide range of 0% purchase offers. Our comparison tool makes this especially easy. However, to make the task go even faster, we’ve compiled some of the best current offers into categories, to allow you to sort them according to what they can provide, and who they are likely to suit.
With one of the longest offers on the market, the ANZ Platinum Credit Card is currently offering 0% p.a. on purchases for 17 months (reverting to 20.24% p.a.). New cardholders can also save on annual fees, with no annual fee to pay in the first year ($87 each year after that).
If you’re looking for a number of offers rolled into one card, it would be hard to go past the Virgin Money No Annual Fee Credit Card. Not only will you pay no annual fee ever, you can also take advantage of 0% p.a. on purchases for 12 months (reverting to 18.99% p.a.) and 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 12 months (reverting to 20.99% p.a.).
The St.George Amplify Platinum Credit Card has another appealing combo, offering 0% p.a. on purchases for 7 months (reverting to 19.74% p.a.) and 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 22 months (reverting to 21.49% p.a.). Its usual $99 annual fee is waived in the first year.
If you tend to carry a balance – or if you think you might have a balance remaining at the end of the intro period – choosing a card with a low ongoing rate could be beneficial.
With a standard purchase rate of 10.99% p.a., both the Bankwest Breeze Mastercard and Bankwest Breeze Platinum Credit Card could be well worth looking into. Both are currently offering 0% p.a. on purchases for 15 months. The classic card has an annual fee of $49, while the platinum card has a few more features on offer for $69 per year.
Meanwhile, the Bendigo Bank Low Rate Credit Card has on ongoing rate of 11.99% p.a. and an annual fee of $45, offering 0% p.a. on purchases for 15 months. The St.George Vertigo Platinum Credit Card reverts to 12.99% p.a. with an annual fee of $99 ($49 in the first year), with 0% p.a. on purchases for 15 months.
Over at CommBank, both its Commonwealth Bank Low Rate Credit Card and Commonwealth Bank Low Rate Gold Credit Card are offering 0% p.a. on purchases for 15 months, and both revert to 13.24% p.a. The classic card has an annual fee of $59, while the gold card has an annual fee of $89.
A no annual fee card can help to maximise your savings as you take advantage of the 0% purchase offer. With that in mind, the Coles No Annual Fee Mastercard has no annual fee ever, plus 0% p.a. on purchases (reverts to 19.99% p.a.) and balance transfers (reverts to 19.99% p.a.) for 12 months.
With no annual fees or late fees, the Citi Simplicity Credit Card is offering 0% p.a. on purchases (reverts to 21.49% p.a.) and balance transfers (reverts to 22.24% p.a.) for 6 months. Another offer from CommBank, this time with its Commonwealth Bank Low Fee Credit Card, has no annual fee for the first year ($29 ongoing) and 0% p.a. on purchases for 15 months (reverts to 19.74% p.a.).
Want to earn frequent flyer points while paying no interest on your purchases?
With the Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Credit Card, you can. The card is currently offering 0% p.a. on purchases for 14 months (reverts to 20.74% p.a.), 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 6 months (reverts to 20.99% p.a.) and a reduced annual fee of $64 in the first year (usually $129). Working to cancel out its standard annual fee, the card also provides a $129 Virgin Australia Gift Voucher each year).
Want to know how much you could save on interest on all your Christmas spending? Let’s take a look.
Say you and your family spend $2,000 on Christmas. Putting that balance on a standard credit card with a purchase rate of 20% p.a., you could pay $150 each month to clear the debt in 15 months. In total, you would pay $238 in interest.
Choosing a card with a 15-month 0% purchase offer, you would make the same $150 monthly repayments to clear the debt within the intro period, while paying no interest at all on your purchases.
Taking a trip? Let’s say you and your family of four decided to fly interstate for a two-week holiday. With everything included, the trip totals $6,000. On your standard credit card with a 20% p.a. purchase rate, you would pay $450 per month to clear that total within 15 months, paying $715 in interest.
Opting for a 0% purchase offer over 15 months, again, you would pay $450 each month, to save $715 in interest overall.
As we mentioned earlier, some cards combine offers, providing access to savings not only through 0% purchase offers, but 0% balance transfer offers and reduced annual fees as well. So, what do you need to know to make the most of these combo offers?
TIP: Assuming you have the funds to pay off new purchases and your transferred balance, a combined 0% purchase and balance transfer offer can be a great find. For the most part, it’s not a great idea to spend on a card as you pay down a balance transfer, as you receive no interest free days on new spending. But, with a 0% purchase offer, that is no longer a problem.
When it comes to choosing and using credit cards and credit card offers, knowledge is key. With that in mind, it’s time for some final words of wisdom before we wrap up this post.
Well then, what are you waiting for? It’s time to compare your options. There are only 28 shopping days until Christmas, after all.
Disclaimer: The information contained within this post is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a financial adviser.
Founder of Creditcard.com.au. Roland has extensive knowledge about credit cards in Australia. Known as a credit card expert, he has been featured on tv and in various publications. Some popular offers on our site right now include the ANZ Low Rate. This special offer has no annual fee first year, a low purchase rate and long 0% balance transfer. Have a look also at the huge 0% for 30 months balance transfer from Citi with no balance transfer fees.
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