Finance experts are warning consumers to be wary of their purchases this Christmas. The lure of interest-free days on credit cards has, traditionally, caught many shoppers off guard.

Interest-free periods are pernicious in several ways:

First, they lure shoppers into spending more than they normally would.

Second, they allow the shopper time to forget about the purchase, in the hope their debt will extend beyond the interest-free threshold and start accruing punitive interest rates.

Third, the sheer variety of restrictions applied to credit cards adds to the likelihood of not paying the lump sum by the due date.

Mozo, a comparison site for credit cards, recognizes around 200 credit cards on the Australian market. All but 10 per cent of them have interest-free days between 40 to 62 days: A bonus to those careful enough to pay the lump sum by the due date; a curse to those who are not.

“Interest-free days provide some relief from having an expensive Christmas by giving you extra time to pay off your expenses rather than having all the osts hit at once,:” says Mozo spokeswoman Kirsty Lamont.

“But it’s very easy to indulge and to overspend if you know you don’t have to pay back those expenses for another month or so.

“If you are using a credit card make sure you set yourself a budget.”

Credit cards have a slew of different regulations unique to each of them. Interest rates can vary from 8.99 per cent to 23.5 per cent; with the average falling around 17.5 per cent.

And the difference in repayments can be staggering:

Assuming a credit card debt of $4200 the repayments for the highest interest cretit card (23.5%) would come to $108 per month. At minimum repayment it would take 30 years to clear the debt.

However, the same balance at the lowest rate (8.99%) would attract monthly repayments of $85 per month and be cleared much, much sooner.

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