0% balance transfer & purchase cards
Get up to 21 months 0% purchases and 18 months 0% balance transfers 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. We've full info and our top picks, plus our Balance Transfer & Spending Eligibility Calculator will show the cards you have the best odds of getting before you apply.
What is a 0% all-rounder credit card?
Most 0% credit cards are good for new spending OR cutting the cost of existing debt, but an all-rounder card offers 0% intro rates for a number of months on both.
You can usually get a longer 0% period with a dedicated balance transfer card, though if you have a need to borrow further (eg, a planned, affordable, one-off purchase, such as replacing a broken fridge) then an all-rounder card offers one fewer application hitting your credit file, protecting your creditworthiness.
Watch out for cards with two different 0% lengths
Certain cards have, for example, 20 months 0% on spending and 16 months 0% on transfers. In this case, after 16 months you'd start paying interest on any amount left that you'd transferred. It's therefore best to clear the card by the shortest 0% period, so you don't get caught out.
However, if you can't, any repayments you make has to go towards paying off the most expensive debt first, so this will at least clear first.
The five golden rules
Before applying for a 0% balance transfer & spending card, ensure you read the five golden rules.
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 usually lose your cheap deal – the rate will jump to the APR and you'll get a £12ish charge.
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.
2. Ensure your borrowing stays free. Clear debt or shift again before the 0% or cheap rate ends, or costs rocket
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 22%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.
While balance transfers and purchases on these cards are interest-free for a number of months, cash withdrawals are not, and you usually pay interest from the date of making the cash withdrawal until it's paid off.
This means you'll most probably see an interest charge on the first statement after the cash withdrawal, which is the interest charged from the date you made the cash withdrawal until the date the statement was issued.
But you may also see interest charged on the following statement. There'll be a delay between your statement being drawn up, and you paying it. It may be a couple of days, it may be a couple of weeks. But you'll be charged interest on the cash withdrawal until you pay it off.
For most cards, the 0% period is only reserved for balance transfers that are made within the first 60 or 90 days – though always check your card for its time limit, as it does vary. After this has passed, any transfers would incur expensive interest at the card's normal rate, unless it's paid off in full.
This can sometimes apply to the one-off transfer fee too, so it's likely you'd incur a higher fee on later transfers, in addition to interest.
There are some notable exceptions to this though, with certain cards requiring the balance transfer to be requested at the point of applying and other cards allowing transfers at any point during the 0% period. Though as the 0% period usually starts on the day the account is opened, you'd have less interest-free time if you waited.
For balance transfers, one rule is pretty clear – you can't transfer a balance from a card issued by the same bank (ie, from one Barclaycard to another).
However for some cards it's a bit more complicated, as certain providers extend this to prevent transfers between cards from the same banking group:
Banking group Credit cards you can't transfer a balance between Capital One Capital One, Littlewoods, Luma, Ocean, Post Office (cards issued after November 2019), Thinkmoney and Very HSBC First Direct, HSBC, John Lewis Finance and M&S Bank NatWest NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Ulster Bank NewDay Amazon, Argos, Aqua, Fluid, Marbles and Opus. You're also unable to transfer a balance from a store card or American Express Santander Cahoot and Santander Virgin Money B, Clydesdale Bank, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Money and Yorkshire Bank
See which credit cards you've the best chance of getting, in your own personal best-buy table.
Usually, applying is the only way to know if you'll be accepted for a credit card. Yet that marks your credit file, affecting your ability to get future credit. To help, our tool uses a 'soft search' to find your chances of acceptance before applying.
Check your chance of acceptance
Top 0% 'all-rounder' cards
You'll pay a one-off fee for transferring a balance, so it's best to go for the card with the lowest fee in the time you're sure you can repay it. If unsure, play safe and go long.
Important. These include 'up to' cards, so poorer credit scorers may get a shorter deal than advertised – unless you're showing as pre-approved in our eligibility calculator. This is the best route as it shows which cards you're most likely to be accepted for.
Important: (i) Fee as a percentage of debt shifted. To get the 0% and fee, you must usually do the balance transfer within 60 or 90 days of opening. You can't transfer a balance between cards from the same bank/group. Representative APR (variable) after the 0% period is stated above – your balance transfer interest may be different. See all official APR examples. MBNA has asked us to link only to our eligibility calculator – as it doesn't have this card available to apply for directly.
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.
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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