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Saturday, 2 June 2007

0% APR CC Arbitrage Coming to an End?

I currently have around A$40K of "0% balance transfer" funds borrowed on BankWest and HSBC credit cards. The money is invested at 6.1% and isn't due for repayment until the end of the year, which provides a nice little passive income stream after the initial paperwork and making arrangements for automatic payment of the monthly minimum via B-Pay. I'd previously done similar CC arbitrage using my Virgin Money and Coles credit cards. But it looks as if the era of "free money" may be coming to an end in Australia. There have been fewer of these 0% balance transfer offers appearing in recent months, and yesterday a new CC offer "to the householder" arrived in the mail from HSBC. Interestingly, although it advertised 0% APR on balance transfers for 6 months, there was a 2.5% "settlement fee" imposed, which hadn't applied to previous offers. The fine print also mentioned that this fee would be added to the account at the start of the 6 month period and would accrue interest at the normal rate (around 12% pa). This means that during the 6 month 0% period you would effectively have paid around 2.8% pa on this money, making the after-tax profit for investing the funds in an online high interest account negligible. Once you take into account the risk of additional fees if you miss a monthly payment for any reason, or don't pay off the remaining balance before the 0% period ends, it seems that CC arbitrage is no longer worth the effort - at least with this HSBC card offer. I'll keep an eye out for new CC offers to see if this is the start of a general trend by all the lenders, or just a foible of HSBC.

Enough Wealth

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