Most credit cards are either good for new spending or for cutting the cost of existing debts. But some cards offer cheap intro rates on both.
These all-rounder cards can be great but aren’t for everyone. Plus, the intro deals available on these cards aren't ever likely to knock the more-specialised cards off their top spots. So before you get one, read this guide to make sure it’s the best card for you.
What's an all-rounder card?
Lots of banks offer great intro deals to entice new customers. On cards, these tend to be either good balance transfer credit card deals - where you shift expensive debt to a new card offering a cheap rate - OR an offer of low rates on new spending, for example, 0% interest for a year on all purchases (see Best 0% Credit Cards).
As their name suggests, all-rounder cards shout for custom by offering cheap intro rates on BOTH balance transfers AND purchases.
The intro deals available on these cards aren't ever likely to knock the more-specialised cards off their top spots individually. But if you want to both move debts from an existing expensive card, and also need to use a card to spend on, these are worth checking out as they won't damage your credit score with unnecessary applications.
When to use it?
These cards aren't for everyone. So make sure you fit the criteria, as it's possible another card could be better.
Who are they good for?
- If you have a decent credit score, but are worried about too many applications. These cards could be good for you, as they give you two uses, but with just one credit check.
- If you don't want the hassle of multiple cards. Many people struggle to juggle their cards. Having an all-rounder will save some of the difficulty, as you won't have to worry about whether or not it's the right card to spend on.
Who shouldn't get it?
- If you're mainly looking to shift existing debt. Don't bother getting one of these. You can get longer deals with pure balance transfer cards. See Best Balance Transfers.
- If you only want the card for new spending. Then the all-rounder cards come close. But there are some other spending cards offering similar length 0% offers, which also allow you to build up points which can go towards freebies. See Best 0% Cards for Spending.
What's the advantage of getting balance transfers & spending together?
Lots of credit searches - the notes left on your file when you apply for cards, loans, mortgages or car insurance, even phone contracts - in a short space of time hurt your credit rating. These could affect your ability to get new products.
The all-rounder cards serve a dual purpose, but - if the application is successful - require only one credit check, protecting your credit rating. This allows you to space out applications more effectively, so your file isn't smashed hard and fast with multiple searches.
There's more you can do to manage and boost your credit rating. Make important applications before big upheavals (such as moving house, or if you've got maternity leave or suspected redundancy coming up) - though if you're asked about them on applications, never lie. Full details and loads more tips in the full Credit Rating guide.
Pre-apply to check eligibility with NO credit file mark
You'll see that most cards in this guide have a link to our Eligibility Checker tool, which we've designed to allow you to see the probability of getting the card.
We do a 'soft' credit search which YOU can see, but lenders CAN'T, so it has no impact on your future creditworthiness - and lets you see the chance of you getting the card without applying for it.
We map the details you give us against lenders' criteria, and show your chances for all the cards on this page that we can do so for. A new development means that you only have to put in your details once and we can check your against all the cards available.
Ensure your borrowing stays free
Debt is like fire. Used well it's a great tool, used badly, you'll get burned. It's always worth borrowing as little as you need, and where possible using savings instead of borrowing.
The worst thing to do with a credit card is to use it to fill the gaps your income doesn't meet each month. That will see borrowings constantly grow and can leave you in a debt spiral (see the Stop Spending guide for more).
Quick steps to keep the cost down
However if you need to borrow for a defined purchase, then used correctly, credit cards are cheaper than loans.
This may be for a football season ticket, as buying one is cheaper than getting individual match tickets. You may need a new sofa as the old one's kaput. Or it might be to pay for a year's car insurance, as the insurer's interest rate for paying by the month is huge (often around 30%).
Done right, it's possible to borrow at no cost.
Work out how much you need
Don't borrow more than you need. Use the Budget Planner to ensure you can meet repayments, use the card to do the specific job and stay disciplined.
Make at LEAST the minimum repayments
Set up a direct debit for at least the minimum repayment as soon as you're accepted. Even though it's at 0%, you still need to make repayments. If you miss one, you'll lose your 0% deal, so the rate will jump and you'll get a £12 charge.
Clear the card within the 0% period
Go even one month past the 0%'s end and the rate will rocket. Calculate the monthly repayment needed to clear the balance by then - for £600 on 12mths 0%, divide by the number of months, so £600 / 12 = £50 - and set your direct debit to pay that.
Diarise the end dates and SWITCH
It's vital you make a note of the 0% end date (or use the Tart Alert), then ensure you pay off the debt by then, or switch again at that point (see Best Balance transfers guide) - otherwise, the interest cost will swiftly outweigh the card's benefit.
Best buys Longest 0% balance transfers and purchases
We've listed the longest all-rounder cards in this section. But in exchange for the longest 0% you'll have to either pay a fee for the card or you need to pay a one-off fee when you do the balance transfer. If you don't need such a long 0% period, there is a card that charges no fee to balance transfer.
Longest 0% spending and balance transfer deal
The AA* 24 months 0%, 2.98% fee
This AA* credit card offers 24 months 0% on both spending and balance transfers, though it has a slightly higher fee than the Halifax card below. Unlike other cards in this guide, however, if you're accepted for the card you'll definitely get the full 24 month 0% period.
- After the 0%, it’s 19.9% interest on any remaining transferred debt and spending, but poorer credit scorers will get 22.9%.
- You must balance transfer to it and make a purchase within the first three months to get the 24 months 0%.
- You can't transfer debt from any card operated by Bank of Ireland UK, including other AA cards and Post Office cards.
Long 0% spending and balance transfer deal
Halifax* up to 21 months 0%, 2.5% fee
This Halifax* credit card gives up to 21 months 0% for both spending and balance transfers. However, the fee is considerably higher than the Barclaycard below which offers just one month less so if you won't need the full interest-free period you might be better opting for that one.
- We say this card's 'up to' 21 months as some may get 18 or 15 months 0% on both spending and balance transfers, depending on credit score.
- After the 0%, it’s 18.9% interest on any remaining transferred debt and spending, but poorer credit scorers will get 21.9% or 25.9%.
- You must balance transfer to it within the first 90 days to get the 2.5% fee. After 90 days, you'll be charged a 3% fee.
- You can't transfer debt from other Halifax cards.
- Sister banks Lloyds* (eligibility calc) and Bank of Scotland* (eligibility calc) also offer the same deal.
Long all-rounder deal with a lower transfer fee
Barclaycard* up to 20 months 0%, 0.9% fee
This Barclaycard* offers up to 20 months 0% on both spending and balance transfers and has a lower fee than the cards above which offer only up to four months more. If you have a lower credit score you might be offered 10 months at 0% rather than the full 20 months.
- Balance transfers must be done within 60 days of opening the account or you'll be charged a higher fee.
- We say this card's 'up to' 20 months as some may get 10 0% months depending on credit score.
- After the 20 months, it’s 18.9% interest on purchases and balance transfers, but poorer credit scorers might get 24.9% or 29.9%.
Best buys No fee balance transfers and purchases
There's one card on the market that doesn't charge a fee for balance transfers but you'll get a shorter 0% on both balance transfers and purchases than you do on the cards with fees. Clear the card within the 0% period, and you can borrow and clear existing debt at absolutely no cost.
Longest 0% card with no fee to transfer your debt
Santander* 15 months 0%, NO fee
The Santander* credit card gives 15 months 0% on both purchases and shifted debts, and there's absolutely no fee to transfer your debt. So if you think you can repay the card in full by month 15, or are prepared to do another balance transfer, then this card could be a winner.
- You either get the full 15 months or you get rejected.
- You must shift debt within the promotional period, otherwise there's a fee of 3% (min £5).
- You can't transfer from another Santander card.
- After 15 months interest is charged at 18.9% on both purchases and balance transfers.
More 0% balance transfer and purchase cards
The deals above are our current top picks, but if you didn't find a card above to suit you, here are details of the next best cards - ranked in order of balance transfer fee.
|Card||0% length purchases||0% length balance transfer||BT fee||APR†||Eligibility Calculator|
|Tesco*||15 months||15 months||0.85%||18.9%||Eligibility check not available.|
|MBNA*||20 months||20 months||1.5%||18.9%||You can use our eligibility calculator for this card|
- †Representative variable APR, your balance transfer interest may be different
- (1) Poorer credit scorers could get fewer months.
- See all Official APR Examples
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Simple reminders for card tarts!
Enter the date your 0% (or other intro rate) expires in the Tart Alert Tool and you'll be sent a text or e-mail reminder to ditch and switch. Like everything else on this site, it's completely free too!
Cheapest long term low rate deals
Here, the aim is to get a card where the low rate is for the long term, not just an introductory offer. While not 0%, it does mean you don't have to remember to shift from card to card, and you know you've got a deal for the long term.
Joint cheapest low-rate, long-term card
Lloyds Platinum* 6.4% APR on spending and transfers
The joint top card offering a long-term low rate is the Lloyds* Platinum card. It gives 6.4% representative APR on all spending and transferred debt, plus there's no fee to do a balance transfer, so long as you do so within the first 90 days.
- Although this card has a low rate for the long-term it isn't fixed - Lloyds is allowed to increase the rate after a year. But you can reject this rate hike, see rate jacking rules.
- Poorer credit scorers won't get the low 6.4% rate, some will be given higher rates of 10.9% or 14.9% APR.
- There is no fee for balance transfers, so long as you do it within the first 90 days. Otherwise, there's a 3% fee.
- You can’t transfer a balance from another Lloyds card. Transfers are allowed from TSB, Halifax and Bank of Scotland (even though owned by Lloyds Banking Group).
Joint cheapest low-rate, long-term card
Halifax* 6.4% rep APR on spending and transfers
The life-of-balance card from Halifax* also charges 6.4% interest on balances transferred to it and on new spending. Though, after a year, the rate could rise – but, you can reject the rise as long as you keep repaying and don't borrow more. So in effect you can lock in at this cheap rate until you've fully repaid.
- Some people accepted for the card will get higher APRs – either 10.9% or 14.9%, which isn't a good deal.
- You can’t transfer a balance from another Halifax card.
- You must transfer within 90 days or you'll pay a 3% fee.
Slightly costlier but good alternative if you have the cards above
The AA* 6.9% interest, no fee
The next low-rate, long-term card is the AA* card, which gives 6.9% representative APR on all spending and 6.9% annual interest on transferred debt. The rate is only slightly higher than the cards above, but is a good alternative if you need to shift debt from those lenders.
- The AA can increase the rate after a year. But you can reject this rate hike.
- Poorer credit scorers may be given higher rates of 9.9% or 14.9% APR.
- Balance transfers can't come from Bank of Ireland, Post Office or other AA cards.
- You can transfer your balance at any time, there won't be a fee to transfer.
Beware of varying length deals
Credit cards allow us to do a number of different things such as spend, shift balances or withdraw cash.
Since 2011, banks have had to put any repayments towards the most expensive debts first. This means spending on a balance transfer card isn't as bad as it used to be, but can still cost you if you're not careful.
With all-rounder cards, you don't have to worry as much as they're designed for both functions. Though if you have an intro deal, then it's important to keep an eye on what the rates will change to, and if you'll need to switch again.
The size of the saving
As the table shows, if you were to do a balance transfer of £2,000 and spend £2,000 over a year, whilst paying off £350 per month, you could save £200 by using an all-rounder card instead of a standard one.
Remember that over longer time periods, the all-rounder cards can be beaten by using two separate cards; one for purchases and one for balance transfers.
Comparing all-rounders with other credit cards
|Interest & fee after 1 year|
|Balance transfer card||0% on BTs & 18.9% on spending||£160|
|Low rate card||6.4% on BTs & spending||£80|
|Top all-rounder card||0% for 24 months||£60|