Credit card rates up to 17.6% despite base rate cut to 3%

12 November 2008 / by Rachael Stiles
The average credit card rate has risen to 17.6 per cent, with some providers charging as much as 30 per cent, despite the Bank of England base rate being cut four times this year and now standing at just three per cent.

While the cost of borrowing has fallen to a 53-year low since the Bank of England cut the base rate by 1.5 per cent this month, the average credit card rate is now almost six times higher than the base rate, according to research carried out by Defaqto on behalf of The Independent, up 0.4 per cent since May when the base rate was at five per cent, with some climbing as much as three per cent.

Countless ministers and consumer campaign groups have been calling on lenders to make borrowing cheaper for households which are seeing their budgets squeezed by the soaring cost of living, and while most mortgage lenders have cut their rates, credit card companies are largely escaping scrutiny as they go against the grain.



Store card customers have also seen the cost of their debt rise, by one per cent in the last six months, according to research from MoneyExpert.com, with the average store card now charging 25 per cent interest and some charging more than 30 per cent.

Notoriously expensive, store cards are becoming increasingly unaffordable, with the rate of the most expensive topping 30 per cent, despite criticism from the Competition Commission which accused lenders of making "excess profits".

Sean Gardner, director of MoneyExpert.com, said of store cards that they "can be a useful way of qualifying for instant discounts but when it comes to borrowing they are a complete rip-off. The fear must be that with other forms of credit running dry, desperate consumers will be tempted into expensive deals as a last resort for Christmas.

"As soon as the interest free periods expire, store card users will face huge APRs. Many will plan to pay it off but our research this time last year showed that one in 10 were still clearing Christmas debts incurred 12 months previously. If any of those debts were on store cards the interest alone could have been huge."

As a cheaper alternative to expensive store cards, the benefits of which are often short-lived, Mr Gardner recommends that consumers compare credit cards instead, as they offer longer zero per cent deals and lower interest rates than store cards.

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