Your browser isn't supported
It looks like you're using an old web browser. To get the most out of the site and to ensure guides display correctly, we suggest upgrading your browser now. Download the latest:

The MoneySaving Forum: join to chat & swap tips with other MoneySavers. Learn how in the Forum Introduction Guide

Cheap Credit Card Loans

Get card 'loans' as low as 0%

Get Our Free Weekly Email!

For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes - join the 10m who get it. Don't miss out

Eesha

Updated February 2017

Small loans tend to be expensive. So instead of grabbing a loan, you can manipulate a credit card to borrow at a fraction of the cost. This is a guide to turning plastic into a loan, letting you borrow cheaply and overpay without penalty.

You can do it in one of two ways – with a card that charges 0% interest or a 'money transfer', where you get a card that pays money into your bank. You then owe the card firm the money at 0% for a small fee. But these techniques require discipline – as you're not forced to pay off a credit card in the same way as a loan. So if you can be strict with yourself, read on...

The seven golden rules

The cheapest credit cards can substantially undercut the cheapest loan rates for certain amounts. And they allow totally flexible repayments. Though to make the most of a credit card you need to get smart, and make that plastic bend to your will. So before applying for a cheap credit card loan ensure you follow the seven golden rules.

  • Only borrow if it's planned, budgeted for and you can afford it

    Only borrow if you really must. If you're thinking of borrowing to fund your lifestyle – STOP. This is the worst type of borrowing as it means you're living beyond your means and risk a debt spiral. Avoid it. Use our Free Budget Planner, stop spending and cut your cloth accordingly. For a needed, planned purchase (eg, a car for a new job, or annual car insurance as it's cheaper than monthly) minimise the amount you borrow and ensure you can afford to repay the debt before the 0% promotional period ends.

    Quick questions

    What if I want to cut the costs of existing debt instead?

    How can I cut the cost of an existing loan?

    What card do I use if I want to make a one-off big purchase?

    What if I need a cash lump sum?

  • Spend ONLY your loan amount then lock the card away

    Adding further spending to your long-term debt card isn't usually a good idea. You have a limited time to pay it off, and additional debt will throw out your repayment budget.

    To make sure you only spend your loan amount, consider stashing your card in a waterproof bag, then pop it in a bowl of water and in the freezer (that way you put your spending on the card on ice and won't be tempted to use it again).

    Quick questions

    What happens if I spend on a money transfer card?

  • Pay off the card like a loan, in monthly instalments (set up a direct debit)

    The main difference between a loan and a credit card is that loans have structured repayments. The amount you pay back each month is fixed, so you clear the debt in a set time. Therefore to truly replicate the discipline of a loan, you need to repay a fixed amount each month. The easiest way to do this is by setting up a direct debit.

    Quick questions

    Should I pay off less a month than a loan would cost?

    Should I pay off the card more quickly?

  • Never miss a repayment and aim to fully repay the card by the end of the 0% period

    Set up a direct debit for at least the minimum repayment as soon as you're accepted. Even though it's at 0%, or a low rate, you still need to make repayments. If you miss one, you'll lose your cheap deal – the rate will jump to the APR and you'll be hit with a £12 charge.

    Having said that, after the 0% period ends you'll begin to be charged hefty interest (typically 18.9%) on existing debt – so budget to make sure the card's fully repaid before then.

  • Use our eligibility calculator before applying for a speedy check of which cards you're most likely to get – and protect your credit score

    Usually, the only way to know if you'll be accepted is to apply, but each application marks your credit file. However, our 0% Spending Eligibility Calculator quickly shows your odds of getting almost every top 0% spending card – so you can find the ones most likely to accept you, thus minimising applications. If you're looking for a money transfer card, our Money Transfer Eligibility Calculator is best.

    Quick questions

    How does the eligibility calculator work?

    Will credit scoring affect the deal I get and my credit limit?

  • Or join our Credit Club for a full credit health check, including your free Experian Credit Score, Affordability Score and Credit Hit Rate

    The new MSE Credit Club is a game-changer. For years the credit market has been shrouded in mystery but our revolutionary tool brings together the key components to give you the full picture, and crucially, what it means for your acceptance chances and how to boost your creditworthiness.

    A credit score alone isn't enough to borrow, as there are other factors at play (it's why many with perfect scores still get rejected). Credit Club shows you...

    1. Free Experian Credit Score – how lenders rate your past credit behaviour.
    2. MSE Affordability Score – how lenders assess if you can afford a product.
    3. Your Credit Hit Rate –
    how likely you actually are to be accepted when you apply.
    4. Credit Card & Loan Eligibility Calcs
    – what your odds are of getting specific top deals.
    5. How to improve your credit profile – we show where your profile's strong and weak, and how to improve it.

  • Understand 'up to' deals mean you might not get the headline deal you apply for

    There's a catch to watch out for. Some card firms give those with lesser credit histories fewer months at 0% than they advertise. You could, for example, apply for a 26-month 0% spending card, be accepted, but be given 20 months at 0%.

    We highlight cards that do this by putting 'up to' before their headline offer, and tell you the other 0% lengths they may give.

    Quick questions

    Is there any way to know what deal I'll get before I apply?

    Why do lenders give some applicants worse deals?

Best Buys If you can use a card to pay – get 0% interest

If you're going for the simpler route of spending on a cheap credit card, you'll need to apply for a new one – and remember, unless it's a card offering pre-approval, you'll have to pass a credit check. Here are the current best buys:

Halifax - 30 MONTHS

New. Joint longest-ever 0% spending card

Halifax* – up to 30 months 0% (18.9% rep APR after)

This Halifax* card offers the joint longest-ever 0% spending period, offering up to 30 interest-free months. However, some may be accepted and offered fewer 0% months, which won't make it as good a deal.

If you shop at Sainsbury's or Tesco, you may be better off with the cards below which offer just one or two fewer 0% months, but also reward you for your spending.

Need-to-knows
  • We say 'up to' 30 months as some poorer credit scorers may get 18 months at 0%.
  • Make sure you fully clear the card(s) by the end of the 30 months or you'll be charged 18.9% APR on any remaining balance. Some poorer credit scorers will pay 21.9% or 25.9% APR.
  • Always pay at least the minimum monthly repayment, or you'll lose the 0% deal.
Eligibility Calculator
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Spending length: Up to 30 months 0% | Card issuer: Visa | Min income: N/A
  • Rep variable APR: 18.9% (see Official APR Examples)
  • Minimum repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest, or £25
Sainsbury's card

Long 0% plus 5,000 Nectar points if you spend £250 in Sainsbury's

Sainsbury's Nectar* – 29 months 0% (18.9% rep APR after)

This Sainsbury's* card offers the joint-longest 0% period on spending, and you'll definitely get the full 29 months if accepted. You'll also earn Nectar points on all spending, plus if you spend £250 in Sainsbury's in the first month, you'll get 5,000 bonus Nectar points, worth £25.

Need-to-knows
  • New customers applying by 26 March 2017 will get 5,000 bonus Nectar points if they spend £250 in Sainsbury's in the first month. But don't use this as an excuse to spend more than you normally would.
  • You get two points per £1 spent on Sainsbury's shopping and fuel, and one point per £5 spent elsewhere.
  • Make sure you fully clear the card by the end of the 29 months or you'll be charged 18.9% interest on any remaining balance. Poorer credit scorers may get 21.9% or 28.9%.
  • You'll get the full 29-month deal or you'll be rejected, unlike some cards in this guide where you may be accepted, but given a shorter period at 0%.
  • Always pay at least the minimum monthly repayment, or you'll lose the 0% deal.
Eligibility Calculator
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Spending length: 29 months 0% | Card issuer: Mastercard | Min income: N/A
  • Rep variable APR: 18.9% (see Official APR Example)
  • Minimum repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest, 2.25% or £5
MBNA - 29 MONTHS

Long 0% spending card – but an 'up to'

MBNA* – up to 29 months 0% (18.9% rep APR after)

This MBNA* card offers the joint-longest 0% spending period. However, some may be accepted and offered fewer 0% months. You'll definitely get the full 29 months, though, if our eligibility calculator shows you as pre-approved.

If you shop at Sainsbury's, you may be better off with the card above, which also rewards you for your spending.

Need-to-knows
  • We say 'up to' 29 months as some poorer credit scorers may get fewer months at 0%.
  • Make sure you fully clear the card(s) by the end of the 29 months or you'll be charged 18.9% interest on any remaining balance.
  • This card also offers balance transfers for up to 29 months at 0%, though you'll pay a 2.95% fee to transfer your debt to the card.
  • Always pay at least the minimum monthly repayment, or you'll lose the 0% deal.
Eligibility Calculator
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Spending length: Up to 29 months 0% | Card issuer: Visa | Min income: N/A
  • Rep variable APR: 18.9% (see Official APR Examples)
  • Minimum repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest, or £25
Virgin Money

Long 0% spending card

Virgin Money* – 28 months 0% (19.9% rep APR after)

This card from Virgin Money* offers 28 months 0% on spending, which you'll definitely get if you're accepted for the card – great if you need to spread out the cost of a big planned purchase.

Need-to-knows
  • Our eligibility calculator can tell you if you're pre-approved for this card.
  • Make sure you fully clear the card by the end of the 28 months or you'll be charged 19.9% interest on any remaining balance.
  • You'll get the full 28-month deal or you'll be rejected, unlike some cards in this guide where you may be accepted, but given a shorter period at 0%.
  • Always pay at least the minimum monthly repayment, or you'll lose the 0% deal.
Eligibility Calculator
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Spending length: 28 months 0%
  • Rep variable APR: 19.9% (see Official APR Examples)
  • Card issuer: Mastercard
  • Min income: N/A
  • Minimum repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest or £25
AA

Get £35 cashback when you spend £500 – and a long 0% period to boot

AA* – up to 28 months 0% (18.9% rep APR after)

The AA* Dual Credit Card offers just one month fewer at 0% than the longest cards, and if you spend £500 within 60 days, you'll also get £35 cashback – though don't use this as an excuse to spend more than you normally would.

Note that some accepted applicants will only get 22 interest-free months, which won't make it as competitive.

Need-to-knows
  • You need to spend at least £500 on the card within the first 60 days of opening your account to trigger the cashback. It'll be paid as a credit into your card account within 90 days of meeting the £500 spend.
  • You won't get the cashback if you pay late, bust your credit limit or already have an AA, Bank of Ireland or Post Office credit card product. (Bank of Ireland provides credit card services for the AA and Post Office.)
  • Some poorer credit scorers accepted for the card will be offered 22 months at 0%, rather than 28 – obviously not as good a deal.
  • Make sure you fully clear the card by the end of the 0% period or you'll be charged 18.9% interest on any remaining balance.
  • Poorer credit scorers could get a higher interest rate – up to 22.9% – but if you've cleared it by the end of the 0% period, this won't matter.
  • Always pay at least the minimum monthly repayment, or you'll lose the 0% deal.
Eligibility Calculator
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Spending length: up to 28 months 0% | Card issuer: Mastercard | Min income: £8,000
  • Rep variable APR: 18.9% (see Official APR Examples)
  • Minimum repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest, 2.5% of balance or £5

For the full range of cards, see our 0% Cards guide or the 0% Cards Eligibility Calculator.

Best Buys Turn a credit card into a loan with a 0% money transfer

Some credit cards allow you to do money transfers, which shift cash straight from the credit card into your bank account, so you owe that amount to the card instead. Yet the trick is to find a card that offers money transfers at a low interest rate. These cards are best for loans of less than £5,000 or so (as you're unlikely to get a credit limit much higher).

First and foremost – a huge warning. Never, EVER withdraw cash and never try to spend on the credit card. Instead, just ask the card provider to...

"Do a money transfer to my current account."

The key to a money transfer is that you're charged a special promotional interest rate. Also, it's crucial you set up a direct debit to make AT LEAST the minimum repayment each month. If not, you'll lose the special deal and pay the 20%+ APR on all debts. Though it's preferable to pay more than the minimum, so the debt is cleared by the end of the intro deal.

Top money transfer credit cards

WARNING! ONLY use the cards we specify below to do this. Money transfers are niche and very rarely available. Use the wrong card and the cost can be massive.

Virgin Money* Card

Cheapest money transfer fee on the market

Virgin Money* 32 MONTHS 0%, 1.99% FEE

This Virgin Money* card gives more than two and a half years at 0%, for a market-leading fee of 1.99%. As with other Virgin Money cards you'll definitely get the full 0% period if you're accepted. Plus, our eligibility calculator can now tell you if you're pre-approved for this card.

Need-to-knows
  • After the 0% deal ends, if you've still got a balance on the card, you'll pay 19.9% interest a year on it, so budget to pay it off within the 32 months.
  • This Virgin card also offers 0% on balance transfers for 32 months, with a 1.99% fee.
  • If you do a balance transfer, you'll pay interest of 19.9% a year on any remaining balance once the 0% deal's over.
  • Always pay at least the minimum monthly repayment, or you'll lose the 0% deal.
Eligibility Calculator
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Money transfer length & fee: 32 months 0%, 1.99% fee
  • Annual interest rate on money transfers after the 0%: 19.9%
  • Representative variable APR on spending: 19.9% (Official APR Example)
  • Card issuer: Mastercard
  • Min income: N/A
  • Min repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest or £25
  • Any restrictions? Must transfer within 60 days
mbna

Joint-cheapest money transfer fee, but shorter 0% period

MBNA* UP TO 24 MONTHS 0%, 1.99% FEE

While this MBNA* card has the same 1.99% money transfer fee as the Virgin card above, you'll get a shorter 0% period. Also, poorer credit scorers might get fewer months at 0%, instead of the headline 24-month deal.

Need-to-knows
  • You must do your money transfer within 60 days of opening the card to get the promotional 1.99% fee and the 0% rate; do it later and you'll pay a 5% fee and 22.9% APR.
  • This card also offers 0% balance transfers for up to 32 months, with a handling fee of 1.14%.
  • Poorer credit scorers might get fewer months at 0%, instead of the full 24.
  • Always pay at least the minimum monthly repayments or you'll lose the 0% deal.
  • Never spend on the card, as there's no 0% period so it's at a much higher APR.
  • After the 0% deal ends, if you've still got a balance on the card, you'll pay 22.9% interest a year on it, so budget to pay it off within the 24 months.
ELIGIBILITY CHECK NOT AVAILABLE
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Money transfer length & fee: up to 24 months 0%, 1.99% fee
  • Annual interest rate on money transfers after the 0%: 22.9%
  • Representative variable APR on spending: 18.9% (Official APR Example)
  • Card issuer: Visa
  • Min income: N/A
  • Min repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest or £25
  • Any restrictions? Must transfer within 60 days
virgin

Long money transfer card

Virgin Money* 36 MONTHS 0%, 2.69% FEE

This Virgin Money* card gives three years at 0% on money transfers, with a fee of 2.69%. So if you'll need 36 months to pay off the debt, it could be the best option. Our eligibility calculator can now tell you if you're pre-approved for this card, too.

Need-to-knows
  • In addition, this card offers 0% balance transfers for 36 months, with a handling fee of 2.69%.
  • You'll pay interest on any remaining money transfer balance at a rate of 20.9% after the 0% period's over.
  • Always pay at least the minimum monthly repayments or you'll lose the 0% deal.
Eligibility Calculator
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Money transfer length & fee: up to 36 months 0%, 2.69% fee
  • Annual interest rate on money transfers after the 0%: 20.9%
  • Representative variable APR on spending: 20.9% (Official APR Example)
  • Card issuer: Mastercard
  • Min income: N/A
  • Min repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest or £25
  • Any restrictions? Must transfer within 60 days
mbna

Long money transfer card, but with a higher fee

MBNA* up to 36 MONTHS 0%, 2.99% FEE

This MBNA* card gives accepted applicants money transfers for up to 36 months at 0%, for a higher fee than the cards above, of 2.99%. Plus, some people with lower credit scores accepted for this card won't get the full 36 months at 0%, so it's worth looking at the Virgin cards above.

Need-to-knows
  • You must do your money transfer within 60 days of opening the card to get the promotional 2.99% fee; after this, the fee rises to 5%.
  • In addition, this card offers 0% balance transfers for up to 24 months, but with a handling fee of 3.45% – not great, so don't use the card for this.
  • Poorer credit scorers might get fewer months at 0% instead of the full 36 months.
  • You'll pay interest on any remaining money transfer balance at a rate of 22.9% after the 0% is over.
  • Always pay at least the minimum monthly repayments or you'll lose the 0% deal.
  • Never spend on the card, as there's no 0% period so it's at a much higher APR.
Eligibility Calculator
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Money transfer length & fee: up to 36 months 0%, 2.99% fee
  • Annual interest rate on money transfers after the 0%: 22.9%
  • Representative variable APR on spending: 18.9% (Official APR Example)
  • Card issuer: Visa
  • Min income: N/A
  • Min repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest or £25
  • Any restrictions? Must transfer within 60 days
virgin money

Longest money transfer card

Virgin Money* 41 MONTHS 0%, 3.79% FEE

This Virgin Money* card gives a massive 41 months at 0% on money transfers – the longest interest-free period currently available. However, it has a higher fee than the other cards in this guide, so consider if you'll need the full 41 months to pay it off before applying.

Need-to-knows
  • If you're accepted for the card you'll definitely get the full 41 months 0%.
  • In addition, this card offers 0% balance transfers for 41 months, with a fee of 3.19%.
  • You'll pay interest on any remaining money transfer balance at a rate of 20.9% after the 0% is over.
  • Always pay at least the minimum monthly repayments or you'll lose the 0% deal.
  • You must do your money transfer within 60 days of opening the card account to get the 41 months at 0%.
Eligibility Calculator
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Money transfer length & fee: 41 months 0%, 3.79% fee
  • Annual interest rate on money transfers after the 0%: 20.9%
  • Representative variable APR on spending: 20.9% (Official APR Example)
  • Card issuer: Mastercard
  • Min income: N/A
  • Min repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest or £25
  • Any restrictions? Must transfer within 60 days

Cashback sites may pay you for signing up

As an extra boon, members of specialist cashback websites can be paid when they sign up to some financial products. Do check it's exactly the same deal though, as terms can be different. And remember that cashback is never 100% guaranteed until it's in your account. 

Full help to take advantage of this and pros and cons in our Top Cashback Sites guide.

'What's my interest rate?' calculator

To see the cost of borrowing a lump sum on a credit card, pop your numbers into the calculator and it'll reveal the total interest and fees you'll pay, plus the equivalent of this as an APR. Then compare it to the best personal loan you could get.

Remember, if you borrow more after the initial lump sum, this will change the calculation entirely. Always work out a structured repayment plan to make this as cost-effective as possible – see below for the full technique.

What's the equivalent interest rate?

Compare true cost of borrowing a lump sum on a credit card

£
 
£
 
OR
 
months
Enter the details...
%
 
OR
 
%
 
 months
 
%
IMPORTANT: Only a rough estimate - please use only as an indication. Always do your own thorough checks before making any decisions.

Cheap credit card loans Q&A

  • I already have a loan. Can I cut the cost of it with a card?

  • What if I can't repay the card in full at the end of the 0% deal?

  • What if the credit limit isn't high enough?

  • Can I withdraw cash on a credit card?

Get Our Free Weekly Email!

For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes - join the 10m who get it. Don't miss out