Get a life, get a cheaper credit card

I HATE this cold turkey time between Christmas and New Year. Its only redeeming feature is the start of the sales. After all, what's the point of enduring Christmas unless you can go out afterwards and buy what you really want?

I should now solemnly repeat the personal finance editor's mantra: "Do not run up a credit card bill you can't pay off at the end of the month."

Call me reckless, but I think that's joyless crap. Obviously it's better to pay off the whole bill every month, but only half of us ever do that. Credit cards are extremely useful for short-term loans, especially at this cash-strapped time of year.

You can even justify the extravagance because using a credit card sensibly looks good on your credit record. It proves you can manage debt (mortgage lenders love to see this). As long as you are making payments on time, and paying off a significant chunk of debt each month, then you are OK.

The big caveat is that you must borrow on a cheap card. If you are one of the sad majority still carrying plastic from a traditional high street bank then you are throwing your cash away on ludicrously high interest payments, not to mention a pounds 10 or pounds 12 annual fee.

So what's keeping you from making a New Year's Resolution to swap to a cheaper credit card? Choose from this bumper selection box of excuses:

"I can't be bothered." No answer to this; you and your bank probably deserve each other.

"My bank will be angry if I swap to another card." Hello, this is the 1990s calling ... The credit card operation is run as a separate business. (And anyway, what could the bank possibly do to you?)

"I am saving up my Barclaycard Profile points." Fine. If you want to pay pounds 12,250 for a Sony Walkman. Otherwise, get a card with a decent perks scheme. Alliance & Leicester is about to launch a Gold MoneyBack card which pays you up to pounds 4 back for every pounds 100 you spend. (Minimum income pounds 20,000, call 0500 838383 for details).

"I don't want a card from a bank I have never heard of before." Why? The credit card people are lending you money rather than the other way round. If the bank goes bust, you will lose nothing. And all credit cards (except American Express credit cards) are branded as Visa or Mastercard. That's all that matters. It means you can use the card anywhere displaying the Visa/Mastercard logo.

Most of the unfamiliar names offering credit cards are American banks. Two of them are offering an APR of 6.9 per cent until next July. So if you have a large balance hanging around on your credit card account, stop being picky and move it to Capital One (0800 952 5252) or RBS Advanta (0800 077770).

Incidentally, Capital One is an enormous American firm; and RBS Advanta is now owned by the good old Royal Bank of Scotland. Is that familiar enough for you ?

i.berwick@independent.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate