Compare 0% Interest Credit Cards
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How do 0% interest credit cards work?
0% interest credit cards work in much the same way as other credit cards, with one major difference — you won’t be charged interest for a certain length of time.
When you look at these cards, you may see them described as “up to 12 months interest-free”, which means you won’t pay any interest on the card for up to 12 months.
You need to meet certain terms to make sure that you continue to benefit from the 0% interest rate. For example, it’s vital that you make at least the minimum payments on your credit card each month and don’t go over your credit limit, otherwise you could lose the 0% interest rate and your credit score could be affected.
After the interest-free period, the credit card provider will then start charging interest on any balance left outstanding on the card.
» MORE: How do credit cards work?
Types of 0% interest cards
Depending on why you want a credit card and what you plan to use it for, there are several different types of 0% interest credit cards available.
- 0% interest purchase
- 0% interest balance transfer
- 0% interest purchase and balance transfer
- 0% money transfer
0% interest purchase
These cards are used for spending. It means you can make a large purchase with the card and spread the cost over a set period, without needing to pay any interest.
» COMPARE: 0% interest purchase credit cards
0% interest balance transfer
You can move debt from an existing credit card that charges interest to a balance transfer credit card that won’t charge any interest for a certain period. You typically need to pay a fee to move the balance to the card.
» COMPARE: 0% interest balance transfer credit cards
0% interest purchase and balance transfer
These cards are a combination of the two cards described above. With a 0% purchase and balance transfer card, you can spend, as well as transfer balances from existing cards, without paying any interest.
Bear in mind that the length of the interest-free periods for purchases and balance transfers may vary. You may be charged a fee to transfer a balance.
0% money transfer
Money transfer credit cards are specifically designed for transferring money from the card to your bank account. This won’t cost you anything in interest (if you pay off the card before the interest-free period expires), but you will generally have to pay a transfer fee.
What are the pros and cons of 0% interest credit cards?
0% interest credit cards have some obvious advantages, but there are some disadvantages to be aware of too.
Advantages of 0% interest credit cards
Some of the benefits of 0% interest credit cards include:
- You can spread the cost of large purchases without paying interest.
- You can move credit card debt that you’re paying interest on to a balance transfer card that doesn’t charge interest for a set period.
- As with other credit cards, you may be eligible for protection on purchases worth £100 to £30,000, thanks to Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
Disadvantages of 0% interest credit cards
An interest-free credit card is an appealing option, but make sure you’re aware of the potential disadvantages before deciding whether to apply for one.
- The 0% interest will only apply for a limited time, during which you may need to keep up minimum payments depending on the terms of the card. After the 0% rate ends, you will be charged interest.
- If you don’t pay off your credit card balance before the 0% interest period ends, you will be charged interest on your balance.
- Knowing that you won’t be charged interest could encourage you to overspend. This could mean you end up with unaffordable debt to pay off.
- There may be an offer window, which means you would only get 0% interest on balance transfers made within a certain number of days or months after getting the card.
- Not all cards will allow you to make purchases and make balance transfers. They may only allow you to do one of these things, and may charge interest if you use the card for anything else.
- The best 0% interest credit cards are likely to go to those with the best credit scores.
- Interest rates can be high once the 0% interest period ends.
How to choose the best 0% credit card for you
Before applying for a 0% interest credit card, you need to make sure you choose the best deal for your circumstances. Some points to consider are:
- What will you use the card for? Do you want a credit card for spending? To transfer a balance? Both of these? Credit cards won’t necessarily offer 0% interest for everything, so think about how you will use the card to help you choose the most appropriate one.
- How long is the 0% interest period? The length of the interest-free periods can range from a few months to over two years, so make sure you can afford to pay off your credit card balance before the 0% rate ends. Bear in mind that the same credit card may offer 0% periods of different lengths for purchases and for transfers.
- Is there an offer window? The 0% interest rate may only apply to balance transfers made within a certain time frame after taking out the card, for example. Any transfers made after this period may be subject to the standard interest rate.
- What is the interest rate after the 0% period? Don’t just look at the promotional 0% interest rate. It’s important to see what interest you could be charged once the interest-free period ends, in case you still have any balance left outstanding on the card or if you choose to continue using the card.
- Are there any fees? You may not be charged any interest initially, but the card provider may still charge fees. Check if there are any annual or monthly fees, and if there are fees for cash withdrawals, money transfers, and foreign transactions, for example.
- Are there any other perks? Some credit cards may come with reward schemes, or other benefits. It’s worth looking at these perks, but don’t choose a card based solely on the extra benefits they may offer.
» MORE: How to choose a credit card
How can I apply for a 0% interest credit card?
To apply for a 0% interest credit card, you’ll need to provide the credit card company with your name, address, date of birth, contact details, income, and more.
The provider will also run a credit check to verify your identity and to see how you have managed your credit over the past few years.
This will help them to decide whether to offer you a credit card and, if so, what deal to offer you. Your credit score and financial situation can affect the length of the 0% interest period you receive and the interest rate you get once the 0% period expires.
Bear in mind that your application will be noted on your credit history as it involves a hard credit check. Too many applications for credit within a short space of time could have a negative impact on your credit score. Because of this, it’s worth checking what credit cards you are eligible for, before you actually apply for a card. This won’t affect your credit score and it can identify the cards that you are likely to be approved for if you do decide to submit an application.
0% Interest Credit Cards FAQs
Can you get 0% interest on an existing credit card?
You can’t typically get 0% interest on a credit card you already have, as interest-free periods are offered as part of an introductory deal when you first take out a credit card. However, some providers may send you offers on existing cards from time to time.
You may be able to transfer debt from an existing card to a new 0% balance transfer card. You may need to pay a fee to do this.
Am I eligible for a 0% interest credit card?
This depends on the credit card company and your individual application. As a rule, you will need to be at least 18 or 21 years of age and a UK resident to qualify for a credit card, but card providers may set further requirements, such as a minimum income level.
The best 0% interest cards are likely to go to those with the best credit scores, but you may still be eligible for an interest-free card even if you have a poor credit history.
You can check your eligibility for a credit card before applying, to see what cards you qualify for.
What is the longest interest-free credit card available?
It’s hard to give a definite answer to this as credit cards come with interest-free periods of varying lengths, and card providers may also change the deals they offer.
Some 0% credit cards may come with interest-free periods of more than 30 months. However, these are likely to be reserved for people with the best credit histories. Many 0% interest periods will often be around 12 to 24 months, but the deal you qualify for will depend on your circumstances.
If your card offers a 0% interest on balance transfers and purchases, the interest-free period may be a different length for each of these transaction types.
Does a 0% interest credit card affect your credit score?
When you apply for a 0% interest credit card, your credit score will be affected because the provider will run a hard credit check.
If you manage your 0% interest card effectively, make repayments on time and continue to manage your other financial commitments well, your credit score should reflect this and improve. However, if you miss payments or make late payments and start to struggle with credit card debt, your credit score may fall.
Are 0% interest credit cards good?
When managed responsibly, 0% interest cards can be useful as you won’t need to pay interest for a certain period. However, if you don’t clear your balance before the period ends you could face high interest charges.
If you overspend on the card and can’t afford to repay it, you may find yourself struggling with debt.
Can I get a 0% interest credit card with poor credit?
You may be able to get a 0% interest credit card with a poor credit history, but the deals on offer may be more limited. You may not qualify for the cards with the longest interest-free periods, but you may still be eligible for a card with several months of 0% interest.
If you have bad credit, you can see what credit cards you are eligible for without affecting your credit score.
Should I get a 0% interest credit card?
Only you know if you should get a credit card, let alone a 0% interest one. If you would be able to manage your card responsibly and pay off the balance before the end of the interest-free period, then a 0% interest credit card could be a useful option.
However, if you think that having a 0% interest card could encourage you to spend more than you can afford, they may not be a good idea. If you struggle to pay off your credit card balance before the end of the 0% period, you could face expensive interest charges, which could then put you at risk of falling into a spiral of unaffordable debt.
Only get a credit card if you need it and if you are confident that you won’t borrow more than you can afford to repay.
If you always pay off your credit card in full each month, then a 0% interest credit card may not have much to offer as you wouldn’t pay any interest anyway. As a result, it may be worth looking at other credit cards that may offer more perks, such as cashback or reward cards.
Will I get the advertised deal?
Not necessarily. The deal you qualify for will depend on your individual circumstances and the decision of the credit card company. They may offer you a shorter interest-free period than the one advertised if your credit score is less-than-perfect, for example.
If the deal says you could get “up to” a certain number of months interest-free, this is the maximum amount you could get, but you may get a shorter period.
Will I need to pay any fees?
This depends on the type of card you choose and how you use the card. Some credit cards may come with an annual or monthly fee, while others will charge fees for certain actions.
For example, you may need to pay a balance transfer fee or a money transfer fee, if you make either of these transactions. Many cards will also charge fees for withdrawing cash or using the card abroad.
Aside from these charges, you may also face fees if you don’t manage your credit card responsibly. For example, the credit card company may charge penalty fees if you miss a payment or go over your credit limit.
What can I use a 0% interest credit card for?
You can use a 0% interest credit card for a variety of purposes, whether that’s spreading the cost of an expensive purchase or transferring existing credit card debt.
However, bear in mind that not all 0% credit cards will offer 0% interest on both purchases and balance transfers, so make sure you check that a card is suitable for whatever you plan to use it for.
» MORE: How do 0% credit cards work?
Can I transfer credit card debt to a 0% interest card?
Yes, you can move debt from an existing card to a 0% interest balance transfer credit card. This can help you to save money on interest and pay off your debt quicker, as long as you clear your balance before the end of the interest-free period.
If you want to transfer a balance to a 0% credit card, make sure you choose a suitable card. Not all 0% interest credit cards will include balance transfers, so you could be charged interest if you try to move a balance onto the card.
Bear in mind you may not be able to transfer existing credit card debt to a 0% balance transfer card offered by the same provider.
What credit limit can I get with a 0% credit card?
This depends on your credit history and application. Credit card companies will use information in your application to help them decide what credit limit to offer you, and those with a better credit history are likely to receive higher credit limits.
Once you have a card, you may be able to ask the card provider for a higher credit limit if you’ve proved that you can manage your credit card responsibly.
Do I get 0% interest on cash withdrawals?
Unless the credit card specifies that you have 0% interest on cash withdrawals, you are likely to be charged for using a 0% interest card to take out cash.
There are 0% interest money transfer cards that won’t charge interest for transferring money from the credit card to your bank account, but if you used them to withdraw cash from an ATM, for example, the 0% interest rate is unlikely to apply.
Can I get cashback with a 0% credit card?
Some 0% interest credit cards may come with cashback offers, but not all will. You can check the terms of individual credit cards to see if they offer any cashback deals in addition to their 0% interest period.
» COMPARE: Cashback credit cards
What happens when the 0% interest period ends?
After the 0% interest period on your credit card ends, interest charges will apply when you use the card. At this point, you can choose to continue using the credit card, or you may consider taking out a new credit card to try to get a new 0% interest deal.
Once your 0% interest free period ends, you will need to pay interest on any outstanding balance left on your credit card, as well as on any future purchases you make on the card.
However, you can avoid paying interest if you pay off your balance in full each month.
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.