Balance-transfer credit cards now offer people looking to shift their debt up to 31-months interest-free. But longer isn’t always better, as we explain.
This time last year people looking to shift their debt had a choice of 10 credit cards that offered 24 months or more interest-free on balance transfers.
Now 28 cards offer two years or more, an increase of 180% over 12 months.
The Barclaycard Platinum credit card currently offers the longest interest-free period on the market - 0% on balance transfers for 31 months.
The transfer fee – the cost of moving your balance from one card to another – is 2.69%.
Good news for borrowers
The fact the number of cards offering generous interest-free deals has increased is undoubtedly good news for borrowers.
Balance transfer cards can be a cost-effective way for people to clear existing credit card debt.
The 0% interest periods mean cardholders can shift a balance from one card to another and, if they were paying interest on their old card, clear their debt while avoiding extra charges.
However, by focusing only on the card with the longest interest-free period, there is the potential for people to miss out on some of the best deals.
Confused.com’s head of credit cards Nerys Lewis explains more.
Think about how much you want to transfer
"One of the main things to think about before you apply for a balance transfer is the amount of debt you want to shift to your new card," she says.
"If you work out how long it will realistically take to pay the balance off this will determine the length of the 0% period you need.
"Cards with longer interest-free deals often come with higher transfer fees.
"So if you don’t need, say, 31 months to clear your debt you may be able to save money by choosing a credit card with a shorter 0% period and a lower handling fee."
Nationwide offers 26-months 0% for a 0.75% fee
For example, last month Nationwide launched a new credit card that gives borrowers 26 months interest-free on balance transfers for a 0.75% fee.
This is a very competitive deal considering the low fee and long length of the interest-free period.
Only the Bank Of Scotland Platinum balance transfer card, which gives borrowers 15 months interest-free on balance transfers, offers a lower fee at 0.7%.
If you transferred £2,500 to Nationwide you would pay a fee of £18.75 compared to £67.25 if you transferred your balance to the market-leading 31-month Barclaycard.
Is your credit rating up to scratch?
Another thing to consider when you apply for a balance transfer credit card is your credit rating.
The best balance transfer cards, particularly those with the longest interest-free deals, are generally reserved for people with the best credit ratings.
Lewis says: "As interest-free periods on balance transfer credit cards have increased, credit card companies have had to become increasingly strict about who they can lend to."
In other words, if your credit rating is anything less than top notch you’re unlikely to get the very best offers.
Avoid a negative application harming your credit file
A negative credit card application can harm your credit history so it’s definitely worth thinking about your credit rating before you apply.
Although, while some cards may reject a negative application outright, it is worth noting that others may downgrade the offer.
For example, if Barclaycard won’t accept you for its 31-month balance transfer card, the company may offer you its 28-month deal instead.
Before you apply you can use Confused.com’s free Card Matcher tool which lets you check your likelihood of acceptance for any of the types of cards on our website.
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