The ‘Great 0% ads scam’ – when 43months 0% isn’t 43 months 0%


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In the Financial Conduct Authority’s proposals for the UK credit card market, published today, the regulator says it is to investigate issues raised in a report - released over the weekend – that revealed many credit card applicants get a shorter 0% period than advertised.

The FCA says “it should be obvious to firms that financial promotions for credit cards with 0% introductory periods should represent a genuine offer” and providers must “make clear, if it is the case, that the advertised period is a maximum and that shorter periods may be offered”. The regulator will now “undertake further work during the course of the year to look at the issue and consider the case for additional rules or guidance if necessary”.

Here are full details of’s original report:


The ‘Great 0% ads scam’ – when 43months 0% isn’t 43 months 0%

A new report by the UK’s biggest consumer help site, ‘The Great 0% ads scam’, reveals that the world of 0% credit cards advertising is a ‘wild west’, with far too few rules to protect consumers. We’re calling on the FCA to urgently address this issue when implementing their credit card study, the initial recommendations of which are released on Monday.

Key findings in the MoneySavingExpert “Great 0% ads scam” report include:

    • Most top lenders operate ‘up to’ 0% lengths. The longest 0% balance transfer cards on the market now advertise over 40 months 0%. Yet most top lenders including Barclaycard, Halifax, Lloyds, Bank of Scotland, TSB, MBNA, Nuba, Tesco Bank and the AA now operate a ‘rate for risk’ policy, meaning many applicants will get a much shorter 0% period.

      Only a few offer an ‘if you’re accepted, you get the full 0% length advertised’ option, these include Sainsbury’s Bank and Virgin Money.
    • If it’s an ‘up to’ 0% length, it should say ‘up to’ wherever it gives the headline 0% offer. Many providers’ adverts do not include the fact they are rate for risk where they give the headline 0% period. They leave it to the smaller print. This is not appropriate. With APRs they need to put the fact it’s ‘representative APR’ in large text. The FCA should force lenders to put an ‘up to’ in adverts and on comparison sites at the same level of prominence.
    • The only way to definitely know what 0% length you’ll get is to apply, but that marks your credit file. The only way to know the length of the 0% deal you get for cards operating this way is to apply, and that leaves a hard search on your credit file, which thenhas an impact on your future creditworthiness.It’s a catch-22 situation. A few card firms do offer pre-application checks, but even then they rarely give a firm answer.
  • Unlike representative APRs, there is no regulation on how many people must get the advertised rate. While the FCA requires that at least 51% of accepted applicants get the advertised Annual Percentage Rate (APR) on a credit card, there is noequivalent rule governing what proportion of applicants must get advertised 0% introductory offers.There is also no public data showing how this operates across different cards.

    We believe there should be a consistent minimum percentage set, preferably at 66% (the old ‘typical rate’ threshold before EU homogenisation) or at least at 51% to match ‘representative’ APRs.
  • There’s often no explanation of the different lengths of deals consumers will get on adverts or websites. Some providers such as MBNA and Barclaycard, even in the small print, don’t tell consumers upfront what the alternatives are if they don’t get the headline card offer – meaning each application is a gamble.Lenders should be made to explain the alternatives.

Martin Lewis, founder of states: “On the surface we’ve got the most competitive credit card market we’ve ever seen. New customer 0% deals are now commonplace, and the advertised lengths nearly double those of five years ago. Yet this has partially been achieved by lenders switching to ‘rate for risk’ 0% deals – taking advantage of confusion, and playing fast and loose with people’s credit scores.This needs to stop.

“People rightly focus on these offers to choose their card.However, many are then rightly left angry that the deal they get isn’t close to the one advertised, yet they’re stuck with it.

“The FCA just relies on generic guidance to ‘treat customers fairly’ to govern this. That is behind the times – interest free offers are now a core credit card lending feature – yet the world of 0% advertising is a wild west. We need specific regulations to ensure transparency, consistency and an ability to compare products.If it’s an ‘up to’ they need to say ‘up to’ and that must mean at least two thirds of their accepted applicants get the deal.”


For more comments and a copy of the full report, please contact:

Katie Watts

Mob: 07875 415 378

About is dedicated to cutting consumers’ bills and fighting their corner. The free-to-use consumer finance help resource aims to show people how to save money on anything and everything, and campaigns for financial justice. Set up in 2003 for just £100, its free-to-use, ethical stance quickly made it the UK’s biggest independent money website, according to internet ranking site, and the number one ‘Business and Finance – Business Information’ site, according to Hitwise. It has more than 12 million people opted-in to receive the weekly Martin’s Money Tips email, and more than 15 million unique monthly site users who visit more than 26 million times a month. In September 2012, it joined the Group PLC.

About Martin Lewis: Martin Lewis OBE, Money Saving Expert, is the journalist and consumer campaigner who created, the UK’s biggest money website. He’s the UK’s most internet-searched man, Citizens Advice’s Consumer Champion of the Year, and has spearheaded major financial justice campaigns including bank charges reclaiming (over six million template letters downloaded) and PPI reclaiming (over five million) and a successful large-scale campaign to get financial education in schools. He has his own prime-time ITV programme, The Martin Lewis Money Show, as well as regular slots as resident expert on Good Morning Britain, This Morning and Radio 5 Live, among others.He was appointed OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June 2014.