If you want to clear expensive credit card or store card debt more quickly, it makes good financial sense to shift it over to a balance transfer credit card that charges a lower rate of interest. Choosing a fee-free balance transfer card will help you keep costs down further, so that you can focus on repaying your debt as soon as possible.
No-fee balance transfer credit cards work in a similar way to regular balance transfer credit cards. The key difference is you won’t be charged a fee for transferring your balance.
Standard balance transfer cards typically charge a fee of between 1% and 4% for every transfer you make. On a transfer amount of £3,000, a 3% fee would cost you an extra £90. This sum is typically added to your balance, increasing the overall amount you need to repay.
In comparison, no-fee balance transfer credit cards won’t charge a transfer fee, saving you a tidy sum.
Just like standard balance transfer credit cards, many fee-free cards offer 0% interest on balance transfers for a number of months.
This provides some breathing space for you to focus on paying off your debt without interest building up. It has the potential to save you hundreds of pounds, and can help you clear your debt faster.
One thing to watch out for is that no-fee balance transfer cards tend not to offer such lengthy 0% terms compared to the best fee-charging cards. But deals are still competitive and you can usually find 0% deals with terms of up to around 18 months at the time of writing. Provided you can clear your debt within that time, it shouldn’t be a problem.
To compare no-fee balance transfer credit cards, follow the steps below:
Check your credit score. The best deals are usually reserved for those with good credit scores, so check whether yours is up to scratch first
Use an eligibility checker. This shows you the cards you’re most likely to get accepted for and reduces the risk of damaging your credit score with a rejected application. Because it uses a soft search credit check, it won’t leave a mark on your credit report
Compare your options. Once you know which cards you’re most likely to be accepted for, look for one with a 0% interest period that is long enough for you to repay the balance
Check how long you have to make your transfer. Most cards require you to carry out your balance transfer within 60 to 90 days to qualify for the 0% deal. This may also apply to the no-fee offer
Make your application. Once you’ve chosen your card, click through to apply in full
Before accepting your application, lenders will look at your credit rating to assess whether you are a responsible borrower. A good credit score indicates to lenders that you have repaid previous credit cards or loans on time and you’re more likely to get accepted for the most competitive deals as a result.
Conversely, a low credit score suggests you’ve had problems repaying debt in the past or don’t have enough of a credit history for a lender to make a judgement. This means that lenders may be less willing to let you borrow from them. Or if they do let you borrow, your credit limit could be lower and you might be offered a higher rate of interest.
Card providers only have to offer the advertised representative annual percentage rate (APR) to 51% of successful applicants. This means the remaining 49% may not be eligible for the advertised rate and could pay more. In the case of balance transfer cards, you might not qualify for the 0% offer. Or if you do, the rate it reverts to afterwards could be higher than the rate advertised.
As with most financial products, it’s worth weighing up the pros and cons of a fee-free balance transfer card before applying for one:
If you get accepted for a fee-free balance transfer credit card, it’s important to use it sensibly and clear your debt as quickly as possible. Use the tips below to help:
Pay off more than the minimum monthly repayment. Only paying the minimum amount each month will take you far longer to pay off your balance. You’ll certainly struggle to clear your debt before any 0% offer expires and interest kicks in.
Set up a monthly direct debit. This will ensure you don’t forget to make your monthly payments and avoid getting hit by late payment fees.
Set up a reminder for when the 0% deal ends. If you are unable to clear your balance before this time, you’ll need to shift the debt to another balance transfer card.
Don’t spend on your card. Purchases will usually be charged at a different interest rate and you’ll simply be adding to the debt you’re trying to clear.
Never withdraw cash on your credit card. Cash withdrawals will incur both a fee and interest from the moment you take the cash – even if you clear your balance that month.
It can be difficult to get approved for a no-fee balance transfer credit card if you have a poor credit score. However, some credit cards – known as credit building credit cards – are designed specifically for those with bad credit. They tend to come with higher interest rates and lower initial credit limits, but used sensibly they can help you to repair your credit score. A handful of these cards may also offer 0% balance transfer deals, though you’ll usually need to pay a fee for the transfer.
At the end of any 0% promotional deal you’ve taken advantage of, you’ll start being charged interest. If your card has a fee-free offer on balance transfers this will also end (if it hasn’t already).
Your provider will usually allow you to transfer a percentage of your credit limit, typically 90% to 95%. For example, if you can transfer 90% of a £2,500 credit limit, you’ll be able to move over £2,250.
No, you won’t usually be able to carry out a transfer between cards from the same provider. In some cases, this also extends to the same banking group. This means you wouldn’t be able to move a balance from an HSBC card to a First Direct card, or from a Santander credit card to a Cahoot card, for example.