Credit card tips to get you through the crisis

Getting your money back, taking a break from payments and a safer place to leave your airmiles.

Virgin Money credit card © Virgin Money
Leave loyalty points on your card for now, in case airlines stop flying © Virgin Money
(Image credit: Virgin Money credit card © Virgin Money)

A credit card can be a lifeline in these turbulent times. From helping you get refunds to providing you with interest-free debt, here’s how your flexible friend can help fix your finances.

Customers who are struggling to get their money back for travel, accommodation, events or anything else that has been cancelled may be able to get a refund from their credit-card provider. Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, your credit-card provider is jointly liable if you don’t receive goods or a service that you paid for with your credit card. The item has to have cost between £100 and £30,000, but you only need to have paid for part of it on your credit card to be protected for the whole amount. This can help if a company is refusing to give you a refund, or if they have gone bust. To make a claim contact your credit-card provider.

If your income has dropped and you are worrying about making your card repayments, don’t panic. The Financial Conduct Authority has brought in emergency rules that mean lenders are expected to offer customers a payment freeze of up to three months. This shouldn’t affect your credit rating.

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If you need to minimise the interest accruing on your debt, there are still some balance-transfer credit cards available with an interest-free deal. TSB’s Platinum 30 Month Balance Transfer card has the longest interest-free period at two and a half years – but you’ll pay a 2.95% transfer fee.

If you don’t need that long, then Santander offers 18 months at 0% on balance transfers with no fee at all. Just remember to plan how to pay your debt off before the interest-free period ends.

Anyone building up airmiles may worry about airlines going bust if the crisis drags on. So if you earn loyalty points through credit cards with the intention of turning them into airmiles – such as Tesco Clubcard (which can be transferred into Avios) or American Express (Avios or Virgin Flying Club) – you’re better leaving any balance on the card for now: they can either be converted into airmiles later or used for other rewards.

Airmiles can’t be converted back, but Avios points can be used to buy alcohol instead. However, this is expensive: it costs around two points per penny, compared with one per penny for flights. Virgin Flying Club points can be shifted into hotel reward schemes such as the IHG Rewards Club or the Hilton Honors, although again the conversion rates are worse than for flights.

Ruth Jackson-Kirby

Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings accounts and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance.

Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.

Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping, among many other titles both online and offline.