Editor's Choice: Best balance transfer credit cards 2011

By UK CreditCards.com

If you're looking to transfer your high-interest credit card debt to a card with a lower APR, it pays to shop around. 

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The card that's most suited to you will depend on a number of factors, including the level of your credit rating, how much outstanding debt you currently have and when you plan to repay it.

If you need help narrowing down your options, don't worry. Here are our picks for some of the best balance transfer credit cards on the market, along with some caveats about each card:

1. Barclaycard Platinum Credit Card with Extended Balance Transfer
The Barclaycard Platinum Credit Card is one of the most popular balance transfer credit cards on the market due to the card's lengthy 22-month 0% interest period and bonus £40 refund when you transfer more than £3,000.

Customers are also offered 0% interest on purchases for the first three months. However, once the interest-free period is up, the APR rises to a significant 17.5% on the remaining balance.

Pro: £40 refund on balance transfers of more than £3,000.
Con: A high APR after the promotional period expires. 

Tip: The best balance transfer credit card offers available are usually only open to new applicants, rather than to existing customers.   

2. Halifax Balance Transfer Credit Card
The Halifax Balance Transfer card's 0% promotional period on purchases and balance transfers matches the market-leading Barclaycard. However, this card also features a slightly higher balance transfer fee (3.5%) than the Barclaycard.

The APR is slightly higher as well. Once the introductory interest-free period is over, the representative APR jumps to 17.95%.

Pro: 0% APR on balance transfers for 22 months.
Con: High APR after the promotional period expires; plus a slightly higher balance transfer fee. 

Tip: As with most cards, the APR you're offered will vary, depending on your credit score. In fact, cardholders with lower credit ratings could be offered interest rates as high as 21.95% to 23.95% on this card.  

3. Barclaycard Platinum Simplicity Credit Card
The best balance transfer credit cards do not always have to be 0% interest credit cards. Some simply offer great low rates for the long term.

The Barclaycard Platinum Simplicity credit card offers customers 7.9% interest on all balance transfers and purchases, with no handling fees.

The 7.9% rate is not fixed, but regulations mean that it cannot increase within the first 12 months, and you can refuse any rises provided you don't borrow any more than the original amount.

Individuals with slightly poorer credit ratings will probably be given a higher rate, but this should still be a lower rate than standard credit cards.

Pro: Low long-term APR; no balance transfer or handling fees.
Con: No interest-free period.

Tip: It's not always clear which balance transfer card is the cheapest due to the different deals and fees, so it pays to do the math. For example, a 0% interest credit card may offer a lengthy promotional period, but a high balance transfer fee, making it costly to transfer a large balance. Similarly, a balance transfer card with a low long-term APR may save you more in the long run if you expect to carry a balance for more than a year.  

4. Sainsbury's Low Rate Credit Card
Another low rate card for people looking to pay off debt over a longer period of time is the Sainsbury's Low Rate card. This card offers customers a 6.9% representative APR on new spends and transferred balances.

In order to apply, consumers must have an active Nectar card (used within the last six months). However, this is not a rewards credit card, so you will not earn points.

Just like the Barclaycard, the 6.9% rate is a representative rate and so not all applicants will achieve this interest rate.Those with poorer scores could be offered up to 12.9% APR.

Pro: Low long-term APR; no balance transfer or handling fees.
Con: Only available for current Nectar cardholders.

5. Lloyds TSB Platinum Credit Card 
The Lloyds TSB Platinum credit card offers a long 15-month 0% interest rate period which whilst still a good length of time, isn't as long as others available on the market. The credit card also offers the industry standard 0% on purchases for the first three months and charges a 3% balance transfer fee.

Once the introductory periods are up, purchases and balance transfer interest rates jump to 17.95%. 

Pro: Also offers up to 56 days' of zero interest if you repay your balance in full each month.  
Con: High APR after the promotional period expires; shorter interest-free promotional period.

See related: 8 factors to consider before your next balance transfer0% balance transfer deals getting sweeter for consumers 

Published: 21 November 2011