What is a balance transfer?
A balance transfer is a method you can use to pay off existing credit card debt and repay it at a cheaper or interest-free rate.
Most providers will allow you to do a balance transfer from another card for a one-off balance transfer fee so long as you have a big enough credit limit to cover it.
But there are a range of 0% balance transfer credit cards that offer a better deal if you have some serious debt to shift.
You can find the latest 0% balance transfer deals on Which? Money Compare. This guide explains exactly how balance transfers work and how to make the most of them.
How do 0% balance transfers work?
With a new 0% balance transfer credit card you can shift debt from expensive credit and store cards and freeze the interest for a set period – with some deals almost three years.
This gives you the chance to pay the debt down faster and save money, as all your payments will go towards the debt rather than the debt and interest.
For example, a £2,000 debt on a card charging 18.9% APR that you pay £60 a month towards will take 46 months and cost you £2,755 to clear.
In contrast, a £2,000 debt moved onto a 0% balance transfer card, with the same repayments of £60 a month will take 34 months to clear and cost £2,000 – saving you £755.
How do I find the best 0% balance transfer credit card?
When shopping for a 0% balance transfer credit card you should consider the length of the 0% period and the size of the balance transfer fee.
Some cards don’t charge a balance transfer fee but others charge up to 4% for each balance transfer you do, so if you’ve got multiple cards you want to clear, the costs can add up.
In general, the longer the deal lasts, the higher the fee will be. This means it can be worth avoiding the longest deals if you feel confident that you'll be able to repay the balance within a shorter time frame.
A simple way to find the best deal for you is to take the total amount you have on your credit cards and store cards and divide this by what you can afford to repay each month.
The answer will give you your ideal 0% period, which you can use to help you shop for a card on Which? Money Compare with the smallest balance transfer fee.
So if you had £4,000 worth of debts and could afford to repay £150 a month, you would need a card with a 0% period lasting at least 27 months.
Use the calculator below to quickly find the best 0% balance transfer term for you.
What are the best 0% balance transfer deals?
Here are our picks of the best balance transfer deals available whether you’re after the longest-lasting, most affordable or cheapest deal. You can compare more 0% balance transfer credit cards on Which? Money Compare.
Please note that the information in this article is for information purposes only and does not constitute advice. Please refer to the particular terms & conditions of a credit card provider before committing to any financial products.
How long the 0% deal lasts for
|Cost of |
|Virgin Money 29-Month Balance Transfer Credit Card||29 months||3%||£60||21.9%|
Recommended providerTesco Bank Clubcard Credit Card for Balance and Money Transfers
Who's the best balance transfer credit card provider?
As well as the length of a 0% balance transfer deal and the fee you should also look into how good a provider is, which is pretty hard to do until you become a customer.
Luckily, Which? has rated 29 of the biggest credit card providers to help you understand what they’re like for customer service, charges and benefits, before you apply.
The companies that combine great deals with top-notch customer satisfaction are awarded our coveted Which? Recommended Provider status. In the table below, we show you the 0% balance transfer deals on offer from our Which? Recommended Providers.
|Card Name||0% Balance Transfer Period||Intro Balance Transfer Fee||Cost of Transferring £1,000||Representative APR (%)|
|Nationwide Member Credit Card for Balance Transfers||18 months||1.50%||£15.00||19.9%|
|Nationwide Member Credit Card for All Rounders||15 months||1.50%||£15.00||19.9%|
Data correct as of December 2020
0% balance transfer golden rules to follow
Once you have a 0% balance transfer credit card there are few things to bear in mind to stay on the right track. We've set out the golden rules for you to follow below.
Pay at least the minimum repayment, if not more
It’s important to pay at least the minimum repayment on your balance transfer credit card but you should aim to pay back more than this to help clear what you owe.
Most credit card companies reserve the right to withdraw a deal at any time if you miss a payment, meaning you'll be charged interest at their standard rate.
To make sure you stay on target and never miss a payment set up a direct debit to repay the minimum amount or more.
Don’t spend on the card
Beware of spending on a balance transfer card, as this can be costly.
There are some balance transfer cards that offer 0% interest on purchases for a limited time, but the deal periods on these cards tend to be shorter than standalone deals.
Just remember your main aim when taking out a balance transfer is to clear your debt, rather than get into any more.
Set a reminder for the 0% end date
To avoid reverting to the standard interest rate, it's important to repay your balance in full before the 0% introductory balance transfer offer comes to an end.
So, it's worth setting up a direct debit based on the monthly amount needed to repay the debt within the 0% and set a reminder of when the deal ends to give yourself enough time to make other arrangements if you don’t manage it.
Shift your debt again
If you do still have outstanding debt at the end of the 0% period, you should consider switching the remainder to a new 0% balance transfer card. Failing that, you should transfer the debt to a card with a lower APR.
Balance transfers FAQ
Got a burning balance transfer question? Check out if we've covered it in the Q&A below.
Should I get a 0% balance transfer credit card?
A 0% balance transfer credit card is suitable for anyone with existing credit or store card debt, who wants to cut the cost of the interest and pay off what they owe quicker.
Do balance transfers affect your credit score?
Shifting a balance from one card to another can impact your credit score in both positive and negative ways depending on a range of factors.
Your credit score can take a temporary hit when you apply for a new credit card as part of your rating is linked to the age of your accounts and typically the older the better.
Over the long-term opening a new account can improve your credit history, especially when your account utilisation - how much of your available credit you are using each month - is low.
So, if you moved a £1,000 balance from a card with a £2,000 limit to one with a £4,000 limit your utilisation would move from 50% to 25%, which makes you look like a better borrower.
It’s also important to remember that every time you apply for credit there is a hard search recorded on your report and multiple applications can damage your credit rating.
Doing your research and finding the best deal for you is the key to limiting the impact of this factor on your score.
Should I cancel my old credit card after a balance transfer?
Once you’ve transferred your balance to a new card your old card will be cleared giving you the chance to close the account.
Part of your credit score relates to the length of time you leave credit accounts open, and typically the longer you have accounts the better the score, so it can be worth keeping your old account open.
Conversely, if you keep the card and don’t use it, it will pose a fraud risk and the credit you have on the card may impact affordability calculations for other borrowing like for a mortgage. Plus, having an available balance to spend might tempt you to get into more debt.
Ultimately, whether you close the account depends on your goals and ability to avoid temptation.
Can you do a balance transfer from an Amex card?
Credit cards issued by American Express normally have a 15-digit card number rather than a 16-digit card number.
This can cause trouble when shifting debt from an American Express card as online systems struggle to recognise the shorter set of numbers.
In some cases, you just need to phone up your new card company and complete the transfer, but in others, you may not be able to make the transfer, so check the provider is equipped to deal with this issue before applying.
Can you transfer part of a balance on a credit card?
You can transfer part or all of a debt balance from one credit card to a balance transfer credit card.
How do you move a balance from one card to another?
When you apply for a 0% balance transfer card you will be asked if you want to move a balance.
At this stage, you can enter the card number of where your existing debt lives and the balance you want to move.
Even if you don’t do it then you will be able to do it at a later date. But it’s a good idea to shift your balance as soon as possible to ensure you benefit from the full 0% period.
Just watch out for small print that stipulates you have between 60 and 90 days to complete a transfer after you receive the card to benefit from perks like a reduced balance transfer fee.
Can I do a balance transfer between the same card company?
You won’t be able to use a balance transfer deal to shift debt between the same companies.
Luckily there are a load of balance transfer providers to pick from so you should be able to find a different firm with a card that can help you.
What if the balance transfer credit limit I get isn’t big enough?
If the credit limit you get approved for doesn’t cover the balance you want to shift you have two choices.
You could move what you can onto the new card and make do or apply for another card in the hope that the provider offers you a larger limit.
Just bear in mind that multiple credit checks could raise alarm bells and could mean you don’t get accepted for the deal or get a worse offer.
How much should I pay off my balance transfer credit card each month?
You should pay off at least the minimum repayment on your 0% balance transfer deal but ideally, you should aim to repay enough each month to clear the debt within the 0% period.
How do I pay the balance transfer fee?
Most cards charge a one-off transfer fee of up to 4% which applies on the debt you are trying to shift.
This doesn’t have to be paid up front, but is added to your overall debt balance and will remain interest-free for as long as your deal lasts.
Can you transfer a balance transfer?
You can transfer a balance that was previously a balance transfer so long as you have an available credit limit or a new card that can absorb it.
Can I spend on my balance transfer credit card?
You can use your balance transfer credit card to make new purchases as long as you have an available credit limit on your card.
However, bear in mind that new purchases aren’t likely to be interest-free and will attract interest at the standard rate, which defeats the purpose of a 0% balance transfer deal.
Will I get the headline balance transfer offer?
The length of the promotional offers made available to you will usually be based on your personal circumstances.
Those with a lower credit rating may be offered a shorter amount of time to pay off their debt interest-free.
Some providers offer a ‘soft search’ which means you can check if you will be eligible for a deal without going through the process of applying and leaving a mark on your credit history.
What happens if I don’t pay off the debt on my balance transfer credit card in time?
Some people go from one 0% card to another when the interest-free period expires to avoid paying any interest. However, being able to do this will depend on your credit history.
It's also worth remembering that making multiple credit applications within a short space of time can have an impact on your credit rating.
What if I have another balance transfer question?
You can put your question to our experts on the Which? Money Helpline or email us using email@example.com.