How to whip your summer finances back into shape

Using contactless cards abroad could be costly. Photograph: PA
Using contactless cards abroad could be costly. Photograph: PA
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For many people, the summer can be just as expensive, if not more so, than Christmas. So if you’ve got a bit of spare time to sort your finances, it’s worth taking some time out from the sun to work out ways to make summer spending a little less painful.

Here are some tips from Brian Brown, head of insight at financial information business Defaqto.

◆ Get a cashback credit card

Use it for major purchases and get money back off your shopping. Remember, you should always pay your card back on time.

◆ Look for balance transfer credit cards with no fees. If you have credit card debt and can’t pay it off all at once, you might want to consider taking out a new card with 0 per cent interest, which also lets you transfer the balance with no extra fee. Offers for introductory 0 per cent balance transfer deals with no fees include deals from Barclaycard, Sainsbury’s Bank and Lloyds Bank.

◆ Borrow on a money transfer credit card. If you’re making a big purchase such as a car, or new kitchen and need to take out a loan to pay for it, consider instead using a money transfer credit card. You transfer the money you need into your current account and pay a fee, but then pay no interest for periods as long as 32 months. Depending on individual circumstances, this can often work out cheaper than the cost of a personal loan.

◆ Switch your current account provider to get a reward. For example, M&S Bank has been offering a £125 M&S gift card for switching and up to an additional £60 when you stay for 12 months, while Halifax has been offering £75 cash for people to make the move.

◆ If you need a personal loan and are getting a quote from your lender, check to see if you can get a lower interest rate by taking a larger loan. Some lenders charge lower interest rates if you borrow more, so the total amount you repay might be lower if you borrowed more money.

◆ Many people are used to using their debit cards for small contactless payments. But if you do that while abroad, it could be very costly. A large proportion of accounts charge a flat fee – typically £1.25 to £1.50 – for debit card transactions in Europe. On top of that, they will charge a further currency exchange fee, typically 2.99 per cent. Similarly, taking out small sums from ATMs while travelling abroad in Europe can be very expensive

Some banks charge a currency fee for the cash and in some cases there can be an additional fee of as much as £1.50 per withdrawal.

◆ Many home owners with a mortgage are sitting on their lender’s standard variable rate (SVR) because they have come to the end of a fixed deal. Often, these are much higher than the best fixed rate from the lender. Customers on SVR mortgages should consider moving to a decent deal whenever their current deal ends.

◆ Join a cashback website such as TopCashback and Quidco, which have links with many retailers. Before you buy, check if these websites have a link to the retailer you’re buying from. If you follow the links from the cash-back websites and make a purchase, you can often get a sizeable amount of cash back on your spending.