How to spread the cost of a purchase interest-free

If you’ve got a large purchase coming up – perhaps you're planning to carry out some home improvements or take the trip of a lifetime – a credit card can come in very handy.

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If you can't afford to pay for your purchase upfront, using a credit card allows you to spread the cost over a number of months. And, if you choose your plastic carefully, you won't have to pay any interest during that time either.

Competition in the credit card market has increased considerably in recent months and a number of card providers have launched lengthier 0% deals onto the market. On top of that, many of these cards offer extras such as reward points which can be redeemed on days out or treats in certain stores.

Here, we take a look at what's on offer.

The longest 0% deal

The market leading 0% purchase credit card is the Tesco Clubcard purchase credit card, which offers 18 months interest-free on new purchases. In other words, you can spend on this card and not worry about paying a penny in interest for a year and a half.

The card is also ideal if you are a keen Tesco shopper as you can earn Clubcard points at an accelerated rate of five points for every £4 you spend in Tesco stores and forecourts and one point for every £4 you spend elsewhere. These points can then be redeemed on days out, meals out and holidays.

Obviously, the more you spend on the card, the quicker you will build up Clubcard points. But don't be tempted to spend more than you can afford to pay back because you will need to have cleared your balance before the 0% shelter ends. If you don't, you'll be hit with a representative annual percentage rate (APR) of 16.9% (variable).

You also need to be aware that, if you already have a Tesco credit card, you won't be able to apply for this card. In this case, you'll need to take a look at these alternatives…

The next best choices

If you can't, or decide not to apply for the Tesco Clubcard credit card, the next best option is the Halifax purchase credit card, which offers 17 months interest-free on purchases. There are no extra rewards for using this card, though, and you'll again need to clear your balance before the 0% window ends otherwise you'll be charged a representative APR of 16.9%.

Another option is the Fluid purchase credit card. It offers an even shorter 16 months at 0% on purchases, but the advantage is that you can pre-apply so you'll know how likely you are to be accepted for the deal, and this won't leave a mark on your credit file.

Generally, competitive credit cards are reserved for borrowers with excellent credit scores and therefore, if yours isn't up to scratch, you could be turned away. But if you are rejected for a credit card, this can leave a mark on your credit rating, making matters worse. So, if you're a little nervous about your credit rating, the Fluid credit card could be a good option.

Again, pay off your balance before the 16 months is up to avoid being hit with a representative APR of 16.9% (variable).

Cards with rewards

If you're happy to accept a shorter 0% window on your purchases, there are further options to consider – and these will allow you to build up reward points.

The M&S credit card, for example, offers 15 months at 0%, but allows you to earn M&S points as you shop. You'll earn one point for every £1 you spend in M&S and one point for every £2 you spend elsewhere. These points are then exchanged for M&S vouchers (100 points = £1) and you'll receive these vouchers four times a year.

Obviously this credit card is more suited to those who regularly shop in M&S. And remember you’ll have three months less than the Tesco credit card offers in which to pay off your balance. If you don't, you'll be hit with a representative APR of 16.9% (variable).

The NatWest/RBS YourPoints World MasterCard, meanwhile, offers 15 months at 0% on spending and allows you to earn YourPoints, which can be exchanged for vouchers to be spent at retailers such as M&S, Boots, Sainsbury's and Amazon, as well as easyJet.

You'll receive 2,500 bonus points when you take out the card and again, every year after that – this is enough to give you a £10 shopping voucher every year. In addition, you'll earn one point for every £1 you spend.

As with all reward cards, the more you spend on the card, the more you will benefit, but avoid accruing more debt than you can afford to pay back. If you haven't cleared your balance on the NatWest/RBS cards by the end of the 15 months, you'll be charged a representative APR of 16.9% (variable).

Check your credit rating

Remember that the very best deals will require you to have an excellent credit rating. So, before applying for a credit card, it's a worth checking your credit score through our credit monitoring channel . If it's not as good as it could be, take a look at Jessica Bown's top tips for improving your credit score.

Our SmartSearch tool also gives you an idea of the credit cards you're more likely to be accepted for.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

 

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