If like millions of other UK credit card holders, you are only paying your minimum card payments, you may soon be receiving a letter..
If you only pay the minimum payment on your credit card debt, you may well find yourself to be one of the millions of UK borrowers, who have started getting letters from their card issuer, asking you to start increasing your payments. This isn't just your card company getting strict, it's because they are forced to take more serious action to “help” people get out of debt, by the Financial Conduct Authority, (FCA).
The FCA introduced new standards for credit card companies, in an effort for consumers to save between £310 million and £1.3 billion a year in lower interest charges
The changes will provide more protection for credit card customers in persistent debt or at risk of financial difficulties.
The changes are being introduced following a comprehensive study of the credit card market. The study analysed the accounts of 34 million credit card customers over a period of five years, and surveyed almost 40,000 consumers.
Christopher Woolard, Director of Strategy and Competition said:
'These new rules will significantly reduce the numbers of customers with problem credit card debt. Credit cards offer customers flexibility to manage their finances and repayments, but with this there is a risk customers can build up and hold debt over a long period of time - without making much headway on the outstanding balance.
'Under these new rules firms will have to help customers to break the cycle of persistent debt and ensure customers who cannot afford to repay more quickly, are given help.'
Figures show that customers in persistent debt pay on average around £2.50 in interest and charges for every £1 that they repay of their borrowing. There are a total of 4 million accounts in persistent debt and firms have few incentives to help these customers because they are profitable.
Under these new rules firms will be required to take a series of escalating steps to help customers who are making low repayments over a long period, beginning when the customer has been in persistent debt over 18 months. After this time firms need to contact customers prompting them to change their repayment and informing them their card may ultimately be suspended if they do not change their repayment pattern.
Once a consumer has been in persistent debt for 36 months, their provider will have to offer them a way to repay their balance in a reasonable period. If they are unable to repay the firm must show the customer forbearance. This may include reducing, waiving or cancelling any interest, fees or charges.
Firms who do not comply with the new rules could be subject to action by the FCA.
Credit card firms have also agreed to voluntary measures, which will give customers control over increases to their credit limit. Under the measures agreed by credit card firms customers can opt-out from receiving automatic credit limit increases. Customers in persistent debt for 12 months will not be offered credit limit increases, this should result in around 1.4m accounts per year not receiving such offers.
For many people increasing their monthly payments, even slightly will most likely stop the letters, and put their account in better standing. It may be worth looking to see if you can do a balance transfer to a new card, which will stop the letters and hopefully allow you to take up an offer where you can get an interest free period, which will save you a few pounds.
If you can, try and put away a few extra pounds every week/month and use that to make some additional payments towards your credit card debt. Even a few pounds can make add up over time, and every penny repaid will ultimately reduce down the amount of interest you will have to pay by the time you have paid off your card!