0% Balance Transfer & Spending Cards

Get up to 26 months 0% on both with one card

0% balance transfer & spending

Most credit cards are good for new spending OR cutting the cost of existing debt. But some offer cheap intro rates on both. Lenders have tightened acceptance criteria in light of financial concerns from Coronavirus, but our Balance Transfer & Spending Eligibility Calculator will show cards you've the best odds of getting before applying.

The six golden rules

Before applying for a 0% balance transfer & spending card, ensure you read the seven golden rules.

  • If you're mainly looking to shift existing debt, or only want a card for new spending, it's worth looking at pure balance transfer cards or 0% spending cards as they may offer a greater range of options. But if you need both, these 'all-rounder' 0% cards can be a handy way to minimise the impact on your credit score – as you only need to make one application to get both functions.

    Quick question

    • In previous years, no. Yet the tide is turning and you can now get almost as many months at 0% on balance transfers as you can with specialist balance transfer credit cards – though, in general, these 'all-rounder' 0% cards have higher transfer fees. 

      For interest-free spending, the best 0% balance transfer & spending cards match the longest 0% spending period on the market. See 0% spending cards to compare.

  • Sometimes a 0% spending period is different from the 0% balance transfer period – so do watch out for this. For example, a card could offer 20 months 0% on balance transfers and only 15 months 0% on purchases. In this example, after 16 months of holding the card you'd still be within the 0% interest-free period on existing debt but any further spending will immediately incur interest. It's best to treat these cards as 0% for the shorter period, and aim to clear all the debt within that timeframe.

    If you can't, it's not as bad as it used to be, as your credit card provider now has to put repayments towards the most expensive debt first. So even if your purchase deal does run out before your balance transfer deal, any repayments you make will go towards paying off your remaining, interest-attracting purchases balance first – helping to clear that.

  • These cards are designed to make lenders money when you fail to pay them off within the 0% period. At that point, the interest rate jumps massively, to a standard 20%ish APR.

    Your aim should always be to clear the amount you transferred during the 0% period, minimising interest. If that's not possible, your next best bet is to shift again before the intro deal ends – or even back to the original card you shifted the debt from, if that's cheaper than the go-to rate on the 0% balance transfer & spending card.

  • 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 get a charge of up to £12.

    Quick question

    • Your aim should be to pay more than the minimum – unless you've pricey debts elsewhere, in which case focus max repayments on them. Minimum payments are designed to make debts last as long as possible, which you should try to avoid – see tips to beat this in Danger: Minimum Repayments.

  • Usually, the only way to know if you'll be accepted is to apply, but each application marks your credit report. But our 0% Balance Transfer & Spending Cards Eligibility Calculator quickly shows your odds of getting almost every top 'all-rounder' 0% card so you can find the ones most likely to accept you, thus minimising applications.

    How does the eligibility calculator work?

    It uses a 'soft search', which is one you will see on your credit report but lenders usually don't (and where they do they can't use the info), to give us an indication of your creditworthiness. We then match this against lenders' acceptance criteria so we can show you the odds of getting each card.

    Once you have this knowledge, it will allow you to make a smarter application. Say you have a much better chance of getting a card that's just one month shorter at 0%, you may want to go for that. Therefore, you're less likely to be rejected and less likely to need to apply elsewhere, which would add another application search to your credit report. Too many applications in a short time makes you look desperate for credit, and leads to other lenders being more wary of lending to you. 

    Or join our Credit Club for a full credit health check

    The 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 your Free Experian Credit Report and Credit Score, your Affordability Score, you Credit Hit Rate and much more.

    • When you apply for any credit card, the lender checks you to match you up against its wish list for what a profitable customer is (for full info on this and how to boost your chances, see our Credit Scoring guide). Yet this doesn't just dictate what products you'll be accepted for, but also how good the ones you actually get are. With balance transfer and spending cards, it has three main impacts:

      • Some cards vary the 0% length according to credit score. With some, but not all cards, while you might be accepted you may not get the 0% length advertised, eg, you might get 14 months instead of 20. We note in our need-to-knows for each card which cards this may happen with.

      • They always give a variable APR depending on credit score. Every credit card APR (the annual interest rate your card jumps to after the promotional period) is a 'representative' rate. The term 'representative' is defined in the rules as meaning they only need to give the advertised rate to 51% of accepted applicants – the rest can be, and sometimes are, charged more.

        Having said that, the aim is to clear the card or shift the debt before the 0% deal ends, so if you clear it in time, this is less of an issue as you'll never be charged the APR.

      • Lower credit scores tend to mean you get a smaller credit limit. If this happens, don't automatically jump to get another card instead – at least use what they've given you. See our Credit Limit Too Low? guide.

  • 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 20-month 0% card, be accepted, but be given 16 months at 0% – sometimes with a higher fee too.

    We highlight cards that do this by putting 'up to' before their headline offer, and tell you the other 0% lengths they may offer in the write-ups of the products below.

    Quick questions

Best Buys: Longest 0% 'all-rounder' cards

With cards offering both 0% balance transfers and 0% spending on one card, it's important to understand that spending on them doesn't have a fee, but transferring a balance to it does – a one-off charge based on the amount transferred. When deciding which card to choose, a good rule of thumb is...

Go for the lowest fee provided you're CERTAIN you can clear the card within its 0% period.

Be sure you can pay off the debt within the 0% period or shift the remaining balance before it ends – as a lower fee can be trivial compared with interest once it starts building up. If unsure, go long. 

Important: Some lenders ask that you go via our eligibility calculator, not direct

We've agreed to remove direct links to most lenders from this guide. Instead you'll be directed to our 0% Balance Transfer & Spending Eligibility Calculator (for lenders that let you check eligibility) to check your acceptance odds for many of the top cards, minimising applications and protecting your credit score.

Some lenders requested this so only those more likely to be accepted will actually click the 'apply' button, reducing demand and enquiry calls, as they're already over capacity and need to prioritise coronavirus help for vulnerable people.

Longest 0% period plus 0.5% cashback on all spending, but has £3 monthly fee

This card from Santander (apply via our eligibility calculator) is unusual as it has no fee to transfer a balance. It offers the longest 0% period on both spending and balance transfers of 26 months, and you'll definitely get the full 0% period if accepted. Plus, you get 0.5% cashback on all spending.

However, the card has a £3/mth fee, meaning over the 26-month 0% period you'll pay £78 in fees before any cashback. Compared to the 2.9% fee of the M&S Bank card below (which has six fewer months at 0%), you'd need to transfer more than £2,690 for the Santander card to be cheapest.

The more you spend on this card, the more cashback you'll earn, which will effectively reduce the monthly fee. Don't use this as an excuse to overspend and diarise to cancel the card when you clear the balance or the 0% period ends, to avoid ongoing fees.

Spending/balance transfer length & fee: 26 months 0%, £3/mth fee
To get the 0%, must transfer within: Promo period
Important: Clear card in full and cancel it by end of 0% period to avoid interest and extra fees (always pay at least the monthly minimum repayment) and don't withdraw cash on this card
Minimum repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest, or £5
Minimum income: £7,500
Representative APR (variable): 21.7% including £3 monthly fee (Official APR Examples)

Long 0% card and you'll definitely get the full time at 0% if you're accepted

This card from M&S Bank (apply via our eligibility calculator) offers the next longest 0% period on balance transfers and spending, and you'll definitely get the full 20 months if accepted. 

You'll earn reward points on spending (one per £1 spent in M&S and £5 spent elsewhere, worth 1p each) which convert into M&S vouchers. However, you can't transfer a balance from another HSBC Group card to it, which includes HSBC, First Direct and John Lewis.      

Spending/balance transfer length & fee: 20 months 0%, 2.9% fee (min £5)
To get the 0%, must transfer within: 90 days
Important: Clear card in full and cancel it by end of 0% period to avoid interest and extra fees (always pay at least the monthly minimum repayment) and don't withdraw cash on this card
Minimum repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest, 2.5% of balance or £5
Minimum income: N/A
Representative APR (variable): 19.9% (Official APR Examples)

More 0% balance transfer and purchase cards

The deals above are our current top picks, but if you didn't find one to suit you, here are the next best cards – ranked in order of 0% purchase deal length.

CARD  0% LENGTH + BALANCE TRANSFER FEE (i) APR (ii)
TSB
Apply direct to lender* (not in eligibility calc)
Up to 20mths, 2.95% fee 19.9%
Sainsbury's Bank - Must have had Nectar card for 6mths+
Apply direct to lender (not in eligibility calc)
Up to 20mths, 3% fee - (min £3) (iii) 20.9%
Barclaycard
Apply via eligibility calculator
18mths, 2.9% fee 20.9%
HSBC
Apply via eligibility calculator
18mths, 2.9% fee (min £5) 22.9%
MBNA
Apply direct to lender (not in eligibility calc)
Up to 18mths, 2.99% or 3.49% fee (iv) 20.9%
Halifax
Apply direct to lender (not in eligibility calc)
Up to 17mths, 2.99% or 3.49% fee 19.9%
Tesco Bank
Apply direct to lender (not in eligibility calc)
15mths, 1.49% fee 19.9%
Virgin Money
Apply via eligibility calculator
15mths (spending), 18mths (transfers), 2.9% fee 21.9%

Important: To get the 0%, you must usually do the balance transfer within 60/90 days of opening. (i) As a percentage of debt shifted. (ii) Representative variable APR, your balance transfer interest may be different (see all Official APR Examples). (iii) You'll get 750 bonus Nectar points when you spend £35+ at Sainsbury's in the first two months (max 7,500 points). Doing a big shop? Split it into smaller £35 chunks to max the bonus. (iv) Unusually, only purchases made in the first 60 days are at 0%.

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. 

There's full help to take advantage of this and pros and cons in our Top Cashback Sites guide.

Coronavirus help if you're struggling

If you're struggling to pay an existing credit card due to coronavirus, your provider should give you a payment holiday of up to three months, or offer an alternative way to help. 

DON'T just stop paying – you must arrange a break with your lender first (you've until 31 October to request it). Provided you've agreed it with your lender, these payment holidays then can't hurt your creditworthiness and won't come with any penalties or charges.

You'll still be charged interest during the payment holiday though, so will likely pay more overall. It's therefore best to only do this if you need to – if you can afford to pay, it's better to keep doing so. 

See our full lender-by-lender credit card help for the latest updates, full information and how to apply.

0% 'all-rounder' cards Q&A

  • Lenders have a wish list and want profitable customers – it's not all about your credit score. If they determine you can't afford the card or you're simply not profitable to them, they may reject you.

    Of course, you should check for errors on your credit file, but hard and fast reasons for rejection are difficult to come by. It may be as bizarre as a lender choosing to give credit cards to customers it's more likely to be able to flog a mortgage to. For a better understanding, visit our Credit Club to see your unique MSE Affordability Score and Experian Credit Score for free.

  • No. These are totally separate things. Unlike loans, with credit cards you choose how much you repay each month, though every card has a set minimum monthly repayment. The interest rate is the cost of the debt. For example, a rate of 20% on £1,000 means it costs you £200 a year assuming a constant balance (see our Interest Rates guide for more).

    Always check a card's minimum repayment before switching – as you could end up paying more each month than you do now.

    Also bear in mind that the more you repay, the faster the debt disappears. Especially important is that you try to pay more than the set minimum. For more on that and tips on how to do it, read our Minimum Repayments: Danger! guide.

  • If it's not high enough to buy what you want, or transfer other debts to the card, just use as much of the limit of the card you've just got as you can. You could always try to get another purchases or balance transfer card, or look for another way to get the cash.

  • It could, but you'll need to be disciplined. These 'all-rounder' 0% cards can be used to balance-transfer existing card debts, giving you time to pay off the debt more slowly, and at 0%. But as there's a 0% spending period too, it could actually tempt you in to further debt – so it might be better not to take the risk.

    It may be better to look at more serious ways to cut costs and sort out your debts. See our Money Makeover guide for how to cut costs on everyday expenses, or Debt Help for where to find help and advice.

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