Mint card's 0% offer has a hole in the middle

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The Independent Online

Rumours of the death of 0 per cent interest on credit card balance transfers have been exaggerated.

Trampling over a widely held industry belief that such deals are fast approaching the end of their shelf lives, Mint is now offering 0 per cent on balance transfers to new customers for a whopping 16 months.

It might look like the longest interest-free period of its kind on the market, but there is an expensive catch. What's actually on offer are two separate 0 per cent deals for which you qualify only if you're prepared to endure a two-month hiatus paying your debts at an annual percentage rate (APR) of 14.9.

Here's how it works.

Your balance transfers - and purchases - will be interest free for 10 months until November this year. At this point, interest on both switches to 14.9 per cent until the end of December.

Those who stick with Mint thereafter can then benefit from a further six months with no interest to pay on any new balance transfers made in the month of January 2007. But your old transferred balances and previous purchases will incur interest at the standard 14.9 APR - as will any new purchases.

And watch out for another downside: a 2 per cent fee on each balance transfer (capped at £49).

Richard Mason of the price- comparison service says the card will appeal to anybody who overspent during Christmas and is looking to switch their debt to an interest-free card that they can pay off within 10 months. However, its appeal ends there.

"[Extending the] balance transfer deal is a tactic to ensure customers use the card for next year's Christmas spending," he says. "But [at this point] there's no 0 per cent respite."

If you don't want to incur charges, Mr Mason recommends clearing your balance well before next Christmas.

Daniel Newbolt from financial analyst Moneyfacts is similarly sceptical. "While it's good to see innovation in the market, this deal is a bit confusing," he says. "There are better ways to be innovative."

Although 10 months' interest-free credit is "pretty good" - especially at a time when many 0 per cent deals are being cut - Mr Newbolt points out that the Mint offer can still be beaten by Halifax One Visa, currently offering 12 months on balance transfers, with a fee.

Elsewhere, HSBC, Abbey and Virgin are all offering nine months, though all except HSBC levy a balance transfer fee.

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