0% balance transfer & spending

0% Balance Transfer & Spending Cards

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

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 the cards you have the best odds of getting before you apply.

Who's this guide for? Anyone with existing card debt, who wants to transfer a balance and spend at 0% on the same card.

Not what you want? Other related best-buy guides... 
0% money transfer cards | 0% spending credit cards | Balance transfer cards | Debt help | Credit cards explained

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The five 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.

  • 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. 

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

This card from Santander (check eligibility / apply*) 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. This can work out cheaper than other cards' fees, but depends on how much you're transferring. 

To work this out, divide £78 by the fee of other card. For example, £78 divided by the 2.95% fee of the TSB card below gives you £2,644, so you'd need to transfer more than this for Santander to be cheaper, otherwise it would be more expensive. You'll also need to consider what credit limit, which sets how much you can transfer, you'd get on this Santander card. 

The more you spend on this card, the more cashback you'll earn, which will effectively reduce the monthly fee. Yet 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)

Check if you'll get this card:

MSE's Eligibility Calculator

Or just go straight to the lender:

Apply*

More 0% balance transfer & spending 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
Some may get 15 or 10mths at 0%
19.9%
Sainsbury's Bank sadly not open to anyone self-employed
Check eligibility / apply*
Up to 20mths, 3% fee – (min £3) (iii)
Some may get 12mths at 0%
21.9%
Barclaycard
Check eligibility / apply*
18mths, 2.9% fee 21.9%
HSBC
Apply via eligibility calculator (iv)
18mths, 2.9% fee (min £5) 22.9%
M&S Bank
Apply via eligibility calculator (iv)
18mths (spending), 16mths (transfers), 2.9% fee (min £5) 19.9%
MBNA
Check eligibility / apply*
Up to 18mths, 2.75% or 3.49% fee (v)
Some may get 12mths at 0%
20.9%
Halifax
Apply direct to lender (not in eligibility calc)
Up to 17mths, 2.99% or 3.49% fee
Some may get 12mths at 0%
19.9%
Lloyds
Apply direct to lender (not in eligibility calc)
Up to 17mths, 2.99% or 3.49% fee
Some may get 12mths at 0%
19.9%
Virgin Money
Check eligibility / apply*
15mths (spending), 18mths (transfers), 2.9% fee 21.9%
Tesco Bank
Check eligibility / apply*
Up to 15mths, 1.99% fee
Some may get 12 or 9mths at 0%
19.9%

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) HSBC and M&S Bank have asked we direct people to our eligibility calculator, so only those more likely to be accepted will apply, reducing demand and enquiry calls, as they're over capacity and need to prioritise coronavirus help for vulnerable people. (v) Unusually, only purchases made in the first 60 days are at 0%.

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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.

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Coronavirus credit card help

If you're struggling to pay off debt on an existing credit card due to coronavirus, lenders should provide support. What's available depends on whether you've already had help:

For the latest updates and full information on the support available, see our coronavirus finance and bills help guide.

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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