The best balance transfer credit cards to help clear your debts interest-free
- We pick the top interest-free balance transfer credit cards?
- Deals as long as 39 months and can help you clear your debts quicker
- But you must play by the credit card rules or risk higher interest rates?
Generous interest-free introductory offers on balance transfer credit cards have been steadily climbing over recent years.?
But on fears of a consumer debt bubble?banks have begun to tighten lending criteria and scale back the terms on tempting 0 per cent interest deals. So far this year they have shortened by four months.?
That said, interest-free terms are still at bumper lengths of up to 39 months.?
If you use these deals sensibly, these cards can help you become debt-free much quicker, with your repayments focused on clearing your balance, rather than covering interest.?
Interest freeze: An extended 0 per cent interest term can help borrowers clear their debts quicker
Those with short to medium-term debts can use such offers to finally get out of the red, while those with much more to repay can look to these cards to provide a lower cost alternative to their existing debts.
But beware: there are caveats to consider and barriers to overcome when applying for such cards (see box) below.
Many balance transfer cards also come with a 0 per cent period for new purchases as well.
Avoid the balance transfer credit card traps?
The crucial thing to remember is that card companies aren't providing cheap credit as a favour.?
They want you to not clear debts during the 0 per cent period and spend more on the card, which makes them money.
Avoiding falling into this trap is the key to balance transfer success.?
Remember, you are trying to repay your debts, not build up more. So think hard before buying anything else with credit.?
Work out how much you need to repay each month in order to clear the debt in time and set up a direct debit.?
Beware, pay late or spend beyond your limit and you could have the 0 per cent promotion whipped away.?
This is Money has compiled a selection of the best deals currently available in the balance transfer market.
This page is kept updated throughout the year - bookmark it for the very latest developments.
Longest balance transfer credit card deals
|Provider ||Interest-free term on balance transfers||Interest-free term on purchases?||Transfer fee?||APR|
|Extra info |
|Santander||39 months?||6 months?||0%?||15.9%?||￡3 monthly fee, 0.5% cashback and no overseas fees?|
|Barclaycard?||38 months||6 months?||1.4%||19.9%||You wiil be charged a 3.5% handling fee initially but transfers withing the first 60 are eligible for a refund.|
|MBNA ?||38 months?||?||1.44%?||18.9%?||Money transfers come with a 4 per cent handling fee?|
|Virgin Money?||38 months?||3 months?||1.5%||20.9%?||Includes 20 months 0% interest on money transfers (1.9% fee).|
|Tesco Bank?||39 months?||3 months||2.69%?||18.9%?||You must transfer a balance within the first 90 days to get the promotional offer and 2.69% fee. Also comes with 38 months 0% interest on money transfers (3.94% fee)|
|37 months?||3 months?||1.98%||18.9%||Initial fee is 2.89% with a 0.91% refund on handling fees if transfer is made withing 3 months.After that it jumps to 3%. Collect 10,000 Nectar points on Sainsbury's shopping in two months.|
|Correct as of November 17 2017||?||?||?|
RESTRICTIONS ON BALANCE TRANSFER CARDS
Being approved for a balance transfer card is by no means guaranteed.
In theory, those with the best credit ratings are the most likely to be approved for a card as they will have a history of paying off debt on time and have a stable income.
It is more probable that those with poor credit ratings will be rejected.
Those who are refused should bear in mind that applying for a number of other balance transfer cards in a short space of time will worsen their credit rating.
Many card providers will not allow you to transfer balances from another of its own products, so you should identify the best deal for you outside of your existing providers before making an application.
Some providers meanwhile may only accept your application if you already hold a current account with them.
There are other restrictions you will also have to satisfy, such as having a minimum level of income (generally ￡10,000-￡20,000).
And to take advantage of introductory 0 per cent offers, you will have to transfer your balance within a specified time-frame.
Lowest handling fee cards
For those confident they can pay off their credit card debts in a short space of time, then getting a balance transfer card with a lower handling fee, but lower interest-free period, can limit the extra charges on your debt.
Competition is tight with the top four our five providers offering fees below one per cent and fairly decent balance transfer windows too.
Santander's?All In One card offers 39 months 0 per cent interest on balance transfers with a 0 per cent handling fee.
The card also comes with 6 months 0 per cent interest on spending and 0.5 per cent cashback on all spending - but it comes at a cost as the provider charges a ￡3 monthly fee.?
Over the course of the 43 months the card would therefore cost you ￡129 in fees making it a less attractive deal compared to shorter alternatives.?
TSB has recently launched a 28-month balance transfer credit card which charges 0.5 per cent on transfers made within the first 90 days, but waives the fee altogether for any made within the first 30 days.??It also comes with three month interest free purchases and?1 per cent cashback on purchases if you also hold the TSB Classic Plus current account.?
The card comes with 5,000 bonus Nectar points when you spend ￡250 stores in the first month, and pays 2 points per ￡1 with the supermarket and 1 point per ￡5 elsewhere.??
THIS IS MONEY'S FIVE OF THE BEST CREDIT CARDS
Barclaycard's Platinum Extended Balance Transfer card gives 38 months of 0% interest on balance transfers for a 1.4% handling fee if made within the first 60 days. Make sure to clear the balance before interest shoots up to 19.9% APR
Sainsbury's Bank's Nectar Credit Card offers 32 months 0% interest on purchases. Shoppers earn 1,000 bonus Nectar points per ￡35 supermarket spend (up to 10,000) in the first two months. 18.9% APR
The Lloyds Bank Platinum Credit Card charges 5.7% APR - the lowest interest rates available. The no-frills card also comes with no handling fees on balance transfers.
The Amex BA Premium Plus Credit Card offers 25,000 Avios if you spend ￡3,000 in the first 3 months. Plus a ￡10,000 annual spend get you a free companion ticket. The card comes with an annual fee of ￡195 per year. 76.9% APR
M&S Bank's Reward Plus Credit Card gives a ￡20 voucher when you sign up plus double reward points on spending for the first year. You also get 6 months 0% interest on purchases and balance transfers (2.9% transfer fee). 18.9% APR
Best low rate balance transfer credit cards
People who have racked up substantial credit card debt which is unlikely to be paid off within two years can plump for cards which offer lower rates of interest.
However, those who are considering this option should seek advice as to whether there might be a better deal to be a had consolidating such debts into a loan, particularly with borrowing rates at record lows at the moment.
Market leader: MBNA?
What you get?
After 60 months, the rate does jump to 8.9 per cent but this is still relatively low compared to the standard 18.9 per cent APR attached to most cards.?
Purchases made within the first 60 days also qualify for the promotional rate.
Moving a balance to the card will incur a fee of 0.5 per cent, which works out at ￡5 for every ￡1,000 you transfer.
To clear a ￡3,000 balance with a ￡15 transfer fee would cost ￡381 in interest if you were to take the full 5 years repaying ￡56.76 each month.?
The Lloyds Platinum Credit Card charges the lowest long-term rate at 5.7 per cent APR.
It comes with no handing fees on balance transfers if you shift debt to the card within the first 90 days. After that you will be charged 3 per cent.?
Read more about the best low-rate credit cards in our round up here?
Credit Card Reality Check Calculator
Warning: This calculator does not factor in the time it would take to repay a credit card debt where the minimum payment is calculated as a percentage.
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