Borrowers who need cheap credit have been urged to consider snapping it up now in case costs soar and the chances of getting a credit card, loan or mortgage diminish.

Many economists warn of a looming second credit crunch due to the eurozone crisis which could lead to banks making credit more expensive and hard to come by, as happened during the first crunch which began in 2007.

Key Points

  • Cheap borrowing could vanish if euro crisis deepens
  • Mortgage rates already rising
  • Fears of second credit crunch loom

While this is by no means a certainty, commentators say those with good credit scores who qualify for cheap credit should consider snapping it up soon to minimise the risk of being unable to borrow cheaply, or at all, in the new year.

The message is particularly pertinent to those who need to switch mortgage or get a balance transfer credit card to shift expensive debts to.

Of course, it is a false economy to get cheap credit if you don't need it.

What's happening?

The problem is Europe's troubles mean banks have to pay more to borrow the money they lend to us.

The Bank of England has said the cost of credit for consumers has already begun to rise.

Its Financial Stability report, published last week, stated: "There are early indications from market contacts that some banks may be starting to pass on higher funding costs to household customers through higher prices."

Mortgage rates, for instance, have already started rising over recent months after hitting record lows over the summer.

Data provider Moneyfacts says the average cost of a two-year fixed rate mortgage has risen from 4.16% in September to 4.24% today.

Bank of England governor Mervyn King also says there are already "tighter credit conditions". One further fear is if the eurozone crisis stops banks lending to eachother, they will have little cash to lend to consumers.

The Bank has also urged UK institutions to build up their stock of cash as protection in case the euro breaks up.

What should you do?

Some economists think consumers looking for credit should act soon.

Vicky Redwood, chief UK economist at analyst firm Capital Economics, says: "We think credit conditions will tighten further so it may become harder for households.

"It may be better to apply for credit now as borrowers may find it easier to get it at a cheaper rate.

"Banks have seen a rise in their funding costs which they may pass through to borrowers. This may happen in the next few months."

While mortgage rates are rising, they are still relatively low. Meanwhile, promotional balance transfer credit card deals have rarely been better.

Martin Lewis, creator, says: "When trying to predict the markets, there are never any certainties, though it seems many predict worse credit conditions to come.

"Therefore, it's worth looking at best and worst case scenarios. 

"For those with decent credit scores, many credit card and mortgage rates are close to all time lows, so even if things improve slightly there's only a little room for improvement, yet there's a long way to plummet if credit conditions deteriorate. 

"So while there are no guarantees if sorting it now, as conditions are reasonable, it seems a good move."

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