Credit cards – what to do to prevent debt, missed payments and damage to your credit score…
(18/1/2016) January is often a time when our personal finances are tight. And it is then that you’ll be most tempted to let your credit card balance creep up
Yet if they’re used properly, credit cards can be a good way to help you manage your personal finances and even improve your credit score. You just need to make sure you’re not stung by hefty interest rates and, as far as possible, that you clear your balance entirely every month
So what do you need to know when managing your credit cards? And what do you do when you have an issue with your credit card or provider?
Credit cards are covered by a Code of Conduct set up by the industry, the Financial Ombudsman Service and the Financial Conduct Authority. The finance industry works on the principle of being fair and reasonable in the way you are treated. So for example”
• Details of your interest rate, charges and outstanding should be clearly marked on your statements
• If you have a promotional rate then the credit card firm will remind you 8 and 4 weeks before it comes to an end
• Your credit card bill will show you an estimate of your interest for the following month
• Every year you will receive a summary of the previous year’s use, and credit charges
• If you are only paying the minimum amount, then your credit card company should contact you to ensure you understand there are better ways to pay
Struggling to pay
If you are struggling to pay your credit card bill, you should contact the credit card firm as there are a number of ways they can assist. In addition, you should contact organisations that are there to help consumers where things go wrong such as Citizens Advice or the National Debtline.
If you have lost or had your card stolen, you should report the issue to your credit card company immediately. If it was stolen, you should also seriously consider reporting your case to the police and to get a crime reference number.
If you believe you are experiencing fraud, then you need to identify the transactions that you consider to be incorrect and contact the credit card firm immediately. They will investigate the issue for you.
As long as you were not negligent in the way you handled the card or reported the issue, then you will not have to pay for any inappropriate transactions.
The worst case scenario is the first £50 of any liabilities (goods or services purchased fraudulently through the card), although this is rarely enforced in reality.
Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act
If you have an issue with a good or service and cannot resolve it, then under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act your credit card firm is jointly liable for any issues. This means if you cannot resolve an issue with the firm you can raise your case with the credit card provider and they are liable to refund you.
This covers situations such as you have been miss-sold, product is faulty, not as described, company has ceased trading. The value of the transaction must be between £100 and £30,000 even if you have only done a part payment on credit card.
If you have an unresolved issue with a credit card company then you have the right to take your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service after 8 weeks or if the company issues a deadlock letter. The Ombudsman is there to provide an independent assessment of the issue and can make a decision that is binding on the company.