If you’re looking for a balance transfer credit card deal, don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll save the most money by plumping for the card that comes with the longest interest-free period. Such cards usually charge a fee for switching your debt and can render the deal far less cost effective.
The longest interest-free balance transfer period available at the time of writing is 42 months, as offered by both the MBNA Platinum 42 Month Balance Transfer Credit Card Visa and nuba Transfer Credit Card MasterCard. But these cards come with transfer fees of 2.79 and 3.29 per cent respectively. On a balance of £4,000, that would cost the cardholder £111.60 or £131.60 respectively just for switching.
As Rachel Springall from personal finance website moneyfacts.co.uk explains: ‘It would be wrong to assume that the longest interest-free balance transfer cards on the market are the best for every borrower, as this entirely depends on how much debt a consumer has and how long they are prepared to have it hanging over their heads.
‘Just because borrowers can apply for a 42-month interest-free balance transfer card, that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for their circumstances. A borrower with a £4,000 debt could be charged as much as £131.60 to transfer to such a card. If they can afford to repay around £170 every month over two years, they could apply for a fee-free and interest-free balance transfer card instead.’
There are currently seven cards available offering these terms, according to moneyfacts.co.uk.
However, while the deals listed above may very well save you money, there are some important points to consider when deciding whether a balance transfer card is appropriate for helping you manage your debt. These are as follows:
- Just because you can park your debt without racking up charges doesn’t mean that you should. While a longer time to repay can help you manage your cashflow, your overall level of personal debt can affect things like how much a mortgage provider may allow you to borrow.
- The best deals are reserved for borrowers with the best credit scores so the terms you are offered by a credit card company could vary from the headline rates advertised. And those with a poor credit score will likely be rejected altogether.
- Credit card providers often keep their best deals for new customers so if you already have a credit card with them you may be barred from switching to a more favourable deal.
- You may only qualify for a fee-free deal if you transfer your balance within a specified timeframe – usually within 90 days.
 The 43-month deal offered by the Santander All-in-One card has been excluded because it comes with a £3 monthly usage fee.
Laura Whitcombe is knowledge and product editor at ThisisMoney.co.uk.