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rate tart

noun [countable]

1. also card tart or card surfer
someone who continually switches credit card providers in order to get the lowest interest rates available

2. also rate surfer
someone who regularly switches savings or loan accounts in order to get the best interest rates available

rate tarting

verb [intransitive]

'According to leading market analysts, rate tarts are costing the UK lending industry over one billion pounds a year. This is pretty much the same as saying that rate tarts are saving themselves one billion pounds a year … .'

DailyIndia.com 8th March 2006

'"The art of rate tarting is to always keep an eye on what's on offer," one practitioner explained. "Make sure you do switch cards … Never get hung up on loyalty, and don't be lazy, as they will both end up costing you money."'

The Guardian 13th July 2005

In the 21st century, playing poker or Black Jack isn't the only way to use cards to make money. With increasing competition across banks and credit card providers, those people who regularly switch their financial allegiances for maximum benefit are now dubbed rate tarts.

a rate tart cleverly exploits these offers by enjoying the benefits for the stipulated period, and when this ends, switching to another company

Credit card companies and other lenders often advertise very attractive balance transfer offers in an attempt to entice new customers, sometimes even offering 0% interest rates. A rate tart cleverly exploits these offers by enjoying the benefits for the stipulated period, and when this ends, switching to another company. The expression rate tart is used in two ways. Most commonly, it refers to people who continually switch credit card providers as a way of managing an existing credit card debt with no or a very low level of interest. The expressions (credit) card tart or card surfer are also often used in this context. A rate tart can also be someone who regularly transfers their savings to accounts with higher interest rates, or switches a mortgage or other loan to a lender offering lower interest rates. In this sense, rate tarts are sometimes alternatively described as rate surfers, a term which, along with card surfer, reflects consumers' use of the Internet to gather price comparisons.

Background – rate tart

The expression rate tart is, of course, a combination of the word rate referring to interest rate, 'the percentage that a bank charges or pays when you borrow money or keep it in an account', and tart in its sense as an offensive word for a prostitute, a metaphor for financial, as opposed to sexual, promiscuity.

It's been estimated that the practice of rate tarting costs the UK lending industry over a billion pounds a year. Not surprisingly, certain credit card providers are now adopting measures to discourage rate tarts. Some are becoming increasingly selective about which customers they offer 0% deals to, and others are introducing concepts such as a 'one-off balance transfer fee'. Consumers who have constantly moved debts from one credit card to another could be categorized as what the industry is now calling card churners, which may lead to them being turned down by lenders. In this climate, rate tarts could well become an endangered species.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 4th September 2006.

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