A balance transfer credit card allows you to move an existing debt from one credit card provider to another. You can use this to manage existing debt, or consolidate several credit card repayments into one manageable monthly repayment.
It’s a handy way to avoid paying interest on a debt if you’re currently paying interest, or your interest-free period is coming to an end.
There are some deals that will give you an interest-free period of more than three years. But be aware that you may have to pay a fee to transfer the balance, and you must always make at least the minimum repayment.
A 0% purchase credit card is ideal if you are planning a significant purchase, like a dream holiday or a car, and want to spread the cost over a period of time without wasting money on interest payments.
Shopping with a credit card will also give you extra protection if the product is faulty or doesn’t arrive on time, thanks to boosted consumer rights.
Some 0% purchase credit cards offer an interest-free period of more than two years. But be aware that you must always make at least the minimum repayment and if you don’t clear the balance before the interest-free period ends, you will be charged interest.
Using our Eligibility Checker makes you less likely to be one of the millions of people who get declined for credit cards every year. Eligibility Checker shows you which cards you’re most likely to be accepted for, so you can avoid the ones that are more likely to decline you. Getting declined can damage your credit score, and this makes it harder to borrow money in the future.
You give us some information about yourself, and we use this to find your credit file. We match your credit file to the criteria credit card companies give us about what kind of customer they accept, and use this to work out a score out of ten to show how likely you are to be accepted for each card. Don't worry, we don't leave a footprint on your credit file, so your credit score won't be affected.
So that we can make sure we’ve got the right credit file. We only use your data to find your credit file, so we can work out your eligibility score for each card. We won’t contact you if you ask us not to.
It only takes a few minutes to give us the information we need to find your credit file and show you how likely you are to get each card.
It’s important to know how your credit file and credit score affect your financial situation.
Credit rating agencies build up files on all of us based on a mix of publicly-available information (such as whether you’re on the Electoral Roll) and data from financial companies about products you have or have had, such as loans and credit cards.
From this they calculate a credit score, which companies check when they’re working out whether to give you a product, and on what terms. Managing your finances well and always paying off what you owe in time will give you a good score. Missing payments, as you’d expect, will lower your score.
Every time someone looks at your file, it is recorded as a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ search.
Finance companies make hard searches when you apply to them for a credit product, and each hard search remains on your credit report for two years. This matters because, for many lenders, a clutch of hard searches in a short period suggests you might be struggling to get a product, or that you’ve opened several accounts that could prove difficult to manage.
Soft searches occur when you or someone else looks at your file, but not in connection with an actual application. For example, when you put your details into our Eligibility Checker, we look at your file and work out how likely you are to be accepted for a range of deals, based on what we know about various firms’ acceptance criteria.
A ‘pre-approval’ search leaves no trace, so it won’t affect your score. You can use the Eligibility Checker as often as you like over any period without risking damage to your file.
We think you should have as much information as possible to help you choose a credit card. As well as all the card features, it’s important to know your chances of being accepted for a card, so you can make sure you choose the right card for you, and protect your credit score as much as possible. If you’d prefer to look at some credit cards without this extra information, you can see all cards here.
A credit card lets you borrow money from a bank or a building society, which you can use to pay for expensive goods and services up front.
If you pay back all the money you’ve spent on your credit card (your credit card balance) in full each month, you won’t pay any interest on what you’ve borrowed.
If you can’t afford to pay off the whole debt, you make monthly repayments, but you will often be charged interest on what’s left. The rates vary, but 19% is typical.
What can you use a credit card for?
There are different types of credit cards, and each is designed for different spending needs.
How it works
to transfer an existing balance
Balance transfer credit card
Transfer money you owe for lower interest rates on your repayments
low and interest-free spending
0% purchase credit card
Spread the cost of a large purchase over a longer period of time
to transfer an existing balance and spend interest free
0% balance transfer credit card
Transfer money you owe for lower interest rates and spend interest free
to improve my credit rating
Bad credit credit cards
Meet your monthly credit card repayments and build your credit score
to earn rewards on my spending
Rewards & airmiles credit cards
Earn rewards like cashback and vouchers when you spend
a credit card to use on holiday
Travel credit card
Avoid overseas charges when you use your card abroad
What types of credit cards are there?
There are lots of different credit card types, but some of the most popular include the following:
0% purchase cards let you buy large purchases up front, and you then pay back what you’ve borrowed without incurring any interest over a set period of time
Balance transfer cards let you transfer the outstanding balance from one credit card to a different card which charges less interest, albeit with a an up-front fee to pay
Reward cards offer cashback or loyalty points if you pay your balance off in full each month. The interest rates are high, but if you’re a responsible spender you can earn yourself decent savings
‘Bad credit’ credit cards are designed for people with poor credit ratings, or anyone just getting started in the world of credit. They have low borrowing limits, and allow you to prove to lenders that you’re responsible
Travel credit cards are designed for people who work abroad or go on plenty of holidays. They work like standard credit cards, but don’t levy the usual fee when you use them abroad
Money transfer credit cards are similar to balance transfer cards, with one important difference: they charge interest for you to transfer money into your current account, instead of to another credit card
Pros and cons of credit cards
Credit cards are a useful way to pay for goods and services, and you can even use them like an interest-free loan, as they allow you to borrow money for free. What’s more, the Consumer Credit Act means you can get your money back if a product you buy doesn’t turn up or is faulty.
It is very easy to run up expensive debts with a credit card, however – especially if you only make the minimum repayment each month. On top of this, most companies charge a penalty if you miss a monthly payment, make a late payment or go over the credit limit they set you. The best deals are reserved for people with a spotless credit record, and your application could be turned down.
Find the right credit card
Choosing the right credit card depends on many factors: How do you intend to use the card? Will you pay off your balance in full each month? What’s your credit rating?
Our Eligibility Checker will ask questions to determine which type of card suits your needs, without leaving a mark on your credit file. There are hundreds of different credit card deals, but you can compare all the leading offers quickly and easily with MoneySuperMarket’s online service.
MoneySuperMarket is a credit broker – this means we’ll show you products offered by lenders. We never take a fee from customers for this broking service. Instead we are usually paid a fee by the lenders – though the size of that payment doesn’t affect how we show products to customers.
Pay off as much as you can – in full if possible
When using a credit card, it’s best to pay off your entire credit card balance every month if you can afford to – this way you won’t pay interest and you can avoid building up debt. If you can’t afford to pay off the full balance, pay off at least the minimum monthly payment – ideally more.
Don’t miss payments
Also avoid missing payments – credit card providers will often charge a penalty when you do, but more importantly, you risk harming your credit score.
Set up a direct debit
Setting up a direct debit could be a good way to ensure you pay off at least the minimum amount of your credit balance each month.
Don’t apply too often
Each time you make an application for a credit card, it leaves a record on your credit report. Too many applications will make it look like you are in desperate need for credit and as a result, your application may be rejected.
Get useful rewards
Some credit cards have extra benefits that reward you when you use them a certain way. While some of them can be tempting, it’s better to get a credit card that will give you rewards for the way you spend already. For example, an airmiles credit card is only going to be useful if you’re a regular flyer, no matter how tempting lounge access might be – but if you’re a regular shopper at a particular high street store, there might be a credit card that gives you cashback for shopping there.
Be careful when going overseas
If you’re planning to use your credit card overseas, check whether or not you’ll be charged for doing so. Many credit cards charge foreign transaction fees, so it can be a good idea to look for a card that won’t charge you for using it abroad.
Don’t use your card for cash withdrawals
Some cards will charge a fee if you use it to take cash out of a machine, and on top of that you’ll be charged interest from the moment you receive your money. So avoid using your credit card for cash withdrawals unless it’s an emergency.
Protect yourself from fraud
Credit card fraud, like any fraud, can be very serious – you should always take care when using your credit card, and be careful where you keep it. Never tell anyone your PIN and regularly check your statements to make sure there are no surprises.
What is APR?
APR stands for Annual Percentage Rate and it represents how much it’ll cost to borrow money on a particular credit card. It’s calculated by taking into account:
Your interest rate
Additional fees and charges.
However, you might see the term ‘representative APR’ on adverts for credit cards – this means that the interest rate quoted only has to be offered to at least 51% of successful applicants, so it may not be the actual rate you get when you apply.
Do interest rates change?
Credit card providers can change interest rates at any time, so it’s always a good idea to stay on top of your credit balance. If you have a 0% offer on your credit card, this will only be for a set number of months so you should make sure you clear your balance before it ends, or shift your balance to another 0% card.
How do I apply for a credit card?
You can generally apply for credit cards online, by post, or over the phone – you can also stop by your bank or building society branch and apply in person.
How do I know what card to apply for?
First you need to know what you’ll use the credit card for – cards come with different features that are useful for different purposes. If you have a large purchase coming up, you might want to spread the cost with a 0% purchase card, if you fly a lot you might want an airmiles card, and if you want to transfer a balance to avoid interest payments, a 0% balance transfer card could be ideal.
By comparing on MoneySuperMarket, you’ll be able to see a list of credit cards tailored to your needs, so you can browse at will and choose which one suits you best.
Can I withdraw a credit card application?
You’ll generally get a cooling off period of two weeks from when you receive your card, and you’ll have 30 days to pay off your balance. You can cancel by contacting your provider, either by post, phone, online, or in-branch.
However, if you want to cancel your credit card after the cooling off period, your account balance generally has to be empty.
What is my credit rating?
Your credit rating is a number that represents your creditworthiness to credit lenders, based on an analysis of your credit history (your history of borrowing and paying back credit).
The higher your score, the more likely you are to be accepted for future credit applications. If your score is low, there are ways to improve it. Find out more here.
What is a soft search?
A soft credit search is a way of finding out which credit cards you’re most likely to be accepted for without your credit score being affected.
What if I have a bad credit rating or no credit rating?
If you have a bad credit rating or you don’t have a credit history because you’ve never borrowed before, you won’t qualify for the very best credit card deals. However, some credit cards are designed specifically for those who need to build up their credit score. Just be aware they often come with low credit limits and high interest rates.
However, if you use this type of card sensibly and always pay off your balance in full, you can improve your credit score – so you’ll eventually be eligible for better credit cards.
What happens if I miss a repayment?
If you miss a repayment on your credit card balance, you may have to pay a penalty fee. What’s more, if you have any type of promotional offer with your card, such as an interest-free deal, this may be cancelled.
What if I get rejected for a credit card?
If you get rejected for a credit card, this will leave a mark on your credit report and could lead to further rejections in the future. It’s therefore a good idea to use MoneySuperMarket’s Eligibility Checker to see how likely you are to be accepted before actually applying and it won’t affect your credit score.
If you’re struggling to get accepted for mainstream credit cards, it can be a good idea to apply for a credit builder card instead.
How do I get more credit?
You might be able to get more credit from your provider if you prove yourself to be a responsible borrower by repaying on time and never missing any payments. Once you’ve established a good credit history, you might be successful when asking for a higher credit limit.
Can I pay off debt early?
Fortunately, unlike many loans and mortgages, you generally won’t be charged for making early repayments – which means it’s a good way to get ahead of your balance.
Can I get joint credit cards?
You can’t get joint credit cards in the same way as bank accounts and mortgages, but you can add additional users to your own credit cards. However, you should remember that it’s still the primary cardholder’s responsibility to pay off the balance.
What is Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act?
The Consumer Credit Act was established in 1974, and under Section 75 the credit card lender is jointly responsible with the retailer or supplier for any goods or services you purchase with your credit card. This means if those products are faulty, or if there was any contract breach or misrepresentation on the retailer’s part, you can claim from your credit card company as well as the retailer.
However, you can’t recover money from both sides, so it’s useful for when the retailer has gone bust or they won’t respond to your communication. You should be aware the purchase value must be between £100 and £30,000 in order for you to be able to claim.
How do I cancel my credit card?
You can cancel your credit card by contacting your lender, by phone, email, online, post, or in person if they have a local branch.
If you’re applying for a credit card, you might be able to find a better deal if you look through offers from different providers before taking one out. With MoneySuperMarket you’ll be able to search through multiple credit cards and compare them by a range of factors, including their interest rates and any benefits and rewards they come with.
All you need to do is answer a few questions about yourself and your financial situation, and our Eligibility Checker will show your chances of being accepted for different credit cards. This won’t affect your credit score, so you can run a check without any worries.
Once you know which card you want, you can normally apply by phone, online, or in person if the provider has a high street branch. However, when you do apply, the provider will usually run a hard credit check – which will show up on your credit report – to confirm whether they’ll give you the card. If you’re accepted they’ll tell you your credit limit and interest rate, and soon you’ll be ready to start using your credit card.
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