Credit card providers slash 0% promotions on balance transfer cards by up to a third

Nine months ago, there were 10 banks offering 0 per cent interest for periods lasting more than 40 months, but now the longest offer is for 33 months.

Two of the leading 0 per cent offers are no longer even available for new customers, according to a MoneyComms investigation.

Andrew Hagger of Moneycomms said: "As we approach the new year, the traditional time for people to re jig their card debt, the longest interest free terms are down by between 25 per cent and 33 per cent.

"If the trend continues borrowers may find that even securing a 30-month term come January may not be possible."

Data from UK Finance shows that only 55.1 per cent of outstanding credit card balances are being charged interest.

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That means almost half of us are taking advantage of these 0 per cent offers.

Banks had been extending the length of time customers could go without paying interest in a bid to attract new customers.

But now, it seems that banks are cutting back, which could leave consumers struggling to stay afloat.

The concern is that Brits with mounting debts may find that they can't meet high interest payments, if they can't secure a new 0 per cent rate.

This could leave people having to pay huge interest rates of 20 per cent or 30 per cent on their borrowing.

Mr Hagger continued: "Some people will be using 0 per cent as a smart way to save money, however for others it is simply a life jacket to help them continue to tread water as they struggle to manage mounting levels of debt.

"The problem is nobody knows how much of the £30billion ‘free borrowing’ relates to those under financial pressure – increasingly this will be an issue for these customers if long term 0 per cent credit is suddenly no longer an option."

How to clear your debts

0 per cent cards are one of the most popular ways of dealing with debts.

By transferring debts with high interest to one of these cards, consumers can make sure the money they pay goes towards clearing what they owe, not just paying interest.

But the rate you'll get will depend on your credit rating, and not everyone will have access to the best deals.

How to cut the cost of your debt

  • Don't bury your head in the sand – Check your bank balance at least once a week. Understanding how you spend is the first step towards managing your finances.
  • Start budgeting  – write down your weekly income then deduct essential bills such as food, energy, commuting and council tax.
    Whatever is leftover is your budget for the month. Set aside a chunk to pay down your debts and work out what you'll spend and save.
  • Cut costs – look at ways you can cut your expenditure such as switching energy provider or swapping from named brands to supermarket essential options.
  • Overpay your debts – The more you pay off the less interest you'll pay over time. This is espeically through for credit card debts. With loans or mortgages check first as there may be a mximum you can overpay.
  • Prioritise – Things like rent or mortgages, council tax and energy bills may have serious consequences if you miss the payments.If you can afford to overpay, make sure you target the highest interest rates first.
  • Get advice – If you can't afford what you owe – don't panic, there's plenty of free help available!
    Contact debt charity Stepchange, Citizens Advice or the National Debt helpline where experts can talk you through your options.
    You can also get help to prioritise debts and negotiate with creditors to set up affordable payment plans.

Fortunately, even though the length of offers is being reduced, the cards aren't disappearing altogether.

If you do have debts, it's worth trying to transfer them to the lowest interest rate you can get access to.

You need to make a note of when the offer runs out, so you can switch any outstanding money you owe to another low interest card.

Try to pay off as much as you can in the 0 per cent period, so if you do have to pay interest when it runs out, the amount outstanding will be lower.

Here's how to take years off your credit card balance by increasing payments by just £1 a day

Nearly half of Brits are hiding a total of £96billion worth of debt from their family and friends.

The number of bankruptcies presented by lenders has shot up by 16 per cent year-on-year, according to the Insolvency Service.

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