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Half of Brits don't understand how credit cards workFigures from the Bank of England show household debt has hit a staggering 1.5trillion, with the amount of unsecured credit - borrowing on credit cards and personal loans now rising at the fastest rate since 2005. But worryingly, over two thirds of credit card holders say they don’t know how their cards work - with thousands unaware of their monthly spending and 10% oblivious to how much interest theyre paying, despite living the red, according to MoneySupermarket. Meanwhile, two thirds have not checked their credit score in the past year, with a fifth not knowing how to do so, effectively leaving them exposed

to high interest credit cards which can add thousands to their initial borrowing. Lenders use credit scores to determine who qualifies for a credit card, and at what interest rate and credit limit. The better a credit score the lower the interest rate lender

s will approve you for. But, the lower you score, the higher the interest is likely to be. For example, taking a credit card with a 3,000 balance, a typical rate for an ‘Excellent’ borrower would be 5.94%. If just 4% of the balance was paid back

every month, it would take 9 years and 7 months to pay off the full balance, with total interest of 400. Read MoreRelated ArticlesThe 3 digits that define your life - 10 financial transactions you probably DONT know youre being credit checked for However, a borrower with a ‘Very Poor’ credit score might typically secure a rate of 49.94%. With a 3,000 balance paid off 4% each month, it would ta

ke 42 years and 3 months to pay off and an unbelievable 14,179 accumulated interest. Millions of those in the red are also completely unaware of 0% balance transfer deals that can help clear expensive debt cheaply and quickly, setting households back in the black sooner rather than later. Read MoreRelated ArticlesThe simple credit card mistakes that banks use to make

millions of profit out of you - and how to dodge them Kevin Mountford, banking expert at MoneySuperMarket, comments: With almost two-fifths of credit card holders owning more than one card, and many admitting they don’t truly understand the terms and condit

ions, it’s easy to see how debt could spiral out of control. Many people will use their credit card at this time of year which, if used wisely, can help spread out the cost of big purchases, offer protection on purchases and help improve your credit score. However, if used badly you could incu

r unnecessary charges, end up in debt and damage your financial reputation – making it harder to get credit in the future. It’s worth

taking the time to get to grips with your credit card so you avoid a financial hangover in 2017.” Read MoreEverything you need to know about credit reportsHow to boost your credit ratingCheck your credit report for free5 credit report mythsWhat banks see when you apply for a loan How to avoid credit card charges Always pay off your balance. You should always aim to pay off the balance of your credit card in full each month to avoid paying interest. If you can’t pay in full, at least pay the minimum. If you don’t, you’ll get charged a late payment fee, usually 12, and get a negative mark on your credit file. The best way to avoid this is by setting

up a direct debit to ensure your credit card payments are always made on time. Don’t use your credit card to withdraw cash. We are well accustomed to withdrawing cash from an ATM with our debit cards and not having to pay a fee – but don’t get caught out by assuming the same rules apply to your credit card, as you will usually be hit with a charge of around 3% of the amount you take out. On top of this you’ll also be charged interest, typically at an annual percentage rate (APR) of around 28% from the second you make the withdrawal. Don’t go over your credit limit - If you do you’ll ge

t charged. If you have always managed to kee

p within the limit and only exceed it accidentally by a few pounds, contact your credit card provider as soon as possible and ask to waive the fee. If youre trying to pay off debt, and are stuck in a catch 22 o

f eye-watering interest charges, you can avoid these fees by moving your money to a 0% balance transfer credit card. Weve rounded up the top 0% balance transfer credit cards for length of transfer, the balance transfer cards with the lowest fees and the best balance transfer cards for people with bad credit. See which one is best for you here.

Read MoreCredit CardsThe best c

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he best credit cards for bad creditCan you write off debt?Best balance transfer credit cardsHow to protect your contactless card10 ways to beat credit card debt0% credit cards - what you need to knowWhat you should buy on a credit card How to tackle debt now (Image: Getty) If you are struggling to manage your finances don’t ignore things. Tackle your finances now before things spiral out of control. Read MoreRelated ArticlesBritains borrowing binge puts millions at risk – how to stay safe Go through your budget and see if there are any things you can cut back on to save a bit of money. Make sure you are not overpaying on any of your basic bills. It’s simple to switch on to better energy deals or insurances. Compare prices and deals via sites including moneysupermarket.com, uswitch.com , gocompare.com and confused.com. If you are paying high interest on credit card think about switching to a 0% balance transfer deal - there are cards available with up to 42 months interest-free. But, ensure you make repayments on time each month or the 0% offer will be stopped immediately and youll be hit with high interest charges. Do a benefits check to ensure you are not missing out on any financial help you are entitled to via turn2us.org.uk . If you cannot get the situation under control yourself then don’t delay in getting free, independent advice. Book an appointment with a debt adviser at your local Citizens Advice or visit citizensadvice.org.uk. Call the National Debt Helpline on 0808 808 4000. Contact StepChange Debt Charity on 0800 138 1111 or via stepchange.org. PayPlan, 020 7760 8976 or payplan.com , offers free debt advice and a fee-free debt management plan. Read MorePay off your debtsHow to get out of debtGet 60 days to catch up with paymentsHow small debts break usHow to clear your ov

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