Stoozing – make free cash
Earn interest from 0% credit cards
Stoozing's the art of making money by earning interest on cash that credit cards lend you at 0%. While not as lucrative as it used to be, rising savings rates mean you can make a pretty penny. Beware though, if done badly, stoozing can lead to you losing money. But, if you're financially savvy, here's how to do it and what to watch out for.
This guide was originally written by Martin Lewis, and is now updated by the MSE Money Team.
What is stoozing?
Stoozing is the bizarre name coined by money nerds in the early days of online forums to describe the art of making money out of 0% deals. It came to the fore among die-hard money savers when credit card companies first launched 0% deals as it lets you earn interest on money you've been lent for free. It works like this:
- Take out a 0% spending credit card
- Use it for all of your everyday spending
- Save the cash that builds up in your bank account at as high a rate of interest as possible
- When the 0% deal ends, use your savings to clear the card, or transfer the balance to another 0% card.
In stoozing's heyday, the amounts people could get were huge. The biggest stooze-pot we heard about was £80,000 of 0% credit card debt (multiple cards, continually rolling onto 0% deals) which saved the 'stoozer' nearly £5,000 a year as the money was offset against their mortgage.
Though you can't match those figures now, it's still possible to make a bit of free cash.
This isn't a fly-by-night system. Martin first broadcasted a strategy for this in early 2000, as 0% credit card interest rates began.
As the number of 0% cards increased, so did the number of people taking advantage. The commonly used name is 'stoozing', used to describe any technique to profit out of playing credit card companies' deals.
We gather a couple of years after the technique started, the term gained common usage in The Motley Fool website's forums, due to a contributor there called Stooz. Yet regardless of whether it's 'free cash' or 'stoozing', either way, hopefully it'll be cash in your pocket.
Warning. Stoozing is ONLY for those who are debt-free & financially savvy. If you're not, avoid it as mistakes can be costly. Stoozing means you'll have a credit card debt, so if you have a mortgage application or important credit application coming up, it might be best to steer clear – as it could affect your lender's affordability checks. If you're looking for more than just 0% spending, or you've debts, see our Credit Cards page for full options.
Who can do this?
Though lucrative, this technique is tricky, and not suitable for everyone. If you decide to give it a go, read this article in full, and make sure you understand the process, as mistakes can have a high cost.
Be credit card debt-free
Only use this technique if you don't have any credit card debts and have a decent credit history. Those who already have debts on plastic should use all available new credit to reduce the interest. Read the Best Balance Transfers guide.
Ensure you're on the ball
Do it right and this is risk-free. Yet stoozing isn't for the forgetful, ill-disciplined or inattentive. If that's you, stop reading now, as getting this wrong costs.
Consider cashback instead
If you're a little forgetful, or would just prefer a simpler way to make free cash, a more foolproof way to profit is simply using a cashback credit card and paying it off in full every month. For the current top picks, read the Credit card rewards guide, and see our Credit Cards page for more options.
How to stooze...
In a nutshell, the idea is to do your normal spending on an interest-free credit card, and let the dosh you'd normally be using build up in a savings account, earning interest.
These specialist cards offer a number of months where no interest is charged on new spending, so done right there's no cheaper borrowing.
The aim is to get the longest 0% credit deal you can, though it's important not to confuse these cards with 0% balance transfers, which are for shifting debts.
Once accepted, use the card for everything you buy; replacing all credit card, debit card and cash spending up to the credit limit (though NEVER withdraw cash as you're charged interest).
As all spending is on the credit card, allowing unspent wages to build up in your current account. This means the debt on the credit card will be matched by extra cash in your current account – and this forms the stooze pot you can use to save.
Always follow the golden rules on stoozing:
Don't exceed your credit limit. That can result in you losing the 0% deal and hurting your credit score.
This isn't an excuse to overspend. We're just using it as a method to build up savings to match the stooze pot.
Only make the MINIMUM repayments. Don't try to repay this card in full. Just set up a direct debit to make the minimum monthly repayments, usually around 2.5% of the outstanding balance. Don't miss any payments, or you could lose the 0% promo offer, messing up your entire plan.
It's time to maximise the interest you earn by moving the money into the highest interest savings vehicle possible. Don't wait for the cash to build up, just siphon it off into savings as soon as possible. The most important thing is that you need access to the cash before the 0% ends, so you pay off the card debt.
The best places to save your cash...
Easy-access savings account. These tend to be best as you're building up the savings as you can pay in and out of them at will. For full info and best buys see the Top savings accounts guide. Or see Top cash ISAs if you need the tax benefits.
- Fixed rate savings account. These tend to pay higher rates easy-access accounts, though are only suitable for stoozing if you have enough time to lock your money and get it back again away before the credit card debt needs to be paid. For full info and best buys see Top fixed savings.
- Top paying current accounts. The top savings rates right now come from savings accounts linked to current accounts – though this is only usually on smaller amounts. See our Best Bank Accounts guide for the current crop.
- Pay cash into a flexible or offset mortgage. Whether you should do this will depend on what your mortgage rate is, and whether the mortgage allows you to offset the interest against savings (most don't, and don't confuse this with overpaying – it's not the same thing). As a rule of thumb, if your savings rate is higher than your mortgage rate, then save. If your mortgage rate's higher than what you can get on savings, then offsetting will be a better use of your stoozed cash.
Here's an example of how much you could make from using this technique:
Sally Stoozer gets a 23-month credit card with a £5,000 limit. She usually spends £1,250 a month from her bank account, but now she puts all that spending on the card. So each month she pays the minimum payment on the card and transfers the rest to an easy-access account at 3.85%.
After five months she has around £4,916 there, which she transfers to an 18-month savings account at 5.15%. When that ends she has around £5,303 in the account, in time to clear the remaining balance on the card before her 0% deal ends – and has £425 left over.
At the end of the 0% period (to really ramp up your gain), instead of using your savings to clear the balance, you can shift the debt again to another 0% balance transfer credit card to keep earning interest on the savings.
It's important, though, that you don't lock your money away in a longer fix using the process above because you're planning to do this step – in case you're rejected for the balance transfer card. If that's the case, you'll still need access to your stooze pot to pay off your original credit card.
When looking for a balance transfer card, always try to go for the one with the lowest fee possible. Balance transfer fees are typically around 2-3% for the longest 0% periods, but opt for a shorter period and there are options with none at all.
Will stoozing hit your credit score?
Most lenders' scoring systems aren't sophisticated enough to detect that you're playing this free cash gain.
Yet multiple, clustered applications, and high outstanding debts, even at 0%, will diminish your ability to get competitive credit, so always spread card applications out.
In stoozing's early days, some people got huge amounts at 0%. Now lending criteria is tighter, and mortgage affordability checks are getting tougher, so it's best to start small and not overstretch yourself (read the Credit Scoring guide). And if you have a mortgage application or important credit application coming up, a credit card debt (especially if it's maxed out) could affect lenders' affordability checks, so you might need to hold off on stoozing.
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