The longest balance transfer deals in the UK

By Emma Lunn

Looking to move high-interest credit card balances to lower-interest card deals? The balance transfer credit card market has been hotting up over the past few months, with introductory deals getting longer and longer.

Barclaycard recently introduced a three-year balance transfer card, albeit not an interest-free one. Instead of offering 0% on transferred funds, it offers a still competitively low rate of 4.9% with no balance transfer fee.

If 0% deals are what you're after, however, there are plenty of balance transfer cards to choose from, assuming you can pay off your debt in about two years (See chart below).

Still, there are a few things to consider before taking out a balance transfer card with an extremely long introductory period. zero-percent-interest

Although a long interest-free period can be enticing, it's important to take the balance transfer fee into account, too, especially if you want to transfer over a large amount of debt. Some cards with shorter interest-free periods charge as little as 1.5% of the transferred balance as a fee, but those on the longer end of the spectrum may charge up to 3.5%.

Another thing to note is that, because balance transfer deals are so sought after, lenders can be choosy. You are more likely to qualify if you have a squeaky clean credit rating and a minimum annual household income of £20,000.

The biggest risks, however, lie in your own behaviour.

"Long-term low-rate or interest free-credit card deals are a great way of cutting your borrowing costs, but you need to be disciplined if you want to make full use of them," says Andrew Hagger of MoneyComms. "Ensure you're not late with any payments, otherwise you'll find the card company will terminate the promotional deal immediately."

In addition to losing out on the advantageous promotional terms that drew you to the card, irresponsible behaviour on a balance transfer card can leave you deeper in debt. The 0% interest rate won't apply to any additional purchases you make on the card -- and new purchase interest rates can be quite high. Plus, if you don't finish paying off your debt by the time your introductory period expires, you'll have to pay interest on whatever is left -- as much as 19%.

"Try and pay off as much as you can comfortably afford to make the most of the low rate, and don't be tempted to start spending on the card," Hagger says. "Otherwise you could find yourself back to square one with your debts -- or worse."

Here are eight of the longest 0% balance transfer deals on the market from major credit card providers.

 

Longest 0% interest offers
 Card provider
Longest balance
transfer deal

 Name of card
Balance transfer
fee

Rate after balance
transfer deal expires
Barclaycard 24 months
Barclaycard Platinum Balance Transfer (Visa) 3.2% 18.9%
RBS
24 months
Platinum Credit Card - Extended Balance Transfer Offer (MasterCard)
3.5%
17.9%
NatWest
24 months
Platinum Extemded Balance Transfer (MasterCard) 3.5%
17.9%
MBNA 23 months MBNA Platinum Credit Card (Visa) 2.85% 16.9%
Halifax 23 months 23 Month Balance Transfer Credit Card (MasterCard)
3% 18.95%
Tesco Bank
22 months
Clubcard for Balance Transfer (MasterCard)
2.9%
16.9%
Lloyds TSB
21 months
Platinum Credit Card (MasterCard)
3%
17.9%
Virgin
20 months Virgin Balance Transfer Credit Card (MasterCard)
2.99%
16.8%
Source: UK.CreditCards.com survey of leading balance transfer card issuers. All terms, conditions and interest rates are subject to change by issuer. Data in the chart are current as of 15 January 2013.

 See related: Christmas debt relief: Best balance transfer deals; The 5 biggest balance transfer mistakes

Published: 15 January 2013