How does a 0% purchase credit card work?
If you're looking to make an expensive purchase but aren't in a position to cover the cost upfront, a credit card that offers a 0% deal on spending can help you spread the cost over a longer period.
These cards won't charge any interest on purchases for an initial period of between three and 23 months. However, to really benefit you'll need to steadily repay the debt before the promotional period ends; otherwise, you'll be charged interest on the remaining balance at the card's standard APR - typically around 24%.
This guide explains everything you need to know about 0%-on-purchases credit cards, and how to find the best deals.
Compare credit card deals
Find the right credit card and check rates using the service provided by Experian.
Experian is providing a service to Which? readers to help you compare credit card deals from brands on its panel of lenders.
When you enter your details, the results you're offered may differ from those featured in our guides, as not all providers and products are available through Experian.
In addition, your results will be based on the information you provide to Experian and its own eligibility calculations, so may not include every available deal.
The best 0% purchase credit card deals
The table below shows the longest-lasting 0% credit card deals currently on the market.
Please note that the information in this article is for information purposes only and does not constitute advice. Please refer to the particular terms and conditions of a credit card provider before committing to any financial products.
NatWest Purchase & Balance Transfer Credit Card
|75%||23 months||23.9%||23.9% Representative example: assumed borrowing of £1,200 for one year, at a purchase rate of 23.9% (variable), representative 23.9% APR (variable). Credit available subject to status. Terms apply.|
Royal Bank of Scotland Purchase & Balance Transfer Credit Card
|59%||23 months||23.9%||23.9% Representative example: assumed borrowing of £1,200 for one year, at a purchase rate of 23.9% (variable), representative 23.9% APR (variable). Credit available subject to status. Terms apply.|
Ulster Bank Purchase & Balance Transfer Credit Card
|n/a||23 months||23.9%||23.9% Representative example: assumed borrowing of £1,200 for one year, at a purchase rate of 23.9% (variable), representative 23.9% APR (variable). Credit available subject to status. Terms apply.|
Barclaycard Platinum All-Rounder Visa
|71%||22 months||24.9%||24.9% Representative example: assumed borrowing of £1,200 for one year, at a purchase rate of 24.9% (variable), representative 24.9% APR (variable). Credit available subject to status. Terms apply.|
Table notes:Table correct as of 2 August 2023. The average customer score is 69%. Our customer scores are based on an online survey of 4,149 members of the public, conducted in April 2023. Customer scores are worked out using a combination of overall satisfaction and the likelihood of recommending the provider to a friend. n/a means we did not have a big enough sample sie for the provider or it was not in our survey. Best Buys are determined by Which? analysts using category-specific criteria and strict benchmarks.
- Find out more:best credit card deals
Who are the best 0% purchase credit card providers?
It's frustrating that you never know what you're going to get with a credit card provider until after you've applied and taken out a deal.
Fortunately, Which? has surveyed thousands of customers to help you find out what 29 of the biggest credit card providers are like for customer service and managing your account, before signing up.
You can check out customer scores of the major players in the 0% purchase credit card market such as Tesco Bank , NatWest and more in the best credit card providers.
The companies that combine great deals with top-notch customer satisfaction are awarded our coveted Which? Recommended Provider status.
Is an interest-free purchase credit card better than a personal loan?
In some circumstances, a 0% credit card may be better suited to your needs than a personal loan.
With an interest-free credit card, you don't have to commit to anything higher than the minimum repayment each month. It's also a form of 'revolving credit', so what you pay back you can spend again.
In contrast, when you take out a personal loan you will need to make fixed monthly repayments for as long as you've asked to borrow for and won't be able to use that money again.
The best 0% purchase credit cards offer up to 23 months interest-free but even with the cheapest loan, you will have to pay interest. The best deal for a £5,000 personal loan is around 6.3% APR right now.
The amount you can borrow may also differ. You can choose to borrow smaller amounts with a credit card - even if you are given a big limit. In contrast, the smallest amount you can get with a personal loan is £3,000 and the rates aren't as competitive compared to borrowing larger amounts.
The table sets out some of the main differences to consider.
|Credit card||Personal loan|
|You can borrow smaller amounts at competitive rates||The smallest amount you can borrow is £3,000 and rates aren't as good compared to borrowing more|
|Repayments are flexible||Repayments are fixed|
|You can avoid paying interest for a number of months on a 0% purchase deal||You will have to pay interest on the money you borrow even on the cheapest personal loans|
|You get revolving credit so you can spend what you pay back||You can't spend any more than you originally borrow|
Discover the right credit card and see deals using the service provided by Experian. Find a card now.
0% purchase credit card: golden rules
If you're planning to take out a 0% purchase credit card make sure you know the golden rules that will help you get the most of the deal.
1. Only borrow what you need
With a 0% purchase credit card it's important to just borrow what you need and can afford to pay back.
So even if you get a credit card with a high limit of £10,000, you shouldn't max out your borrowing if you may be unable to clear the balance after the 0% period.
2. Make at least the minimum repayment each month
Even if you plan to delay repaying the bulk of what you borrow on a 0% purchase credit card you'll need to make at least the minimum repayment on time each month.
If you don't, you'll not only incur a late payment fee (typically around £12) but could lose the 0% deal altogether. To avoid getting caught out, set up a direct debit to cover this amount.
The minimum on a credit card is usually around 1% of the outstanding balance but can be more so double check your card's terms and conditions.
If you can afford to pay back more than the minimum repayment you should.
3. Have a plan to repay the debt
The key to making the most of a 0% purchase credit card is to ensure you have no remaining debt when the interest-free period comes to an end.
A simple way to do this is to divide the total you've spent on your credit card by the number of months that your 0% deal lasts for and set up a direct debit to pay off that amount each month, in the same way you would pay off a loan.
Provided you don't make any more purchases, this will ensure you don't pay interest on what you've borrowed.
If you have some debt remaining after your card's promotional period ends, consider shifting this to a card that offers a 0% interest deal on balance transfers.
You can use our 0% purchase credit card calculator to work out what your repayments should be:
4. Don't withdraw cash on your card
You should avoid withdrawing cash using your 0% purchase credit card.
If you do you will be charged interest from the day you take the money out and usually at a much higher rate.
That's because your 0% deal is only for new purchases you make with the card online and in shops or restaurants - not for taking cash out of an ATM or for any other cash advance such as buying travel money.
Some providers also report when you make a cash withdrawal on your credit record, as it suggests you may be in financial difficulty.
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0% purchase credit cards: FAQs
Here are some common queries about 0% purchase credit cards.
Your ability to get the best 0% purchase credit card deals will depend on the information in your credit report.
Credit cards providers only have to offer their advertised offer to 51% of applicants so the other 49% could get a worse deal.
Some lenders will allow you to do a soft search before you apply to see the likelihood of getting accepted.
Find out more in our guide to how to check your credit score for free
A 0% purchase credit card shouldn't be used to transfer money from your card to your bank account unless there is a 0% money transfer offer on the same deal.
The 0% purchase deal only applies to new spending you do in shops or online. So if your card provider allows you to do a money transfer double check what interest rate it is charging (it might be a 0% deal but for a shorter period than the purchase deal) and the fee for the money transfer.
A 0% purchase credit card shouldn't be used to transfer a balance from an existing credit card to your new card unless there is a 0% balance transfer offer on the same deal.
The 0% purchase deal only applies to new spending you do in shops or online. So if your card provider allows you to do a balance transfer double check what rate it is charging (it might be a 0% deal but for a shorter period than the purchase deal) and the fee for the balance transfer.
The limit you get will depend on your credit profile and a lender's assessment of your credit report and affordability.