Cash-strapped consumers could save money by ‘shopping-around' for the latest special deals offered by banks and credit card companies to woo new customers, according to research by www.justmoney.co.za.
Deals such as low interest rates on credit cards and ‘cash-back' rewards for bank accounts are being promoted to drum-up new business. However, www.justmoney.co.za warns that although special offers look tempting, consumers should do be careful that the products still give good value once the deal is over.
Paul Beadle, general manager of www.justmoney.co.za, explains: "People are usually stuck for money in the first part of the year, so the banks and credit card companies are using these sweeteners as a way of attracting new business.
"If people ‘shop-around' they can find some good savings - but remember there is no such thing as a free lunch! Use www.justmoney.co.za to compare these offers with ordinary products and make sure you know how much you'll have to pay when the offer period is finished; only then will you know whether it's a good deal or a bad deal."
www.justmoney.co.za has found the following special deals:
FNB Credit Card Balance Transfer - Take out an FNB credit card and switch all your debts to it (including store cards, personal loans and other credit cards) and you'll pay a debit interest rate of prime minus 1% for nine months. Balance transfer deals are hugely popular in the UK with customers who jump between cheap deals being dubbed ‘interest rate tarts'. The FNB offer finishes at the end of March 2008
- The upside - At a current interest rate on 13.5%, this makes the FNB card cheaper than any other credit card and much cheaper than personal loans and store cards that can charge anything from 20% to 40% in debit interest. But remember the card rate will increase if the prime rate goes up
- The downside - Once the deal is over you will have to pay the prevailing interest rate on any balance remaining and any future spending on the card. Currently FNB cards charge around 21%, which isn't bad, but you can get cheaper deals on other credit cards
Absa balance transfer 2.6% below prime - Hot on the heels of FNB, Absa have trumped them with a deal of 2.6% below prime (which currently works out as a debit interest rate of 11.9%) on balance transfers for a whole year. Offer closes at the end of March
- The upside - a great deal for people paying off several debts looking to consolidate to one single monthly payment, which could save money in the long run
- The downside - you still have to spend at least R500 per month on your Absa card in addition to paying off the balance you have transferred, so there is a danger that your debt will get bigger. Once the deal is finished you'll pay the prevailing Absa credit card rate, currently around 23%
Nedbank R750 Bank Account Reward - Nedbank will pay new customers a reward of R750 if they open a Nedbank Ordinary Current Account, Everyday Current Account, N-5000 Investment Account or the Optimum Current Account before the end of March, which could be a nice financial boost.
- The upside - According to Nedbank the R750 reward could be equal to five month's free banking, with the bank claiming to already offer some of the most cost-effective bank accounts around
- The downside - You have to have your salary - of at least R3,000 - paid into the account and send an SMS to get your reward. Check on www.justmoney.co.za to be sure that, even with R750 cash back, it's the best account for you
Virgin Money Credit Card 0% for Three Months - already one of the cheapest credit cards around at 19.5% debit interest (what you pay on outstanding balances) and no annual fees, Virgin Money will charge new customers no interest at all for a three month introductory period. Virgin Money have not said when this offer will end
- The upside - If you buy a major purchase, such as furniture or electronics, you can pay it off over three months and pay no interest at all, which is great for budgeting
- The downside - It's still a good credit card once the deal is over, but you have to understand your obligations for paying off any debts you run up on a credit card - it's not free money!