balance transfer credit cards

How Do Balance Transfer Credit Cards Work?

Andrew Bowen
Author: Andrew Bowen
Andrew is the CEO of UK finance comparison site PocketRate.com and the Co-Founder & former Director of Hastings Direct, a UK based FTSE 250 insurance company.

Balance transfer credit cards are popular with consumers and there are a number of providers offering various transfer deals. We discuss how these cards work and what the advantages are.

What is a balance transfer?

Put simply, a balance transfer is when you move the outstanding debt from your existing credit card over to a new credit card. Usually, this can only be done between different credit card providers i.e. you normally cannot transfer to a different card that is provided by the same company or group, it has to be a completely new card provider.

Why would you want to do a balance transfer?

Many companies often run introductory offers where you will pay 0% interest on the outstanding debt that you have transferred over. The advantage of course is that where you may have been paying hefty interest charges on this debt with your old card, you are now paying no interest.

However, these interest free balance transfer offers only last for a specified period e.g. 12 months, 18 months etc. After this introductory period ends, any outstanding amount will automatically be subject to normal interest rate charges.

Another thing to bear in mind is that usually these offers apply when you make the balance transfer within 90 days (3 months) of your card account opening.

How much can you transfer over?

Generally speaking, credit card companies usually allow you to transfer over around 90% - 95% of the available credit limit on your new card. So for example, on a card with a £3,500 limit, you could transfer over around £3,150 or so. You should always check the terms and conditions with the card provider on how much you can transfer over.

Do you get charged for making a balance transfer?

It depends on the individual card offer. Many credit cards will charge you a fee based on a percentage of the amount being transferred e.g. 2% or 3%. However, some balance transfer credit cards may offer a 0% transfer fee depending on the promotion they are running.

How do you make a balance transfer?

The process of transferring the amount is very straightforward and can often be done either by telephone, using the online website or even using an app if available. You would need to log into your account and provide the details of the card from where you are transferring the balance.

You may also be able to complete the transfer details during the card application process. The whole process is usually done within 24 hours of account opening.

Monthly repayments

You should always ensure that you make the minimum repayment each month. Failing to do so make result in your 0% balance transfer offer becoming invalid and losing the interest fee promotion. Your debt would then be subject to the normal interest rates.

In addition, you should avoid going over your credit limit as this may also affect your 0% offer and you may incur further charges.

How to compare balance transfer cards

  • Use our credit card comparison table and select to compare 0% balance transfer credit cards menu tab option.
  • Compare the 0% period offers between cards
  • Check the normal APR rate
  • Compare other features and benefits offered
  • Consider checking your current credit score before applying
  • Use the apply button next to the card on the comparison table
  • On the card provider’s website, check the additional terms such as the transfer fee charges

Balance transfer credit cards can be a great way to avoid paying costly interest charges on an outstanding debt.  Transferring the balance to a new card can give you some breathing space and help you manage your finance better.

However, you should ensure you maintain your regular repayments and pay off the whole amount before the introductory period ends and interest kicks in.

Comparison of 0% Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Credit CardAPR0% Balance Transfer0% PurchaseRepresentative Example:
HSBC Balance Transfer


  • Enjoy cashback and rewards with Visa Offers

  • Get instant discounts from well-known brands with Home&Away rewards programme

  • View your balance and recent transactions using mobile/internet banking

  • Contactless payments with Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay

  • Manage your card online

19.90%32 Months03 MonthsWhen you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) per annum, your representative APR is 19.9% APR (variable).See Deal
Bank of Scotland Platinum Balance Transfer Card (30 Months)


  • Cover against online fraud

  • Manage your account online or banking app

  • Decision within 5 minutes

19.90%30 Months12 MonthsWhen you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.95% (variable) per annum, your representative APR is 19.9% APR (variable).See Deal
Barclaycard Platinum Credit Card All-Rounder


  • Free ongoing access to Experian Credit Score (conditions apply)

  • Contactless payments of £30 and under

  • Manage your account online

19.90%27 Months27 MonthsWhen you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) per annum, your representative APR is 19.9% APR (variable).See Deal
HSBC Duel Credit Card


  • Enjoy cashback and rewards with Visa Offers

  • Get instant discounts from well-known brands with Home&Away rewards programme

  • View your balance and recent transactions using mobile/internet banking

  • Contactless payments with Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay

  • Manage your card online

22.90%26 Months26 MonthsWhen you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.9% (variable) per annum, your representative APR is 22.9% APR (variable).See Deal
Bank of Scotland Platinum Balance Transfer Card (24 Months)


  • Cover against online fraud

  • Manage your account online or banking app

  • Decision within 5 minutes

19.90%24 Months24 MonthsWhen you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.95% (variable) per annum, your representative APR is 19.9% APR (variable).See Deal
Bank of Scotland Classic Credit Card


  • Cover against online fraud

  • Manage your account online or banking app

  • Decision within 5 minutes

27.90%18 Months09 MonthsWhen you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 27.95% (variable) per annum, your representative APR is 27.9% APR (variable).See Deal
John Lewis Partnership Card


  • Earn points when you spend

  • Redeem points into vouchers

  • Vouchers sent 3 times a year

  • Add up to 3 cardholders

18.90%18 Months09 MonthsWhen you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) per annum, your representative APR is 18.9% APR (variable).See Deal
Asda Cashback Plus Credit Card


  • Get twice as much cashback as you would with Asda Cashback card.

  • Unlimited cashback wherever you shop

  • See if you're eligible before applying without affecting your credit score

26.20%15 Months0 MonthsWhen you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) per annum, with a £3 monthly fee, your representative APR is 26,2% APR (variable).See Deal
Asda Cashback Credit Card


  • Unlimited Cashback vouchers - 1% at ASDA.com, Asda stores, Asda Living, Asda petrol stations and George.com plus 0.2% everywhere else

  • 10% cashback on selected Asda insurance products

  • See if you're eligible before applying without affecting your credit score

  • Get an instant decision

  • Winner of Best Credit Card Product of the Year – Card and Payment Awards 2017

19.90%12 Months0 MonthsWhen you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) per annum, your representative APR is 19.9% APR (variable).See Deal
Barclaycard Freedom Rewards


  • Everytime you spend on your card you'll earn Freedom Points

  • Redeem points for great rewards - £1=2 points at supermarkets, petrol stations and Transport for London. £1=1 point everywhere else.

  • No limit to number of earned points

21.90%12 Months12 MonthsWhen you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 21.9% (variable) per annum, your representative APR is 21.9% APR (variable).See Deal
Capital One Balance Transfer


  • For people with an excellent credit rating

  • Credit limit up to £6,000

24.90%12 Months03 MonthsWhen you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 24.93% (variable) per annum, your representative APR is 24.9% APR (variable).See Deal
Clydesdale Bank Gold Mastercard


  • Contactless and mobile payments via Apple Pay and Google Pay

  • Access to Mastercard Priceless Cities events & offers

  • View your balance and recent transactions using mobile/internet banking

18.90%12 Months26 MonthsWhen you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 18.94% (variable) per annum, your representative APR is 18.9% APR (variable).See Deal
Nationwide Credit Card


  • Simply Rewards cashback offers

  • Cashback money goes straight to your card within 5 working days of each qualifying purchase

  • Manage account online or with banking app

  • Contactless payments

17.90%12 Months12 MonthsWhen you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 17.9% (variable) per annum, your representative APR is 17.9% APR (variable).See Deal
Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit Card


  • Earn Flying Club miles every day

  • Earn 5,000 bonus miles with your first card purchase within 90 days of opening your account

  • 0.75 Flying Club miles for every £1 you spend on everyday card purchases. 1.5 miles for every £1 you spend with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays*

  • Choose from an upgrade to Premium or a Companion ticket when you spend £20,000 in a year

22.90%06 Months0 MonthsWhen you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.9% (variable) per annum, your representative APR is 22.9% APR (variable).See Deal
Virgin Atlantic Reward Plus Credit Card


  • Earn Flying Club miles faster

  • Earn 15,000 bonus miles with your first card purchase within 90 days of opening your account

  • 1.5 Flying Club miles for every £1 you spend on everyday card purchases. 3 miles for every £1 you spend with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays*

  • Choose from an upgrade to Premium or a Companion ticket when you spend £10,000 in a year

63.90%06 Months0 MonthsWhen you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.9% (variable) per annum, with a £160 annual fee, your representative APR is 63.9% APR (variable).See Deal