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What is a 0% balance transfer credit card?

A 0% balance transfer credit card could help you pay off your outstanding credit card debt by moving the balance from one card (or multiple cards) where you might be paying interest, to a new one at a 0% interest rate for a set period of time. This could help you reduce the interest you have to pay, so you can pay off the outstanding balance quicker.  
At the very least, you’ll need to pay the minimum repayment set each month by the lender. If you miss a payment, you’ll be required to pay a penalty fee and may lose your 0% rate and any other promotional deals offered with the card. 

At a glance

✓ Manage credit card debt with interest-free payments
✓ Interest-free periods of over 20 months available
✓ Consolidate debts from multiple credit cards
✓ Find the best balance transfer deals

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What happens when the 0% interest-free period ends?

Once your interest-free period ends, a higher rate of interest may be applied to any outstanding balance, so it’s important that  the balance is cleared before your interest-free period ends.  However, if you’re struggling to do this then  at least make the minimum payment each month.  

What are the pros of a 0% balance transfer card?

Choosing a 0% balance transfer card could help you pay off outstanding debt on a credit card, which could be handy if you’re being charged a high rate of interest on an existing balance. Typically, these cards charge a one-off fee for a balance transfer, worked out as a percentage of the amount you’ve moved across, often up to 3%.

But some cards do offer 0% on fees and even cashback, which might be bigger than the fee, so you won’t necessarily lose money while you cut your debt. 

What are the cons of a 0% balance transfer card?

While the savings you could make with an interest-free card could outweigh the interest charges on your existing credit card, don’t forget that  if you make a balance transfer, you must make your monthly minimum repayments on time. If you don’t, you could lose the interest-free terms and, worse, receive a black mark against your credit score.   
It’s also really important to make sure you’re able to clear the total debt within the interest-free period, to avoid fees or interest charges. Also be aware that if you use the card for spending, you will be charged interest. 

How do you do a credit card balance transfer? 

First, you have to apply and be accepted for a 0% balance transfer credit card. You’ll then need to give the new credit card provider details of the card you want to transfer your balance from. They’ll do the transfer for you and let you know when it’s been done. Remember to keep making repayments on your existing card until you know the balance has been transferred to your new one.

Alternatively, when you apply for a normal credit card, there should be an option to transfer your existing card balances over.

Do credit card balance transfers affect your credit score?

Your credit score is determined by lots of different factors. Even making an application to transfer credit can influence your score. Once you’re granted a new card to transfer a balance onto, your credit score might initially go down because you’re taking on more credit. As long as you make your minimum repayments on time, it should then improve.

How to find the best balance transfer credit cards?

The best balance transfer credit card deal depends on your current personal circumstances, including your credit rating. 

When you’re looking for a credit card with the option to balance transfer, it’s a good idea to consider the following: 

  • the length of the 0% period 
  • the transfer fee 
  • the typical APR after the 0% period has ended - some people can be offered a higher rate than advertised. 
  • if there’s a monthly or annual fee for having the card 

Typically, balance transfer cards with longer 0% periods have higher transfer fees. If you think you can pay off your balance in a short period of time, you might benefit from choosing a card with a shorter 0% period because the transfer fee will likely be less. 
To find out which cards you’re likely to be accepted for before you apply, why not try our credit card eligibility checker? It’s a way of seeing what deals you might be eligible for, without impacting your credit score. 

When is it good to do a balance transfer? 

You may be thinking about transferring a balance for a number of reasons. Maybe you want to lower your current rate of interest. Perhaps your current credit card charges a high fee for late or missed payments. Some people find it less of a hassle to have all their credit card debt in one place, so there’s just one monthly payment to remember. 
There could also be circumstances where it doesn’t make sense to transfer your balance to another credit card. For example, if such a transfer wouldn’t make much difference to the overall time you’d spend paying off the debt, or the total amount you’d pay.

Frequently asked questions

How much can you balance transfer on a credit card?

In theory, you could transfer anything from around £100 to £10,000, with the average amount in the region of £3,000 to £5,000. Most credit cards allow you to transfer around 90% of your total credit limit. 
Remember that most credit card providers charge a balance transfer fee of around 1% to 3% – some as low as 0.5% and some as high as 5%. This should show up as a separate amount on your first credit card statement. 

Why is it important to check the APR rate?

The APR rate, or Annual Percentage Rate, is one way to compare how much a credit card will cost in the long term, once the interest-free period ends. The APR should show the amount of interest you’ll pay per year when borrowing. For example, if the APR on a card is 20% and you spend £1,000 and don’t pay any of this back, the interest you’ll pay would be £200 (or slightly less as you’ll be making regular monthly payments). That means you’d end up paying back £1,200 in total.
Some 0% balance transfer credit cards may also offer you 0% on any purchases you make. You need to check the terms and conditions carefully so you know exactly how long the offer lasts for, and any other terms and conditions that may apply. Learn more about credit card APR in our guide

Can I transfer a balance from a different provider?

Yes – in fact you wouldn’t be able to transfer a balance to a 0% card with the same provider, as banks don’t allow transfers from cards in the same group.

If you’re looking to consolidate your debt, you can usually transfer more than one balance at the same time on to one single card, provided you don’t go over your limit. When you apply for a new card, there should be an option to transfer debts from other cards.

Can I get a balance transfer credit card with bad credit?

It can be difficult to get a balance transfer card if you have a low or poor credit rating. The best 0% deals that last for more than 20 months are for those with the best credit scores.

However, don’t despair if you have bad credit as there are balance transfer deals that are aimed specifically at people with less than perfect credit scores. The main thing to watch out for with these is that once the introductory 0% period ends, you’ll start paying an extremely high rate of interest if you haven’t cleared your balance by then.

If you don’t think you can pay off your debt that quickly, a credit card for bad credit may be a more suitable option to help you rebuild your credit score.

If you’re struggling to make your credit card payments, speak to your credit card provider who may be able to help.

Where can I compare 0% balance transfer credit cards?

If you think you’d benefit from shifting your debt to a credit card with a 0% balance transfer, you can compare deals from a range of card providers with us. Find a balance transfer credit card that could be right for you. 

How much does a credit card balance transfer cost?

The fee for a balance transfer is a percentage of the amount you’re transferring, so the cost will depend on how much you want to transfer.

What do I need to get a quote?

When you compare 0% balance transfer cards with us, it’s a good idea to have some basic information to hand, including: 

  • the current balance you’d like to transfer 
  • your ideal monthly repayment 
  • the transfer fee you’d be happy with 
  • if you’d be happy to pay an annual fee on your new credit card 

We’ll ask you some questions to make sure we have all the information we need, then we’ll provide you with a list of quotes to choose from. 

Author image Alex Hasty

What our expert says...

“Getting a balance transfer credit card could be an effective way to pay off your credit card balance quicker and simplify your life. It’s easy to compare with us, and if you use our credit card eligibility checker, you can get an idea of what cards you’re likely to be accepted for before you start, without harming your credit score.” 

- Alex Hasty, Insurance comparison and finance expert

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[1] Correct as of December 2023.

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