0% Balance Transfer & Spend

Get up to 27 months 0%

Most credit cards are either good for new spending OR cutting the cost of existing debts. But some offer cheap intro rates on both.

Most credit cards are either good for new spending OR cutting the cost of existing debts. But some 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 right choice.

The seven golden rules

Before applying for an all-rounder card ensure you follow the seven golden rules.

  1. Only get one if spending AND shifting debt

    If you're mainly looking to shift existing debt, or only want a card for new spending, don't bother getting one of these. You can get longer deals with pure balance transfer cards or 0% cards for spending. But, if you need both, these cards can be a handy way to minimise the impact on your credit score – as you only need make one application to get both functions. 

    Quick question
    • They don't get near balance transfers – in general, all-rounder cards have high transfer fees, and max out at 29 months at 0%. Balance transfer cards can give you up to 32 months at 0%.

      Yet, for 0% spending, the best of these cards is just a few months off the longest 0% spending period on the market. However, if you only need a 0% spending card, many offer points or other perks for using them. See 0% spending cards for more.

  2. Beware of 'asymmetric deals' – where there's a longer 0% period on balance transfers than purchases

    Sometimes a 0% spending period is different from the 0% balance transfer period – so do watch out for this. For example, an all-rounder 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.

    Even if this is the case, 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.

  3. Ensure your borrowing stays free. Clear debt or shift again before the 0% or cheap rate ends, otherwise costs rocket

    Cheap all-rounder cards are designed to make lenders money when you fail to pay them off. At that point, the interest rate jumps massively, to a standard 15%-20% APR.

    Your aim should always be to clear the amount you transferred during the cheap 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 all-rounder card.

  4. Repay AT LEAST the set monthly minimum (preferably more) or you may lose the cheap rate

    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 £12 charge.

    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.

  5. 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. But our all-rounder cards eligibility calculator quickly shows your odds of getting almost every top all-rounder card so you can find the ones most likely to accept you, thus minimising applications.

    Quick questions
    • It uses a 'soft search', which is one you will see on your credit file but lenders usually don't (and where they do they can't use the info), to give us an indication of your credit score. We then match this against lenders' criteria for acceptance 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 mark on your credit file.

    • When you apply for any credit card, it checks you to match you up against its wish list for what is a profitable customer (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 & 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 20 months instead of 26. 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. This 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 the Credit Limit Too Low? guide.

      Unfortunately there's no system that can predict card firms' attitudes to you for these variables. But, as a rough rule of thumb, the higher the chance the eligibility calculator gives you, the closer to the rep APR and higher credit limit you should get.

  6. Or join our Credit Club for a full credit health check, including free your Experian Credit Report, 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 Report – your credit accounts and how you've managed them. 
    2. Free Experian Credit Score – how lenders rate your past credit behaviour. 
    3. MSE Affordability Score – how lenders assess if you can afford a product
    4. Your Credit Hit Rate – 
    how likely you actually are to be accepted when you apply.
    5. Credit Card & Loan Eligibility Calcs 
    – what your odds are of getting specific top deals.
    6. How to improve your credit profile – we show where your profile's strong and weak, and how to improve it.

  7. 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 20-month 0% all-rounder 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
    • Sadly, the only way to know what 0% deal you'll get is to actually apply for it (unless it's MBNA, Virgin or Barclaycard, and our eligibility calculator shows you're pre-approved, in which case you'll get the 0% deal advertised).

      For other cards, it seems anecdotally that the higher you score in our eligibility calculator (which doesn't affect your credit score), the more chance you have of getting the headline 0% – though this isn't a hard and fast rule.

    • Lenders tell us they do this based on risk. So if you've a credit score that only just meets a card provider's minimum criteria, it's likely you'll be accepted for the card, but given a lower number of months at 0%, or a higher APR.

Best Buys: Longest 0% cards

The best credit card deals currently break all records, though acceptance is tough (see eligibility calculator info above). When deciding which to choose, a good rule of thumb is...

Purchases don't have a fee, but balance transfers charge a one-off fee based on the amount transferred. Go for the lowest fee provided you're CERTAIN you can clear the card within its 0% length.

A lower fee can be trivial compared with interest if you don't clear the card or shift again before the 0% ends. A card with a 1% fee is £10 per £1,000 transferred. And a card with a 3% fee is £30 per £1,000, only a £20 difference, which could quickly be eaten up by interest. If unsure, go long; to help, we built the Which Card Is Cheapest? calculator.  

Joint-longest 0% on spending and balance transfers

This Barclaycard* card offers the joint-longest 0% period on spending and balance transfers, with a 2.7% fee to transfer your debt. If you do use the card for a balance transfer, you'll initially be charged a 3.5% fee, which will be refunded down to 2.7% within two working days.

  • If you transfer your balance after 60 days you'll pay a 3.5% fee.
  • After the 0% period ends, it's 19.9% APR, but poorer credit scorers might get up to 29.9%.
  • Always pay at least the minimum monthly repayment, or you'll lose the 0% deal.
  • Don't withdraw cash on this card. It usually isn't at the cheap rate and cash withdrawals hit your credit file.

BT and spending length and fee: Up to 27 months 0%, 2.7% BT fee
Balance-transfer time limit: 60 days
Representative variable APR: 19.9% (Official APR Example)
Card issuer: Visa
Min income: N/A
Min repay: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest, 2.25% of balance or £5

This Sainsbury's* card offers up to 27 months for spending and balance transfers, though you could be offered fewer interest-free months. You'll pay a 3% fee (min £3) to transfer a balance, so if you can clear the debt in fewer months you may be better off with one of the cards below.

Need-to-knows
  • You're charged a 3% one-off fee (min £3) to transfer a balance from another card.
  • Make sure you fully clear the card by the end of the 27 months or you'll be charged 20.9% APR on any remaining purchases balance or balance transfer debt.
  • Always pay at least the minimum monthly repayment, or you'll lose the 0% deal.
  • Don't withdraw cash on this card. It usually isn't at the cheap rate and cash withdrawals hit your credit file.

BT and spending length and fee: Up to 27 months 0% (some will get 24 or 21mths), 3% BT fee
Representative variable APR: 20.9% (Official APR Example)
Card issuer: Mastercard
Min income: N/A
Min repay: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest, 2.25% or £5

Apply*  

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 Bank 15 months 15 months 0.85% 18.9% -
MBNA* Up to 28 months (1) Up to 28 months 2.72% 19.9% You can use our eligibility calculator for this card
Post Office 
25 months
25 months
2.89% 19.9%
-
Virgin Money* 26 months 26 months 2.9% 18.9% You can use
our eligibility calculator for this card
Representative variable APR; your balance transfer interest may be different. See all Official APR Examples. (1) You must make purchases in the first 60 days to get the 0% offer. 

Best Buys: Long-term low-rate cards

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. 

Cheap long-term, low rate card plus earn Clubcard points 

The Tesco Bank Low APR credit card offers 0% on spending and balance transfers for one month, and then a low 5.9% representative APR on all spending and 6.05% on balance transfers after that. There's no fee to transfer your balance if you do so within the first month, plus you can earn Clubcard points on purchases.

Need-to-knows
  • Not everyone will get the low 5.9% APR. Some will get higher APRs of up to 11.9% on spending and 12.5% on balance transfers.
  • You get Clubcard points on your spending – one point for every full £4 spent at Tesco stores or petrol stations, one point for every £8 elsewhere.
  • You must balance-transfer within the first month; transfers after this attract a 3.99% fee.
  • You can't transfer a balance from another Tesco Bank credit card, or apply if you hold more than one Tesco Bank credit card already.
  • Tesco Bank can increase the rate after a year. But you can reject this rate hike.
  • Always pay at least the monthly minimum payment or you'll get a penalty for late payment and a mark on your credit file.
  • Don't withdraw cash on this card. It usually isn't at the cheap rate and cash withdrawals hit your credit file.

BT and spending rate and fee: 5.9% APR on spending and 6.05% on BT, no fee (see Official APR Examples)
Min income: £5,000
Card issuer: Mastercard
Min repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest or £25

Low interest rate for up to four years, 0.5% BT fee

The MBNA* Low Rate credit card offers an interest rate of 4.9% for up to four years, with a one-off fee of 0.5%, as long as you make your transfer within 60 days of account opening.

We've ranked this card below the Tesco Bank card above as the low 4.9% interest (for four years) only applies to balance transfers and purchases made within the first 60 days. Spend or transfer after that, and you'll pay the 8.9% rep APR.

Need-to-knows
  • The low 4.9% rate only applies to balance transfers and purchases made within the first 60 days.
  • After your low rate ends, you'll pay a 0.99% fee and 8.9% interest a year on any debt leftover.
  • Some poorer credit scorers getting this card may be given initial interest rates of 9.9%, jumping to 11.9% at the 48 months' end.
  • You can't transfer a balance from another MBNA card.
  • This card accepts transfers from non-MBNA issued Amex cards.
  • This card also offers money transfers at 4.9% interest for four years, with a 0.5% fee.
  • Always pay at least the minimum monthly repayment, or you'll lose the low-rate deal.
  • Don't withdraw cash on it; it's not at the cheap rate and cash withdrawals hit your credit file.

BT and spending rate and fee: 4.9% for 48mths then 8.9%, 0.5% fee
Min payment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest or £25 | Min balance transfer amount: £100
Min income: £20,000 | Card issuer: Mastercard | Time limit: 60 days
Representative variable APR on spending: 8.9% (Official APR Examples)

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.

All-rounder cards
Q&A

  • It depends on the amount, but if you were to do a balance transfer of £2,000 and spend £2,000 over a year, while paying off £350 a month, you could save £200 by using an all-rounder card instead of a standard one.

    Remember that over longer time periods, all-rounder cards can be beaten by using two separate cards; one for purchases and one for balance transfers.

    CARD TYPE INTEREST (AER) INTEREST & FEE AFTER 1 YEAR
    Standard card 18.9% £260
    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 on both £60
  • 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).

    This does mean in some circumstances you may shift debt to a new, cheaper card, but if it has a higher minimum payment, you'll need to pay more each month. Because you might not be able to afford that, ensure you check the minimum repayments before switching.

    However, 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 the 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. All-rounder 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% purchases 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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