Figures from financial services analysis website moneyfacts.co.uk has revealed that we may be seeing the first sign of lending nerves on the part of the UK financial services industry.
The longest interest-free transfer credit card deals have recently dropped from 43 months, down to 40, while the number of deals available in total has dropped from 126 six months ago to 119 this month, says moneyfacts.
These interest-free periods have been getting longer and longer as competing lenders have climbed over one another to offer the longest interest-free periods and therefore climb to the top of the comparison tables. But a sea-change may be underway.
These signs and symptoms follow a directive from the Bank Of England forcing banks to find an extra £11.4bn in ‘rainy day’ capital following a Financial Stability Report assessment of risks facing the UK, which said the move “would provide a buffer of capital that can be released quickly in the event of an adverse shock occurring that threatens to tighten lending conditions”.
Moneyfacts has highlighted that the number and length of these 0% balance transfers has fallen this year from 669 days to 645 days overall – a drop of 3.6%.
Up until earlier this month, Lloyds had been offering a card to customers that gave them 43 whole months during which their transferred balance could sit without paying any interest whatsoever.
However, as of last week, a significant five months were knocked off the deal, leaving it mid-table at 38 months. Likewise, MBNA, which is also owned by Lloyds Group, knocked two months off one of its balance transfer cards, bringing it down to 39 months from 41.
The longest interest-free balance transfer period now available is the 40 months offered by Barclays Bank on its 40 Month Balance Transfer Visa, says Moneyfacts.co.uk.
These findings follow a warning last month by lenders that it was likely they would both offer shorter interest free transfer periods and impose stricter criteria in terms of who is allowed to borrow in this way.
There have been multiple warnings on the part of The Bank Of England of late that UK households are taking on too much debt in a way reminiscent of the state of things preceding the 2008 crash.