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Longest 0% balance transfer deal drops below 30 months for first time since 2013

Longest 0% balance transfer deal drops below 30 months for first time since 2013

The longest 0% balance transfer deals have dropped to 29 months – the shortest length in more than five years and down from a peak of 43 months almost two years ago. 

Previous best buy Sainsbury's Bank is the latest provider to cut back, having been offering a 0% period of up to 30 months until this morning. Its best deal is now up to 29 months, with the fee static at 3% (minimum £3).

Our top-pick longest card is now Barclaycard, which is also offering 0% for up to 29 months, but with a lower 1.99% fee.

We haven't seen the longest 0% balance transfer length drop below 30 months since December 2013. In May 2017 deals reached up to 43 months 0%, but offers have declined ever since.

This two-year pattern suggests balance transfer lengths could continue to decrease, so now is the time to act.

If you can definitely clear your debt within 27 months, your best bet is our top pick no-fee card from Santander, which has 27 months 0% – just two fewer months than our longest balance transfer top picks at 29 months.

On a £2,000 debt you'd save £39.80 going for Santander over the slightly longer offer from Barclaycard, assuming you can clear your debt in 27 months.

For a full rundown of how balance transfers work and all our current top picks, see our Balance Transfers guide.

'If you've debt to shift, it's important you act NOW'

Gary Caffell, money editor at MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "This is another blow for those wanting to use balance transfer cards to slash the interest they pay on their debt. With the longest 0% lengths still shrinking, if you've debt to shift, it's important you act NOW.

"Right now, there’s little difference between the cards with the longest interest-free period and those with no fee, so always go for the no-fee card if you’re sure you can repay in that time. If you’re unsure, play safe and go for a card with a longer 0% period."

What is a balance transfer?

A balance transfer is where you get a new card that pays off existing debt on other credit and store cards, so you owe it instead but at 0% interest. This means more of your repayments go to reducing the debt, rather than paying interest, so you clear it quicker.

Now that the gap between the longest no-fee card and the longest card with a fee is so small, it's best to go for the longest no-fee card, unless you need longer to clear it.

For most with ongoing debt the challenge is being accepted, so use our Balance Transfer Eligibility Calculator that shows which of most top cards you're most likely to get before you apply, without it affecting your creditworthiness.

The balance transfer golden rules

If you get a balance transfer card, always follow these golden rules:

  • Never miss the minimum monthly repayment, or you could lose the 0% deal and it'll cost far more.
  • Clear the card or balance transfer again before the 0% ends, or the rate rockets to the higher APR.
  • Don't spend/withdraw cash. It usually isn't at the cheap rate and withdrawals hit your creditworthiness.
  • You must usually balance transfer within 60 or 90 days to get the 0%.