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Compare Balance transfer credit cards

Pay 0% interest on existing credit card debt

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  • Check your credit card eligibility without impacting your credit score
  • Compare balance transfer cards from multiple trusted providers

We compare credit cards from trusted providers, including:

What is a balance transfer credit card?

A balance transfer credit card lets you move what you owe from one or more credit cards to a new one with a different provider.

Because it typically has a lower or 0% interest rate for a fixed period, a balance transfer card could help you get on top of your credit card debt and reduce the total cost of your borrowing.

How do balance transfer credit cards work?

If you’re accepted for a balance transfer credit card, your new provider could pay off your old balance with the debt transferred to them. You could be charged a fee for making the switch – typically between 1% and 4% of the amount you’re moving across.

An interest-free balance transfer card works best if you can pay off the balance in full by the end of the 0% period, because after this the rate is likely to rocket. One way to do this is by dividing the outstanding debt by the number of months until the end of the deal, then pay that amount each month.

If you can’t afford to do this, you’ll still be expected to pay at least the minimum amount due each month. If you don’t, you could lose your 0% rate and be charged a late payment or missed payment fee. 

If you still have an outstanding balance at the end of the interest-free period, you might be able to switch to another balance transfer card.

Here’s an example of how a balance transfer works[2]

  • You have an outstanding credit card balance of £3,000, charging an annual interest rate of 20%.
  • You move the balance to a card with a 0% promotional offer for 24 months, with a 2% balance transfer fee. You now owe a total of £3,060, including the one-off fee.
  • By paying £128 on time each month for 24 months, with no other spending, you can clear your balance without paying any interest.

[2]Compiled using MoneyHelper’s credit card calculator.

What are the different types of balance transfer credit card?

Depending on your financial circumstances, you could choose from these types of balance transfer card:

Long 0% interest

Some cards offer 0% interest for up to 28 months, giving you more time to repay your debt without interest. You’re likely to be charged a one-off fee though.

No-fee balance transfer

A few cards won’t charge you any fee to transfer your balance, but the interest-free period is only likely to last 12 to 15 months. 

Balance transfer and purchase

With a combined balance transfer and purchase credit card, you can pay down your debt and continue to spend while benefiting from a low or 0% interest rate on both. The interest-free period isn’t always the same for balance transfers and purchases though.

 

Am I eligible for a 0% balance transfer credit card?

Whether you’re eligible for a 0% balance transfer credit card will depend on your financial status and credit history.

You’ll need a good credit score to be accepted for the best deals. However, a few providers offer cards for people with a less-than-perfect credit history, although the 0% periods tend to be shorter.

To check if you’re eligible for a credit card without impacting your credit score, use our credit card eligibility checker.

What are the pros and cons of balance transfer cards?

Consider these advantages and disadvantages before you make a credit card balance transfer:

Pros of a 0% balance transfer credit card:

  • You could clear the balance faster as you’re not paying interest.
  • You may pay less overall if the balance transfer fee is lower than the interest on your current card.
  • There’s only one card to manage, so it’s easier to keep track of payments.
  • You’ll have a timeframe to clear your debts.

Cons of a 0% balance transfer credit card:

  • You’ll probably have to pay a balance transfer fee.
  • If you don’t make your monthly payments on time, you could lose your interest-free deal.
  • You’ll typically be charged higher interest rates if you don’t clear your debt within the interest-free period.
  • You’ll normally be charged interest if you use the card to make purchases.
  • You risk building up more debt, especially if you keep spending on your old cards.

How to transfer a credit card balance 

Looking to transfer your credit card balance? Here are the steps to take:

1. Check your credit card debt

Work out which cards are charging the most interest and how long you’ll need to pay off the debt.

2. Compare balance transfer credit cards

You can do this with Compare the Market. Simply tell us a few details about your finances to see which cards you’re likely to be accepted for. We carry out a soft credit search, which won’t impact your credit score.

3. Apply for a 0% balance transfer card

If there’s a card you’re interested in and eligible for, you can make a full application. The card provider will carry out a credit check to see whether you’re a reliable borrower.

If you’re accepted, you’ll need to tell the provider how much you want to transfer. Your new card provider will organise the balance transfer, but you’ll need to keep up repayments on your old card until the transfer is complete.

4. Wait for the balance to transfer

Thanks to faster electronic payment processes, an online balance transfer generally only takes one working day to complete. But it can take longer, depending on the bank.

You can usually transfer more than one balance, even if they’re from different credit card providers, as long as it doesn’t take you over your new card limit.

Just be aware that you can’t transfer a balance between two cards issued by the same provider, or from another provider in the same banking group.

Managing your balance transfer credit card

Follow these golden rules when managing a 0% balance transfer credit card:

Transfer the debt as soon as you can

The 0% period typically starts when the card is issued, so if you wait to transfer you’ll have fewer interest-free months.

Make at least the minimum repayment

You’ll need to make at least your minimum repayments each month, on time. If possible, try to pay more than the minimum – this will clear your debt faster.

If you miss a payment or pay late, you may have to pay a penalty fee. You could also lose your 0% rate and be moved on to the provider’s standard interest rate.

Avoid spending on the card

Spending or withdrawing cash on a balance transfer card can be very expensive. You may incur charges and interest, as well as add to your debt.

If you need to spend on the card, you might be better off with a 0% balance transfer and purchase credit card.

Pay off your debt before the 0% end date

Set up a direct debit for the amount you need to pay each month to clear the debt before the introductory rate ends.

Alternatively, set a reminder for the 0% end date, so you have time to move the debt if you don’t manage to clear it in time.

How do I apply for a 0% balance transfer credit card?

You can apply for a balance transfer credit card through a comparison site like Compare the Market. You can also apply directly through the provider.

How long is the interest-free period on 0% balance transfer credit cards?

It depends on the 0% balance transfer card you choose. Interest-free periods range from six months to two years, with a few providers in March 2024 offering up to 28 months.

How to find the right balance transfer credit card

When looking for credit card balance transfer offers, consider:

  • How long the 0% period lasts
  • Any fee for transferring your balance
  • The interest rate once the 0% introductory period ends
  • Monthly or annual fees
  • Your credit rating – some providers may require a good credit score.

Balance transfer cards with a longer 0% period may have higher transfer fees. If you think you can pay off your balance quickly, you might be better off choosing a card with a shorter 0% period and a lower transfer fee.

What do I need to compare credit cards?

Just give us a few details, including:

  • Your name, age, marital status, number of dependents and address
  • What type of credit card you want
  • Your annual income
  • The date you moved to your current address.

Compare the Market Limited acts as a credit broker, not a lender. To apply you must be a UK resident and aged 18 or over. Credit is subject to status and eligibility.

Why use Compare the Market?

We compare credit cards from leading providers

Find out what credit cards you could be eligible for in under 4 minutes[1]

[1] Correct as of March 2024.

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As of April 2nd 2024, Compare the Market had an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 from 41,487 people who left a review on Trustpilot. The score 4.8 corresponds to the Star Label ‘Excellent’. Find out more

Author image Sajni Shah

What our expert says...

“A balance transfer credit card can be an effective way to reduce your debt. By using our credit card eligibility checker, you can find out which cards you’re likely to be accepted for before you make your application – and it won’t impact your credit score.”

- Sajni Shah, Consumer expert on money and utilities

Frequently asked questions

How much can you balance transfer on a credit card?

Most balance transfer cards let you transfer around 90% to 95% of your total credit limit. Different providers offer different deals, depending on your credit score and balance, so shop around for a balance transfer credit card that suits your needs.

What is a balance transfer fee?

A balance transfer fee is what a lender charges you to move a debt from one credit card to another. This is usually a percentage of the amount you’re transferring, although it’s possible to get fee-free cards.

For example, if the card has a 3% balance transfer fee and you transfer £1,000, the fee will be £30. This is added to your balance. Instead of owing £1,000, you’ll owe £1,030 on the new card.

If you’re transferring a small balance, some providers charge a set fee rather than a percentage.

What will my credit limit be on a balance transfer credit card?

Your credit limit will depend on what your provider is prepared to offer you. They’ll base this on your financial situation and will look at your:

  • Credit history
  • Income
  • Debt as a proportion of your income
  • Repayment history.

Once your card is active, you can find your credit limit by logging into your online account or app, calling your provider or by checking a statement.

What if the balance transfer limit I’m offered isn’t enough?

If the balance transfer limit isn’t high enough, you have two options:

  • Move what you can onto the new card and pay this off, along with the remaining balance on your old card. But you’ll have to pay the minimum amount on two different cards every month.
  • Apply for another card from a different provider to see if you can get a higher limit. But be aware that applying for multiple cards from different providers over a short period suggests to lenders that you’re in financial difficulty and can lower your credit score.

Why is it important to check the APR?

The APR, or annual percentage rate, shows you the total cost of borrowing money over a year. It’s a good way to see how much a credit card will cost you over the long term, once your interest-free period ends.

The APR takes into account the interest rate, together with any fees.

Our guide to credit card APR explains this in more detail.

What does the 0% rate cover?

The 0% introductory rate is typically for balance transfers only, not purchases.

If you want to use your card for spending, look for a 0% balance transfer crdedit card that offers an interest-free period for both balance transfers and purchases.

Just be aware that these combined cards usually charge a higher transfer fee, and the 0% period isn’t always the same for balance transfers and purchases.

Do credit card balance transfers lower your credit score?

If your application for a balance transfer credit card is approved, your credit score may temporarily go down because you’re taking on more credit. But it should bounce back quickly if you make your repayments on time.

How many times can I transfer a card balance?

In theory, you can transfer your credit card balance as many times as you like. But this may impact your credit score. Too many applications for credit over a short period could lower your credit rating and reduce your chances of getting the best balance transfer deals.

What happens at the end of an interest-free balance transfer period?

Once your interest-free period ends, you’ll probably have to pay a higher interest rate on your outstanding balance.

If you can’t pay off the balance within the 0% period, you could switch to another balance transfer card. But give yourself time to compare credit card balance transfer deals before the higher interest rate kicks in.

Looking for something else?

Page last reviewed on 23 APRIL 2024
by Sajni Shah