balance transfer credit cards

Balance transfer credit cards

Shift existing card debt to 0% interest for up to 31 months

Paying credit card interest? STOP. A balance transfer credit card can save you £1,000s by slashing the interest you pay. Our guide has full info and top picks, plus our Balance Transfer Eligibility Calculator will show the cards you've the best odds of getting.

MSE weekly email

FREE weekly MoneySaving email

For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes simply sign up today – it's spam-free!

How do balance transfers work?

With a 0% balance transfer you get a new card to pay off debt on old credit and store cards, so you owe it instead, but at 0% interest. A card will have a 0% period, during which you pay no interest – for example, 28 months – and sometimes you'll pay a small fee. It means you become debt-free quicker, as more of your repayments reduce the debt, rather than pay interest. 

If you pay credit card interest, a balance transfer card lets you shift debt from expensive cards to one at 0%.

Which balance transfer card is best?

First up, you can't transfer a balance between cards from the same bank/group. So where you're transferring debt from will narrow down the choice. Of those left, which to go for will largely be determined by which cards you're eligible for, as you'll need to pass a credit check as part of any application.

Our eligibility calculator will show your chances of acceptance for most of the top cards in this guide, with no impact on your credit score. If it shows you're eligible for many cards but you're unsure which to pick, follow this rule...

Go for the card with the lowest fee in the 0% period you're sure you can repay it in. If unsure, play safe and go long.

The five 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 the 0% period ends, as interest rates jump massively (typically to between 18% and 40%). Yet this can be avoided...

    • Aim to clear the balance before the 0% period ends. Quite simply,  divide the amount you owe by the number of months at 0%, then pay at least this every month to pay it off in time. To see the cost of paying off different cards over varying time periods, use our Which card is cheapest? calculator.

    • If you can't clear it in time, balance-transfer again to another 0% offer. If you can't afford to repay in time, the next best bet is to shift the debt again, before your 0% period ends. If you're not eligible for any cards, you could consider transferring back to the original card you shifted the debt from, if it's still open and cheaper than the interest rate on your current card.
  • Just because you grabbed a 0% deal 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 our Credit Card Minimum Repayment Calculator for tips to beat this.

  • While balance transfers made to the cards in this guide are interest-free for a number of months, other uses such as spending and cash withdrawals are usually not – and will incur charges and interest. 

    For cash, you'll usually pay interest from the date of the withdrawal until it's paid off.

    This means you'll most probably see an interest charge on the first statement after the withdrawal, which is the interest charged from the date you made the 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 withdrawal until you pay it off.

    There are special cards if you need to shift debt AND spend

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

  • 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 pay a higher fee on later transfers, in addition to interest.

    There are some notable exceptions to this though, with certain cards requiring you to request the balance transfer when you apply, and others allowing transfers at any point during the 0% period. But as the 0% period usually starts on the day the account is opened, you'd have less interest-free time if you waited.

    How to request a balance transfer

    When you apply for the new card, it will usually include a 'Do you want to transfer debts from other cards?' section. Here, put in the details of the other card(s). If you're successful in getting the new card, it will pay the other one(s) off. 

    If you don't do it at the initial application, you can usually submit the request via your card's online banking or by calling the lender. 

  • For balance transfers, one rule is clear – you can't transfer a balance between two cards issued by the same bank (eg, 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 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. You're also unable to transfer a balance from a non-UK issued American Express (eg, British Airways Amex)

Top-pick 0% balance transfer cards

Here are our top-pick cards, all with a long 0% period – go for the lowest fee in the time you're sure you can repay. The longest charge a one-off fee, as a percentage of the amount of debt you transfer (for example, 2.75% is £27.50 per £1,000 shifted). But there are shorter options with no fee, so no cost if you can clear your debt within 21 months or less. If unsure, play safe and go for a long 0% period.

Important: These top picks include cards that may accept poorer credit scorers but give them a shorter 0% period than what's advertised (unless you're showing as 'pre-approved' in our eligibility calculator). So always check your eligibility first, where possible.

Top-pick 0% balance transfer cards for new cardholders

LENDER 0% PERIOD + FEE (i) APPLY





Santander

The standout option for most  all accepted get the full 31 months at 0% and can claim a £40 Amazon voucher on top. If accepted, you'll be sent an email with a claim link after 30 days. This is only valid for a further 30 days – so don't forget. Though if you're transferring £5,300 or more, or you won't use the Amazon voucher, the M&S Bank card below wins thanks to its lower transfer fee. After the 0%, it's 20.9% rep APR. Full card spec

- 31mths 0%

- 2.75% fee (min £5)

- £40 Amazon voucher on acceptance, but you must claim it

Check eligibility
Apply*


New. M&S Bank
A lower transfer fee, so beats Santander above for large transfers (£5,300+) – or any amount if you won't use the Amazon voucher. All accepted get the full 31 months at 0%, it’s then 21.9% rep APR after. Full card spec

31 mths 0%

1.99% fee (min £5)

Check eligibility
Apply*


Sainsbury's Bank
Another long 0% period and a lower fee than the cards above – but some won't get the headline deal. Unless our eligibility calculator shows this card as 'pre-approved', you could be accepted and offered 24 interest-free months. You'll need to request the transfer at application to get the 1.5% fee, it could be more if you wait. After the 0%, it's 19.9% rep APR. Full card spec
- Up to 30mths 0%
1.5% fee (min £3)

Check eligibility
Apply*



 

Virgin Money

An even lower fee, so cheaper still if you can clear the card within 28 months or less. Plus here all accepted get the headline deal. It's 21.9% rep APR after the 0%. Full card spec
- 28mths 0%
1% fee
Check eligibility
Apply*



Sainsbury's Bank
The longest 0% with no transfer fee, so zero cost if you can clear the balance within 21 months – but it's an 'up to'. So some accepted will get 17 or 13 months at 0%, unless showing as 'pre-approved' in our eligibility calculator. It's 20.9% rep APR after the 0%. Full card spec
Up to 21mths 0%
NO FEE 
Check eligibility
Apply*


HSBC

Longest definite no-fee 0%. As the 0% length is definite for all accepted, if you've good odds for this in our eligibility calculator, it can be a winner. It's 21.9% rep APR after the 0%. Full card spec
20mths 0%
NO FEE 
Check eligibility
Apply*


Santander
Top pick if you can clear the balance in 18 months – pay no fee and claim a £40 Amazon voucher. All accepted are sent an email with a claim link after 30 days. You've then 30 days to get it, so don't wait. It's 20.9% rep APR after the 0% period. Full card spec
- 18mths 0%
- NO FEE 
£40 Amazon voucher on acceptance, but you must claim it
Check eligibility
Apply*
The next-best 0% balance transfer cards. Here are quick details of decent alternatives.
Tesco Bank - Up to 30mths 0%
- 2.6% fee
- 21.9% rep APR
Check eligibility
Apply*
Virgin Money Up to 30mths 0%
2.95% fee
- 21.9% rep APR
Check eligibility
Apply*
Sainsbury's Bank - Up to 28mths 0%
- 1 or 1.5% fee (ii)
- 21.9% rep APR
Check eligibility
Apply*

Important: (i) Fee as a percentage of debt shifted. To get the 0% and fee, you must usually do the balance transfer within 60/90 days of opening. You can't balance-transfer between cards from the same bank/group. (ii) Transfer at application to get either fee, it could be more if you wait.|Representative APR (variable) after the 0% period is stated above – your balance transfer interest may be different.|See all official APR examples

Top-pick 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.

Warning – after the 0% rate these are VERY expensive, so plan how much to shift. All cards below have a horrid rep APR after the 0% (up to 34.9%), so compare against your current card's interest rate. If that's more, shift as much debt as possible, which'll depend on the credit limit you get. If less, only shift what you're sure you can clear within five to nine months, depending on the card you choose.

Top poor credit balance transfer cards for new cardholders (i)

LENDER 0% LENGTH + FEE (i) APPLY

Product image

Fluid
The longest 0% for poor credit, though charges the highest fee of any card here. Credit limits start at £250 with the maximum depending on your credit history, and all accepted get the full 9mths at 0%. It's then 34.9% rep APR. Full card spec
- 9mths 0%
- 4% fee
Check eligibility
Apply*


Chrome by Vanquis Bank (ii)
The lowest transfer fee for poorer credit scorers, so the cheapest option if you can clear your debt in six months or less. All accepted get a credit limit of £1,000 (max transfer of £900, min £100) and 6mths at 0%. It's then 29.3% rep APR. Full card spec
- 6mths 0%
- 2.9% fee
Check eligibility
The next-best poor-credit balance transfer cards. Here are quick details of decent alternatives.
Capital One

- 7mths 0%

- 3% fee

- 34.9% rep APR

Check eligibility
Apply*
Aqua

- 6mths 0%

- 3% fee
- 34.9% rep APR

Check eligibility
Apply*

Important: (i) Fee as a percentage of debt shifted. To get the 0% and fee, you must usually do the balance transfer within 60/90 days of opening. You can't balance-transfer between cards from the same bank/group. (ii) We've only included a link to our eligibility calc as this card isn't available on Chrome's site.|See all official APR examples

MSE weekly email

FREE weekly MoneySaving email

For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes simply sign up today – it's spam-free!

Balance Transfer Calculator: Which card is cheapest for you?

Based on how much you can afford to pay each month, this calculator gives you an indication of which card might be cheapest, when factoring in any one-off transfer fee. However, do note that not every card above is included within the tool.

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 that the cashback is never 100% guaranteed until it's in your account. 

There is full help to take advantage of this and pros and cons in our Top Cashback Sites guide.

If you can't get a new 0% card, try the credit card shuffle to cut interest

If you're unable to get any of the cards above (use our eligibility calculator to check), you may still be able to slash the interest by asking for a low-rate or 0% deal on the card you already have.

If you've more than one credit card, you can then shift debt to the card which offers the lowest rate, though you'll need to factor in any one-off transfer fees.

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 may help.

  2. Check your account(s) for existing-customer offers. Lenders sometimes offer special deals (either a lower rate or 0% for a set period) for transferring new debt to your existing cards, though usually for a one-off fee. You can usually find these on your online account or by calling your card provider.

  3. Shift debts to the cheapest card. Do a balance transfer to shift your debt from the card(s) charging the most interest to the one charging the least (or the cheapest ones, if your credit limit isn't big enough to allow you to move it to just one card). You could even consider shifting debt away from any card that will offer you a 0% deal for transferred balances. You can then transfer it back along with debt from other cards to get the 0%. Though be aware of balance transfer fees that could wipe out the gain. 

  4. Repay the most expensive debts first – the most crucial part. If you can't shift all your debt to one card, focus as much cash as possible on the most expensive one first and just pay the minimum repayments on any less expensive card. Once that's repaid, shift focus to the next highest-rate card and continue this until you're debt-free.

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.

  • 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's an extra step to follow:

    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, if you had

    Card A. £1,000 balance: £700 at 6%, £300 at 25% interest.
    Card B. £400 balance at 18% interest. 


    You'd want to pay enough to clear the high-interest £300 first and then switch to clearing the £400, before finally paying off the £700. Though remember to always pay at least the minimum on the card you're not focusing on. 

  • 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:

    £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 four 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 on to 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 over 14%, meaning the interest is only £792, less than half the cost – meaning a massive saving of £1,156.

Coronavirus credit card help

If you're struggling to pay off debt on an existing credit card due to coronavirus, lenders should provide support. Yet the blanket payment holiday help that used to be available has ended.

So if you're struggling to pay your credit card debt, or you're coming off an agreed payment holiday, lenders are now supposed to provide 'tailored support'. Under this, you could be offered a (further) payment holiday or a period of reduced payments, reduced interest or a repayment plan – lenders should take into account how much you can afford and how your finances are likely to change in the near future.

Providers are expected to report any support they give you to credit reference agencies, which could affect your ability to get credit in future. But don't let that put you off from contacting your provider – missing payments or defaulting is likely to have a far worse impact.

For the latest updates and full information on the support available, see our Coronavirus Finance & Bills Help guide.

Balance transfer FAQs

  • 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.

    If you can't shift all your debt over, move what you can and check your chances of acceptance for another provider's card. If there's a good chance, apply and move the rest there. 

    Otherwise, just pay the minimum repayment on the new card with the 0% period and concentrate all of your cash on clearing the rest of the debt you couldn't shift over. Once that's paid, you can move your payments back to clear the balance at 0%.  

  • No. When you 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 Should I cancel old cards?

  • Shifting a balance from one card to another isn't recorded on your credit file, so you're free to balance transfer as many times as you like. However, a footprint is added to your file every time you apply for a new credit card. 

    Multiple applications, especially close together, and high outstanding debts, even at 0%, can affect your ability to get further credit. See our Credit Scores guide for full information.

    The most important preventative measures are to spread card applications out and use our eligibility calculator to check your chances of acceptance, before applying blind.

    If you've a current 0% deal that's ending and you've a need to transfer the balance again, the best time to apply is roughly six weeks before. Use our eligibility calculator to see which card you've the best chance of getting. 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%.

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

    Make sure you think 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 future.

    But if you're sure, some lenders allow you to transfer a balance from a card that's in someone else's name (as long as it's not with the same provider). 

    Here are the policies of several major lenders:

    LENDER CAN YOU TRANSFER DEBT FROM OTHERS' CARDS?
    Bank of Scotland
    Barclaycard ✔️
    First Direct ✔️
    Halifax
    HSBC ✔️
    Lloyds
    MBNA
    NatWest
    New Day
    RBS
    Sainsbury's Bank
    Santander ✔️ (1)
    Tesco Bank
    TSB
    Virgin Money ✔️ (1)
    (1) You need to add your partner as an additional cardholder.|Last updated Feb 2021.

    If your lender doesn't allow this, and you can't get a card from one that does, there is a slightly trickier option of taking out a 0% money transfer credit card. These cards give the option of moving money to your current account, which you can use to pay off your partner's card. You'll then owe the amount on the new card.

    You'll pay a one-off fee to do it (often higher than a balance transfer fee) and while it will have a 0% period, these are shorter than the top balance transfer offers. For full help and top picks, see 0% Money Transfer Credit Cards.

  • Yes, in most cases – though you may have to call the new card provider if it can't process the transfer request online. American Express usually has 15-digit card numbers, rather than the standard 16, so some systems are unable to process the shorter number (eg, Santander, Tesco Bank and TSB have told us this is the case for most requests).

    If this happens, calling the provider is your best bet or you could try adding a '0' to the beginning or end of the card number to 'trick' the system. 

    There are some notable exceptions though, as cards issued by NewDay such as Aqua, Fluid and Marbles above won't accept any transfer from an Amex. Equally, Sainsbury's Bank advises to call to check the Amex card(s) you hold can be accepted in advance and Virgin Money will only accept UK-issued cards.

Spotted out of date info/broken links? Email: brokenlink@moneysavingexpert.com