The Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Updated: 22nd October, 2019.

If you have existing credit card debt, getting a balance transfer credit card could save you serious money. With a balance transfer card, you transfer an existing high-interest credit card balance to a new card that offers a period of 0% interest on that transferred balance. This could provide you time you need to pay down your debt without adding new interest charges.

On this page, you’ll find our shortlist of the top balance transfer deals currently available. You can also find more information about our ratings, how to compare balance transfer cards, and how to use balance transfer offers.

Credit card offers from our affiliate partners appear first and are ordered from highest rating to lowest, followed by other top-rated offers. You can read more about our ratings and page sort here. Offers from affiliate partners are marked with *

When comparing balance transfer credit cards, you’ll want to take particular note of how long the 0% period is on the balance transfer, along with the balance transfer fee (if there is one), and the standard interest rate. Of course, additional perks like rewards or 0% purchase offers sweeten the deal. Here are MyWalletHero’s current picks for the top balance transfer credit cards:

Great for: Long 0% purchase and balance transfer, plus points
4.5 stars question mark
Apply Now!

On M&S Bank's Secure Website

* Affiliate partner

The M&S Shopping Plus credit card ticks a lot of the boxes to make a great credit card. For starters, there’s a long 20-month 0% period on new purchases. But you can add to that a 20-month, 0% period for balance transfers made in the first 90 days and the M&S points programme. It is worth noting that there’s a 2.9% fee on balance transfers.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest on purchases for the first 20 months
  • 0% interest for 20 months on balance transfers made in the first 90 days
  • 2.9% balance transfer fee
  • Earn M&S points for shopping at M&S and elsewhere
  • Bonus points voucher for 500 M&S points (worth £5 at M&S) mailed with new card

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 19.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 19.9% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn more about why and how we work with partners.

what we like

  • 0% interest on purchases for the first 20 months
  • 0% interest for 20 months on balance transfers made in the first 90 days (2.9% fee applies)
  • Earn M&S points for shopping at M&S and elsewhere
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    19.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    0% interest on purchases for 20 months
    0% interest on balance transfers for 20 months

KEY SCORES:

  • 4/5 Perks
  • 3/5Fees
  • 4/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest on purchases for the first 20 months
  • 0% interest for 20 months on balance transfers made in the first 90 days
  • 2.9% balance transfer fee
  • Earn M&S points for shopping at M&S and elsewhere
  • Bonus points voucher for 500 M&S points (worth £5 at M&S) mailed with new card

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 19.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 19.9% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn more about why and how we work with partners.

Great for: Really long balance transfer period
4.5 stars question mark
Apply Now!

On M&S Bank's Secure Website

* Affiliate partner

The M&S Transfer Plus card gives you a very long 28 months of 0% interest on balances transferred in the first 90 days. Users will have to cough up a balance-transfer fee of 2.85% though. Balancing that out, the M&S Transfer Plus also offers 0% for 6 months on purchases and M&S rewards on all purchases.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest for 28 months on balances transferred in the first 90 days (2.85% fee applies)
  • 0% interest on purchases for 6 months
  • M&S rewards points at M&S and elsewhere

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 19.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 19.9% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn more about why and how we work with partners.

what we like

  • 0% interest for 28 months on balances transferred in the first 90 days (2.85% fee applies)
  • 0% interest on purchases for 6 months
  • M&S rewards points at M&S and elsewhere
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    19.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    0% on balance transfers for 28 months, available for 90 days from account opening
    0% on purchases for 6 months

KEY SCORES:

  • 4.5/5 Perks
  • 2.5/5Fees
  • 2.5/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest for 28 months on balances transferred in the first 90 days (2.85% fee applies)
  • 0% interest on purchases for 6 months
  • M&S rewards points at M&S and elsewhere

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 19.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 19.9% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn more about why and how we work with partners.

Great for: NatWest customers consolidating debt
3.5 stars question mark
Apply Now!

On NatWest's Secure Website

* Affiliate partner

NatWest customers interested in consolidating credit card debt and getting close to two years of 0% interest on their balance transfer may want to check out the NatWest Balance Transfer Credit Card offer. In NatWest fashion, this is a simple, straightforward offer, so don’t look for bells and whistles. But 23 months of 0% provides a good amount of time to pay down a lingering balance, and there’s no balance transfer fee to pay. Note that you must be a current NatWest current account, savings account, credit card or mortgage customer to apply.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest for 23 months on balance transfers made in the first 3 months
  • No balance transfer fee
  • 0% interest on purchases over the first 3 months
  • No annual fee
  • Note: You must be a current NatWest customer (current account, savings account, credit card or mortgage) to apply

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 19.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 19.9% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn more about why and how we work with partners.

what we like

  • 0% interest for 23 months on balance transfers made in the first 3 months
  • No balance transfer fee
  • 0% interest on purchases over the first 3 months
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    19.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    0% interest for 23 months on balance transfers made in the first 3 months

    0% interest on purchases for 3 months

KEY SCORES:

  • 2/5 Perks
  • 3/5Fees
  • 4/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest for 23 months on balance transfers made in the first 3 months
  • No balance transfer fee
  • 0% interest on purchases over the first 3 months
  • No annual fee
  • Note: You must be a current NatWest customer (current account, savings account, credit card or mortgage) to apply

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 19.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 19.9% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn more about why and how we work with partners.

Great for: Royal Bank customers consolidating debt
3.5 stars question mark
Apply Now!

On The Royal Bank of Scotland's Secure Website

* Affiliate partner

The Royal Bank Balance Transfer Credit Card may be an enticing offer for current Royal Bank customers. In fact, you have to be a current customer (current account, savings account, credit card or mortgage) to apply for this card. For those that are, this could be a good way to bring existing credit card debt all to one place and get nearly two years of 0% interest to pay it down. Better still, there’s no balance transfer fee to pay.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest for 23 months on balance transfers made in the first 3 months
  • No balance transfer fee
  • 0% interest on purchases over the first 3 months
  • No annual fee
  • Note: You must be a current Royal Bank of Scotland customer (current account, savings account, credit card or mortgage) to apply

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 19.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 19.9% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn more about why and how we work with partners.

what we like

  • 0% interest for 23 months on balance transfers made in the first 3 months
  • No balance transfer fee
  • 0% interest on purchases over the first 3 months
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    19.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    0% interest for 23 months on balance transfers made in the first 3 months

    0% interest on purchases for 3 months

KEY SCORES:

  • 2/5 Perks
  • 3/5Fees
  • 4/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest for 23 months on balance transfers made in the first 3 months
  • No balance transfer fee
  • 0% interest on purchases over the first 3 months
  • No annual fee
  • Note: You must be a current Royal Bank of Scotland customer (current account, savings account, credit card or mortgage) to apply

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 19.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 19.9% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn more about why and how we work with partners.

Great for: Long 0% balance transfer period
5 stars question mark

Tesco’s Balance Transfer Card gives successful applicants 28 months of 0% interest on balance transfers. That’s very near the longest on the market. There is a balance-transfer fee to be paid (2.98%), but that’s typical of 0% offers of this length. The card also offers 28 months 0% on money transfers (3.94% fee) and Tesco Clubcard points, making it a very well-rounded offer.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 28 months 0% interest on balances transferred in the first 90 days
  • 28 months 0% interest on money transfers made in the first 90 days
  • 1 Tesco Clubcard point for every £4 spent at Tesco
  • 1 Tesco Clubcard point for every £8 spent elsewhere
  • No annual fee

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 19.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 19.9% p.a. (variable)
Based on borrowing £1,200

what we like

  • 28 months 0% interest on balances transferred in the first 90 days
  • 28 months 0% interest on money transfers made in the first 90 days
  • Collect Tesco Clubcard points on all spend
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    19.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    0% interest for 28 months on balance and money transfers in the first 90 days

KEY SCORES:

  • 4/5 Perks
  • 3/5Fees
  • 4/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 28 months 0% interest on balances transferred in the first 90 days
  • 28 months 0% interest on money transfers made in the first 90 days
  • 1 Tesco Clubcard point for every £4 spent at Tesco
  • 1 Tesco Clubcard point for every £8 spent elsewhere
  • No annual fee

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 19.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 19.9% p.a. (variable)
Based on borrowing £1,200
Great for: Long 0% interest on purchases and rewards
5 stars question mark

The Sainsbury’s Dual Offer Credit Card aims to give you the best of both worlds — cardholders get a long 25 months with 0% interest on both purchases and balance transfers. Balance transfers are subject to a 3% fee, so those looking primarily for a balance-transfer offer may prefer to find a card without that fee. As with other Sainsbury’s cards, cardholders collect Nectar points on spending at Sainsbury’s and elsewhere. Over the first two months, shopping at Sainsbury’s could net users up to 7,500 bonus points, which is worth £37.50.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest on purchases made over the first 25 months
  • 0% interest on balance transfers for 25 months (but a 3% fee applies)
  • Up to 7,500 bonus Nectar points over first 2 months

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Purchase rate is 20.95%
p.a. variable
With a representative 20.9% APR
variable
Assumed Credit limit: £1,200

 

what we like

  • 0% interest on purchases made over the first 25 months
  • 0% interest on balance transfers for 25 months (but a 3% fee applies)
  • Up to 7,500 bonus Nectar points over first 2 months
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    20.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    0% on purchases for 25 months
    0% on balance transfers for 25 months

KEY SCORES:

  • 5/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 1/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest on purchases made over the first 25 months
  • 0% interest on balance transfers for 25 months (but a 3% fee applies)
  • Up to 7,500 bonus Nectar points over first 2 months

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Purchase rate is 20.95%
p.a. variable
With a representative 20.9% APR
variable
Assumed Credit limit: £1,200

 

Great for: Balance transfers with no fee
4.5 stars question mark

There’s a lot to like with the Sainsbury’s Bank balance transfer card. Cardholders get 20 months of 0% interest on balance transfers along with fee-free balance transfers over the first three months. In addition, cardholders can also take advantage of 0% interest on purchases over the first three months. And like other Sainsbury’s cards, users get perks in the form of Nectar points.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest on balance transfers for the first 20 months
  • No fee on balance transfers made in the first 3 months
  • 0% interest on purchases for the first 3 months
  • Up to 7,500 bonus Nectar points in first 2 months

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Purchase rate is 20.95% p.a. variable
With a representative 20.9% APR variable
Assumed credit limit £1,200

what we like

  • 0% interest on balance transfers for the first 20 months
  • No fee on balance transfers made in the first 3 months
  • 0% interest on purchases for the first 3 months
  • Up to 7,500 bonus Nectar points in first 2 months
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    20.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    0% on balance transfers for 20 months
    0% on purchases for 3 months

KEY SCORES:

  • 4/5 Perks
  • 3/5Fees
  • 3/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest on balance transfers for the first 20 months
  • No fee on balance transfers made in the first 3 months
  • 0% interest on purchases for the first 3 months
  • Up to 7,500 bonus Nectar points in first 2 months

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Purchase rate is 20.95% p.a. variable
With a representative 20.9% APR variable
Assumed credit limit £1,200
Great for: Very long balance transfer period
4 stars question mark

If you’re looking for an extra long balance transfer period, this may be the credit card you’re looking for. This card is all about the core interest-free offerings. It has a long 0% balance transfer term of 29 months (3% balance transfer fee). This is combined with 0% on money transfers for 20 months (4% fee here) and 0% on purchases for three months. In a relatively cautious lending market, it is rare to find a card that offers an interest-free term on all three features.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% for 29 months on balances transferred in the first 60 days (3% fee)
  • 0% on purchases for three months
  • 0% for 20 months on money transfers made in the first 60 days (4% fee)
  • No annual fee
  • Virgin Money Back cashback scheme and other benefits

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative 21.9% APR variable
Purchase rate 21.9% variable for purchases
Credit limit Assumed credit limit of £1,200
Annual fee No annual fee

what we like

  • 0% on balance transfers for 29 months
  • 0% on purchases for three months
  • 0% on money transfers for 20 months
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    21.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    29 months 0% interest on balances transferred in the first 60 days

KEY SCORES:

  • 3/5 Perks
  • 3/5Fees
  • 3/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% for 29 months on balances transferred in the first 60 days (3% fee)
  • 0% on purchases for three months
  • 0% for 20 months on money transfers made in the first 60 days (4% fee)
  • No annual fee
  • Virgin Money Back cashback scheme and other benefits

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative 21.9% APR variable
Purchase rate 21.9% variable for purchases
Credit limit Assumed credit limit of £1,200
Annual fee No annual fee
Great for: Really long balance transfer period
4 stars question mark

The Barclaycard Platinum 28-month balance transfer card features a long 28 months of 0% interest on balance transfers made in the first 60 days. The drawback is that there is a fee for balance transfers, which is often the case when looking at the balance transfer cards with the longest duration. As an added sweetener, there’s also 0% on purchases for six months and ongoing access to your Experian Credit Score.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest on balance transfers for 28 months
  • 0% interest on purchases for six months
  • Ongoing access to your Experian Credit Score

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 19.90% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 19.90% p.a. (variable)
Balance Transfer Fee 1.99%
Based on borrowing £1,200

what we like

  • 0% interest on balance transfers for 28 months
  • 0% interest on purchases for six months
  • Ongoing access to your Experian Credit Score
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    19.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    0% interest for 28 months on balances transferred in the first 60 days
    0% interest on purchases for 6 months

KEY SCORES:

  • 4/5 Perks
  • 4/5Fees
  • 3/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest on balance transfers for 28 months
  • 0% interest on purchases for six months
  • Ongoing access to your Experian Credit Score

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 19.90% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 19.90% p.a. (variable)
Balance Transfer Fee 1.99%
Based on borrowing £1,200
Great for: Balance transfers with no fee
3.5 stars question mark

Santander’s Everyday Card stacks up really well against the competition. 18 months of 0% interest on balance transfers is not at the very top end of the scale, but this comes without a fee on balance transfers. The three months of 0% interest on purchases is a bit shorter than some competing cards, but it’s still nice to get that 0% purchase period. As a sweetener, there are cashback awards available from companies like Costa Coffee, Subway, and Morrisons through Santander’s “Retailer Offers”.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest for 18 months on balance transfers
  • No fee for balance transfers
  • 0% interest for the first 3 months on purchases
  • Special retailer cashback offers

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

18.9% p.a. (variable) on card purchases. This is equivalent to 18.9% APR representative (variable) based on an assumed credit limit of £1,200.

what we like

  • 0% interest for 18 months on balance transfers
  • No fee for balance transfers
  • 0% interest for the first 3 months on purchases
  • Special retailer cashback offers
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    18.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months
    0% on Purchases for 3 months

KEY SCORES:

  • 2/5 Perks
  • 3/5Fees
  • 5/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest for 18 months on balance transfers
  • No fee for balance transfers
  • 0% interest for the first 3 months on purchases
  • Special retailer cashback offers

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

18.9% p.a. (variable) on card purchases. This is equivalent to 18.9% APR representative (variable) based on an assumed credit limit of £1,200.


In this section:

What is a balance transfer credit card?

Balance transfer cards give you the opportunity to transfer an existing credit card balance to a new card that has an interest-free promotional period. That makes these cards a great financial tool to consolidate your debt and get some breathing room while paying down your credit card balance.

The annual percentage rate (or ‘APR’, which is the interest charged for carrying a balance on a credit card) on a credit card is typically around 19%. If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is! The high interest rates on credit cards can make it difficult to pay down debt.

This is why balance transfer cards can be so great. Make no mistake about it — you still have to pay down your balance! But, balance transfer cards give you a period of time to do that without piling up additional interest charges.

How we picked the winners

Since everyone’s financial situation is a bit different, the ‘best’ credit card won’t be the same for everyone. Our aim at MyWalletHero is to provide ratings and top picks that will fit the average reader. But when considering our ratings, it’s also important to think about the cards in the context of your own situation and how well the card will serve you. And we’ll talk about how to do that in just a moment.

With that in mind, here are the top things we looked at when selecting our list for the best balance transfer cards:

  • Length of the 0% introductory APR for balance transfers – This is obviously an important consideration for a balance transfer credit card. The longer the 0% interest period, the longer you have to pay down your balance without incurring new interest charges.
  • Balance transfer fee – Many balance transfer cards, particularly those with very long 0% periods, charge a balance transfer fee. A balance transfer fee is an up-front fee that you pay when you transfer the balance to the new card. This fee typically ranges from 1% up to 3%. We have a strong preference for cards with no balance transfer fee, since that keeps your costs down. But if you’re looking for the longest balance transfer periods on the market, you should prepare yourself to pay a balance transfer fee.
  • Representative APR for the card after the introductory APR period – It’s very important to keep in mind that when the interest-free period on a balance transfer card concludes, you’ll incur interest at the regular APR rate. The ideal is to pay down your balance before the 0% period is over, but it’s good to avoid sky-high APRs, just in case there’s still a balance when the regular APR kicks back in.
  • Inclusion and length of a 0% introductory APR for purchases – If you already carry a credit card balance, your focus should be on paying that down. But life doesn’t stop while you’re paying off your debt, so having a 0% purchases period, which provides a 0% interest period on new spending, can be a big plus.
  • Other fees, including annual fees and non-sterling transaction fees – The good news is that annual fees are very uncommon among balance transfer cards. So think twice if you’re looking at a balance transfer card with an annual fee — there’s a good chance you can find an equally good deal without the annual fee. On the other hand, it’s hard to avoid non-sterling transaction fees (fees you pay when paying in a foreign currency) with balance transfer cards. If you do travel a lot, this may be a good reason to get a travel card to take with you when you’re abroad.
  • Rewards, cashback and other perks – Sure, earning rewards may not be at the top of your mind when comparing balance transfer cards, but if you can rewards and other perks along with a long 0% balance transfer period, we think that’s even better.

The scores you see above take all of these factors into account, and we update these ratings as new cards come to market and the terms change on existing cards, so it’s good to check back often.

But like we noted above, the same cards may not be equally attractive to everyone, so let’s talk about how you can compare balance transfer cards yourself.

Comparing balance transfer credit cards

Above, we’ve noted the key features of balance transfer cards. Now, let’s take another look at those features, to help you make your own determination of which card is the best fit for you.

  • The length of the introductory period – This is one of the most important factors to consider when comparing balance transfer cards. After all, the 0% period is the whole reason you’re getting the card, right? It might seem ‘obvious’ that the longer the balance transfer period, the better. But that’s not quite true. As we’ll cover further in a moment, the longest offers on the market almost always include a balance transfer fee, so you may end up paying unnecessary fees if you go for a 0% period that’s longer than you actually need. So the best thing to do is to consider how long you (conservatively) need to pay down your balance, and choose a card that matches that.
  • Balance transfer fee – A key to improving your finances is to avoid paying fees that you don’t need to — even if they seem small. Imagine you have a £500 credit card balance. If you can afford £50 per month towards paying that down, then — if you’re not accruing new interest charges — you can have that paid off in 10 months. There are quite a few balance transfer cards that offer more than 10 months of 0% interest with no balance transfer fee. However, if you were approved for one of the longest balance transfer offers on the market, you would likely have to pay a 3% balance transfer fee. That’s £15 that otherwise stays in your pocket! But this only works if you can pay off your balance before the 0% period runs out. The typical APR on a credit card right now is around 19%. It doesn’t take a maths expert to see that paying a 3% balance transfer fee to unlock a long balance transfer period is much better than continuing to pay a high APR on that balance.
  • The card’s standard APR – Once the 0% promotional period runs out, you’ll start accruing interest at the APR rate that the card issuer gives to you. While it may be your goal to pay your balance in full before the end of the interest-free period, it is worth getting a card that has a low standard APR just in case you don’t keep up with your repayment plan. If you are absolutely sure that you’ll be able to pay off your balance during the 0% period, then the APR matters a bit less. If you’re less sure that you’ll be able to clear your balance in the 0% period, then definitely prioritise taking out a card with a lower standard APR.
  • The 0% purchase period – Many balance transfer cards also offer a 0% purchases period. This can be nice to have, because it means that while you’re paying down the balance you’ve transferred, you can also avoid building interest on new purchases. But there’s a catch here. The balance transfer period and the 0% purchases period aren’t always the same, and keeping track of when each period runs out can get confusing if you’re not careful. And that can make avoiding incurring interest more challenging. So if you are interested in getting 0% interest on purchases, the safest bets are usually to either apply for a card that offers 0% periods of equal lengths on both purchases and balance transfers (often called ‘all round’ cards) or take out a separate 0% purchases card. Otherwise, make sure to keep close track of when your 0% periods expire.
  • Other fees – As we mentioned above, most balance transfer cards don’t carry an annual fee. So a balance transfer card with an annual fee better be truly top notch to be worth it. As we also already covered, it’s relatively unusual for a balance transfer card to not have a non-sterling transaction fee. So if you do a lot of travelling abroad, consider a travel-focused credit card that doesn’t have that fee.
  • Rewards and other perks – All else equal, it’s better to get rewards and other perks with your credit card, right? So when you’re comparing balance transfer cards, keep the most important thing in focus — finding a card that provides a 0% period that’s long enough for you to pay down your balance and, ideally, doesn’t hit you with a balance transfer fee. But if you’re choosing between multiple cards that have similar 0% periods and similar balance transfer fees, why not choose the one that rewards you for your spending as well?

How does a balance transfer card work?

A balance transfer is a simple process. In effect, the card company you are moving your balance to pays the card company you are moving your balance from.

For example, if you transfer a balance of £5,000 from a NatWest credit card to a Sainsbury’s Bank credit card, the balance on your NatWest credit card account will decrease by £5,000 while your balance on your Sainsbury’s Bank card will increase by £5,000 (plus any applicable balance transfer fees).

It is worth noting that you usually cannot transfer balances between cards owned by the same credit card provider. For example, if you had a balance on an M&S Bank credit card but wanted to transfer it to an HSBC credit card, it is unlikely this would be possible as they sit under the same financial group.

If you’re applying for a balance transfer card, the card issuer may ask whether you’re transferring a balance from another card. If this is the case, you can provide the information at the start, and your transfer will be taken care of if you’re approved. However, with most balance transfer credit cards, you’ll have a window of 60 or 90 days to make a transfer once the card is active, so you can also make a transfer after you’re approved for the card. Just be sure to note the window that you have for making a transfer — the last thing you want to do is take out a balance transfer card, and end up missing out on the 0% promotional period!

Do I need a 0% purchases card as well?

When looking at balance transfer cards, you will often see other interest-free promotions, including cards with 0% interest on new purchases. Some cards even offer a dual promotion on both balance transfers and purchases. Whether this would be a good fit for you depends on what you want a card for. If you are focused on getting your existing balance under control, then be wary of taking on debt in the form of new purchases. A 0% interest on purchases offer is not essential when taking out a balance transfer card.

And do bear in mind that the payments that you make towards your credit card balance can get complicated, especially when you’re juggling two 0% promotional periods that are of differing lengths. If you have a card that has, for example, a 0% balance transfer period of 18 months and a 0% purchases period of 6 months, most credit card issuers will apply your payment towards the 0% purchases balance first (assuming you have no other interest-accruing balances on the card), since that promotional period will run out first. But not all issuers do it this way, which can create problems when a cardholder gets confused about where their payment is going.

Which is all to say that if are looking for both a 0% balance transfer period and a 0% purchases period, the easiest choices may be to either find a card with matching 0% periods — that is, 12 months on both purchases and balance transfers, for example — or take out separate balance transfer and 0% purchases credit cards. Otherwise, if you take out credit card with differing 0% promotional periods, just be sure to carefully read the small print, to ensure you know how your payments will be applied to your balances.

How to save money with a balance transfer card

The main benefit of a balance transfer card is that it can save you hundreds of pounds in interest charges over the promotional period. The table below shows how much you would save in interest by paying off a £5,000 balance during a 0% introductory period compared with paying off the same balance over the same time at an 18% APR.

Interest saved by paying off a £5,000 balance with a 0% introductory APR balance transfer card

Length of introductory 0% period Amount saved
12 months £500.80
15 months £620.80
18 months £742.54
21 months £865.93

The interest saved depends on the length of your 0% introductory APR on balance transfer offer, how much debt you have to repay and whether you have to pay a balance transfer fee (note that the table above assumes no balance transfer fee). However, that being said, most people will find that switching their balance over will save them hundreds in the long run compared with carrying a balance on a standard APR credit card.

What’s the catch?

If you’re carrying a credit card balance and paying high rates of interest, a balance transfer card can be a great tool to help you deal with that debt. But there are a few things that you need to keep in mind when using balance transfer cards.

The main thing to be aware of with balance transfer cards is that many of them carry some sort of balance transfer fee. The fee is typically around 1% to 3% of the balance you are transferring. If your balance is £5,000, for example, you would have to pay £150 in fees with a balance transfer card that charges a transfer fee of 3%. A general rule of thumb is that the longest balance transfer periods almost always include a balance transfer fee, and that fee is almost always at the high end of the range (3%). Cards with slightly shorter 0% periods can be had that are considered ‘low fee’. This typically means a fee of 1% to 2%. Cards with yet shorter 0% balance transfer periods — though still perfectly long enough for many people — are often available with no balance transfer fee at all.

Another thing to be conscious of with a balance transfer period is how long your introductory 0% promotional period is. One of the largest risks of taking a card out like this is that you still have a balance left on the card when the interest-free introductory period ends and the card reverts to its standard APR. It is wise to make a repayment plan when you take out your card so that you ensure you pay the balance off in full before the end of the introductory period. This is why it’s important to take the card’s standard APR into consideration when applying. If, for some reason, you’re unable to clear your balance during the interest-free period, you’ll be in a better position if the standard APR is on the lower end of the range.

Additionally, in order to keep your interest-free introductory rate, most cards require you to make your minimum monthly payments. If you miss any payments — and with some cards this only has to happen once — you could lose your 0% APR offer, and interest on balances will be charged at the standard APR.

Finally, any sort of balance that sits on a credit card, whether or not it is under a 0% interest term, could count against you in terms of your credit score. If you apply for a mortgage or a loan, the lender will most likely conduct a credit check, which will look at any existing credit card accounts and the level of debt you owe. While the balance may no longer be incurring interest charges, it is still a balance that you will need to repay and a factor the lender will consider when deciding whether to loan you money.

Using your balance transfer card in five simple steps

We’ve covered a lot of ground here, so let’s recap with some easy steps to follow when considering a balance transfer card.

1. Pick the right balance transfer card for you – You’ll hopefully find the ratings on MyWalletHero helpful in your consideration, but be sure to look at key elements of the credit card in the context of your own needs. Find a balance transfer period that fits what you need to pay down. Avoid a balance transfer fee if possible. Be mindful of 0% balance transfer and 0% purchases periods that differ in length. Take note of the standard APR. And when having trouble comparing multiple cards with similar balance transfer offers, consider letting rewards and other perks tilt the scales.

2. Transfer your balance – Assuming you’ve been approved for a card, it’s time to make a transfer. You may be able to include your transfer information as part of your application. But typically a balance transfer card will have a window of time after account opening in which to transfer a balance, which usually ranges from 60 to 90 days. Balances transferred during this time qualify for the interest-free promotional period, while balances transferred outside this window will not. Therefore, make a note of the time period you have in which to complete your transfers. Additionally, if you have selected a fee-free balance transfer card then check whether the fee-free period is the same as the transfer window.

3. Continue to make payments to your old card – Balance transfers are not instantaneous, so continue paying the debt down on your existing credit card until you see the balance has been deducted. There may be a small amount of interest due after the balance transfer, even if you transfer your balance in full, so it’s wise to check back after the balance transfer is complete so that you don’t get hit by a late payment fee.

4. Pay down your balance – You will only feel the benefits of a balance transfer card if you pay down your balance. The interest-free period will give you some breathing space and help to get your finances under control, but only if you pay down your debt. If you ignore making repayments for the term of the promotional period, then you will end up where you started facing high interest charges on an existing balance.

5. Be prudent and keep up the good credit card practices! – Now that you’ve paid off your existing balance (or are well on your way), it is also prudent not to rack up new balances. As you may have found already, building up credit card debt can happen rather quickly and the standard-rate interest on a credit card is not especially pleasant. This can mean simply being careful with how you spend, but can also mean creating and following a budget that helps avoid overspending.

Is a balance transfer offer right for you?

A balance transfer card is not the right option for everyone. It is a useful financial tool, but if used incorrectly could lead you into deeper debt.

Give yourself a quick check against the following three statements. If you can say ‘yes’ to all three, then you may be a good candidate for a balance transfer credit card:

  • You have an existing credit card debt at a high APR
  • You are serious about paying your balance off in full
  • You won’t overspend on your old credit card and end up with a new balance to pay down

The pitfall of this type of card is that if you transfer a balance but don’t pay it off, while racking up another large balance on your old card at high standard APR, you could end up in a much worse financial situation.

However, if you are conscientious, do your research and make your payments, a balance transfer card can be a brilliant way to consolidate debt and get yourself out from underneath high interest charges.

FAQs about balance transfer credit cards

What is a balance transfer?

It’s when you transfer an existing debt balance from one financial institution to another, usually to take advantage of a promotional 0% or low-interest period.

What is a balance transfer credit card?

Typically, when people talk about a ‘balance transfer credit card’, they’re talking about a card that provides you with a promotional 0% interest period on a balance that you transfer to that new card. This interest-free period can last anywhere from just a few months to multiple years.

How does a balance transfer work?

When you’re approved for a balance transfer offer and provide information on the balance you want transferred, your new bank will pay off the debt that you owed to the other bank. You’ll now owe that debt balance to the new bank.

How long does a balance transfer take?

This varies by bank and can range from one working day to multiple weeks. When you are approved for a balance transfer, your new bank should be able to provide information on how long it will take to process your transfer.

What is a balance transfer fee?

This is a fee that you often have to pay when making a balance transfer. A balance transfer fee typically ranges from 1% to 3%, though there are some credit cards that offer no-fee balance transfers.

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