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Best interest-free credit card 2022: Save money while splashing the cash

Ruth Emery
20 Jun 2022
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Spread the cost of expensive purchases with our pick of the best interest-free credit cards

If you’re planning to splash out on a big purchase but don’t have enough money to pay for the item upfront, an interest-free credit card could offer the perfect solution.

Such a card offers shoppers 0% interest for a fixed period of time, allowing you to spread the payment for your purchase over several months, or even a few years. This can save you hundreds – if not thousands – of pounds over spending on a standard credit card.

Not only do interest-free credit cards help customers to pay for expensive items that might otherwise feel out of reach, they help people to budget – and also offer valuable customer protection in the event that something goes wrong with the product or service you’ve paid for by credit card.

However, in order to benefit most from an interest-free credit card, it’s important to pay off the balance before the 0% period comes to an end and you have to start paying interest. In addition, avoid withdrawing cash at ATMs since this is usually expensive.

Whether you need the card to help pay for a new TV or book an exotic holiday, we’ve researched the market to help you find the best interest-free credit cards to use in 2022. We’ve also referred to our inaugural Money Awards to check how the providers are rated for customer service.

READ NEXT: The best reward credit cards


Best interest-free credit cards: At a glance


How to choose the best interest free credit card for you

How do interest-free credit cards work?

Interest-free credit cards charge zero interest on purchases for a fixed amount of time. This means everything you buy using the card can be bought interest-free. The best cards offer a 0% period of 24 months, allowing customers to borrow money interest-free for the first two years that they have the card. Such cards are also known as “0% purchase credit cards”.

Having such a card in your wallet is useful to pay for big-ticket items, as well as for those instances you might be experiencing cashflow problems and need to use it every now and then.

To ensure you don’t pay a penny in interest or fees on your credit card, you’ll need to be disciplined and steadily repay the debt before the promotional period ends. Alternatively, pay off the debt in full just before the 0% period finishes, perhaps using some savings. If you’re unable to do this, consider moving the balance to a 0% balance transfer card, where you can extend the length of time that your debts are interest-free – although you may have to pay a one-off fee to move the balance.

If you don’t pay off or transfer the balance, you’ll be charged interest at the card's standard interest rate (APR), which could be around 20%.

Interest-free credit cards: Dos and don’ts

Do…

  • Pay off the minimum repayment each month, or you could be slapped with a late payment fee. This is typically about £12. It could also be added as a missed payment to your credit report, and your lender could withdraw the 0% deal altogether.
  • Use it for your shopping – but think carefully about how much you’re borrowing, and the fact you’ll need to pay it off. Even if you get a credit limit of, say, £6,000, it doesn’t mean you need to spend all of that.
  • Take advantage of Section 75 protection. If there’s a problem with an item or service you’ve bought by credit card – an online order that never arrives, for example – then the credit card company has equal responsibility with the seller to put things right. The protection applies to items costing between £100 and £30,000.

Don’t…

  • Use it for taking money out of cash machines. The “interest-free” aspect of these credit cards doesn’t usually cover ATM withdrawals. You’ll be charged interest from the day you take out the money, and often at a high rate.
  • Use it for a balance transfer, unless the card says it offers a lengthy 0% period for balance transfers. Otherwise, you could be stung by a balance transfer fee plus an expensive interest rate.
  • Forget when the 0% period finishes. Put several reminders in your phone or on your calendar: the first a month prior to the period coming to an end, so you have time to check the balance and pay it off, and a second reminder a few days before so you can double-check that the debt has been settled.

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.


READ NEXT: Our pick of the best banking apps in the UK

The best interest-free credit cards in 2022

1. M&S Bank Shopping Plus Card: The best interest-free credit card for longest guaranteed 0% purchase period

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Marks & Spencer's card offers the longest guaranteed 0% period: everyone who applies and is accepted to receive the card will receive 24 months’ interest-free on their shopping. The other reason we like this card is because it can also be used for balance transfers. If you already have credit card debt that you wish to move across, you’ll get 24 months interest-free (subject to a 2.9% fee).

In addition, shoppers are rewarded with M&S points on their purchases (1 point for every £1 spent in M&S stores, and 1 point for every £5 spent elsewhere), with the points converted into M&S vouchers (100 reward points is worth £1). To apply, you’ll need to be a UK resident, with a regular annual income or pension of at least £6,800.

Key features – 0% period: 24 months; Interest rate (APR): 21.9%

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2. Sainsbury’s Bank Dual 24 month Credit Card: The best interest-free credit card for bonus Nectar points

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This card shares the joint-longest 0% period with the M&S card, although some applicants won't get the full 24 months. In fact, you could get a third less, at just 16 months. Similar to the M&S card, it also offers 0% interest on balance transfers for up to 24 months (subject to a 3% fee), hence the “dual” in the name.

Regular Sainsbury’s shoppers will appreciate the card for the ability to build up their Nectar points more quickly. They’ll collect an extra two Nectar points per £1 spent at Sainsbury’s, Argos, Habitat and Tu Clothing, and one point for every £5 spent elsewhere. There’s also 500 bonus points (worth £2.50) up for grabs each time you spend £35 or more on Sainsbury's shopping with the credit card in the first two months (maximum 5,000 points).

Key features – 0% period: Up to 24 months; Interest rate (APR): 21.9%

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3. Capital One Classic Complete Credit Card: The best interest-free card for those with a poor credit score

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If you’re already aware of having a poor credit score, or you’re struggling to get accepted by credit cards with longer 0% purchase periods, give Capital One’s card a go. It’s designed for people with a poor or average credit rating, offering six months of interest-free purchases and balance transfers. There’s a 3% balance transfer fee.

You’ll be required to make the minimum repayment each month, while staying below the credit limit (between £200 and £1,500) to show you can manage your money sensibly, which in turn should boost your credit rating. Watch out for the high interest rate of 34.9% once the interest-free period comes to an end, though – you’d be wise to pay off the balance in full; or, if your circumstances don’t allow, then switch to a 0% balance transfer card.

Capital One says it’s more likely to accept applicants if they have some history of managing credit, even if they’ve had county court judgments or defaults before (but not in the past 12 months), and they’re on the electoral roll.

Key features – 0% period: 6 months; Interest rate (APR): 34.9%

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4. First Direct Gold Card: The best interest-free credit card for customer service

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First Direct cleaned up at our Money Awards 2022, winning “best bank” and taking first place in the other categories. It was the bank most likely to be recommended by customers in our survey of more than 2,000 adults, with 87% saying they were very likely or fairly likely to recommend it to others. It also came top for customer service and online banking.

Its Gold credit card offers 17 months interest-free on purchases. While this isn’t the longest 0% period on offer on this list, the card is a serious contender given First Direct’s top-notch service – and also for the fact that, once the 0% period comes to an end, the interest rate is relatively low at 16.9%. This means that if you’re unable to pay off the balance at the end of the specified period, the rate that your debt will roll onto is cheaper than that of most other cards. Again, the credit limit you receive will depend on your financial circumstances; the lowest is £500.

Note that the card is only available to First Direct current account customers. You’ll also need an annual income or pension of £6,800 or more to apply.

Key features – 0% period: 17 months; Interest rate (APR): 16.9%

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5. Barclaycard Platinum Purchase All-Rounder Credit Card: The best interest-free credit card for Apple freebies

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Like the M&S and Sainsbury’s card, the Barclaycard Platinum All-Rounder is a great card for both interest-free purchases and balance transfers. Customers can benefit from 0% interest on purchases for up to 24 months, and 0% interest on balance transfers for up to 22 months (a 2.9% transfer fee applies). While Barclaycard says at least eight out of 10 customers typically receive the longest promotional period, some may only get interest-free purchases for 12 months. The exact period you receive will depend on your credit score and financial circumstances.

Applicants can also get up to five months free of Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple News+ and Apple Arcade.

To apply, you must be 21 or over, have had a permanent UK address for at least two years, and have an annual income of more than £20,000.

Key features – 0% period: Up to 24 months; Interest rate (APR): 21.9%

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