Best 0% Credit Cards
Up to 27 months' interest-free spending
Do it right and credit cards are the cheapest way to borrow. You can get 0% for up to 27 months on new purchases – yet get it wrong and you'll be stuck in debt for years. We've all the key info...
How do 0% spending cards work?
A 0% spending card is simply a card you can use to make purchases that you pay no interest on for a set number of months (length varies by card). If you need to borrow, eg, to replace a worn sofa or old fridge, then used correctly, 0% cards are cheaper than loans. But make sure you read our golden rules below to prevent a debt nightmare.
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 0% Spending Cards 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 report, though it will be if you then go on to apply on the lender's site.
The five golden rules
Always borrow as little as possible, and if you can, use savings to buy whatever it is instead.
If you have to, though, only borrow for something you've budgeted for and can afford to pay back. And NEVER borrow to fill income gaps which can leave you in a debt spiral (see our Stop Spending guide for more).
However, some use 0% spending cards tactically, for stoozing – but this takes real financial discipline.
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 £12 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 to move it to another 0% card.
Usually, the only way to know if you'll be accepted for a card is to apply, but each application puts a search on your credit report. Too many searches, especially in a short space of time, can make it hard for you to get credit in future.
However, our 0% Spending Eligibility Calculator quickly shows your odds of getting almost every top 0% spending card so you can find the ones most likely to accept you BEFORE you apply.
How does the eligibility calculator work?
It makes what's called a 'soft search' of your credit report. You can see that search, but lenders usually won't (and where they can, they can't use the info). The soft search gives us an indication of your creditworthiness. We then match this against lenders' criteria for acceptance, so we can show you the odds of getting each card.
Once you're armed with this knowledge, it will allow you to make a smarter application. Say you have a much better chance of getting a card that's not the best but close to it, 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 application search to your credit report.
When you apply for any credit card, the lender checks you to match you up against its 'profitable customer' wish list (for full info on this and tips 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 0% spending cards 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 19 months instead of 27. 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 our 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.
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, your 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 25-month 0% spending deal, be accepted... but be given 12 months at 0%.
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 below.
Lenders tell us they do this based on risk, so if you've got 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.
Best 0% credit cards
Here are the top deals, though you'll need a good credit score to get 'em. If yours is patchy, there are cards for poorer scorers in the section below. But, it's worth using our 0% Spending Cards Eligibility Calculator before applying for any of them to see which cards are likely to accept you. And, don't worry, using it doesn't affect your credit score.
This Sainsbury's Bank* card offers up to 27 months 0% for spending, though if you've a poorer credit score, you could be offered 23 or 19 interest-free months, which isn't as good a deal.
If you give your Nectar card number when you apply you'll get 750 bonus Nectar points, worth £3.75, each time you spend £35+ in store or online at Sainsbury's (excl fuel) in the first two months after receiving the card (max 7,500 points, worth £37.50). Doing a big shop? Split it into smaller £35 chunks to max the bonus.
Important: Clear card in full by end of 0% period to avoid interest (always pay at least the monthly minimum repayment or you'll lose the 0% deal)
This card from MBNA* offers a long 0% period on spending of up to 26 months, but crucially only on purchases made in the first 60 days – so don't spend on it after that. However, if you've a poorer credit score, you could be accepted and offered 15 months at 0%, which isn't as good a deal.
Important: Clear card in full by end of 0% period to avoid interest (always pay at least the monthly minimum repayment or you'll lose the 0% deal)
|Barclaycard*||Up to 25 months (1)||21.9%||You can use our eligibility calculator for this card|
|Bank of Ireland UK||24 months||19.9%||-|
|Tesco Bank||Up to 22 months (2)||19.9%||-|
|See all Official APR Examples. (1) You could be accepted and offered 12 0% months (2) Poorer credit scorers could get fewer (16 or 12) 0% months.
Best 0% credit cards for poor credit scorers
The Capital One Classic Complete* is a good option for poorer credit scorers. It offers new customers a four-month 0% spending period which can be used to give a respite from existing debts (see below).
We would caution anyone with past credit problems against new borrowing. Yet the 0% spending offer on this card can be used to give you respite and save you money on costly debts, such as payday loans or bank charges for going beyond your overdraft. Here's how...
Step 1: Do normal spending on this 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.
Step 3: Effectively you've now got the debt on the card instead of the bank charges or payday loans.
Step 4: You've now got four months without any interest accruing in which 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 5: At the end of the four months the rate jumps to 34.9% APR so you want to ensure there is no debt on it by then – though in the worst case scenario it is still likely cheaper than payday loans or overdrafts.
Representative APR (variable): 34.9% (see Official APR Examples)
Minimum income: N/A
Important: Repay IN FULL every month to avoid interest, and don't miss a payment or bust your credit limit as you'll be charged a fee and get a mark on your credit file
Accepts CCJs? Yes, provided they're a year old or more
Accepts bankruptcies? Yes, provided it's a year old or more
Minimum repayment: Greater of 3% of balance plus interest or £5
This card from Amazon is a good option for poorer credit scorers. It offers new customers a £20 Amazon voucher upon acceptance and a three-month 0% spending period.
Representative APR (variable): 29.9% (see Official APR Examples)
Minimum income: N/A
Important: Repay in full before the end of the 0% period to avoid interest, then pay off IN FULL every month. Plus, don't miss a payment or bust your credit limit as you'll be charged a fee and get a mark on your credit file
Minimum repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest, or £5
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.
0% spending cards Q&A
The amount you save with a 0% card will obviously depend on how much you borrow, but here's a practical example to show what sort of savings you could make.
If you spent £400 each month and repaid £150 each month on a standard credit card at 18.9%, you'd pay £285 interest in year one. On the Sainsbury's Bank card, you'd pay nothing in the first year (as it's 0% for 27mths).
After three years, the standard card has cost you a massive £2,414 in interest, while the Sainsbury's card has cost you £1,136 – it's high because the rate jumps to 20.9% after the 0% period ends.
That said, a good credit card tart taking advantage of 0% deals would pay nothing in interest (though would need to pay balance transfer fees to keep the debt at 0%). This is the best way to keep interest costs down.
1 year 2 years 3 years Standard credit card 18.9% £285 £1,094 £2,414 Sainsbury's Bank 27mths 0% then 20.9% £0 £0 £1,136 Credit card tarting (2) 0% (rotating cards) £0 £0 £0 (1) For ease of comparison, ignores minimum payments rules and credit limits. (2) Needs a good credit score.
Some, but not all. For most 0% purchase cards, it's a big no. There's a devious trick as some will allow you to shift debts to the card, but this then attracts interest. Repayments must go towards the most expensive debts first, but as you're unlikely to be able to repay in full, you'll still get charged.
You're therefore better off using a separate balance transfer card instead, or get one designed for both purposes. These include the above cards from Sainsbury's Bank, MBNA and Barclaycard as 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 2.7% to 3% of the balance you're transferring).
If you need to transfer debts, see the Best Balance Transfers guide for the longest balance transfer cards or our Best All-Rounders guide for the full details of the above cards and others that are designed for 0% spending and balance transfers.
The cards listed in this guide are the market's top deals. Some of them require a good credit score. If you're worried about whether or not you'll get accepted, then you can join Credit Club, our unique tool that shows your eligibility for the cards in this guide, plus gives a free Credit and Affordability Score.
Or you could use our quick eligibility calculator before you apply. If it shows that you aren't likely to get these cards if you apply, then you can take steps to improve your credit.
Check your credit score for free
Understanding why you may be rejected is crucial for picking the right card. So first use the Credit Scores guide for a full explanation and how to do it.
If you've only limited/minor issues
Some of the cards above should still be accessible to you, especially those that rate for risk (they give some poorer credit scorers fewer months).
However, if all score low on the eligibility calculator, then see if any credit cards for poorer credit are suitable. But beware, deals don't tend to be as good for poorer credit scorers.
Already been rejected for a card? 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 report, 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.
If you want longer at 0% than the 27 months on offer from these cards, there is a way to do it, but it's not with a purchases card. You need a whole different type of card.
Spending on a money transfer card allows you to transfer money from the credit card into your current account – though you need to pay a fee for this. You spend the cash and owe the new card.
You get slightly longer at 0% (the top card has 28 mths 0%), but you pay a fee, and you don't get section 75 protection for the purchase. Consider if this is better for you than the cards in this guide.
Read the money transfers guide for a full how-to, plus a list of which cards allow it (most don't, or at least not at a cheap rate).
While disloyalty is frowned upon in relationships, it's lauded for consumers. Credit card tarts shift debt from 0% deal to 0% deal to ensure the minimum possible cost for their debts. This is the cheapest way to use credit cards, but it takes discipline and a good credit score.
How to tart
If you're a new tart, the process is pretty simple.
- Get a 0% purchases card
This is a card that you can spend on, and all the spending will be at 0% for a set period. See the longest 0% deals above.
- Ensure you make the repayments
All "0% interest" means is there is no cost to the borrowing; it still needs to be repaid. Ensure you make at least the minimum repayments to avoid being fined, or worse, having the 0% deal withdrawn, meaning you need to pay the expensive standard rate.
- Move or repay the debt BEFORE the 0% period ends
At the end of the 0% period the rate will jump to the standard APR, which will usually be around 20%. At this point you either need to have the card cleared, or shift it to a new card with a 0% balance transfer deal. If you still haven't repaid the debt when that deal closes, shift it again.
To tart or not to tart?
Tarting is without doubt the cheapest method, but it takes active management and you need to stay on top of it. If not, there's a big warning...
Unless you shift the debt before the 0% period ends, it only takes a couple of months before all the gain is lost.
The other thing it's important to understand is that to tart, you're going to need a good credit history. So it's important to check your credit rating, which can be done for free before you start. Plus the nature of repeated applications can have an impact on your score.
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