Choose the 'Mr 0 per cents' of credit cards

You could never accuse the credit card industry of resting on its laurels. Ahead of our anticipated summer spending sprees, providers are furiously jockeying for position.

You could never accuse the credit card industry of resting on its laurels. Ahead of our anticipated summer spending sprees, providers are furiously jockeying for position.

At Barclaycard, final details are being thrashed out for its revamp after a year of embarrassments including the forced withdrawal of a misleading "0 per cent forever" advertising offer. The new card set for launch next month will offer 0 per cent on both balance transfers and new purchases for 12 months - longer than any rival - but the annual percentage rate (APR) to which users are automatically switched at the offer's close has yet to be finalised. It is expected to "be a little bit lower" than the current 14.9 per cent, a spokesman says.

Abbey tossed its third credit card into the ring last week, a 10.9 per cent, "flat rate" card without introductory offers, while Tesco tweaked its plastic by extending the introductory 0 per cent period to 5 March.

Apart from offers such as these, credit cards have all sorts of bells and whistles to tempt us, including discounts on car insurance, cashback, points redeemable for air miles and extended warranties on goods.

These extras are attractive if you clear your debt each month, but for the millions who struggle to pay back what they owe, your choice of card should focus on introductory offers and low APRs.

With so many different 0 per cent deals on the market, there is really no excuse for having any debt on a card charging a high rate of interest for the privilege of a place in your wallet.

If you don't clear your balance every month, switch immediately to a 0 per cent deal that won't charge you any interest on balance transfers or new purchases.

Tesco and the Halifax's One Visa both offer 0 per cent for nine months, while Mint, the Royal Bank of Scotland-backed card, gives you eight months interest free before reverting to its standard APR.

Don't forget that the interest-free part of the card is only temporary. If you reach the end of this period and still have outstanding debt, simply shift the balance to a new card offering 0 per cent.

And if you're not happy to keep chopping and changing credit cards, choose one with a low APR.

If you have a healthy credit record, Capital One's Mastercard charges an APR of 5.9.

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