Catalogue debts could double the cost of Christmas. A study has found that mainstream brands are charging APRs of up to 60% - which is almost triple the average interest on a credit cards, and could double the cost of Christmas.
The study, by comparison firm Money.co.uk calculated that there's around £10 billion of catalogue debt in this country, and that 10% of people owe money to catalogues.
It also calculated that these debts could double the cost of Christmas. If, for example, you were to spend the average Christmas budget of £727 at the Brilliant Gift Shop - with an APR of 58.7% - and take three years and two months to repay it - it would cost £1,508.
It's a shocking APR, but The brilliant Gift Shop isn't alone in charging it. Simply Be, Fashion World, and JD Williams charge 58.7% too.
Money.co.uk ranked Very.co.uk as the next highest representative APR at 39.9% (a rate it shares with La Redoute and Littlewoods).
Next in line were those catalogues charging 34.9%: Kaleidoscope, Grattan, Freemans and Gifts 365.
Only Next charged something akin to a typical credit card: 22.9%.
To make matters worse, the study found that it wasn't always easy to find the cost of borrowing on the catalogue websites. Hannah Maundrell, Editor in Chief money.co.uk comments; "Overall, transparency around the cost of catalogue credit is as clear as mud with some providers. You really have to dig deep on their websites to find out exactly what the charges are. The high cost associated with this type of credit really seems to have fallen under the regulatory radar, particularly in light of the fact it's at the root of so many debt problems for financially vulnerable customers."
Unsurprisingly much of this debt has tipped over from being sensible borrowing, to problem debt. Over a third of people who contact leading debt charities do so to discuss catalogue debt, which makes it the fourth most common type of debt problem - after credit cards overdrafts and loans.
With the average problem catalogue debt reaching £2,046 in the first half of this year this is a significant issue. The amount of catalogue debt per person has increased by 6% in the last year alone and could grow further in the run up to Christmas.
Hannah Maundrell continues: "In an ideal world we'd all have the spare cash to cover our Christmas shopping without needing to borrow. For many that's not an option and some people will end up paying an extortionate amount in interest because they need to spread the cost. If you've already got a catalogue account set up for Christmas shopping and are planning to buy now and pay later don't assume you'll get an interest free deal. Check the interest rate you will be charged and if it's sky high try to find another way to pay. "
This doesn't mean that catalogues are to be avoided at all costs. You generally have a grace period until your first statement when you're not charged interest. In the case of Very.co.uk you have three months and for Littlewoods you have 20 weeks. If you can guarantee you will be able to pay the total in full and before any interest is charged, there's nothing stopping you using a catalogue.
However, only you will know whether you'll be able to stick with this, or whether you'll end up overspending and paying a small fortune in interest.