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New credit card perks on offer in time for Christmas

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Special credit card deals - everything from cashbacks, fee waivers and bonus points to discounted Uber rides and smartphone screen insurance - are flooding the market. Just in time for our Christmas binge!

Research by comparison site RateCity reveals there are now 54 cards on the market trying to grab a slice of the profitable Christmas action.

They include the American Express Explorer credit card. Apply online and spend $1500 in the first three months and you'll receive 100,000 membership rewards bonus points. If discounted Uber rides appeal, then Westpac's

Altitude card offers $20 off every third Uber ride on each new card (total redeemable value of $250 during the offer period which ends December 31, 2017).

christmas credit cards perks rewards uber flybuys debt balance transfer interest rates bankwest westpac amex

Other tempting deals include the Coles fee-free Mastercard. Sign up for this card and you can expect free delivery if you spend on the card, plus collect one flybuys point for every $2 spent.

With around $32 billion already owing - an average of about $4200 per cardholder - we really don't need any incentives to sign up for more plastic. But, and this is a big but, if you can play your cards right, now is certainly a good time to upgrade.

"The average Australian spends almost $19,000 per card every year on plastic, so it's little wonder credit companies are offering attractive deals to bring in new customers," says RateCity's money editor Sally Tindall.

"Of course, you need to make sure you read the fine print."

The two big traps with choosing a credit card based on trimmings alone are interest rates and fees, which can be as high as 24.99%pa and $1200pa respectively.

"Cards offering bonus rewards and a raft of sweeteners often have a high annual fee attached; that's how they make their money," says Tindall. There are 31 cards on the market with no annual fee at all, so make sure you shop around before signing on the dotted line."

If you're looking for deals that will make the most of your spending over the holidays, then Canstar's picks make great sense.

They may not have those super-quirky perks but they can appeal to those who need a little more time to pay off their debt. And that's the catch for most cardholders with interest-free days.

While your card may offer you 45, 55 or up to 62 days interest free, this doesn't mean you have up to 62, 55 or 44 days interest free on every purchase you make.

The total comes about through the monthly billing process (generally 30 days), plus the time between the end of your monthly billing period and the due date, which is generally 25 days if you have, say, a 55-day interest-free card. So if you make a purchase later in the monthly billing cycle, you'll have fewer interest-free days.

If you repay your balance in full by the due date, no interest will be charged.

If you don't pay in full, interest will be calculated from the day the purchase was made - meaning there are no interest-free days. But there are some friendly cards, according to Canstar, that calculate interest from the date the statement is issued, rather than from when the purchase is made.

To help you make your payments on time, ensure the statement period starts a couple of days after your payday to allow for weekends and public holidays.

Some banks allow you to change your statement period to match your pay cycle. It's worth asking your issuer if it can do this.

The biggest trap with these types of cards is not repaying the balance in full by the due date or by using them for cash advances.

what's available

If you want a low-cost card plus time to repay your purchases ...

Bankwest Breeze Mastercard: 0% for 13 months, standard rate 12.99%, annual fee $79.

If you want a card that will help you repay Christmas debt in a structured way ...

Westpac Low-Rate Visa: Purchase rate 13.49%, annual fee $59. Have up to eight SmartPlans (repayment plan for your credit card) on your card at any one time. Large Purchase SmartPlan is available to help you pay off a "big-ticket" item costing $500 or more that you bought on your card in the past 30 days. Get a 1.5% discount on purchase rate on low-rate cards (excludes Westpac Lite Card).

If you want to maximise rewards points ...

American Express Platinum Edge. Purchase rate 20.74%, annual fee $195. Earn three points per $1 at major supermarkets, two points at major petrol stations and one point on standard purchases. Great for entertaining or road trips. Plus $200 travel credit each membership year.

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Effie Zahos is editor-at-large at Canstar and a financial commentator. She is the author of A Real Girl's Guide to Money: From Converse to Louboutins, and a regular money commentator on TV and radio across Australia. In 1999, a background in banking Effie helped kickstart Money, which she edited until 2019. Effie holds a Bachelor's degree in economics.
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