£40 gift card when you secure an M&S loan

Secure an M&S personal loan via MoneySuperMarket and you’ll receive a £40 gift card.

If you’re in the market for a personal loan, perhaps to fund some home improvements or buy a new car, take a look at this offer from MoneySuperMarket and M&S Bank.

The basics

Anyone successfully applying for a personal loan with M&S Bank via MoneySuperMarket or MoneySavingExpert before December 4 will receive a £40 M&S gift card. T&Cs apply.

To qualify for your gift card, your loan application must first be accepted, and you’ll need to have made your first loan repayment before May 31, 2016.

Once you’ve made your first repayment, your gift card will be sent out within 60 days, and no later than June 17, 2016.

This offer applies across all M&S loans.

Is this for you?

If you’re a keen M&S shopper, the £40 gift card offer is likely to be an attractive incentive.

But ultimately, whether this offer is right for you will depend on how much you need to borrow.

If you’re looking for a medium sized loan of between £7,500 and £15,000, M&S Bank offers one of the most competitive rates at 3.5% APR representative, repaid over one to seven years.

The only bank to beat this rate is Sainsbury’s Bank, which offers 3.4% APR representative on the same borrowing size. However, this must be repaid over a shorter period of one to three years and you’ll need a Nectar card to qualify (although you can easily register for a card online or in Sainsbury’s stores).

If you don’t have a Nectar card, or need to repay your loan over three to five years, the rate rises to 3.5% APR representative – the same rate offered by M&S Bank.

M&S also offers a competitive 4.5% APR representative on sums of between £5,000 and £7,499, repaid over one to seven years.

But be aware this rate can be beaten by Clydesdale Bank’s 4.3% APR representative on borrowing of the same size, repaid over a slightly shorter one to five years. Meanwhile, if you’re looking to borrow more than £15,000, M&S’ loan rates are not so competitive, so you’ll be better off looking elsewhere.

For example, on borrowing of between £15,001 and £25,000, repaid over one to five years, you’ll pay a fairly hefty 6.8% APR representative with M&S (or 6.7% APR representative if you’re an existing M&S Bank customer).

In comparison, both Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank (which are part of the same group) offer a rate of 3.7% APR representative on borrowing of the same size, repaid over one to five years.

What makes it special?

If you’re looking to borrow between £7,500 and £15,000, M&S Bank offers a competitive deal.

And the £40 gift card is an added bonus.

Watch out for

As mentioned, to qualify for the £40 gift card you must apply for your M&S loan through MoneySuperMarket or MoneySavingExpert by December 4.

And although M&S offers one of the top loan rates for sums of between £7,500 and £15,000, remember that for borrowing of less than £7,500 and, in particular, more than £15,000, better rates are available from other lenders.

Bear in mind too that the best rates are reserved for those with a top-notch credit rating. If you haven’t checked your credit file for a while, head over to our credit monitoring channel.

It is also worth using our Smart Search tool which will show you how likely you are to be accepted for certain loans, without leaving a mark on your credit file.

What else is worth a look?

If you’re looking to borrow a fairly small sum of money, it could be cheaper to use a 0% purchase credit card instead.

The Post Office Matched credit card, for example, offers 0% on purchases for 27 months, so long as you spend on your card within the first three months.

This means you can spread the cost of your borrowing over more than two years, without worrying about interest stacking up.

Just be sure to clear your balance before the 27 months are up, as the rate is then 18.9% APR (variable)*.

You can read more about the card here.

*Representative Example: If you spend £1,200 at a purchase interest rate of 18.9% p.a. (variable) your representative rate will be 18.9% APR (variable).

All credit cards and loans are subject to status and terms and conditions. Over 18s, UK residents only. Terms and conditions apply. See MoneySuperMarket.com for further information.

The 5 worst ways to pay for Xmas

crumpled wrapping paper under a christmas tree

But when it comes to your method of payment, don’t make a rod for your own back! Here are the top five worst ways you can pay for this year’s shopping – as well as some better alternatives.

1. Payday loans

Top of the blacklist when it comes to how to pay for Christmas, is a payday loan.

With annual percentage rates (APRs) as high as 1,509%, these deals are the most expensive way to borrow money you can find. This means they should only be used as a last resort in the event of an emergency – NEVER for your Christmas shopping!

2. Store cards

Next is the dreaded store card – and, beware as right now is the time of year that retailers really start to push these deals. When you go to pay for an item, you’ll no doubt be told you could save 10% on your purchase today and enjoy other benefits – just by opening a store card.

Store card holders at Topshop for example, will get a £5 off voucher for spending £50 or more, a 15% off voucher in the first statement to use on £80 worth of spend, an extra 10%  off in-store during the first week of the Christmas and summer sales – and even a birthday treat.

All very tempting – but not only can store cards encourage you to spend more than you otherwise would, if you don’t manage them properly you’ll be whacked with incredibly high interest rates.

Topshop for example, charges a representative rate of 19.9% APR (variable), while the Burton store card charges a representative rate of 29.9% APR (representative) and New Look’s store card charges a representative rate of 28.9% APR (variable).

If you fail to clear your balance each month the interest you pay will far outweigh any savings you’ve made. So if there’s even the smallest risk of this happening, avoid store cards like the plague.

3. The wrong credit card

Using a credit card to pay for your Christmas shopping can actually be sensible option – but only if you use the right one.

Using the wrong plastic could see you paying a lot more for your shopping than what it says on the price tag.

If you are unable to clear your balance each month, for example, you should always use a credit card with a 0% purchase window, otherwise you’ll end up being hit with interest.

The Post Office Matched credit card, for example, offers 0% on purchases for 27 months, so long as you spend on the card within the first three months. If you don’t, you’ll be offered 0% for 16 months.

After the 0% introductory offer is up, you’ll pay a representative rate of 18.9% APR (variable)*, so be sure to clear your balance before then.

4. The wrong overdraft

You might be resigned to dipping into your overdraft to cover the cost of Christmas – but at least make sure it doesn’t charge you interest or fees.

For example, the Nationwide FlexDirect current account offers a 12-month fee-free overdraft – perfect to cover your Christmas shopping. Just be aware that after 12 months, you’ll pay 50p a day on arranged overdrafts over £10 (the first £10 of your overdraft is free), so be sure to get back into the black before then.

Alternatively, the First Direct 1st Account offers a £250 interest-free overdraft. You’ll be charged 15.9% EAR (variable) on arranged overdrafts above this.

You’ll also receive £100 for switching to the First Direct account, so long as you pay in at least £1,000 within the first three months.

You’ll need to pay £1,000 or more into the account each month or have another product with the bank, such as a savings account, to avoid a £10 monthly fee.

Find out more about the best overdrafts to use here.

5. Some savings pots

As a rule, dipping into your savings to pay for Christmas is always better than getting in to debt, but there are some savings accounts which should ideally be left alone – primarily cash ISAs and fixed rate bonds.

In this tax year, you can invest up to £15,240 into a tax-free cash ISA. However, if you withdraw any funds from your cash ISA, you can’t top it back up again – so if you’ve used the full allowance, then withdraw £1,000, you won’t be able to pay that back in this tax year. So think carefully before dipping into these kinds of funds.

Meanwhile, if you have a fixed rate bond, penalties for withdrawing money before the account matures can be extremely high – so again, this is best avoided.

Of course, if you are using savings to fund Christmas, you should still ensure you have an emergency cash cushion to fall back on.

Better ways to pay for Christmas

So now we’ve cleared up what you shouldn’t do, what should you do to fund the next month of shopping?

As already mentioned, using a 0% purchase credit card will allow you to spread the cost of your Christmas spending interest-free over a number of months. Just ensure you clear your balance before the 0% deal ends.

However, a credit card could still be handy even if you don’t need to spread the cost of your spending and can pay off your balance in full every month.

That’s because a number of credit cards allow you to earn something back on your spending – whether that’s supermarket points or cashback.

You can find out more about the best reward cards to use for your Christmas shopping in this article.

* Representative Example: If you spend £1,200 at a purchase interest rate of 18.9% p.a. (variable) your representative rate will be 18.9% APR (variable).

All overdrafts are subject to status and approval.

All credit cards are subject to status and terms and conditions. Over 18s, UK residents only. Terms and conditions apply. See MoneySuperMarket.com for further information.

Use our Smart Search tool – and find top loans and credit cards

Use our super Smart Search tool – and find best-ever loan and credit card deals

Fierce competition among credit providers has resulted in tumbling personal loan rates and lengthier interest-free credit card offers.

But there’s a catch. To be accepted for these ever-keener deals on borrowing, you’ll need an excellent credit score.

If you don’t know the shape your credit score is in and your application is rejected, you can damage it even further. That’s why it pays to know about Smart Search – a nifty tool which is completely free to use and keeps your credit score intact.

Here we explain what Smart Search is, how to use it – and set out the raft of ever-improving deals it could help you get your hands on.

Great deals

First off, what’s been happening on borrowing?

Personal loan rates are continuing to drop, and you can now enjoy rates just above the 3% APR representative mark on borrowing between £7,500 and £15,000.

For smaller borrowing, say between £1,000 and £2,000, a 0% purchase credit card should do the trick as you won’t be charged interest during the promotional period. And the top deals at the moment offer interest-free purchases for more than two years.

If you have existing card debt that you want to shift, you’ll need a 0% balance transfer credit card – and terms have improved on these too. They now offer up to three years or more to clear your debt before interest kicks in, while transfer fees have been coming down.

Just be sure to clear your balance before the 0% window ends.

If you don’t know the shape your credit score is in and your application is rejected, you can damage it even further

Will you get accepted?

There’s nothing to stop you applying for great deals like these – but the reality is, only 51% of successful applicants need to qualify for the rates in order for providers to advertise them. That means an awful lot of people are turned down.

Using the MoneySuperMarket Smart Search tool will tell you how likely you are to be accepted for a form of credit without leaving a mark on your credit file. How Smart Search works will depend on whether you are applying for a loan or a credit card. If you’re applying for a loan follow these steps:

-From the loans homepage, click on the green ‘Find a loan’ button

-Enter details such as how much you need to borrow, how long you want to borrow it and your annual income – this will take less than two minutes

-This will trigger the credit reference agency Experian to carry out a ‘soft search’ of your credit score. BUT unlike a regular search, it won’t be visible to lenders. In fact, only you will be able to see it on your credit file

-A list of loans will spring up in a matter of seconds and tell you how likely you are to be accepted for each. Likelihood is expressed as a simple percentage on a dial and is colour-coded red, amber and green

-Results will be ordered by eligibility, so those closest to 100% (furthest into the ‘green’) will be at the top. If you prefer, you can re-order them from the lowest to highest APR

-The rest is up to you. You might decide to go for the loan with the highest chance of acceptance (90% for example), instead of a cheaper loan that you’ve a lower chance of being accepted for (say, 50%)

If you’re applying for a credit card:

-From our credit card homepage, click on the ‘Find a card’ button on our comparison tables

-Enter details such as your name, your annual income and the name of your main bank

-A list of credit cards will spring up and tell you how likely you are to be accepted for each. This is expressed as a score out of 10 and is colour-coded red, amber and green

-Results will be ordered by eligibility, so those closest to 10 will be at the top. But, if you prefer, you can change this to the longest 0% deal, for example

-Again, you can use this information to assess the benefits of the credit card versus your chances of getting it

A final word…

Smart Search is a really useful tool – but it’s only an indication of acceptance and NOT a steadfast guarantee.

We’re working hard on it, not all providers have agreed to take part in Smart Search yet. This means the list returned to you won’t feature the whole market.

But, so long as you keep this in mind, Smart Search could still help you to find the right loan or credit card, without damaging your credit score.

Paying off debt can make more sense than saving

couple looking at computer

Banks, building societies, the government of the day, our parents – there are lots of people telling us we should save money.

So it’s perhaps no surprise that we feel bad if we don’t put money aside for the future.

But does it make economic sense? Many of us would in fact be better off if we ignored the advice to save and instead paid off our debts.

Debt debate

Let’s say a family has a credit card debt of £1,000 and savings of £1,000 in an easy access account.

The interest rate on the credit card is 19%, which means the debt costs £190 a year. But the interest rate on the savings account is a mere 2% gross, so the annual savings interest is just £20 – before tax (at 20%, 40% or 45%, depending on your tax band).

In other words, the family spends more on the debt than it earns on the savings – £170 more to be precise. So, if the family used the money in the savings account to clear the debt, they would be £170 better off a year.

Tax change

Tax will take a smaller bite from our savings from April 2016, when the Personal Savings Allowance comes into force.

Basic rate taxpayers will then no longer pay tax on the first £1,000 of interest they earn from savings. For higher rate taxpayers, it’s the first £500.

But you should do the sums because you could still save money by not saving money.

The figures are particularly compelling because savings rates are currently so low. The top easy access account pays about 1.65%. Or you can earn about 1.5% in a tax-free cash individual savings account (ISA).

Interest payments

The interest rates on personal loans, credit cards and overdrafts are usually much higher. The typical credit card rate, for example, is about 19%.

In other words, it is more expensive to borrow money than to save. Anyone with savings who also has costly debts should therefore consider using at least part of their savings to help clear their debts.

It makes sense to always pay off the most expensive debts first – and watch out for any penalties.

If you have a personal loan, for example, there could be a penalty of several months’ interest if you pay off the debt before the end of the loan term. It can still make financial sense to clear the debt, but you have to factor the penalty into your calculations.

The cheapest – and biggest – debt is usually the mortgage. You should therefore only pay off, or pay down, the mortgage if you have cleared other, more costly debts. Otherwise, the same calculation applies.

So, if the mortgage interest rate is higher than the savings interest rate, you should consider cutting down the amount you owe on the home loan.

 Substantial savings

The savings can be substantial. Let’s assume you have a £100,000 repayment mortgage at 3.5% over 20 years. If you paid just £50 extra a month, you would clear the debt after 18 years and save a total of £4,700.

Penalties often apply if you clear all or some of your mortgage early, although more lenders these days allow you to pay off up to 10% of the outstanding debt each year without penalty.

Alternatively, you could consider an offset mortgage, where your savings are ‘offset’ against your borrowings.

For example, if you have a mortgage of £100,000 and savings of £10,000 you would pay mortgage interest only on £90,000. You can also usually access your savings in an emergency.

Cheap borrowing

If it’s cheaper to borrow than to save, there’s nothing to gain by paying off debts.

For example, if you have a 0% credit card, you are effectively borrowing money for free. You should therefore keep any spare cash in a savings account where it can earn interest at a higher rate.

Cash cushion

Some people are reluctant to empty their savings account because they feel exposed without a cushion of cash in case of an emergency.

Many experts also advise people to keep the equivalent of three months’ earnings in a savings account (if possible, of course).

But not everyone agrees – and some advisers argue that your emergency fund could be costing you dear.

Let’s go back to our fictitious family. Suppose they used their £1,000 savings to clear their debt, but then the car broke down. How would they pay for the repair?

Well, they could put the bill on the credit card, or possibly take out a loan or overdraft. They wouldn’t be any worse off, and would probably have already saved money on the interest payments.

Of course, if you don’t have access to credit, it’s a good idea to keep some money in a savings account in case of an emergency. You should also resist the temptation to get into a debt cycle. So, once you have paid off a debt, don’t then go on a spending spree.

Pension priority

Pensions are possibly the exception to the rule about prioritising debt clearance over saving.

First, there are generous tax breaks on pensions.

Second, your employer might contribute to a workplace pension scheme on your behalf.

Also, the earlier you start to save into a pension the better as your money has more time before your retirement in which to grow.

You should therefore only prioritise debt clearance over pension savings if the interest payments on your debt are critically high.

How to check your credit score

How to check your credit score

When you apply for any form of credit, such as a credit card, personal loan or mortgage, one of the first things a lender will do is check that your credit score is up to scratch.

Your credit score effectively shows how well you’ve managed credit in the past. The higher your score, the more likely any credit applications you make will be accepted, whereas the lower your score, the harder you’ll find it to borrow.

Ways to check your credit score

There are three main credit reference agencies, Experian, CallCredit and Equifax, all of which will have a record of your credit rating.

You can get a copy of your statutory credit file for £2 from any of these agencies. This can be done online using the following links:




You can also apply for a copy of your credit report by post.

Alternatively, there are other services which offer free access to your credit report, such asClearScore and Noddle.

Some banks and credit card providers, such as Barclaycard and Tesco Bank, also provide their customers with free access to their credit report.

Free and statutory reports will provide basic information on your credit score, but credit reference agencies also offer comprehensive ‘credit monitoring’ services for an extra charge, usually in the form of a monthly fee.

These will provide more detail information on your report and will notify you if there is any unusual activity, for example if someone is making numerous applications for credit in your name.

Experian and Equifax both offer 30-day free trials for these services, so if you don’t want to pay the monthly fee, be sure to cancel before the 30 days are up.

How your credit score is shown

Different credit reference agencies show your score in different ways.

Experian and Equifax express it as a score out of 999, while Callcredit scores you out of five.

Regardless of which numbers are used, the higher the score you get, the better your credit score is.

That means whether you score four out of five or 950 out of 999, you’ve got a very good score, whereas if your score is one or two out for five, or 200 out of 999, your score is bad.

If your score isn’t what you were expecting, make sure there aren’t any irregularities in your credit report. For example, can you spot any information that is incorrect, such as missed payments when you know you paid on time?

If you find something wrong, let the relevant company know so they can amend their records, and put a ‘notice of correction’ on your credit report explaining why the information shown is incorrect.

Bear in mind that your credit score will form only part of any lender’s decision whether or not to lend to you.

They will all base their decisions on different criteria, so just because you are refused by one provider, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will be turned down by them all.

Don’t make multiple credit applications if you are initially refused though as this could damage your credit score further.

Instead, use our Smart Search tool which will give you an indication of how likely you are to be accepted for credit cards or loans without leaving a mark on your credit file.

How to make a PPI claim

How to make a PPI claim


It’s been about five years since the British Bankers’ Association gave up its legal fight over the mis-selling of PPI, and decided not to appeal against a court challenge against new mis-selling rules.

Since then millions of people affected by PPI mis-selling have claimed compensation, costing the banks somewhere in the region of £24 billion – way above the £8 million that was estimated when the scandal broke.

And despite already having set aside around £14 billion cover the costs of PPI mis-selling, Lloyds Banking group, which owns Lloyds TSB, Halifax and Bank of Scotland, has announced it is allocating a further £2.1bn to the compensation fund to try and finally put an end to the mis-selling saga.

So if you think you may have been mis-sold PPI, here’s what you need to do…

How do I know if my PPI policy was mis-sold?

The rules around how lenders can sell PPI have changed – it can no longer be sold at the time you take out a credit card, loan or finance package (such as those you sign up for is you buy new electrical goods or furniture). In the past however, that was commonly the time PPI would be pushed.

The reason why there has been such an issue with this insurance product is that there are lots of exclusions which often weren’t explained. As a result many people paid for a policy they wouldn’t be eligible to make a claim on.

Even now, you may not be aware of whether or not you’d in fact be eligible to make a claim on your PPI policy.

It’s important to check the terms and conditions, but common exclusions include those who aren’t in work. Therefore if you were unemployed, a student, house wife/house husband or carer when you took the policy out, it won’t cover you. Also, PPI doesn’t cover the self-employed.

Some medical conditions which may prevent you from working are also commonly excluded, such as stress and back pain.

If the terms of the policy weren’t explained to you, you have a case for claiming compensation.

If you think you were mis-sold PPI on a loan, store card or credit card payments and you’re thinking about making a claim, there are two options for you to consider:

Option 1

Option 1 is wait for the bank to contact you about compensation. Before the court ruling was made it was always up to the customer to make a complaint and to ask for compensation, but since the ruling last month, banks are now required to contact PPI customers who may be eligible for compensation.

Option 2

The second option is to be pro-active about your claim and not wait for the bank or lender to get in touch. Write to the bank or lender and explain to why you think you were mis-sold PPI. They should then get back to you to let you know whether you have a viable claim or not.

If you haven’t heard back from them after eight weeks, or you think the bank or lender has made the wrong decision, then it may be time to take your case to the independent Financial Ombudsman Service, which has welcomed the new ruling.

You can visit the Financial Ombudsman Service website, or you can contact the service on 08000 234567.

Chief ombudsman Caroline Wayman said: “During 2015, PPI complaints finally began to approach stable levels – but we’re still seeing the volume of cases at a much higher level than many people expected.”

The Financial Conduct Authority has also recognised the need to draw a line under the scandal and has proposed giving consumers a deadline of 2018 to claim PPI redress.

So if you think you’ve been mis-sold PPI, make sure you get your claim in as soon as possible so you don’t miss out on money that’s rightfully yours.

Snubbed for credit? How to fight back

Snubbed for credit? How to fight back

It means you’ve got access to mega useful products such as a 0% balance transfer credit card – a great place to park lingering debts while you pay them off.

Ditto getting the thumbs up on a cheap personal loan with regular fixed payments.

But what if your credit score isn’t up to scratch? Would that mean you’d have no hope of getting the deal you’re after?

Thankfully not – but you might need to a few repairs to set things straight. Let’s have a look…

What’s the problem?

When it comes to credit-based products such as plastic cards and loans, banks will simply reject your application if you fail to meet their lending criteria.

And if you rack up a raft of rejections, it could further damage your chances of being accepted elsewhere.

Improve your chance of success

Rejected applications leave black marks on credit files.

These are maintained by credit reference agencies and used by lenders to help them make decisions about prospective customers.

So here’s a 10-point action plan to increasing your chances of being accepted for a low-rate loan or balance transfer card.

 1. Search smart with SmartSearch

It’s easy to say you should only apply for deals you’re likely to get. But how do you know which ones they are?

The best way is to use MoneySuperMarket’s SmartSearch credit profiling tool, which is an option you can click on when you look at a credit card on our site.

“SmartSearch reveals the credit cards you have the best chance of getting – and it does it without leaving a footprint on your credit file,” says Kevin Mountford.

2. Go easy on those applications

Making multiple applications in a short space of time is likely to have an adverse impact on your credit file.

It makes you look a bit desperate – even if you’re not – and lenders don’t want customers in desperate situations.

So if you receive a rejection, don’t apply elsewhere until you’ve checked your credit report.

3. Check your report…

You can find out what’s on your credit file and correct any mistakes that might be turning lenders against you.

The main agencies are Experian, Equifax and Call Credit.

Reports cost just £2 each if you only want a statutory copy which you can get from the agencies direct or you can look at our credit monitoring channel to see more indepth options.

Either way, seeing your report means you can get errors put right.

4. Register to vote

Most companies use the Electoral Roll to combat identity fraud.

If you’re not on it at your current address, you risk being rejected due to fraud concerns.

It’s easy to register: just contact your local authority or sign up online.

5. Close unused accounts

You know that old credit card hanging around in your wallet? It could be the reason your application for a new card is turned down.

Lenders look at the total amount of credit available to you, and they start to fret if you’ve got a lot of unused credit lying around – there’s always the chance you could suddenly use it and subsequently struggle to pay off all your debts, including what you owe them.

So close any old accounts you no longer use unless that card comes with benefits you don’t want to lose.

6. Pay on time

Missing a payment date is one of the best ways to scupper your chances of being accepted for credit.

After all, what lender wants a customer they can’t trust to pay on time?

Setting up a direct debit or standing order to cover your bills is a good way to avoid mistakes.
If you are struggling to pay, contact the company involved before the payment date to it’s not a shock to their system.

7. Don’t over-extend yourself

Maxing out your credit card can indicate to lenders that you are in trouble financially.

Missing a payment date is one of the best ways to scupper your chances of being accepted for credit

It also makes it much more likely that you will exceed your limit – and be charged accordingly.

To be safe, it is therefore sensible to only borrow up to 30% of your overall credit limit at any one time.

8. Be open and accurate

Always complete applications for credit accurately and honestly.

Lies will often come out and lead to your application being declined.

Make sure that any changes to your circumstances – redundancy, divorce, etc – are noted, along with settlements of any old debts such as County Court Judgments.

You can even place a Notice of Correction on your credit file explaining the background to any arrears, for example that you missed payments because you were ill.

9. Build a credit history

Borrowing too much is not a wise move if you want to be accepted for the best credit cards and loans.

But not borrowing enough can also work against you.

Lenders use your credit file to check you are capable of meeting payment terms. So having no or little credit history can prove a problem.

Ways to build one include opening a bank account, taking out a normal credit card that you pay off in full every month, and using a contract mobile phone – again paying your bills on time and by direct debit if possible.

10. Demonstrate stability

Banks feel safer lending to people who are “safe and secure”.

So staying at the same address, sticking with the same job and using the same bank can all work in your favour.

In other words, don’t switch banks just before asking for a loan, and don’t apply for a credit card just after moving house.

Loans versus credit cards

Loans versus credit cards: Which is right for you?

Loans and credit cards can both provide you with the funds you need – whether that’s to pay for a new car or home improvements – but they work in very different ways.

Here’s our rundown of the pros and cons of each to help you decide which is right for you.

Credit cards


Lengthy 0% deals – One of the big advantages of many credit cards is they offer lengthy 0% introductory rates on purchases.

Provided you pay off what you owe during the introductory period, this means you won’t have to pay interest on your borrowing.

The most competitive credit cards currently offer 0% on purchases for more than two years. Just be sure to clear your debt before the interest-free window ends.

Money transfers – Several credit cards also allow you to make money transfers directly into your current account, which can be useful if you need a cash injection, and rates are often much lower than if you were to take out a personal loan.

In some cases, you won’t have to pay any interest on this borrowing for three years or more. But be aware transfer fees can be high – often around 4% – and you should try to pay off your balance in full before the 0% deal ends and interest kicks in.

Consumer protection – Thanks to Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, when you buy something costing between £100 and £30,000 using a credit card, the card provider is jointly liable with the retailer if something goes wrong.

So, for example, if you ordered a chair costing £150 and the shop you bought it from goes bankrupt before it is delivered, the credit card provider should provide you with a full refund.


Interest charges – You need to be disciplined about paying off what you owe on a credit card as soon as possible (and definitely before a 0% offer ends), or interest charges can soon mount up. Unlike loans, credit cards don’t require you to clear your balance within a certain timeframe.

Low minimum payments – Minimum monthly payments on cards are often set at very low levels. If you only pay this amount each month, not only will it take you longer to clear your debt, you’ll pay out far more in interest. So try to pay off more than the minimum if you can.

Low credit limits – Another downside is that credit cards usually don’t offer particularly high credit limits, so if you need to make a big purchase, you may not be able to borrow the sum you need.



Larger borrowing at great rates – You can usually borrow more using a loan than a credit card.

And the good news is if you’re looking to borrow between £7,500 and £15,000, rates are more competitive than ever. In fact, the most competitive rates now hover just above the 3% APR representative mark.

Greater flexibility – Another advantage of a loan is that you can decide how long you need to repay what you owe. If you’re borrowing a large lump sum, you can therefore choose to spread your monthly repayments over a number of years.

You’ll have peace of mind that you know exactly how much you’re repaying each month, and that at the end of the term there will be nothing left to pay.


Higher rates for smaller sums – One of the biggest downsides of loans is that rates are often more expensive if you are only borrowing a small amount.

If you take out a loan of around £3,000, for example, you’ll currently be charged more than 7% APR representative.

Fees – If you want to pay off your loan early, there may be a penalty charge to do this, which is usually equivalent to two or three months’ interest.

Some lenders also charge arrangement fees, which can increase the overall cost of credit.

Use our Smart Search tool

Whether you choose a loan or a credit card, you’ll probably want to get accepted quickly. And that’s where our Smart Search tool comes in.

It gives you an idea of how likely you are to be accepted before you apply, and it won’t leave a mark on your credit file. This can save you a lot of time when you come to actually apply for the card or loan you’ve chosen.

All you need to do is click on the ‘Find a loan’ or ‘Find a card’ button on our comparison tables, enter details such as your name, income and how much you need to borrow, and you’ll then be shown a list of credit cards or loans along with how likely you are to be accepted for each.

You can read more about this here.

All credit cards and loans are subject to status and terms and conditions. Over 18s, UK residents only. Terms and conditions apply. See MoneySuperMarket.com for further information.

Could a personal loan work for you?

Could a personal loan work for you?

If you’re looking to borrow a substantial sum – whether that’s to fund home improvements or a new car – the limit on a credit card sometimes just won’t stretch far enough.

In which case, a personal loan could be a better option. Here are a few reasons why…

1. Competitive interest rates

Thanks to low interest rates, taking out a personal loan could be a lot cheaper than you think.

IKANO Bank, for example (which is owned by the family that founded IKEA), is currently offering 3.2% APR representative on borrowing of between £7,500 and £15,000, so long as you repay this over one to five years.

Sainsbury’s Bank also offers 3.2% APR representative on borrowing of the same amount, but you’ll need to repay it over one to three years and apply before 10am on October 6. You’ll also need to have a Nectar card to qualify.

If you don’t have a Nectar card, or you want to borrow over four to five years, you’ll pay 3.3% APR representative.

HSBC and M&S Bank also both offer 3.3% APR representative on borrowing of between £7,500 and £15,000. With HSBC you must repay your loan over one to five years, with M&S, this rises to one to seven years.

Should you need to borrow more than £15,000, Sainsbury’s Bank is currently offering 3.2% APR representative on borrowing of between £15,001 and £19,999 taken over two to three years. Again, this is so long as you apply before 10am on October 6 and you have a Nectar card.

If you don’t have a Nectar card, or you want to borrow over four to five years, the rate rises slightly to 3.3% APR representative.

If your borrowing requirements aren’t quite so large – say you want to borrow between£5,000 and £7,499 – rates are still competitive, but tend to be higher. This means if you’re borrowing towards the end of the loan bracket (£7,000, for example), it can sometimes work out cheaper to borrow more and qualify for a lower interest rate.

IKANO Bank offers 4.1% APR representative on loans of between £5,000 and £7,499 repaid over one to five years.

And Sainsbury’s Bank offers 4.2% APR representative on borrowing of the same size repaid over one to three years. You’ll need to be a Nectar card holder to qualify.

2. Fixed monthly payments

Another advantage of personal loans is that they allow you to make fixed monthly payments, which means you know exactly how much you’re repaying each month.

Not only does this help you to budget, you can be reassured that once you’ve met all of these repayments, your loan will be paid off in full.

For example, if you borrowed £8,000 over three years with IKANO Bank at 3.2% APR representative and an annual interest rate of 3.15% fixed, you’d pay £233.19 per month for 36 months. The total amount of interest you’d pay would be £394.95, making the total amount repayable £8,394.95. (Note this is a representative example.)

3. Flexibility

Personal loans also offer the flexibility of allowing you to choose how long you need to pay back what you owe. So if you’re borrowing a fairly large sum, you can choose to spread your repayments over a number of years, making it far more palatable.

What’s more, some providers, such as Sainsbury’s Bank, offer the option of a payment holiday of two months at the start of the agreement. Be aware though you will be charged interest between the start date of your loan and your first monthly payment.

What to watch out for

When comparing loans, there are a number of things to look out for before you sign on the dotted line. These include:

– A fee if you choose to pay off your loan early – often this is around two three months’ interest.
– An arrangement fee for taking out the loan.
– You may receive a higher interest rate than the one advertised. This is because the APR is representative so only has to be offered to 51% of applicants.

Also be aware that if your credit score is poor, perhaps because you’ve defaulted on debts in the past or had a County Court Judgment (CCJ), lenders are more likely to turn you down.

It’s therefore a good idea to use our Smart Search tool which will give you an idea of how likely you are to be accepted for a loan before you apply, without leaving a mark on your credit report.

Simply click on ‘Find a loan’ on our comparison tables, enter details such as your name, income and how much you want to borrow, and you’ll then be able to view a list of loans along with how likely you are to be accepted for each.

Shop around for the best personal loan

Savvy borrowers thinking about using current low interest rates to shop for a new loan or refinance old debts will need to do their homework to find the best personal loan deals.

Australia’s official cash rate target may be down to 2 per cent but rates on personal loans range from under 6 per cent, up to a hefty 18 per cent.

But personal loans are often a cheaper option than many credit cards, so how do you make sure you find the best personal loan for your needs?

1. What’s your reason for borrowing?

Loans advertised specifically for the purpose of debt consolidation (rolling all your existing cards and lines of credit into one straightforward agreement and repayment schedule) usually have a higher interest rate.

Rates can be fixed or variable on consolidation loans but they are more likely to require that you provide security. They may also have an application fee and even an ongoing fee.

You can get a cheaper loan if you have a specific purpose for borrowing such as to purchase a car or to pay for home furnishings.

2. Fixed or variable rate?

Personal loans in Australia traditionally came with a fixed interest rate and repayment term. Their attraction was that you knew exactly what your repayment schedule would be for the life of the loan. Now fixed and variable rate personal loans are available from most lenders and the decision is really up to you and your personal circumstances. A fixed rate loan will give you the peace of mind to be able to budget for the long-term whereas as variable loan might go down if there is a rate cut, but this is by no means guaranteed, and you have to be prepared for the fact it could also go up.

3. Secured or unsecured?

It is possible to find an unsecured loan with a reasonably competitive interest rate, although the cheapest loans are currently secured. That means you need to provide an asset (such as a car) as security against the amount you are borrowing. The lenders decision to approve an unsecured loan will depend on the amount you are borrowing, your credit history and ability to repay.

4. What other features should you consider?

Don’t overlook fees, including the application fee and any ongoing charges. Also check penalties for missed repayments. Make sure you are able to make extra payments but also check if a penalty applies for early repayment of the loan (particularly if it has a fixed interest rate).

If you are concerned about job security it may be worth looking for a loan that allows you to defer repayments.

To find the lowest rates online, compare personal loans at RateCity today.