Compare 0% Balance Transfer Credit Cards
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What is a 0% balance transfer credit card?
A 0% interest balance transfer credit card is a type of card designed to help you cut the amount of interest you pay on your credit card debts.
You can move debt from one or more existing credit cards (that you are paying interest on) to a 0% balance transfer card, which won’t charge you any interest for a specified period. You will often need to pay a fee to do this, but the savings you make by not paying interest may be greater.
As long as you clear your balance in full before the interest rate increases, a balance transfer card can help you to pay off your debt quicker, as the total amount you will need to repay should be less.
Types of balance transfer credit cards
There are a number of different types of balance transfer cards, including:
- 0% interest balance transfer cards. These won’t charge any interest for a specified period of time. You’re likely to be charged a fee to transfer your balance to the card.
- No-fee balance transfer cards. These cards won’t charge a fee to transfer your balance. Some may also come with 0% interest periods, while others may charge interest.
- 0% balance transfer and purchase cards. As well as transferring a balance to this card, you can also use it to spend. You won’t be charged interest for transferring balances or spending for the duration of the interest-free period, as long as you stick to the terms of the card and make your minimum payments on time.
How do you transfer a credit card balance?
When you have a balance transfer card, you can transfer debt from one or more credit cards to this new card.
Bear in mind you can’t normally transfer balances between cards from the same provider or banking group.
The exact details of how and when to transfer a balance on to one of these cards will vary between providers, but the process is likely to look something like this.
- Apply for a balance transfer card. You should check your eligibility and make sure the card is the best option for your situation first.
- If successful, you can move your existing credit card debt to the new balance transfer card. You will need to provide information about the card you want to transfer, including the credit card number and the balance you want to transfer.
- Some providers will only give you a certain number of days after applying to make the transfers. Check the terms of your card to find out when you can transfer balances. Sometimes the 0% rate will only apply for balances transferred within a set time frame.
- You will often have to pay a balance transfer fee. This is typically around 2% to 4% of the balance you’re transferring, but different providers will charge different rates. This fee is usually added to your credit card balance.
- You won’t pay any interest for the specified period. The length of the interest-free period will depend on the provider and your circumstances, but it could range from a few months to over 30 months.
- You need to make at least the minimum payments each month. However, if you want to clear your debt before the interest-free period ends, you should aim to pay more than this.
- After the 0% interest period ends, you will be charged interest on any outstanding balance left on the card.
- Once you have your new 0% balance card, avoid using the old card you transferred from so you don’t build up more debt.
What are the advantages of a 0% balance transfer credit card?
Balance transfer cards can be very useful, as long as they are managed effectively. Their advantages include:
- You could save money on interest. By transferring debt on a credit card with a high interest rate to a balance transfer card with 0% interest, you won’t need to pay as much interest. However, to avoid paying any interest, you need to pay off the balance before the 0% period expires.
- You can consolidate debts. Instead of having multiple debts on different cards, you can move them to one card, which could help to make your debts and repayments easier to manage.
- You may be able to transfer someone else’s debt to your new card. Some providers may allow you to transfer a partner’s or dependant’s debt if they don’t have access to a 0% deal. But think carefully before doing this, as you will then be responsible for paying off the debt.
What are the disadvantages of a 0% balance transfer credit card?
While 0% balance transfer cards have many benefits, there are some potential disadvantages to be aware of. These include:
- You need to pay a balance transfer fee to move debt to the card. This is usually 2% to 4% of the balance you’re transferring.
- If you don’t clear your balance or transfer it to a new card before the interest-free period ends, you could face high interest charges.
- Unless you have a combined balance transfer and purchase card, you’ll normally be charged for spending with the card.
- Cards will have a credit limit, so you may only be able to transfer part of your existing debt to the card. But even transferring some of your credit card debt to a 0% interest card could help you to save money on interest.
- You can’t normally transfer balances between cards from the same provider.
How to choose the best 0% balance transfer credit card for you
If you think a 0% balance transfer card is the best option for you, don’t rush into getting one before considering the following points.
- How long is the 0% interest period? Make sure you have a plan of how you will repay the debt before the 0% period expires. You will be charged interest after this, so aim to repay the balance in full before this date.
- What is the balance transfer fee? Providers will charge a fee to transfer existing credit card debt to a new card, so double-check that the money you would save on interest payments is greater than the fee.
- What is the credit limit? Like other types of credit cards, balance transfer cards will set a limit on the balance you can have on the card at one time.
- Do you want to use the card for spending? If you use a standard balance transfer card for purchases, you may face extra charges. There are some balance transfer cards that offer 0% interest on purchases as well, so make sure you choose one of these cards if you plan to use it for spending as well as transferring a balance.
- Can you afford the minimum payments? You need to pay at least the minimum payments and stay within your credit limit to keep the 0% interest rate. If you miss any payments, your credit score could be affected and you risk losing the interest-free deal.
Can I get a 0% balance transfer card with bad credit?
You are more likely to be accepted for a balance transfer credit card if you have a good credit history. However, it may still be possible to get a balance transfer card if your credit score is less than perfect. You can check your eligibility before applying for a balance transfer card to see how likely you are to qualify for one.
Bear in mind that balance transfer cards for people with poorer credit scores are likely to have lower credit limits and a shorter 0% interest period than for those with a better credit score. The interest rate after the promotional 0% period may also be higher.
If you have a poor credit history, it’s worth trying to improve your credit score before applying for a card to improve the chances of your application being approved.
How do I apply for a 0% balance transfer credit card?
To apply for a 0% balance transfer credit card, you will need to tell the credit card company personal and financial information, such as:
- your name
- your address (and previous addresses)
- your date of birth
- your income
The company will also run a hard credit check to see how you have managed your finances and credit agreement in the past. This will be recorded on your credit history.
From this information, the credit card company will decide whether to approve your application. If it’s successful, you will be given further information about your credit card, including the credit limit, the length of the 0% interest period, and the interest you will be charged after this expires.
If you’re happy, you can then sign the credit agreement and transfer balances from your existing credit cards to the new card.
Before applying for a card, it’s a good idea to check your eligibility first so you can see what balance transfer credit cards you qualify for. This can minimise your chances of applying for an unsuitable card and having your application rejected.
Checking your eligibility will only require a soft credit check, which won’t affect your credit score.
0% Balance Transfer Credit Cards FAQs
Can I get a 0% balance transfer credit card with no fee?
Most 0% balance transfer credit cards will charge a fee for moving a balance from one card to another. This is typically a small percentage of the balance you’re transferring.
However, there may be some balance transfer cards that come with 0% interest and don’t charge a transfer fee. The availability of these cards will depend on the credit card company and your individual circumstances.
How do you transfer a credit card balance?
To transfer a credit card balance to a balance transfer credit card, you’ll need details of your existing credit card debt you want to transfer, including the card number, the card provider, and the balance you want to move.
Once your application for a balance transfer card is approved, you should have the option to transfer your balance. Many providers will set a time limit and only allow you transfer balances within a set period. It’s always worth checking the exact terms of your card as details vary between different credit card companies.
Is a 0% balance transfer credit card worth it?
If you’re paying interest on a credit card, it’s worth seeing if you can get a 0% balance transfer card as this could save you money on interest and help you pay off the debt quicker.
However, you should make sure you can clear your balance before the 0% interest period ends, otherwise you could end up paying more in interest than before.
Do balance transfers affect your credit score?
Transferring a balance from one card to another won’t directly affect your credit score.
However, when you apply for a balance transfer card, the provider will run a hard credit check which will leave a mark on your credit history. This may affect your score in the short term but, as long as you make your repayments on time, your credit score could improve.
If you miss any repayments, your credit score is likely to be affected.
How long does a 0% balance transfer take?
In many cases, applying for a card and transferring balances to it will only take a few days. However, depending on the provider and your individual circumstances, it could take longer.
How many balance transfers can I do?
In theory, there is no limit to the number of balance transfers you can make. However, every time you apply for a balance transfer card, this will be recorded on your credit history, and providers could be more reluctant to approve applications if you’ve regularly transferred balances rather than paying them off.
Rather than transferring balances between cards, you should focus on trying to pay off the debt.
How much can I transfer to a card?
This depends on the credit card company and your own circumstances. Companies will look at your financial situation and your credit score to help decide on a credit limit, which is the maximum amount you can transfer to a card.
You will usually be allowed to transfer up to a specific percentage of your credit limit to the card. This may be around 90% to 95%. For example, if your credit limit is £5,000, you may be able to transfer around £4,500. This will leave some credit available to pay for the balance transfer fee and any other charges for transactions that have yet to reach your account.
How much does a balance transfer cost?
Credit card companies will charge a small fee to transfer a balance from one card to another. This will typically be 2% to 4% of the balance you are transferring.
The fee will often be added to your credit card balance, rather than you needing to pay it up front.
There are balance transfer credit cards that will charge a smaller fee, or even no fee, but they may charge interest instead.
» COMPARE: Low fee balance transfer credit cards
Can I transfer money from the card to my bank account?
Balance transfer cards are designed for moving a balance from an existing credit card. Although you may be able to transfer money from a balance transfer card to your bank account, this could come at an extra charge.
Some balance transfer cards may specifically offer money transfers or, alternatively, there are specialist money transfer credit cards you could consider instead.
How long is a 0% balance transfer period?
This depends. Different credit cards will offer different 0% interest periods. Some can last as long as 30 months, while others may be just over 12 months or even less.
Your credit score and overall financial situation could affect how long the 0% interest period lasts.
What happens when the 0% interest period ends?
After the 0% interest period, you will be charged interest on any balance left outstanding on the card. That’s why it’s best to pay off your balance transfer credit card before the interest-free period expires. Learn more about your options when your 0% interest balance transfer period ends.
Can you transfer the balance from multiple credit cards?
Yes, you can transfer balances from different credit cards to a new balance transfer credit card. However, there will be a limit on the amount you can transfer in total to one card.
Can I make purchases with a 0% balance transfer credit card?
You can make purchases with a 0% balance transfer card, but you may be charged interest.
There are combined balance transfer and purchase credit cards that offer 0% interest on balance transfers as well as purchases. However, the interest-free period for purchases may not be the same as the one for balance transfers, so make sure you know when the 0% interest rate for purchases ends if you plan to use the card for spending.
Can I balance transfer to a card with the same provider?
No, most card providers won’t allow you to transfer debt between cards that come from the same provider or banking group. You can only transfer a balance from one card to another if they are from different providers.
Rhiannon is a financial writer for NerdWallet, with a particular interest in personal finance and insurance guides for consumers. Read more
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Helpful links for credit card issues
Money Advice Service - The government's Money Advice Service website provides concise, unbiased information on choosing and using credit cards as well as handy tools such as credit card calculators.
The UK Cards Association - The British trade association for card payment companies has an extensive range of guides on their website covering all the types of payment cards available to UK consumers including debt, credit and prepaid cards
Financial Fraud Action (FFA) UK - The Financial Fraud Action website features important advice on using payment cards safely and securely as well as information on the latest scams.
Financial Ombudsman Service - If you've already made a complaint to your card provider and have not had your issue resolved satisfactorily then the next step is to take up your complaint with the Financial Ombudsman.