What is a 0% balance transfer deal?It means switching to a new credit card so the debts on your old credit and store cards are transferred over. You still owe the money - but to the new card and with no interest to pay on your debt for a fixed period. There is usually a one-off handling fee for the amount you transfer.
How much can I transfer over?This depends on the credit limit of the card you qualify for. If it's not enough to cover your debts, it's still better to transfer what you can as you'll be paying no interest on that amount and less interest on the old card – as there will be less outstanding. You could even apply for a second balance-transfer deal for the remaining amount.
What about my credit score?Making too applications can affect your credit score so only apply for what you need. You will always be credit-checked based on past behaviour before you're accepted for a new card anyway. Some comparison websites, like MoneySupermarket, GoCompare and Confused.com use a soft search. This is where you can check to see what cards you could get accepted for and it doesn't leave a mark on your credit file. Nationwide and Barclaycard also use this function and other sites and lenders are sure to follow suit. If you want one of the best balance transfer deals you will need an excellent credit score - read our guide to improving your credit rating.
How many times can I apply for balance-transfer deals?If you have a good credit score but need longer to pay, you could become what's known as a 'credit card tart'. This means you apply for a new 0% balance transfer deal just before the current offer ends and move your debts to the new card.
What if the deal looks too good to be true?Most interest rates you see are a 'representative' rate – the truth is only about 51% of people accepted end up with a card with the advertised rate. This doesn't mean it's too good to be true but it does mean you're not guaranteed that rate. The only way you can find out is by applying. Go with trusted credit card companies and don't sign or commit to anything you're unsure about.
If you're struggling to get accepted, and you haven't used up the maximum credit limit on your current card, you could also ask your card company if they will take on any other debts. It won't be at 0% but it may be lower than the interest you are paying on those debts.
Top tips for balance-transfersUsing the card correctly is the most important aspect. To make the most of a 0% deal, you need to repay the full monthly amount or at least the minimum required and clear the debt before the deal ends. If you haven't, ensure you switch to another card as the default interest rate will be high. If you have several cards with outstanding amounts, focus on the one with the highest interest as that's the card costing you the most money. A direct debit is the best way to manage this as it means you won't miss or forget any payments.
If you need help with debt, contact citizensadvice.org.uk, stepchange.org or nationaldebtline.co.uk. Another useful organisation is capuk.org (Christians Against Poverty) who offer debt counselling to all.