Choose a card to curb debt this Christmas

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The Independent Online

Credit cards should start to groan this week as shoppers hit the high streets in festive mood.

Credit cards should start to groan this week as shoppers hit the high streets in festive mood.

Yet thanks to interest rate rises and growing debt concerns, spending won't be quite as buoyant as last year. We're expected to splash out an average of £813 each on presents, food and drink this year, down by 6.5 per cent, says a survey from Maestro (formerly Switch).

Cash will be the most popular payment method, followed by debit cards and credit cards in that order, the survey adds. Paying for our purchases with ready money will make it easier to monitor spending and make us less susceptible to sneaky impulse purchases.

However, many of us won't have enough ready cash and will rely instead on credit cards, racking up bills now to spread the repayments in the new year.

With barely a month to go, you'll need to get your skates on if you want to get your hands on the right plastic ahead of Christmas. Although the average time taken between a credit card application and its receipt is usually just two to three weeks, the Christmas post might slow things down.

You could try applying in person to speed things up; the Halifax says that applications for its One Visa credit card take between seven and 10 days if completed in a branch. Go online or use the postal system for the same card, and you can expect to wait at least a couple of weeks.

For many, a card with a 0 per cent deal on new purchases makes good sense: you won't have to pay any interest over Christmas, and next year's repayments will instantly chip away at the outstanding debt.

Deals worth considering include Sainsbury's Bank's Visa credit card. It comes with 0 per cent on purchases for 12 months before switching to a standard annual percentage rate of 15.9.

But if you're the type of person who always pays off their debts each month, it could be better to go for a card with a loyalty scheme or cashback.

The Mint mc 2 card will earn you 0.5 per cent cashback - and, if you do find yourself unable to pay off all the debt at once, it offers a 0 per cent purchase deal for at least six months.

If you can, clear any outstanding debt before you start shopping. Piling new debt on to old makes it difficult to keep track of exactly how much you owe to separate retailers.

Try to keep all your Christmas purchases on one card, too. It will make it easier to budget as the bills start flopping through your letter box in January.

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