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Adam Jolley

Why longer isn't always better when choosing a credit card


Balance-transfer credit cards now offer people looking to shift their debt up to 36-months interest-free. But longer isn’t always better, as we explain.

Credit card

This time last year people looking to shift their debt had a choice of 30 credit cards that offered 24 months or more interest-free on balance transfers.

Now 53 cards offer two years or more, an increase of 77% over 12 months.

The Barclaycard Platinum credit card currently offers the longest interest-free period on the market - 0% on balance transfers for 36 months.

The transfer fee – the cost of moving your balance from one card to another – is 2.99%.

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.’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, 36 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."

Halifax 0% fee offer

For example, last month Halifax launched a new credit card that gives borrowers 16 months interest-free on balance transfers with no fee.

The car also includes 0% in purchases for 6 months, giving you a credit card with two interest-free options.

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.

Check which cards you're more likely to be accepted for

Before you apply for a card, you can use MSE's card eligibility checker which lets you check your likelihood of acceptance for any of the types of credit cards, without harming your credit file.


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