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Is a £250 Purchase Better Bought with Credit or Savings?

Credit cards are an inescapable feature of modern finances. People use them for a variety of reasons – to improve their credit score; to buy something sooner rather than later; and often to protect their payments in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

Posted: 17th July 2019 by Finance Monthly
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But when is it sensible to use a card and when to save? MoneySuperMarket data shows that the usage of credit cards seems to be growing, and have recently conducted a study to identify how much you’ll actually pay on average based on the size of the payments you’re making, the average monthly repayment possible, and the average interest involved as a result.

Alongside the credit card payments, the research highlights how long it would take to make each payment by saving up a monthly average of £352.31 (based on average earnings of £1,827.10 a month, and average expenditure of £1,474.79 a month) – so you can compare whether it’s a better option to save up or to use a card.

Spending and Saving Numbers Crunched

With the average person being able to save around £350 a month, there’s minimal difference in terms of time and total amount spent for a purchase under this amount – whether you’re saving or using a credit card. But the interest does take an effect at higher costs. On a credit card payment of £600, for example, you would on average pay £17 in interest, taking two months to pay it off. At £5,000, the interest reaches up to £931 over 17 months of repayment, against 14.2 months of saving with no interest.

Save for the Suit, Spend on the Commute

The research suggests that while you could save up for a bespoke suit in 2.7 months and save yourself £36 in credit card interest, for a train ticket you might be better off paying on your credit card – as you’ll still have to travel while saving, and the costs of individual tickets is likely to be higher than the £8 you would save in credit card interest.

Can a New Coat Improve Your Credit Rating?

Buying a winter coat on a credit card can be a sensible choice as lower payments that can be paid off immediately, without any interest, will contribute positively to your credit rating.

Even at higher costs, holidays can be a smart choice for a credit card. Despite the average £2,417 spend accruing as much as £208 in interest and taking just over two more months to pay off than to save up, credit cards can provide security on payments, meaning you’re better protected against problems with flights and hotels.

Save for Season Ticket, Spend on the Trainers

More affordable equipment like a mountain bike or sports trainers can be paid off quickly and improve your credit score without accruing any interest, but for a football season ticket, which you can plan to buy well in advance, there’s no significant advantage to buying on card. Instead of paying the additional £27 in interest over three months, you’re better off spending the average £794 after saving up for 2.3 months.

Smarter Smart Phone Buying

A high-end smart phone like the iPhone could cost nearly £50 in interest on a credit card, making saving up the better option. But for a cheap laptop, it might be much lower interest of around £15 or less – and many retailers offer finance options for smart phones and laptops, making it sensible to research your shopping before you buy.

Split the Costs When Getting Together

Weddings are expensive events – so it makes sense to split up the cost as much as possible. Saving up for purchases like the dress and photography, and putting the cheaper payments such as cake and groom’s outfit on credit card, may be the best way to minimise interest payments. Using a card to cover the venue can be helpful as well, as this can protect you against any last minute problems.

Top Tips from MoneySuperMarket

While the study provides some details of smart ways to use your credit cards, some of the top tips include:

  • Only make applications for credit cards you think will be accepted or for which you're pre-accepted.
  • Use "credit builder credit cards" to improve your credit score.
  • Use a cashback card if you're able to pay off your card consistently.

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