Many South Africans will begin the new year deep in debt because of the temptations of the festive season. Nomsa Motshegare, CEO of the National Credit Regulator, warns: "Before consumers sign credit agreements, they need to understand the cost of credit and the terms and conditions of different credit agreements." She has this advice on how to be a more careful borrower: • Only borrow the amount you absolutely need; • Be selective about what you borrow for: education and a housing bond are good reasons, but groceries, holidays and designer clothes are not; • Work out how much you can afford each month for repayments before you apply for credit; • Never sign a blank credit agreement; • Never leave your ID with lenders - reputable lenders will not require this; • The National Credit Act allows for a five-day cooling-off period only if credit agreements are not signed at the credit provider's premises, so be very sure before signing anything; • Pay the full amount you owe on time ever...

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