The simple credit card checks to make NOW that could save you thousands of pounds

MILLIONS of borrowers can pay off their debt faster by changing their credit card and personal loans, new research suggests.

An estimated 16 million borrowers will qualify for cards with interest-free periods, potentially saving hundreds of pounds annually, credit reference agency Experian says.

Millions of borrowers can pay off their debts faster by changing their credit cards and personal loansCredit: Getty

And another six million people with personal loans could qualify for lower rate deals, the company found.

Here, Esther Shaw explains how to see if you can switch over and save without hurting your credit score.

Efforts to balance

Rising fees have pushed up the amount of money people borrow on credit cards, according to the latest Bank of England figures.

But two in three borrowers have the potential to cut costs or recoup losses more quickly by moving their debt to a new card, according to Experian.

Read More about Credit Cards

Balance transfer cards usually give you a set period of time during which no interest is charged on your debt.

During that time, as you make payments, every penny reduces your debt instead of being eaten up by interest charges.

But it is very important that you always make at least the minimum monthly payments or you risk missing the zero percent window.

Never use a balance transfer card to withdraw cash or spend money, as you may be charged interest.

Make sure you have a plan for paying off your debt during the interest-free window, as costs can spike when they end.

Barclaycard has a low fee deal of just under three percentCredit: Barclays

Best offer

FOR the best balance transfer offers, you need the best credit score.

But even if you have a lower score, you can still save on plans by switching to a card with a shorter interest-free period.

To find out which deals you’re most likely to qualify for without hurting your score, use an eligibility checker like the one at, which also covers personal loans.

The longest balance transfer deal is from MBNA, offering a whopping 31 months on zero percent.

You should carefully weigh the length of the deal against the transfer fee, which is a percentage of the balance you transfer to the card.

With an MBNA card, the fee is 3.49 percent.

But Barclaycard and NatWest both offer deals that are nearly as long, up to 30 months, for just under three percent less.

It’s usually best to choose a deal with the lowest fees and an interest-free period that’s long enough to pay off your debt.

For borrowers with lower credit scores, Virgin Money offers 16 months with a zero percent fee for a three percent fee.

Tesco Bank is offering some of the lowest rates currently offered for a loan of £7,500 over five yearsCredit: Getty Images – Getty

Smashing numbers

The SAVINGS from switching can be substantial.

If you owe £3,000 on a credit card at a typical interest rate of 23 per cent and pay £250 a month, you will be charged £395 in interest for the one year and two months it takes to pay off the balance.

If you move him to a zero per cent deal, with a typical three per cent transfer fee, you will write off the debt within a year and pay £90 in fees.

That means you’ll save £305 by switching.

But Matt Sanders of said: “Before making a choice, be sure to check what the rate will be after the interest-free period.

“Also, see if the card offers a zero percent deal on purchases, and whether annual fees or late payment penalties apply.”

When to consider a loan

LOW personal loans can be a better choice if you have a lot of cards or other debt that you want to pay off.

In this case, the credit limit on a zero percent balance transfer card may not meet your needs.

Keep in mind that with a loan, you may have higher monthly fees because you have to pay off the entire balance at the end of the agreement.

Experian estimates that about 85 percent of borrowers with existing loans can save money by switching.

But you may need to pay your current lender an early settlement fee, so be sure to weigh the full fee carefully.

Some of the lowest rates currently offered for loans of £7,500 over five years are from Tesco Bank and M&S Bank, both at 4.9 per cent, according to

But for credit card and personal loan offers advertised as “representative,” there’s no guarantee you’ll qualify for the lower prime rate.

Lenders only need to offer this rate to 51 percent of applicants.

If you are really struggling to control your debt, a loan or credit card may not be the best option, so seek free advice from charities such as or

‘It really helps’

KIDS author Josie Dom cleared £4,000 of debt with a few clever credit card shuffles.

The 52-year-old, who is the author of Lum And The Animalympics, moved balances from Barclaycard to cards with AA and Halifax to give him a few interest-free years to pay it all back.

Josie Dom cleared £4,000 of debt with some clever credit card shufflingCredit: ANNE THOMAS

Josie of Colchester, Essex, says: “This is especially helpful at a time when costs are rising, and household budgets are stretched in all directions.”

Women lose pension repayments

HUNDREDS of thousands of women who underpaid state pensions for 15 years or more will not be told they are falling behind, the Government admits.

A process is under way to identify some 230,000 retirees – mostly women – to pay an average amount of almost £9,000 after they were underpaid due to an admin error.

Hundreds of thousands of women underpaid state pensions for 15 years or moreCredit: Getty

But another group of women estimated to be in the “low hundreds of thousands” are also behind and will not be contacted.

Many of the people the Government has agreed to contact include wives with husbands under 80 and widows.

They stand to get paid back because the Government accepts that it should automatically increase their pension payments when their husbands turn 65.

The second group of mostly older women would not be contacted because the Government thought regulations at the time meant they were responsible for claiming the extra pension they were required to receive.

The husbands of these women are over 80 years old and they should receive state pension benefits when their spouses turn 65.

But many don’t realize that they need to fill out forms and claim.

They should receive at least £85 a week – or 60 per cent of their husband’s basic pension – but receive less than this for at least 15 years.

Some have still not gotten the amount to which they are entitled.

Any woman who realizes they are underpaid and calls Retirement Services will only get a year’s worth of back pay.

Former pensions minister Steve Webb, who is now a partner at financial services firm LCP, said: “It is shocking that the Government knows that hundreds of thousands of older married women can be entitled to higher pensions but has done nothing to make them aware. 15 years or so since her husband retired.”

To check if you are one of the affected women, see Steve’s guide at

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Our priority is ensuring retirees receive the financial support they are entitled to.

“As upheld by a court last year, married women whose husbands reached the state retirement age after they did, but before March 17, 2008, are required by law to file a claim for an increase in their state pension.”

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