The recent move by Virgin Money offering a 0% balance transfer card for 36 months has triggered the expected response from its competitors.

Halifax and Lloyds Bank both increased interest free terms from 34 to 35 months with balance transfer fees of 2.80% and 3.00% whilst Sainsbury’s Bank upped its game to 34 months and 2.89% fee.

The latest move came from MBNA last week with an improved 35 month deal and 2.79% fee putting it within touching distance of the top.

With the Financial Conduct Authority in the middle of a study of the UK credit Card market amid concerns that it isn’t working in the best interests of consumers, these interest free offers may not be around for ever.

If you’ve got a squeaky clean credit record and are financially disciplined then zero per cent plastic can be a smart way to borrow.

However too many people sign up only to end up being late with a monthly payment.

As a result their interest rate is immediately hiked from 0% to 18.9%, so ensure you play by the rules or you could pay a heavy price for a minor slip up.

With the tax year ending at midnight this Sunday, investment service provider Willis Owen is expecting its busiest weekend of annual ISA sales as savers rush to beat the deadline. This is despite major pension freedoms coming into effect on Monday and the upcoming General Election prompting some retail investors to delay activity.

Jason Chapman, Managing Director at Willis Owen, said:

“We always see a last minute dash in the days leading up to the 5 April deadline, and we expect to see the same again this year. Even with the biggest changes to pensions in a generation occurring in just a few days’ time, ISAs remain a hugely popular product and won’t be forgotten by savvy investors.”

Willis Owen is urging people to take action now to ensure they beat the deadline. 10% of its total ISA sales are made in the final five days before the tax year end, a pattern they expect to be repeated this year.

Chapman added: “It’s important that investors don’t leave it to the last minute. By allowing a little extra time, savers can avoid those unforeseen stumbling blocks like not having enough cleared funds available in their bank account, forgetting to sign cheques or suffering internet issues.

“Our cash reserve facility remains a popular option with our customers, allowing them to secure their ISA allowance for the year but delay making a decision about where to invest it. Even if you’re not sure where to put your money, a pertinent issue this year with uncertainty around the Election, parking it in this facility means you won’t miss out on saving up to £15,000 tax-free.”

Willis Owen will be accepting applications right up until the following dates and times:

  • Phone applications: open until 3pm on Sunday 5 April
  • Online applications: open until 11pm on Sunday 5 April

Nearly nine in 10 of over 55’s are unaware they will face an income tax bill when taking out a cash lump sum under the new pension freedom rules being introduced by the Government, according to new research from Sanlam Wealth Planning..

The new study, which questioned 2,000 people over the age of 55 across the UK, found that 85% thought the Government had failed to communicate sufficiently that they will incur income tax on 75% of their pension by withdrawing their pot for cash from 6th April, just as they will do if purchasing an annuity or by using a flexible drawdown scheme.

Despite much confusion, appetite to take out a lump sum is high. One in three people said they planned to take advantage of the new rules and take out considerable sums, not knowing about the tax they will pay. The figures suggest that millions of people across the UK are opting to exercise the new rules, unaware that the pension funds they have built up over many years of hard work will be subject to tax charges.

Alex Morley, CEO, Sanlam Wealth Planning: “The majority of consumers feel annoyed of having paid high tax bills throughout their working lives and appear to be unaware that taking out a cash lump sum from their pension pot could leave them with less than expected in their pocket.

“This lack of awareness underlines the need for consumers to seek professional advice of financial planners who can support people in setting their objectives for retirement and planning on how they can get there.”

When made aware of the new rules and implications of high tax bills, retirees were asked what actions they would take in regards to their pension. One in three  said they did not know what they will do when new freedoms come into force, highlighting the importance of guidance services and advice in helping people understand their choices.