Best 0% Credit Cards
Up to 21 months' interest-free spending
Do it right and 0% spending credit cards are the cheapest way to borrow. Yet get it wrong and you'll be stuck in debt for years. Our guide has full info on what to watch out for, and top picks. Plus our eligibility calculator will show the cards you've the best odds of getting before you apply – crucial as lenders have tightened acceptance criteria due to coronavirus financial worries.
Who's this guide for? Anyone with a planned, budgeted-for purchase for a retailer that takes credit card.
How do 0% spending cards work?
Put simply, a 0% spending card offers a number of months where no interest is charged on new purchases. This can save you £1,000s compared to the same borrowing on a standard credit card (assuming you pay them off over the same period of time).
So done right, there's no cheaper borrowing – though they're not an excuse to overspend. We'd only suggest using a credit card to borrow for a needed, planned, affordable, one-off purchase eg, replacing a broken fridge. This means borrowing as little as possible and only an amount you can pay back during the 0% period.
The real danger is using them willy-nilly to supplement your income, as that can result in a vicious cycle. If this is a problem, see our Debt Help guide rather than trying to borrow your way out.
The three golden rules
Set up a direct debit for at least the minimum repayment as soon as you're accepted. Even though you pay 0% interest, you still need to make repayments each month.
If you miss one, you may lose your 0% deal and get a £12ish charge. It may also be added as a missed payment on your credit report.
Go even one month beyond the promotional 0% period and the interest rate rockets, so calculate the amount needed to clear the balance by then and remember that end date.
Divide what you spent by the number of 0% months and set up a direct debit to clear it in that time, so it works like a loan where you pay it back in full over a set period.
So £600 over a year is £50 a month to clear. If you've not cleared it in time, see our Best Balance Transfers guide for full information on shifting the amount you owe to another 0% card.
3. Don't balance transfer or withdraw cash on these cards – it's usually at an expensive interest rate
While purchases on these cards are interest-free for a number of months, you'll need to check if other uses such as balance-transfers are as well.
For example, from our best-buys below, M&S Bank, Virgin Money and Sainsbury's Bank all let you transfer a balance over to the same 0% period you would receive for spending, after a one-off fee (these vary from 2.9% to 3% of the balance you're transferring). See our Best All-Rounders guide for full info.
Cash withdrawals are a different case, and you'll 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 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.
Compare which 0% credit cards you've the best chance of getting, in your own personal best-buy table.
Usually, applying is the only way to know if you'll be accepted for a credit card. Yet that marks your credit file, affecting your ability to get future credit. To help, our tool uses a 'soft search' to find your chances of acceptance before applying.
Check your chance of acceptance
Top-pick 0% spending credit cards
Here are our top-pick cards with the next best below, all with a long 0% period.
Important. These include 'up to' cards, so poorer credit scorers may get a shorter deal than advertised – unless you're showing as pre-approved in our eligibility calculator. This is the best route as it shows which cards you're most likely to be accepted for.
|This card has the joint-longest 0% period + gives Nectar points on spending. However, it's 'up to' 21mths, so poorer credit scorers could get just 13mths at 0%. You'll only be able to apply for this card if you've had a Nectar card for at least six months. If that's you and you're accepted, you get an ongoing 2 points per £1 spent at Sainsbury's and 1 point per £5 spent elsewhere. Plus, there's a bonus 750 Nectar points for each £35+ spend at Sainsbury's (excl fuel) in the first two months (max 7,500 points, worth £37.50). After the 0%, it's 20.9% rep APR.|
|Joint-longest 0%, but it's another 'up to' 21mths – so poorer credit scorers could get 12mths at 0%. It's 21.9% rep APR after the 0%.|
|The joint-longest definite 0% period – plus earn M&S points on spending. All accepted get the full 20mths at 0%, so if you've a better eligibility chance than the cards above, it's a good call. It also pays 1 point (worth 1p) per £1 spent in M&S, 1 point per £5 spent elsewhere and a bonus 500 points (worth £5) on one purchase at M&S via a coupon it sends, with no minimum spend. It's 21.9% rep APR after the 0%.|
|Like M&S Bank, all accepted get the full 20mths at 0%. So again if you've a better eligibility chance than the cards above, it's a good call. Though you'll need an annual income of at least £20,000 to apply for this card (it's £6,800 for M&S above). After the 0%, it's 21.9% rep APR.|
Top 0% credit cards for poor credit scorers
If you have high levels of current debt, missed payments (recent or historic), bankruptcies, county court judgments (CCJs) or individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs), chances are your credit file might not be in the best shape.
Try our Eligibility Calculator first to check your chances of acceptance for the cards above, but if it shows no or low odds, then the cards below offer a short 0% period if your credit problems are over a year old. These cards can also help if you've existing, expensive debt...
First up, we would caution anyone with past credit problems against new borrowing. Yet the 0% spending period on these cards can be used to give you respite and save you money on costly debts, such as payday loans or overdrafts with high interest. Here's how...
Step 1: Do normal spending on the 0% spending card up to the credit limit. As you're using it instead of cash from your bank account your income should build up there.
Step 2: Use the money built up in your bank account to reduce your overdraft or repay lenders. In effect you've now got the debt on the card instead.
Step 3: No interest is added during the 0% period (three or four months, based on the cards below) so you've got until this ends to reduce your overall debt – though you do need to still pay the minimum monthly repayments. Do ensure you do a budget to work out how to do it.
Step 4: At the end of the 0% period the rate jumps to the expensive rep APR of the card (up to 34.9% based on those below) so ensure there's no debt on it by then – but in the worst case scenario it's still likely cheaper than payday loans. If the interest rate on the card's higher than the one you pay on your overdraft, use the overdraft to pay off any remaining debt on the card.
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.
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