Barclaycard is now offering a record 27 interest-free months to pay off your debts.
Top 10 new purchase credit cards
Image © David Lee - Rex Features
If you want to buy something but you don't have quite enough money right now, a 0% on purchases credit card can be a very useful tool.
You can spend £1,000 on a purchase and then you won't have to pay any interest on the resulting debt for an interest-free period that could last as long as 18 months.
Just be aware that the 0% period begins when you take out the card, not when you make the purchase.
Another plus point is that 0% purchase cards are simpler than balance-transfer credit cards, reward cards or cashback cards, which makes them easier to compare.
Since they don't charge fees, all you usually have to know is the number of months you can borrow without paying interest. What's more, the deals have been getting better over the past few years.
That said, remember that any form of borrowing puts you at financial risk, even if interest is charged at 0%.
It's worth stressing that 0% purchase cards are best suited to people who have no choice but to borrow to buy now, or who have savings but don't quite have a good enough record to get a cashback card. The latter group will benefit by keeping more money earning interest in their savings account for longer.
Top 10 0% on new purchases credit cards
|Card||Length of deal|
|Royal Bank of Scotland/NatWest YourPoints World MasterCard Plus||18 months|
|Tesco Clubcard||16 months|
|M&S Credit Card (HSBC)||15 months|
|Halifax All in One MasterCard||15 months|
|Barclaycard 14/14 Platinum Visa||14 months|
|Amazon.co.uk MasterCard||13 months|
|Bank of Scotland All in One Advantage Card||13 months|
|Royal Bank of Scotland/NatWest YourPoints World MasterCard||13 months|
|Virgin Credit Card||13 months|
|Sainsbury's Shopper credit card||12 months|
The Nationwide Select credit card just missed out from joining the bottom of the top ten with its 12-month deal, because you need to have - or open - a current account with the building society. That's a step too far for most people, but it's a good card and current account combination, offering many useful benefits.
Bank of Scotland's card is also only available to existing current account customers but gets in the table because it has a longer 13-month 0% period.
Meanwhile, Sainsbury's Credit Card beat Nationwide into the table because you don't have to open a whole current account, but you do still need to have a Nectar card.
Note that the Halifax All in One Card gives you "up to" 15 months. Up to just under half of accepted applicants will be offered a shorter deal, based on how impressed Halifax is with your credit profile compared to other successful applicants.
Some of these cards offer balance-transfer deals that are at least as long as their new purchases deals. These are:
- The Halifax All in One MasterCard (15 months)
- Barclaycard 14/14 Platinum Visa (14 months)
- Bank of Scotland All in One Advantage Card (13 months)
- Royal Bank of Scotland/NatWest YourPoints World MasterCard (13 months)
- Virgin Credit Card (13 months)
- Nationwide Select credit card (20 months)
All charge balance-transfer fees between 2.9 and 3.1%. The Virgin Credit Card even lets you transfer your bank overdrafts onto its 0% deal, albeit with a 4% fee.
Some of the above cards come with loyalty or reward points, and "special offers". Beware that these usually cause card users to spend more money, rather than save it. That's the whole point of such schemes.
The Tesco credit card, for example, offers travel money bought from Tesco Bank with no cash advance fee.
However, you'll still get it cheaper overall using a Metro Bank debit card or a Halifax Clarity credit card overseas, and you should probably even expect it to be cheaper if you order your currency online first to be collected at an independent, dedicated foreign exchange bureau on your own high street. Or possibly from Sainsbury's, Asda or Thomas Cook.
Some rewards can be worthwhile, provided they don't encourage you to shop somewhere or buy something when normally you wouldn't have done so.
Regular users of M&S, then, might like the fact they can earn reward points to use in M&S stores when they spend anywhere on their card. Those who often buy from Amazon could get a £10 gift voucher for every £500 to £1,000 they spend on the card, depending on whether that spend is at Amazon or elsewhere, or a combination.
Even though these cards are interest-free for many months, you must still meet the minimum repayments every month during the deal period. Otherwise, you'll not just be fined £12 but your 0% deal will be stripped away from you, potentially costing you hundreds in interest.
If you accidentally miss a repayment, call to explain it was a one-off and ask for the 0% deal to be reinstated. Banks can be surprisingly tolerant after your first slip.
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