Best 0% Credit Cards

Up to 20 months' interest-free spending

Best 0% credit cards

Do it right and credit cards are the cheapest way to borrow. You can get 0% for up to 20 months on new purchases – 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 a list of best buys. Coronavirus financial worries have caused lenders to tighten acceptance criteria, but our Eligibility Calculator will show cards you've the best odds of getting before applying.

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.

The five golden rules

Get it wrong and you could be left counting the cost, so here's what you need to know about 0% spending cards...

  • 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.

    Quick Questions

    • 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 16 months instead of 20. 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 20-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.

    Quick Questions

Best 0% credit cards

Important: Some lenders ask that you go via our eligibility calculator, not direct

We've agreed to remove direct links to most lenders from this guide. Instead you'll be directed to our 0% Spending Cards Eligibility Calculator (for lenders that let you check eligibility) to check your acceptance odds for many of the top cards, minimising applications and protecting your credit score.

Some lenders requested this so only those more likely to be accepted will actually click the 'apply' button, reducing demand and enquiry calls, as they're already over capacity and need to prioritise coronavirus help for vulnerable people.

Longest guaranteed 0% period if accepted, plus earn M&S points on spending

This card from M&S Bank (apply via our eligibility calculator) offers a guaranteed 20 months 0% on spending if accepted. You'll also earn reward points on spending which are converted into M&S vouchers four times a year. Each point is worth 1p and you'll collect one per £1 spent in M&S and £5 spent elsewhere.    

0% spending length: 20 months
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)
Min income: N/A
Representative APR (variable): 19.9% (see  Official APR Examples)
Minimum repayment: Greatest of 1% of balance plus interest, 2.5% or £5

Another long 0% period, though you may be accepted and offered fewer months at 0%

This card from TSB (apply* – sadly not in our eligibility calculator) offers the joint-longest 0% period, though you could be accepted and offered 15 or 10 interest-free months on spending, which wouldn't be as good. 

0% spending length: Up to 20 months
Important: Clear card in full by end of 0% period to avoid interest (always pay at least the monthly minimum repayment) & don't withdraw cash on this card.
Min income: N/A
Representative APR (variable): 19.9% (some will pay up to 26.9%)
Minimum repayment: Greater of 1% of balance plus interest or £5

More long 0% purchase cards

CARD 0% LENGTH REP VARIABLE APR AFTER
Sainsbury's Bank Must have had Nectar card for 6mths+
Apply direct to lender (not in eligibility calc)
Up to 20 months (i) 20.9%
MBNA
Apply direct to lender (not in eligibility calc)
Up to 19 months only on purchases in first 60 days (ii) 20.9%
Barclaycard
Apply via eligibility calculator
18 months 20.9%
HSBC
Apply via eligibility calculator
18 months 22.9%
See all Official APR Examples(i) Poorer credit scorers could get fewer (16 or 12) 0% months. You'll get 750 bonus Nectar points when you spend £35+ at Sainsbury's in the first two months (max 7,500 points). Doing a big shop? Split it into smaller £35 transactions to max the bonus. (ii) You could be accepted and offered 12 months at 0%.

Best 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 score might not be in the best shape.

If so, the cards above aren't likely to be open to you (use our eligibility calculator first to check). Yet the cards below give an option if your problems are over a year old, though the 0% periods are a lot shorter. If you can't get these cards, read our Credit Cards for Bad Credit guide for more help to build or rebuild your credit history.  

Get three months 0% and a £10 Amazon voucher, though use carefully if you already have credit problems

This Amazon card (apply, sadly not in our eligibility calculator) is a good option for poorer credit scorers. It offers new customers a £10 Amazon voucher on acceptance and a three-month 0% spending period, which is best used if you can pay off what you want to buy within three months.

However, like the card above, this can also be used to get respite if you already have other debts, such as payday loans or an expensive overdraft – though, again, be careful if doing this (see below for how).

  • 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 overdraft charges. 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 (and then close the card or ask for your overdraft to be taken away so you don't run it up again).

    Step 3: In effect you've now got the debt on the card instead of the overdraft interest and charges or payday loans.

    Step 4: You've now got three 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 three months the rate jumps to 29.9% 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): 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

The Barclaycard Forward (apply*, sadly not in our eligibility calculator) is designed for poorer credit scorers and has a three-month 0% period on spending, so can be used as respite from other debts.

  • Step 1: Do normal spending on the 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: In effect you've now got the debt on the card instead of the bank charges or payday loans.

    Step 4: You've now got three months without any interest accruing in which to reduce your overall debt – though you still need to pay the minimum monthly repayments. Ensure you budget to work out how to do it.

    Step 5: At the end of the three months the rate jumps to 33.9% 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): 33.9% representative APR (see Official APR Examples)
Min income: £3,000 | Card issuer: Visa
Accepts CCJs? Yes, but no more than one in the last six years
Accepts bankruptcies? Yes, provided it's six years old or more
Minimum repayment: Greatest of 1% of balance plus interest, 2.5% of balance 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.

Coronavirus help if you're struggling

If you're struggling to pay an existing credit card due to coronavirus, your provider should give you a payment holiday of up to three months, or offer an alternative way to help. 

DON'T just stop paying – you must arrange a break with your lender first (you've until 31 October to request it). Provided you've agreed it with your lender, these payment holidays then can't hurt your creditworthiness and won't come with any penalties or charges.

You'll still be charged interest during the payment holiday though, so will likely pay more overall. It's therefore best to only do this if you need to – if you can afford to pay, it's better to keep doing so. 

See our full lender-by-lender credit card help for the latest updates, full information and how to apply.

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.

    Best used for planned, budgeted-for and needed purchases, if you paid £5,000 for a new kitchen on a standard credit card at 18.9%, repaying £150 a month, you'd pay £792 interest in year one. However on the top M&S Bank 0% card, you'd pay no interest for the first year (as it's 0% for 20mths).

    After two years making the same £150 monthly repayments, the standard card has cost you a massive £1,394 in interest, while the M&S Bank card has cost you £111 – still sizeable as the rate jumps to 19.9% after the 0% period ends.

    That said, a good credit card tart taking advantage of another 0% deal 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 if you cannot afford to clear it at the end of the 0% period.

    CREDIT CARD INTEREST
    £5,000 INITIAL SPEND, REPAYING £150 PER MONTH (1)
    INTEREST COST AFTER...
        1 year 2 years
    Standard credit card 18.9% £792 £1,394
    M&S Bank 20mths 0% then 19.9% £0 £111
    Credit card tarting (2) 0% (rotating cards) £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 many 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 M&S Bank, TSB and Sainsbury's Bank 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 2.9% 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. Where possible, all links take you via 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.

  • ways to keep debt at 0% for longer?

    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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