uSwitch explains what credit card cheques are and the controversy surrounding them
Credit card cheques are often used as balance transfers to repay outstanding debt from your current credit limit.
Credit card providers no longer send out credit card cheques without your consent, so if you need one you’ll need to request it from your issuer.
What is a credit card cheque?
Credit card cheques are blank cheques that can be used as an alternative to using your credit card.
Credit card companies used to send out millions of credit card cheques each year, though major credit card companies such as MBNA have now moved away from them – with the entire industry no longer sending them out unless asked to.
Why are credit card cheques controversial?
Credit card cheques have come in for criticism for a long time, primarily because many people are not aware that they can be far more expensive than using a credit card.
Some 86% of credit card customers who use credit card cheques (1.5 million people) are unsure of what the fees charged on them really are.
Credit card cheques are treated as if you were withdrawing cash on your credit card and you will be charged handling fees of around 2.5 per cent of the value of the cheque – so for example on a cheque of £1,000 a £25 fee would be charged.
You can read more about the fees that come with withdrawing cash on your credit card to learn more about the costs.
In addition, when you pay by credit card cheque, interest is normally charged from the day the cheque was used – unlike credit cards where you will usually have up to 56 days before you start paying interest on your balance.
Plus, because of order of payment, you may not be able to pay off this more expensive borrowing until the initial debt is paid off.
In 2008, 280 million credit card cheques were issued, and 3.2 million were used at a total value of £3.6 billion.
The average APR on these cheques is 26.71% – almost 10% more than the average purchase APR, meaning that the average cheque worth £1,141 amasses charges and interest costing a shocking £178.56 over the course of 12 months.
Credit card cheques and Section 75
Purchases made with a credit card cheque also don’t get the same protection as those made with a credit card.
Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act makes credit card companies jointly liable with retailers for purchases of more than £100 and less than £30,000 if there is a breach of contract or misrepresentation – for example, if goods are not delivered, or not as they were described.
Unsolicited credit card cheques (ones where you did not ask for them to be sent to you) have been banned because they are not covered by Section 75.