Whether you're looking to save on interest costs, earn rewards points or get cash back on your account, find out how to get more bang for your buck this Christmas.
Christmas is the biggest spending season of the year, so it's no surprise that credit card activity generally skyrockets during this period. To encourage applicants to apply for credit cards before Christmas, many cards come with promotional offers such as low interest rates, bonus reward points and cash back offers. In this guide, we've highlighted the different types of offers you might want to compare around Christmas, as well as the benefits and terms and conditions you should consider to get the most value out of your new card this Christmas.
Compare Card Offers with 0% Purchase Rates
Credit cards with 0% purchase rates
While spending on your credit card can be a convenient way to manage cash flow around Christmas, avoiding interest will help keep your card costs low and help you avoid falling into debt after the silly season is over. A 0% purchase credit card offer lets you use your card without having to pay additional interest on your credit card for the length of the promotional period. This interest-free period can remain from 3 to 15 months, depending on the card. So rather than collecting interest on your Christmas gifts, you can pay off your balance without any additional costs while the promotion is in place.
Once the promotional period does end, though, the interest rate will revert to the card's standard interest rate, which is much higher (usually between 14% and 22%). So if you fail to pay off your entire balance by the time the offer ends, the remaining balance will start collecting interest. It's also important to note that while purchases enjoy the 0% interest rate, ATM cash advances or cash-equivalent transactions (such as buying traveller's cheques, gambling or conducting a balance transfer) are not eligible for the interest-free promotion. Some of these cards also come with other costs such as annual fees, so you'll want to make sure these fees don't outweigh the savings you make from the interest while you're comparing.
As some cards with 0% interest rates also come with other features such as frequent flyer programs, complimentary insurance and other perks, you should compare a few options to make sure you're applying for the right card.
How much can I save with a 0% purchase rate credit card?
Exactly how much you can save will depend on the length of the promotional period, how much you spend and whether you can pay it all off before the offer ends. Let's say you spend $1,000 at Christmas this year and plan to pay it off over 12 months, you could save $170 shopping on a 0% interest credit card when compared to a card with a regular standard variable interest rate of 17%. Do note that this is not including any card annual fees or other charges.
Bonus points offers
A credit card with sign-up bonus points can reward new cardholders with hundreds or even thousands of extra reward points to boost your balance. You might be required to meet a minimum spend within a set period to receive these points, though. For example, an offer could provide 10,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in the first month.
Since you’re planning on using a credit card around Christmas, this could be an easy way to meet the eligibility requirement for extra points. Some of these bonus points offers are so large that you get enough points to redeem flights. For instance, when you sign up for ANZ Frequent Flyer Platinum, you can get 50,000 when you apply online and spend $2,500 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months. That’s enough to redeem an Economy Classic Flight Reward return trip from Sydney to Denpasar (Bali) on Jetstar, which costs 40,000 points.
How much you can I save with a bonus points credit card?
While there is no fixed dollar value for reward points, these sign-up bonuses can provide hundreds of dollars of value in rewards. In the case of the ANZ Frequent Flyer Platinum example above, if you wanted to fly from Sydney to Bali in January 2017, a Jetstar flight could cost anywhere from $643 to $1,143 (based on booking information from 21 September 2016). As long as the spending requirement suits your spending habits, bonus points could be an easy way to get extra value from your new credit card around Christmas.
These cards sometimes come with higher annual fees and interest rates, though, so make sure that the value of the reward points isn't outweighed by the costs of the card.
Other credit card offers that could be useful at Christmas
While 0% purchase credit cards and rewards credit cards with bonus points are obvious ways to get more value from your card this Christmas, some other card offers and features that could come in handy this festive season include:
- Cash back offers. Cash back credit cards reward you with cash back in your account, which could mean more cash in your pocket this Christmas. Depending on the card, you can get cash back at the end of a period (a percentage of your expenditure), convert your reward points into cash instead of goods or as part of a promotional offer when you sign up for the card. For example, you may be offered $200 cash back when you spend $500 in the first 3 months of owning the card. Some of these deals are further sweetened with 0% interest rates or $0 annual fees.
- Purchase rate and balance transfer offers. If you're repaying a debt but also need access to cash this Christmas, a card with 0% interest on balance transfers and 0% purchase rate could come in handy. Most cards only offer a 0% offer on one or the other, so this can be a good way to take advantage of both. However, if you want to avoid paying interest, make sure you understand when both of the 0% promotional rates end. Otherwise, you could end up collecting interest on either your purchase or balance transfer and continue building up debt.
- Balance transfer offers. If you're struggling to repay a high-interest debt, a balance transfer credit card can help you repay your debt without the cost of interest for a promotional period. Currently, most Australian balance transfers have a 0% interest rate for a promotional period of 6 to 24 months. So if you want to get your debt in control before Christmas or need a means of debt consolidation after you've paid for Christmas gifts on plastic, a balance transfer credit card could come in handy.
Other factors to consider when comparing credit card offers this Christmas
Here are some points to consider before choosing a credit card for your Christmas spending spree:
- Promotional period. It is important to note that the promotional rate or reward usually only applies during the introductory period. After that, the interest rate will revert to a higher standard rate, points will be earned at a standard rate per $1 spent and any reduced or waived annual fee deals will not apply. This basically means your costs for the card will go up, so it's important to repay your debts and understand what fees are involved before this happens.
- Offer end date. This refers to the deadline for applying for a card that has an introductory offer. The offer usually ends by a stipulated date and you may want to catch it before that day. For example, a card may offer 0% interest on purchases for 6 months if you apply by 31 December.
- Eligibility requirements. Depending on the card, you'll usually need to be a minimum of 18 years of age, be an Australian citizen or permanent resident, have a good credit history and meet a minimum income requirement. Some cards, such as balance transfers, also have restrictions regarding how much you can transfer and which banks you can transfer from, which is important to know before applying. You can see this guide for a list of the eligibility requirements you can usually expect when applying for a credit card.
- Eligible purchases.The 0% purchase rate is only applicable to “eligible purchases”. These usually exclude utility bills, gambling purchases, cash-equivalent transactions and balance transfers.
- Annual fee. Some credit cards offer competitive frequent flyer points bonuses, high reward earn rates and low interest fees, but charge proportionately (or disproportionately) high annual fees for them. It is good practice to do the sums and determine if the fees for a card are worth the perks, and consider if those are perks you’ll even use in the first place.
- Points value. Getting a free return flight for simply signing up for a card and paying with plastic almost sounds too good to be true, and sometimes it really is. Sometimes you’re paying a high annual fee or high-interest rates for those points. Remember to do your research about rewards programs, consider the redemption options and decide if you will earn enough points for the card to be worth it when other costs are considered.
- Other features. Some credit cards offer other complimentary extras and perks. For example, if you travel frequently, you may want to look for a card that gives you complimentary travel insurance and low or 0% foreign transaction rates. Some cards offer purchase protection or extended warranties on your purchases, which might also appeal to you, while others have concierge services.
In general, when choosing a new credit card around Christmas, you should do your research and compare your options carefully. We also advise that you give long-term considerations more weight than immediate benefits and bonus rewards, since your credit card should be one that works for you over Christmas and beyond.
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