Best balance transfer credit cards 2022: Free yourself from interest charges

Ruth Emery
20 Jun 2022

Pay off your credit card for peace of mind, but until then, save yourself from interest charges with the best balance transfer cards

If you’re paying interest on your credit card spending, switching to a balance transfer card can save you hundreds of pounds – and help you pay off the debt more quickly.

Usually, balance transfer cards will be interest-free for a fixed amount of time. However, there’s usually a one-off fee to pay at the time you move the debt onto the card.

Balance transfer cards are a great way to pay off debt that you may have racked up on a credit card or store card. Some of the best balance transfer cards offer 0% interest for several years, providing some much-needed breathing space to pay off the debt gradually. During the interest-free period, payments you make will go towards repaying the balance, rather than paying interest, meaning you’ll get rid of the debt more quickly.

We’ve researched the credit card market to help you find the best balance transfer credit cards in 2022. If the provider was included in our inaugural Money Awards, we’ve also checked to see how it rates for customer service.

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Best balance transfer cards: At a glance

How to choose the best balance transfer credit card for you

How do balance transfer credit cards work?

Balance transfer cards are a good option for those who are paying high rates of interest on their credit card debt.

Like all credit cards, the lender will check your credit record when you apply. If you have a low score, the length of the 0% balance transfer period offered to you could be shorter than advertised, or you could be turned down.

When applying for the new card, there’s normally a “Do you want to transfer debts from other cards?” section. This is where you add the details of the card(s) you want to transfer. Once the balance transfer card is open, it will pay off the other card(s).

Alternatively, you can transfer the debt at a later date; you usually need to do this within the first 60 or 90 days to be eligible for the 0% period.

Bear in mind you can't transfer a balance between cards from the same banking group, so you’ll need to choose a different lender.

The 0% balance transfer period refers to the length of time the debts that you’ve moved onto the card will remain interest-free. However, any new debts you incur – through spending or withdrawing cash on the balance transfer card – will not be covered by this interest-free period.

Some cards may offer a separate, much shorter, 0% period for purchases. If you do spend on a balance transfer card, make sure you pay off the balance in full each month to avoid incurring interest.

What should I look for when choosing a balance transfer card?

Have a close look at the 0% period and any fee for transferring the balance. Typically, the longest 0% cards charge a fee, which is often between 1% and 3%. If you don’t want to pay a fee, you’ll need to settle for a shorter 0% period.

If you’re transferring across a relatively small amount of debt, and want the longest time possible at 0% since you know you can’t afford to repay it, it could make sense to pay the one-off fee.

However, if you’re moving a large debt onto a balance transfer card and you’re happy to have only a year or so at 0% interest, it may be better to opt for a no-fee card. This is because, if you selected a card over a longer term with a fee, then you’d have to pay a high charge (since it’s calculated as a percentage of the debt), which could be an unnecessary expense if you don’t require such a lengthy 0% period. What is right for you will depend on the size of the debt you’re transferring and how long you think you need to pay it off.

There’s some other small print to watch out for. Cards usually set a transfer limit, meaning you have to move the debt from your old card across within a set time frame, or you risk losing the 0% offer and could pay a higher fee.

Also, check if there’s a minimum and maximum amount of debt you can transfer. It’s important to look at the “follow-on rate” – the rate of interest that will be charged if you still have a balance on the card once the 0% deal ends. Rates vary, but are typically more than 20%. Try to clear your balance before it kicks in.

The card provider will set a minimum monthly repayment, usually a small amount, such as 1.5%. Make sure you pay this every month, on time, or you could be hit with penalties. Worse still, the provider could withdraw the deal, leaving you on an expensive interest rate.

If you can, try to pay off more than the minimum amount each month. That way, you’ll clear the debt more quickly and stand a good chance of reducing the balance to zero once the introductory 0% offer ends.

Disclaimer: A product or firm being well placed in this article based on past performance is no guide to their likely future performance. Our ranking does not amount to a recommendation.

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Best balance transfer credit cards in 2022

1. Virgin Money 34 Month Balance Transfer Credit Card: The best balance transfer card for longest 0% period

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This card is interest-free for balance transfers for 34 months (almost three years!), making it the longest 0% period on the market. However, customers will need to pay a fairly high one-off fee, at 2.7%, on first transferring across the debt. Note that you can’t move a balance within a banking group, so you won’t be able to transfer a balance from another Virgin Money, Virgin Atlantic, Clydesdale Bank, Yorkshire Bank or B credit card.

You’ll need an annual income of at least £7,000 to be eligible, and once accepted, all customers receive the full 34-month, interest-free deal. After the initial 0% period, the interest rate becomes 21.9% APR.

Customers benefit from special offers across the Virgin Group, too, as well as access to Virgin Money lounges around the country.

Key features – 0% period: 34 months; Fee: 2.7%

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2. Sainsbury’s Bank 33 Month Balance Transfer Credit Card: The best balance transfer card for long 0% period with low fee

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This Sainsbury’s Bank card has one of the longest 0% periods around. Applicants with the best credit histories will receive a full 33 months, while others may get only 24 months. The one-off balance transfer fee is fairly low, at 1.5% (minimum £3). You’ll need an annual income of at least £10,000 to apply.

In addition, if you shop at Sainsbury’s, the card could be a particularly good deal. Customers can collect 500 bonus Nectar points each time they spend £35 or more on Sainsbury's shopping with the credit card in the first two months (maximum 5,000 bonus points). Shoppers will also like that there’s 0% interest on purchases – in any shop – for the first three months.

Once the 0% period comes to an end, the APR switches to 19.95% (although some customers could pay up 28.95% – check when you apply).

Key features – 0% period: Up to 33 months; Fee: 1.5% fee (minimum £3)

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3. NatWest Balance Transfer Credit Card: The best balance transfer card for longest 0% period with no fee

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NatWest’s balance transfer credit card offers 22 months interest-free. This is the longest in the market for a card with no balance-transfer fee. However, you’ll need a NatWest savings, credit card, mortgage or current account to qualify. RBS and Ulster Bank offer the same card to their customers, under the same conditions. Applicants also need to earn at least £10,000 a year to be eligible. Once the 0% period ends, the APR becomes 21.9%. In addition, like the Sainsbury’s card, there’s 0% interest on purchases for the first three months.

NatWest scored well in our Money Awards 2022. More than eight in ten (81%) people said customer service was “quite good” or “very good”. And 86% rated NatWest’s online banking as “quite good” or “very good”.

Key features – 0% period: 22 months; Fee: None

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4. Santander Everyday No Balance Transfer Fee Credit Card: The best no-fee balance transfer card that’s open to everyone

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This card has the longest 0% period without a fee, and it’s open to any customer regardless of where they bank. As long as you earn at least £7,500 a year, you can apply. If accepted, customers can receive the full 21-month, interest-free period. Once this comes to an end, the APR reverts to 21.9%.

Shoppers will like the 0% interest special offer on purchases for the first three months. Plus, they can also earn up to 15% cashback at retailers including Co-Op, Sky and Costa when using the Santander credit card. Just make sure you pay off the balance in full each month once the 0% purchase offer ends, to avoid racking up interest.

Santander scored slightly lower than NatWest in our Money Awards 2022. About 79% of customers rated the bank as “quite good” or “very good” for customer service. Meanwhile, 82% of customers said the online banking was “quite good” or “very good”.

Key features – 0% period: 21 months; Fee: None

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5. Virgin Money 16 Month Balance Transfer Credit Card: The best balance transfer card for those with a poor credit score

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Those with a poor credit score may struggle to find a 0% balance transfer card to which they can move their debt. Virgin Money offers the longest 0% period for people with a poor credit score, with the first 16 months interest-free. You’ll need a minimum annual income of £15,000 to apply, and once accepted, you’ll need to pay a 3% one-off fee to transfer across the balance from an old card.

Once the 0% period ends, the APR reverts to 29.9%. This is high, so try to clear the balance before this time to avoid having to pay interest.

Note that you can’t transfer a balance from within the Virgin Money group, which includes Virgin Atlantic, Clydesdale Bank, Yorkshire Bank and B.

Key features – 0% period: 16 months; Fee: 3%

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