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Home Business Lack of transparency means customers could receive very different balance transfer offers to what they applied for

Lack of transparency means customers could receive very different balance transfer offers to what they applied for

by Uma
iStock 1324560903


Regulators require lenders to only provide 51% of successful applicants the advertised credit card offer. Additionally, they aren’t expected to disclose the potential differences in limits or APRs that may be issued when a customer receives their card. 

To find out what this means for customers, TotallyMoney, the credit app which helps everyone move their finances forward, commissioned Moneycomms to investigate if lenient legislation is leading to a lack of transparency on balance transfer credit card offers. Findings include*:

  • 61% of card providers investigated don’t tell customers the range of APRs that might be issued when they receive their new credit card
  • 39% of balance transfer cards don’t display the full range of promotional lengths that could be issued to customers upon acceptance
  • Meanwhile, one in three lenders make an eligibility check mandatory while not providing customers with a pre-application summary box detailing the interest rates and introductory rate durations they may be handed upon acceptance
  • A separate YouGov survey, commissioned by TotallyMoney, found 40% of respondents feel lenders don’t make it clear that they may not receive the advertised credit card interest rate**

With 51% of people paying interest on credit cards each month, and a credit card balance growth rate of 11%†, the need for transparency is now more important than ever. 

Customers gambling with cards

Balance transfer cards charge 0% interest for a set period of time — currently up to 34 months‡. This means 100% of your repayments will go towards clearing your debt and not towards paying interest, the result being that you can pay off your debts quicker and cheaper. There’s a typical fee of 2% of the transactional value. 

To put this into context, for the average TotallyMoney customer’s interest-bearing balance of £2,898, transferring to the market-leading 34 month balance transfer card could save £1,212‡.

However, regulators require lenders to only provide 51% of successful applicants with the advertised offer. Additionally, there’s no limit to the APR which can be handed to a customer, nor is there a requirement to disclose to customers what they may receive. 

With most balance transfer cards often allowing customers to transfer 90% of the limit offered, some may find that not only did they receive a very different credit card offer to the one they applied for, but that they aren’t able to transfer the whole interest-bearing balance they had hoped to.

Being left unable to complete the desired balance transfer, some might think that applying for an additional card could help. However, every time you apply for credit, it leaves a hard search on your credit file. This footprint is visible to lenders and can be a sign of financial difficulty. As a result, lenders might not feel comfortable letting you borrow money.

Full analysis of the 18 balance transfer credit card provider websites can be found below:


Alastair Douglas, CEO of TotallyMoney, comments: 

“Current regulations mean customers could receive a very different offer to the one they applied for. Not only that, but lenders often won’t tell customers that this could be the case.

“For example, a 33-month 0% balance transfer deal could be slashed to just 20 months, and the 21.9% APR advertised rate could be hiked to 29.9% APR. From a customer perspective, it’s too much of a lottery and being short-changed on a 0% deal could play havoc with their financial budgeting.

“At a time when people need the full support of the financial services industry, firms should be acting honestly, fairly and professionally. Providing customers with all the information in a simple-to-understand and transparent manner before they enter a credit agreement is where it starts.

“TotallyMoney is on a mission to help everyone move their finances forward. One way we’re doing this is by putting customers in control of their own financial data so it works for them, and not against them. It’s always worth remembering that the most competitive offers are usually reserved for those with the best credit scores. So checking your report can be vital in gaining financial momentum.”

Andrew Hagger of Moneycomms.co.uk adds: 

“While eligibility checkers give customers comfort that their application won’t impact their credit record, they have no idea what interest rate or balance transfer durations are available as there is no summary box on the card providers website.”

“Customers should be able to see the range of rates and balance transfer durations that each lender offers otherwise they are going in blind.”