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Christmas Hangover Tips

Jan 19, 2008
Running up enormous credit card debt is as traditional a part of Christmas as defrosting a turkey with a hairdryer or watching your grandma dance drunkenly on the washing machine.

When January comes you are inevitably left looking back with a mixture of self-pity, remorse and a strange curiosity about how she got up there in the first place.

Obviously in an ideal world you would not be up to your neck in bills. But hey, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas, and that internet betting account would not be in the increasingly rosy position it appears to occupy.

Fear not, for credit card catastrophe is a temporary complaint and need not be the end of the world.

Here are five tips to solve any Christmas credit hangover. Or at least smooth it over for while until you get the chance to pay it off.

Shop around

Credit cards are not football teams and there are no prizes for following them loyally towards a hopeless end. If you have a balance that you are unlikely to pay off this decade, then whatever you do, do not sit and pay the huge interest rates that inevitably come with it. Lots of cards offer zero per cent introductory interest rates that can apply for up to 15 months. They are an excellent way to take a break from big repayments and make life a bit more comfortable. They are not an excuse for hitting the January sales like a leary bull dog. If you don't have the energy to leap around from card to card then look for a deal with a low-rate lifetime balance interest instead.

The 15 month interest free deal comes from Virgin Money, though it does have a slightly higher than average transfer fee (the cost of transferring the balance from one card to another). If you want a longer deal then look at HSBC's lifetime balance which charges just 2.9 per cent for two years.

Cancel Payment Protection Insurance (PPI)

This is generally a complete waste of money that you only end up paying for if you forget to untick a box at the end of the application form. Cancel it and you instantly save yourself between 6 and 25 a month. Obviously it will come in handy if you break a leg or lose your job, but if neither looks likely in the immediate future, then there are far cheaper ways to protect yourself.

Cancel Card Protection Plans (CPP)

As with payment protection, card protection is an expensive extra that you just don't need. It is nice to have just one number to ring if you lose your cards, but for the 20 a year you don't really get a lot more in the way of protection than you do from your credit card company in the first place. Get rid.

Don't forget your savings

There is no point having 3,000 in the bank when you have 1,000 balance on your credit card costing you 150 a year. Transfer the money across and save yourself some dough, because there is no way your savings account is going to pay enough interest to cancel out your credit card charges.

Don't put it all off

The minimum repayment option may seem like a great idea but all you end up doing is paying interest on top of interest. With a typical interest rate of 15% it take 15 years to pay off the average card balance of 1,137 according to Moneyfacts, and that would include 855 of interest. Pay off as much as you can reasonably afford and you'll find yourself much better off.
About the Author
Robert Wood - Credit Cards
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