Balance Transfer Credit Cards

32mths 0%, 0.99% fee

Paying credit card interest? STOP. A balance transfer credit card can save you £1,000s by slashing the interest you pay. This guide explains it all, compares the best deals and includes our 'eligibility calculator' to find cards you've best odds of getting.

How do balance transfers work?

With a balance transfer you get a new card to pay off debt on old credit and store cards, so you owe it instead, often at 0% interest – sometimes for a small fee. You're debt-free quicker as more of your repayments reduce the debt, rather than pay interest. If unsure which to pick, use this golden rule...

It's best to go for the card with lowest fee in the time you're sure you can repay it. If unsure, play safe and go long.

Use our eligibility calculator to find cards you're most likely to get, without hitting your credit score

Making an application is recorded on your credit file. While a single one is not a big problem, especially if you've a good credit score, lots in a short time are problematic.

So use our Balance Transfer Eligibility Calculator to show cards you're most likely to get, so you don't waste an application. And it's NOT recorded as a hard search on your credit file.

Quick question
  • Having another card in itself can have an impact on your credit score as it gives you access to more available credit. Whether that's positive or negative depends on your circumstances. See our boost your credit score guide for full help.

    But a balance transfer is not for everyone... say, if you've a really poor credit score or you simply don't trust yourself not to spend on a balance transfer card (which probably won't be at 0%). Have a good read of this guide to work out if it's for you.

Rather watch than read? This helpful little video gives you the balance transfer lowdown...

Video player requires JavaScript enabled. You can watch this video here: https://youtu.be/aH-GkLS3xPY

The six golden rules

Get this wrong and it can cost you large, so please read the following.

  • Cheap balance transfer deals are designed to make lenders money when you fail to pay them off, or switch to a new 0% before the low rate ends. At that point, the interest rate jumps massively to 15-40%.

    What can I do if I can't pay off my debt within the 0% period?

    Your aim should always be to clear the amount you transferred over during the cheap period, minimising the 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 balance transfer card.

    To see the cost of paying off different cards over varying time periods, use our Which Card Is Cheapest? calculator.

  • Just because you grabbed a 0% deal, it DOESN'T mean you can get away with paying nothing – you must pay at least the minimum monthly payments, preferably more. Otherwise you will be hit with penalties and some card providers will withdraw the deal, leaving you on an expensive rate.

    How much should I aim to pay?

    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.

  • Credit cards let you spend, shift debt or withdraw cash but banks must put repayments towards the most expensive debt first. So spending on a balance transfer card isn't as bad as it was, as repayments first clear the spending, but it can still cost, as you only avoid interest if you pay off the FULL balance, including transfers and purchases.

    And if you take out cash you are still charged interest in most cases even if you pay off the balance in full, as interest on withdrawals is charged from the moment you take it out till paid off.

    Quick Questions

    • If you need to spend on the card, it's best to get a separate 0% credit cards for purchases or try an all-rounder card, which has the same 0% length for balance transfers and spending, and means you only need to apply for one card. Check the 0% Balance Transfer & Spending guide.

    • Unlike purchases, you normally don't get any interest free period on cash withdrawals – even if you pay off in full at your next statement date. 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.

  • Usually, the only way to know if you'll be accepted is to apply, but each application marks your credit file. But our Balance Transfer Eligibility Calculator quickly shows your odds of getting almost every top balance transfer card so you can find the ones most likely to accept you before applying, thus minimising applications.

    How does the eligibility calculator work?

    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.

    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.

  • 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, say, apply for a 33-month 0% balance transfer deal, be accepted but given 20 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.

    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.

  • Most cards in this guide are 0% deals, but usually require a good credit score and are for new customers only. If your score is patchy, you may still be able to slash the interest you're paying by doing a credit card shuffle.

    It isn't the latest poker trick but our technique using existing-customer balance transfer deals to allow you to shift debt around cards you already have (if you're not maxed out). It's complex, but it's saved people £100s, without new cards.

    Our technique is based on you calling your existing card provider (or each one if you have many), and asking if it has any low-rate deals on the card(s) you already have. If so, you can start transferring debt around.

    If you're paying debts at 18.9% APR on one credit card, and you can get a low-rate deal for 6.9% APR on another card you have, you could save about £120 interest in a year on a £1,200 debt.

    Even if you can't get any special deals, as long as you have a number of cards you can pile as much debt as possible onto the card with the lowest interest rate, then focus your efforts on clearing the most expensive debt first. Here's how to do it step by step:

    1. List all your debts – take stock of your current situation and note down all your existing debts, including an overdraft if you have one. Our credit card shuffle worksheet should help.
    2. Ask your provider(s) to cut the rate – sometimes simply calling and asking your existing credit card company for an interest-rate reduction can work to slash the costs of existing credit, without needing a balance transfer.
    3. Shift debts around existing cards – do a balance transfer to shift your debt from the card(s) charging the most interest to the one charging the least.
    4. Repay the most expensive debts first – the most crucial part...

    Start repaying, focusing as much cash as possible on the most expensive debt first.

    This means you should just pay the minimum repayments on all other, less expensive cards, and pay off the dearest with any spare cash. Once it's repaid, shift focus to the next-highest-rate card and continue this until you're debt-free.

    Quick Questions

    • If you balance-transfer to a card at a special cheap rate, but already hold debts on it with a higher interest rate, the provider biases your repayments towards the higher rate debts first. This is good, as it means the most expensive balance disappears first (it used to be the other way around).

      However, it means to get the absolute most out of the shuffle, there are a couple of extra steps to follow:

      1. Only focus repayments until the expensive debt's repaid – once you've done the shuffle, and you know the priority with which you should pay off each lump of debt, make sure you stop once all the expensive layer is gone.

        For example, Luke has £1,000 on Credit Card A, £700 of which is being charged at a low 6% interest and £300 at a nasty 25%, and £400 on Credit Card B at 18% interest. To make the most of the shuffle, he should clear the high-interest £300 from Card A first and then switch to clearing the £400 on Card B before finally paying off the remaining £700 on Card A.

      2. Move existing debts away, then back again – if you've enough spare balance on other cards, you can take advantage of any special balance transfer deal by moving all the debt off the card. Then once it has transferred over, shift it back again (along with whatever other debt you intended to move to the card).

        Following on from our example above, let's imagine Luke has £300 on Card A, which also has an offer of 6% interest on any balances transferred to it. Luke could shift £300 from Card A to Card B, then once it's transferred over, move the whole £700 balance on Card B back to Card A, so everything's at the lower 6% interest.

      This means as much debt as possible is at your new, lower rate. Do be aware of balance transfer fees which could wipe out the gain.

    • The credit card shuffle needs careful management but if you follow the steps above, you could cut the total amount you have to repay by thousands.

      Here's an example, showing the interest you'd pay doing a credit card shuffle vs not doing the shuffle. See below table for a full description:

      £7,000 debts repaying £100/month on each card until repaid in full

      CARD CREDIT LIMIT WITHOUT SHUFFLE
      WITH  SHUFFLE
      INTEREST RATE
      DEBT TOTAL INTEREST (1)
      INTEREST RATE
      DEBT (2)
      TOTAL INTEREST (3)
      Card A
      £3,000
      14.9%
      £1,500
      £141
      14.9% on existing debt,
      6.9% on new debt
      £1,500
      £1,500
      £526
      Card B
      £3,000
      16.9%
      £0
      £0
      0% for 4 months then 16.9% £3,000 £235
      Card C
      £2,000
      19.9%
      £500
      £23
      19.9% £0 £0
      Card D
      £5,000
      17.9%
      £5,000
      £1,784
      17.9% £1,000 £31
      TOTAL Avg rate = 17.4%
      £1,948
      Avg rate = 14.1%
      £792
      (1) £100 monthly repayments on each card until card fully repaid. (2) All debt now balance-transferred; to do this, it was moved off the card and returned. (3) Repaying most expensive debt prioritised while paying minimum on other cards.

      With normal debts of £1,500 on Card A, £500 on Card C and £5,000 on Card D, the average interest rate is 17.4%. Repay £100/month on each card and by the time you've cleared the cards in full, the interest totals £1,948.

      Yet shuffle as much as possible onto Card A's 6.9% existing-customer offer for new debt and the rest to Card B at four months 0% then 16.9%, and then repay the most expensive debts first. This way the average interest rate is reduced to just under 16%, meaning the interest is only £792, less than half the cost – meaning a massive saving of £1,156.

Best long-0% balance transfer cards

Acceptance is tough for the longest 0% balance transfer deals, so don't just apply willy-nilly. Use our Balance Transfer Eligibility Calculator to check which you've best odds of getting before you apply.

This M&S Bank* credit card offers a long 0% period, and if you're accepted you'll definitely get the full 32 interest-free months.

Balance transfer length & fee: 32 months 0%, 0.99% fee (min £5)
Important: 
Clear card in full by end of 0% period to avoid interest (always pay at least the monthly minimum repayment) & don't spend/withdraw cash on this card
Balance transfer interest after 0%: 19.9%
Minimum repayment: Greatest of 1% of balance plus interest, 2.5% of balance, or £5
Min income: N/A
0% balance transfer time limit: 90 days
Representative APR (variable): 19.9% (see Official APR Examples)

See how likely it is you'll get this card

MSE's Eligibility Calculator

Or just go straight to the lender

Apply*

This Barclaycard* credit card offers up to 29 months at 0%. While it has a shorter 0% period than the card above, if you can clear your balance within 29 months, the low fee could make it a winner.

You could be offered fewer 0% months, though if you're pre-approved through our eligibility calculator you'll definitely get the full 29 months. You'll initially be charged a fee of 3.5% of the amount transferred, then Barclaycard will refund it down to 0.75% within two working days.

Balance transfer length & fee: Up to 29 months 0%, 0.75% fee
Important: 
Clear card in full by end of 0% period to avoid interest (always pay at least the monthly minimum repayment) & don't spend/withdraw cash on this card
Balance transfer interest after 0%: 19.9%
Minimum repayment: Greatest of 1% of balance plus interest, 2.5% of balance, or £5
Min income: N/A
0% balance transfer time limit: 60 days
Representative APR (variable): 19.9% (see Official APR Examples)

See how likely it is you'll get this card

MSE's Eligibility Calculator

Or just go straight to the lender

Apply*

Need even longer at 0%? 

MBNA offers the longest 0% balance transfer card available at up to 33 months with a 1.99% fee (21.9% interest after). However, you must apply via its own eligibility calculator. If you use it, be aware that it may throw other MBNA cards at you, even if you could get better cards elsewhere - our eligibility calculator only shows you the best products.

While it's the longest 0% period available, unless you NEED the extra month, the M&S card above – with a lower balance transfer fee – is likely a better deal.

Got the cards above? More 0% balance transfer cards

If you can't find a card above that suits you, here are some quick details of the next best. The 0% periods aren't as long, or they come with a slightly higher fee, but they're still good alternatives.

CARD 0% LENGTH BT FEE APR ELIGIBILITY CALCULATOR
HSBC* 32 mths 1.4% (min £5) 19.9% You can use our eligibility calculator for this card
Virgin Money* 31 mths 0.85% 20.9%
You can use our eligibility calculator for this card
Barclaycard*  Up to 31 mths 1.45% 19.9% You can use our eligibility calculator for this card

Representative variable APR, your balance transfer interest may be different | See all Official APR Examples

Best NO-FEE 0% balance transfer cards

If you can clear your debts in 27 months, why pay a fee at all? They're the best option if you can DEFINITELY pay it off within the 0% period. We've ordered them from longest to shortest.

This Santander* card is a good no-fee option, and if you're accepted you'll definitely get the full 0% period – which isn't always guaranteed on other cards. Unusually, you'll pay no fee if you transfer at any point within the 27mths, though you'd have less interest-free time if you waited.

Balance transfer length & fee: 27 months 0%, no fee
Important: 
Clear card in full by end of 0% period to avoid interest (always pay at least the monthly minimum repayment) & don't spend/withdraw cash on this card
Balance transfer interest after 0%: 18.9%
Minimum repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest or £5
Min income: N/A
0% balance transfer time limit: N/A
Representative APR (variable): 18.9% (see Official APR Examples)

See how likely it is you'll get this card

MSE's Eligibility Calculator

Or just go straight to the lender

Apply*

Got the above? More no-fee 0% balance transfer cards

If the card above doesn't suit you, here are quick details of the next best cards.

CARD 0% LENGTH BT FEE APR ELIGIBILITY CALCULATOR
Sainsbury's Bank* Up to 26mths None 20.9% You can use our eligibility calculator for this card
Barclaycard* Up to 24mths None (1) 19.9% You can use our eligibility calculator for this card - are you pre-approved?
Tesco Bank* Up to 22mths None 19.9% You can use our eligibility calculator for this card

Representative variable APR, your balance transfer interest may be different | (1) You're initially charged a 2% fee, refunded within 28 working days | See all Official APR Examples

Best long-term, low-rate balance transfer cards

If you may need longer than the 0% lengths above or you prefer a stable relationship rather than switching every couple of years when a 0% deal ends, a low-rate card could be best – you sometimes even get that rate for the life of the balance. These charge interest but at MUCH lower rates than standard interest charges.

However, there are the two big things to consider...

  • The current top 0% deals are impressive. Switch debt to the top 0% card and even if you end up on the APR because you can't repay in full or switch again (though you should always aim to) before the deal ends, it can still beat the best life-of-balance deals if you don't do any extra spending on it. To help find your cheapest option, use the Which Card Is Cheapest? calculator.

    It's all about how quickly you can pay off your debt. If you've a 0% card and you pay off a couple of months after the 0% ends, it's likely you've got your balance down so low that any interest charged will be pretty low. But, if you've not paid down your debt, then interest charges will be huge.

    But with low-rate life-of-balance cards, your interest is always low – but because you are paying interest, do try to pay down the debt as quickly as possible.

  • Replicating a loan using a credit card is tough – it can be done, but you'll need to be disciplined or it won't work.

    Once you've done your 'loan' spending – so after you've spent out on the expensive item you need a loan for – lock the card away. Freeze it if it helps. Then set up a direct debit to repay a fixed monthly amount designed to clear the loan within a set time. Our loan calculator will help you work this out.

    Low-rate life-of-balance plastic used in this way is more effective and often cheaper than a personal loan. It allows the flexibility of paying off more when you can afford it. However, if you really don't have the necessary discipline, consider a cheap personal loan. Just be wary of borrowing more than you can afford.

Low interest rate for up to four years with a small fee

The MBNA* Low Rate card offers a low 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 (you'll pay 8.9% interest and a 0.99% fee otherwise).

After your low rate ends, you'll pay 8.9% interest a year on any debt leftover, so aim to clear it within four years. Some poorer credit scorers will pay initial interest rates of 9.9%, jumping to 11.9% at the 48 months' end, which wouldn't be as good a deal.

We've put this card above the life-of-balance card below because after crunching the numbers on balances up to £7,500 (as larger limits are rarer), we found it's cheaper, even with the fee, as long as you budget to pay off your debt within four years. Any longer, and the card below wins.

Balance transfer rate & fee: 4.9% for 48mths then 8.9%, 0.5% fee
Important: 
Always pay at least the monthly minimum repayment or you'll get a penalty for late payment and a mark on your credit file 
Minimum repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest or £25
Min income: £20,000
Balance transfer time limit: 60 days
Representative APR (variable): 8.9% (see Official APR Examples)

See how likely it is you'll get this card

MSE's Eligibility Calculator

Or just go straight to the lender

Apply*

Cheapest low rate card, with one interest-free month

This Tesco credit card lets you balance-transfer at 6.05% interest for the life of the balance, though poorer credit scorers could pay 12.5%. There's no fee as long as you transfer within one month (3.99% after), and as a bonus there's 0% interest for the first month.

If you know you'll be able to clear your debt within four years, the MBNA card above will probably be cheaper due to the lower rate, in spite of its 0.5% fee. But if you need longer, this is best.

Balance transfer rate & fee: 6.05%, no fee
Important: 
Always pay at least the monthly minimum repayment or you'll get a penalty for late payment and a mark on your credit file 
Minimum repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest or £25
Min income: £5,000
Balance transfer time limit: One month
Representative APR (variable): 5.9% (see Official APR Examples)

  • The minimum balance transfer amount is £1.

  • Tesco can increase the rate after a year but if a rate change is announced, as long as you agree not to borrow more, you have a right to reject any rise and pay off your balance at the current rate. See our Rate Jacking guide for the full rules.

  • You can do a balance transfer from other credit or store cards, unless it's a Tesco card. If transferring from an Amex card, you'll need to call Tesco to get it processed.

    If you've already got more than one Tesco Bank credit card, you can't get this one.

Go straight to the lender

Apply

Best balance transfer cards for poorer credit scorers

To be accepted for most of the deals above, you need a decent credit score. Yet there is hope for those with a patchy credit past with the deals below...

If you've debts on high-interest cards, but maybe have only had one card in the past, the Barclaycard Platinum* is aimed at you. It gives 18 months 0% as long as you transfer within 60 days – and if you're accepted you'll definitely get the full 0% period.

It's easier to qualify for than other cards in this guide and used well can be a route out of debt. It's NOT for those with serious credit problems, such as recent CCJs or defaults.

Balance transfer length & fee: 18 months 0%, 2.99% fee
Important: 
Clear card in full by end of 0% period to avoid interest (always pay at least the monthly minimum repayment) & don't spend/withdraw cash on this card
Balance transfer interest after 0%: 24.9% (some will pay 29.9%)
Minimum repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest, 2.25%, or £5
Min income: N/A
0% balance transfer time limit: First 60 days
Representative APR (variable): 24.9% (see Official APR Examples)

  • The minimum balance transfer amount is £250.

  • Although you won't be offered fewer months on this card, some accepted applicants with a slightly poorer credit score will be given a 29.9% interest rate, as Barclaycard operates rate-for-risk pricing. This can hit the cost of your balance transfer, especially if you find you can't pay it off within the 18-month 0% period.

  • After the 18-month 0% is up, any debt left on the card will start to accrue interest at 24.9% or 29.9%. Either clear the card before interest hits, or, if you can't, do a balance transfer to another card.

See how likely it is you'll get this card

MSE's Eligibility Calculator

Or just go straight to the lender

Apply*

Unlike the Barclaycard above, these cards are specifically designed for people who have had past credit problems.

A short-term respite from interest if you've a poor credit history

For those who've had past credit problems, Capital One's* Balance card provides a rare lifeline – even if you've had past defaults or CCJs. The 0% on balance transfers only lasts for six months, so treat it as an opportunity to shift debt in the short term, giving you a respite from interest which you should use to clear the card, if you can.

Credit limits are low, starting between £200 and £1,500. You still have to pass a credit check and CCJs or defaults must be more than a year old.

Balance transfer length & fee: 6 months 0%, 3% fee
Important: 
Clear card in full by end of 0% period to avoid interest (always pay at least the monthly minimum repayment) & don't spend/withdraw cash on this card
Balance transfer interest after 0%: 34.9%
Minimum repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest or £5
Min income: N/A
0% balance transfer time limit: N/A
Representative APR (variable): 34.9% (see Official APR Examples)

  • The minimum balance transfer amount is £50.

  • In a perfect world, you'd shift all your debts to it, repay in six months and be debt-free. Yet if your debts are too big, that may not be possible. So, here's the best way to use it:

    Shift as much debt as possible from the card(s) you have with the highest APR.

    Use the 0% period on this card to pay as much off as possible, so that when it hits 34.9% you've little debt left.

    After the 0% ends, if you shifted it from a card with a lower APR than this 34.9%, try to shift the remainder back on to the original card. There should be room if you've not spent on it – see the credit card shuffle. If you can't shift back, then try to pay this card off as quickly as possible.

  • This is only a short-term deal so ensure you remember the end date and check to see if you can transfer the balance to another card then, if you still owe cash.

    This will be easier if you make sure you always make the minimum repayments – if you don't, you may lose the deal anyway and have little chance of a new deal if your credit rating takes another hit.

  • All spending is at the huge 34.9% representative APR from day one – AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE.

See how likely it is you'll get this card

MSE's Eligibility Calculator

Or just go straight to the lender

Apply*

Like the Capital One card above, this Aqua* card is also designed for those with a poor credit history, accepting those with past defaults, CCJs or bankruptcies (though you can't have had an Aqua or Marbles card within the last year). It offers the same six month 0% period on balance transfers, giving you a short-term break from interest.

Credit limits are low, starting between £250 and £1,200. You still have to pass a credit check, any CCJs must be more than a year old, and you must not have been registered bankrupt in the past 18mths or have bankruptcy proceedings against you.

Marbles (eligibility calc / apply*), issued by the same provider as Aqua, offers a card with 0% for five months for a 3% fee (up to 69.95% APR after) – just one month less than this Aqua card.

Balance transfer length & fee: 6 months 0%, 3% fee (min £3)
Important: 
Clear card in full by end of 0% period to avoid interest (always pay at least the monthly minimum repayment) & don't spend/withdraw cash on this card
Balance transfer interest after 0%: 34.9% (some will pay up to 59.9%)
Minimum repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest or £5
Min income: N/A
0% balance transfer time limit: N/A
Representative APR (variable): 34.9% (see Official APR Examples)

  • The minimum balance transfer amount is £100.

  • In a perfect world, you'd shift all your debts to it, repay in six months and be debt-free. Yet if your debts are too big, that may not be possible. So, here's the best way to use it:

    • Shift as much debt as possible from the card(s) you have with the highest APR.
    • Use the 0% period on this card to pay as much off as possible, so that when it hits 34.9% you've little debt left.
    • After the 0% ends, if you shifted it from a card with a lower APR than this 34.9%, try to shift the remainder back on to the original card. There should be room if you've not spent on it – see the credit card shuffle. If you can't shift back, then try to pay this card off as quickly as possible.
  • This is only a short-term deal so ensure you diarise the end date and check to see if you can transfer the balance to another card then, if you still owe cash.

    This will be easier if you make sure you always make the minimum repayments – if you don't, you may lose the deal anyway and have little chance of a new deal if your credit rating takes another hit.

  • All spending is at the huge 34.9% representative APR from day one – AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE.

See how likely it is you'll get this card

MSE's Eligibility Calculator

Or just go straight to the lender

Apply*

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 that it's exactly the same deal though, as terms can be different. And remember the 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.

Balance transfer calculator: Which card is cheapest for you?

Choosing your balance transfer weapon's more complicated than it used to be.

The aim should still always be to repay within the interest-free time, or switch after that to another 0% deal if you haven't repaid. However, if you can't, don't automatically jump for a long-term deal, as it may not be cheapest.

This calculator gives you an indication of which card might be cheapest, based on your debt and likely repayments. However, do note that not every card above is included within the tool.

Balance transfers Q&A

  • When you apply for the new card, it will usually include a 'do you want to transfer debts from other cards?' section. In this, you just put in the details of the other cards. If you're successful getting the new card, it will pay the other one off.

    Even if you don't do it at initial application, most cards normally allow you to do a transfer within a set period of getting the card (usually 30-90 days).

  • Sadly, the only way to know what 0% deal you'll get is to actually apply for it (unless our eligibility calculator shows you're pre-approved, in which case you'll get the 0% deal advertised).

  • 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 transfers 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 30. 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 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.

  • 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 per year assuming a constant balance (see the 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. If that may be unaffordable, ensure you check the minimum repayments before switching.

  • As much as you can – even 0% debt is still debt. 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.

  • The cheaper the interest rate, the more of your repayment goes towards clearing what you owe rather than servicing the interest. This means you'll be debt-free quicker and will have to pay less in total to do it.

  • Move what you can, then if needed, simply apply for another provider's card and move the rest there. Don't leave the limit unused if it's cheaper to shift debt to it, as it's already on your credit file so you may as well use it.

  • No. This isn't like current account switching, where if you use the new seven day switching service, your old account is closed.

    All a balance transfer does is transfer debt from one card to another. The old card stays open, and you're able to use it if you wish – although if you're trying to pay debt off, it's usually not wise to keep spending on credit.

    If you want to close your old card, you will have to let your old card provider know. Just not using the card or cutting it up doesn't close the account. Read full pros and cons of closing old credit card accounts in the Should I Cancel Old Cards? guide.

  • If you've regularly used cards to balance-transfer in the past, it's likely you'll have held cards from many of the top-pick providers in this guide. Each has its own rules, but many card providers will automatically reject you if you already have one of their products, or have had one in the past 6 to 12 months.

    To help, where possible, we've listed alternative cards, in case you aren't eligible for the top picks. To improve your chances of getting the best deal, cancel any cards you have open but don't need. Read more in the Should I Cancel Old Cards? guide.

  • As many times as you like. You can balance-transfer from card, to card, to card. The only limiting factor is whether your credit score is high enough to be accepted for new cards.

  • Yes, you can. Credit card providers let you transfer from more than one old card to a single new one – and you'll be able to get the 0% period on all balances transferred, as long as you do them all within a specific period (usually 60-90 days of taking out the card).

    You can often transfer more than one balance at the same time – or you could do separate transfers if your new card doesn't let you do them all at once. Just be aware that your balance transfer limit will usually be 90-95% of your total credit limit, so you wouldn't be able to transfer more than that amount in total.

  • Before you think about doing this, be aware that the debt then becomes yours. Even if you have an agreement with your partner that he or she will make the payments, the credit has been provided to you, so it's your responsibility to pay it off.

    Some lenders allow you to transfer a balance from any card (as long as it's not with the same provider), it doesn't have to be in your name.

    If you need to transfer a balance in your name, some lenders will let you become a second cardholder on your partner's account and then allow you to shift the debt across.

    We checked with several major lenders:

    LENDER CAN YOU TRANSFER DEBT FROM OTHERS' CARDS?
    AA No
    Bank of Scotland No
    Barclaycard Yes
    Halifax No
    HSBC Yes
    Lloyds No
    MBNA No
    Sainsbury's Yes (under review)
    Santander Yes, if they're one of your additional cardholders (1)
    Tesco Bank No
    TSB Yes, if they live at the same address as you
    Virgin Money Yes, if they're one of your additional cardholders (1) (2)
    Last updated May 2018. (1) Your partner must live at the same address as you to be an additional cardholder. (2) Your partner will need to pass a basic credit check.

    If your lender doesn't allow either of these, and you can't get a card from one that does, there is the option to do a money transfer. This is where you get a card and ask the provider to 'do a money transfer to your current account' – there are fees for doing it, and they tend to be higher than on balance transfers – eg, you can get a 25mth 0% balance transfer card with no fee, but the lowest 25mth 0% money transfer fee is 2.7%.

    Once you've done the money transfer, you can use the cash transferred to your account to pay off your partner's credit card – and then you've the debt on your new money transfer card to pay off.

    It's a convoluted method, but it's an option if you can't do a balance transfer of your partner's debt.

  • Cards that are issued by American Express usually have a 15 digit card number, as opposed to the usual 16. This means that it can be harder to transfer a balance from an Amex card, as some online systems aren't able to process the shorter number.

    In most cases, you should be able to phone up the card company you want to shift your debt to and they'll process the transfer that way. Another trick that can work sometimes is adding a '0' either to the beginning or end of the card number online when you try to transfer the balance.

    We checked with several major lenders whether they accept balance transfers from Amex-issued cards:

    LENDER ACCEPTS AMEX BALANCE TRANSFER? ANY RESTRICTIONS?
    Bank of Scotland Yes No
    Barclaycard Yes No
    Halifax Yes No
    Lloyds Yes No
    MBNA Yes Won't accept BT from MBNA-issued Amex
    Sainsbury's Bank Yes May not be able to process all Amex cards – call 0845 405060 to check in advance
    Tesco Bank Yes Need to phone
    TSB Yes Need to phone
    Virgin Money Yes Won't accept BT from non-UK issued card e.g. British Airways Amex

    Last updated Mar 2017.

  • Withdrawing cash on your credit card isn't usually a good idea. Each time you do it, it's recorded on your credit record – and lenders may see it as a sign that you can't manage your finances.

    They often think you've withdrawn cash that way because you had no choice as you were in financial dire straits because your bank account was empty.

    However, withdrawing cash on your credit card isn't the end for your credit score. If all other accounts are up to date, and you're not maxed out on your cards, then – in isolation – credit card cash withdrawals aren't likely to tip the scales of future credit applications. But, if you don't need to withdraw cash on your credit cards, then it's best not to take the risk.

    For more on this, you can read our mini guide to withdrawing cash on a credit card, and how it affects your credit record.

  • The best time to apply is roughly six weeks before your current 0% deal ends. This gives you enough time to apply, find out if you've got the card, and shift the debt, while your other card is still at 0%. Use the Tart Alert to remind you.

     

  • Multiple applications, especially close together, and high outstanding debts, even at 0%, diminish your ability to get competitive credit. The most important preventative measure is to spread card applications out.

    Do this and most people with reasonable income and no missed payments should be able to tart without worry, though occasionally some get scored out. Read the Credit Ratings guide.

  • If you're looking to do a credit card shuffle, then you can try calling your existing provider and seeing what they'll offer you.

    Before you pick up the phone to call your credit card company you're better off doing a bit of research first. Some card companies have official set rates and others target individuals. So it's important you know how the company will deal with you before you call it.

    We've done the research for you and found possible existing-customer deals from your credit card provider. While these offers aren't guaranteed for everyone, and they may change over time, you can get an idea of the type of deals on offer before you make the call.

    CARD REPRESENTATIVE APR EXISTING-CUSTOMER OFFER
    Barclaycard 17.9% - 18.9% Official Response: We offer tailor-made deals for the customer.MoneySavers' experiences: Reduced interest from 29.9% to 6.9% on current balance for life of balance, or 23 months 0% on balance transfers, 1.9% fee. Let us know if you get a deal
    Bank of Scotland 17.9% Official Response: We offer tailor-made deals for the customer. Call to get a deal. 
    MoneySavers' experiences: 0% on balance transfers for 15 months. 1% BT fee. Let us know if you get a deal
    Capital One 9.9% - 34.9% MoneySavers' experiences: Nothing reported. Let us know if you get a deal
    First Direct 16.9% - 19.9% Official Response: It does not offer deals. Check MoneySavers experiences & let us know if you get a deal.
    Halifax 9.9% - 17.9%

    Official Response: It does not offer deals. Check MoneySavers experiences & let us know if you get a deal.
    MoneySavers' experiences: 0% on balance transfers for 27 months. 3% BT fee.

    HSBC 16.9% MoneySavers' experiences: Reduced interest to 4.9% for six months. Let us know if you get a deal
    Lloyds 17.9% - 19.9% Official Response: We offer tailor made deals for the customer. Call to get a deal & let us know
    MoneySavers' experiences: 0% on balance transfers for 28 months 1.5% BT fee. Let us know if you get a deal
    MBNA 16.7% - 17.9% Official Response: Check your online account for existing-customer offers.
    MoneySavers' experiences: 0% on balance transfers for 13 months 2% BT fee. Let us know if you get a deal
    Nationwide 16.9% Official Response: We offer tailor-made deals for the customer. 
    MoneySavers' experiences: 0% on balance transfers for 12 months, 2.9% fee. Let us know if you get a deal
    NatWest 16.9% - 18.9% Official Response: It does not offer deals. Check MoneySavers experiences & let us know if you get a deal.
    RBS 16.9% - 18.9% Official Response: It does not offer deals. Check MoneySavers experiences & let us know if you get a deal.
    Santander 17.9% Official Response: We offer tailor-made deals for the customer. Call to get a deal & let us know.
    MoneySavers' experiences: 0% on balance transfers for 12 months 3% BT fee. Let us know if you get a deal
    Tesco 16.9% MoneySavers' experiences: 0% on balance transfers for 20 months 2.99% BT fee. Let us know if you get a deal
    Virgin 18.9% - 20.9% Official Response: We offer tailor-made deals for the customer. Call to get a deal or check your online account.
    MoneySavers' experiences: 0% on balance transfers for 12 months 2% BT fee. Let us know if you get a deal
  • The basic answer is to always err on the side of caution. However, if a card has a 0% deal for purchases and balance transfers that lasts exactly the same length of time, then it's fine to spend on. However if they're not identical, eg, 0% for purchases for 3 months and 0% on balance transfers for a year, it's best not to do it.

  • This depends on the specific card, and it varies. Sometimes you will pay interest on the fee, yet it's arranged so your first or first and second monthly repayments pay all of it off, so the interest is negligible.

  • This is almost impossible to answer – you're credit-scored depending on that lender's wish list for a profitable customer. So it all depends on how well you fit what it wants. In general, though, Barclaycard has a reputation for lower credit limits and MBNA higher limits.

  • Lenders determine their wish list for profitable customers – it's not all about risk. Read the Credit Scoring guide for a full explanation.

    Of course, you should check for errors on your credit file, but hard and fast reasons 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.

  • Some cards operate a rate for risk policy meaning that it accepts you, but gives you fewer months at 0% than advertised. Barclaycard, Lloyds, TSB, Halifax, MBNA and Bank of Scotland are the main lenders that operate this policy, but some others will give you higher APRs rather than a lower number of months.

  • If it's a general question about how balance transfers work, please ask it here and we'll endeavour to include it in the guide. If it's a specific question about your situation or a product, please use the question/discussion link which will take you to the forum. There, you can chat about it with other MoneySavers.

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