Banks awash with cash are now charging less for loans — some even zero interest — via balance transfers.
XPRESS has learnt that banks such as HSBC, Barclays Bank and Standard Chartered have unleashed zero per cent credit buy-outs to certain customers, a totally unheard-of practice since the financial crisis began in 2008.
That’s a savings of Dh1,680 for every Dh10,000 loan on which banks usually charge 1.1 per cent per month.
Many credit cards charge between 2.75 and 3.09 per cent per month on retail purchases. The UAE Central Bank recently said no ceiling will be imposed on credit card rates, despite a cap imposed by neighbouring countries. “This [zero-interest offer] gives me a way out,” said Jaya, an executive.
Banks lure customers with zero balance transfer
“One year is a good time to re-adjust your finances.”
Depending on the balance, a transfer fee of Dh100 to Dh300 is charged.
Not all are equal
But not everyone is cut out for it. “You have to fit a certain profile to qualify for this scheme. It’s much harder for lawyers and journalists to get an approval,” said a Barclays’ agent.
Zero-per cent balance transfer deals have been around since at least 2003. At the height of the credit-spending spree, the UAE had nearly nine million cards in a total population of around five million. As credit dried up from 2008, the total number of cards [debit and credit cards] dropped by almost half in the UAE.
“Now it [lending] has come back to life,” said an official of an international bank in Dubai. An HSBC loan agent said their zero-interest balance transfer for six months is gaining ground.
“This is for finance-savvy people who know how to play their cards right. Almost every bank is making this offer now,” said the agent.
Other banks entice borrowers with significantly reduced rates. Since April, ADCB has cut credit card buy-out rates from 0.99 per cent to 0.59 per cent for six months based on reducing balance. “This is a win-win proposition,” said an ADCB loan agent.