Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Shift existing card debt to 0% interest for up to 29mths

balance transfer credit cards

Paying credit card interest? STOP. A balance transfer credit card can save you £1,000s by slashing the interest you pay. With 0% periods getting shorter, act NOW in case they're chopped further. 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 the 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, typically to between 18% and 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 card 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 for full info.

    • 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 most top balance transfer cards 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 32-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 £1,000 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.

Joint-longest 0% plus £20 cashback if shifting £1k+ (cashback also available on MBNA's up to 26mth card)

This MBNA* card offers up to 29 months 0% on balance transfers. Plus, if you apply by 4 Nov and shift £1,000+ within 60 days of opening your account you'll get £20 cashback. However, depending on your credit score, you could be accepted for this card and offered fewer 0% months and a higher 3.49% fee - which won't make it as good a deal.

Don't need the full 29 months 0%? In that case, this MBNA card (eligibility calc / apply*) offers up to 26 months 0%, for a much lower 1% fee and also gives £20 cashback under the same terms. However, like the card above, you could be offered fewer 0% months and a higher 3.49% fee (this card also has the same 20.9% rep APR). 

Balance transfer length & fee: Up to 29 months, 2.75% fee (some will pay 3.49%)
To get the 0%, must transfer within: 60 days
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%: 20.93%, but some will pay 27.93%
Minimum repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest or £25
Minimum income: N/A
Representative APR (variable)20.9% (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*

Joint-longest 0% period and you'll definitely get the full 29 months if accepted

This Virgin Money* credit card offers 29 months at 0% with a 3% fee. While it's a potentially higher fee than the MBNA card above, if accepted for this card you'll be guaranteed the full 0% length.

Balance transfer length & fee: 29 mths 0%, 3% fee
To get the 0%, must transfer within: 60 days
Important: Clear card in full by end of 0% period to avoid interest (always pay at least the monthly minimum repayment) and don't spend/withdraw cash on this card
Balance transfer interest after 0%: 21.9%
Minimum repayment: Greatest of 1% of balance plus interest or £25
Min income: £7,000
Representative APR (variable): 21.9% (see Official APR Examples)

See how likely it is you'll get this card

MSE's Eligibility Calculator

Go straight to the lender

Apply*

Long 0% period with a lowish fee, but you could be accepted and offered fewer interest-free months

This Barclaycard* offers one fewer 0% month than the cards above, but comes with a lower fee so could be a better option if you can clear your debt in 28 months. However, you could be offered fewer 0% months which won't make it as good, so be aware of that before you apply.

Oddly, you'll initially be charged a 3.5% fee which will be refunded down to 1.75% within a couple of days of the transfer.

Balance transfer length & fee: up to 28mths 0%, 1.75% fee
To get the 0%, must transfer within: 60 days
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: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest, 2.25% or £5
Min income: N/A
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*

Card above not for you? More 0% balance transfer cards

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

CARD 0% LENGTH FEE (1) APR (2) ELIGIBILITY CALCULATOR
Halifax* Up to 29 mths 3% 19.9% You can use our eligibility calculator for this card
M&S Bank* 28 mths 2.85% (min £5) 19.9% You can use our eligibility calculator for this card
Tesco Bank Up to 28 mths  2.98% 19.9%
Sainsbury's Bank* Up to 28 mths   3% (min £3)  19.9%   You can use our eligibility calculator for this card  
Virgin Money* 27 mths 1.45% 21.9% You can use our eligibility calculator for this card

Important: To get the 0%, you must usually do the balance transfer within 60/90 days of opening.

(1) As a percentage of debt shifted. (2) Representative variable APR, your balance transfer interest may be different (see all Official APR Examples). (3) Those with poorer credit scores may pay the higher fee.

Best NO-FEE 0% balance transfer cards

If you can clear your debts in 23 months or less, 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 longest to shortest.

Existing customers only. Longest 0% period with no fee – and there's a trick that quickly makes you a customer so you can apply

This NatWest* balance transfer card – also offered by sister banks RBS and Ulster Bank – offers the longest no-fee 0% period of 23 months, and if accepted you'll get the full 0% period. Important: To apply you need to be an existing current account, savings, credit card or mortgage customer of whichever brand's card you want.

Trick for non-customers to apply: Anyone can open a cash ISA with £1 or a fixed-rate savings account with £500 in order to meet the eligibility criteria for the card.

Balance transfer length & fee: 23 months 0%, no fee
To get the 0%, must transfer within: Three months
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 repaymentGreater of 1% of balance plus interest or £5
Minimum income: £10,000
Representative APR (variable): 19.9% (see Official APR Examples)

See how likely it is you'll get this card

MSE's Eligibility Calculator

Go straight to the lender

Apply*

Longest 0% card without a fee, though you could get fewer months at 0%

This Sainsbury's Bank* card charges no fee to transfer your balance and gives you up to 20 months at 0%. However, you could be accepted and offered 16 or 12 months 0%, which wouldn't be as good a deal.

There are other cards that offer up to 20 months 0% in the table below - though we can't check your eligibility for those cards. 

Balance transfer length & fee: Up to 20 months 0%, no fee
To get the 0%, must transfer within: Three months
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%: 20.95%
Minimum repayment: Greatest of 1% of balance plus interest, 2.25% of balance or £5
Minimum income: £10,000
Representative APR (variable): 20.9% (see Official APR Examples)

See how likely it is you'll get this card

MSE's Eligibility Calculator

Go straight to the lender

Apply*

Cards above not for you? More no-fee 0% balance transfer cards

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

CARD 0% LENGTH FEE (1) APR ELIGIBILITY CALCULATOR
Barclaycard Up to 20 mths None 19.9% -
Santander  18 mths None 18.9% -
Tesco Bank Up to 18 mths None 19.9% -

Important: To get the 0%, you must usually do the balance transfer within 60/90 days of opening.
(1) As a percentage of debt shifted. (2) You could be offered 18mths 0% with a hefty 3% fee
† Representative variable APR, your balance transfer interest may be different. | See all Official APR Examples.

Best balance transfer cards for poorer credit scorers

To be accepted for most of the deals above, you need a decent credit score, but there is hope for those with a patchy credit past. There are two different reasons for having a poorer credit score – having no or a very limited credit history and actually having a poor record, and we’ll show you cards for both below...

Not had much credit before?

If you haven't taken out many products before your credit history will be limited, so you may not be able to get the cards above. However, there is a card aimed at you...

Decent 0% period if you've not had much prior credit 

If you've debt on a high-interest card, but maybe haven't had any others 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. You'll initially be charged a 3.5% fee, which will be refunded down to 2.99% within a couple of days.

It's easier to qualify for than the other cards in this guide above, 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 (must transfer within 60 days)
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: Greatest of 1% of balance plus interest, 2.25% or £5
Minimum income: £20,000
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 the interest hits, or if you can't, do a balance transfer to another card.

Had credit problems before?

Unlike the Barclaycard above, the Capital One and Aqua card below are specifically designed for people who have had past credit issues – though it's also worth looking at them if you haven't had much credit before and can't get the Barclaycard.

Warning – after the 0% rate they're VERY expensive, so plan how much to shift. Both the cards below have a horrid 34.9% rep APR after the 0%, so compare your current interest rate. If it's more, shift as much debt as possible, which'll depend on your credit limit (£200-£1,500 for Capital One and £250-£1,200 for Aqua). If less, only shift what you're sure you can clear within 6mths.

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%: 34.94%
Minimum repayment: Greater of 3% of balance plus interest or £5
Minimum income: 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 onto 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 if you still owe cash, ensure you remember the end date and check to see if you can transfer the balance to another card then.

    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 (minimum £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: Greatest of 1% or 3.25% of balance plus interest or £5
Minimum income: 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 onto 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 if you still owe cash ensure you diarise the end date and check to see if you can transfer the balance to another card then.

    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 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.

    Make sure you think very carefully before taking on your partner's debt – especially if you’re feeling pressured to do it – as while you may be in a trusted relationship now, there's always a risk things could go wrong in the future.

    But if you are sure, 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?
    Bank of Scotland No
    Barclaycard Yes
    Halifax No
    HSBC Yes, but won't accept BT from HSBC Group cards, e.g. M&S, First Direct, John Lewis
    Lloyds No
    MBNA No
    Sainsbury's No
    Santander Yes, if they're one of your additional cardholders (1)
    Tesco Bank No
    TSB No
    Virgin Money Yes, if they're one of your additional cardholders (1) (2)
    Last updated Jan 2019. (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.

    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
    HSBC 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
    Santander Yes Unable to process Amex cards with 15 digit card numbers online, these must be done via phone
    Tesco Bank Yes No
    TSB Yes Need to phone
    Virgin Money Yes Won't accept BT from non-UK issued card e.g. British Airways Amex

    Last updated Jan 2019.

  • 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 if you get a deal.
    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.

SPOTTED OUT OF DATE INFO/BROKEN LINKS? EMAIL: BROKENLINK@MONEYSAVINGEXPERT.COM