Credit cardsIt's fun to bring a little joy to everyone at Christmas with thoughtful gifts and treats.

Nonetheless, this abnormal month of spending can play havoc with your finances, especially if you're putting it all on plastic.


But using a 0% balance transfer credit card could help you get back on track for the New Year.

How can it help?

A 0% balance transfer card is a useful tool for handling expensive debt you may have built up on credit or store cards.

These cards enable you to move your debts and pay off your debts over an interest-free period.

This gives you some breathing space to pay it back at your own pace without worrying about your debt growing.

Good time to get one

I know it's only November but there are some cracking deals around at the moment that might not be there come the New Year when you really need them.

Take for example the Barclaycard 24-Month Platinum Visa. This card comes with 24 months interest free on balance transfers, meaning you have until November 2014 to get your finances back in order. It also offers a £30 refund on the balance transfer fee if you transfer a balance of £2,000 or more.

But if you already have existing Barclaycard debt then you won't be able to use this card.

If you can pay back your debt within 23 months, you'll have an even greater range of cards to choose from. Barclaycard (again), Capital One, HSBC (if you're an existing customer), NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland all offer cards where you don't have to pay a penny of interest on the debt you transfer for 23 months.

What's the catch?

Credit card providers don't just give you ages to clear your debt out of the kindness of their hearts.

They depend on you not being able to clear the debt in time before the interest kicks in – which is entirely possible if you transfer a large amount.

But another more pressing problem is the transfer fee slapped onto balance transfers. Most cards charge around 3% for the trouble which means the larger the debt you transfer the higher the fee. Not what you need when you are trying to reign in expensive debt.

The key is to strike the right balance between the length of the interest-free period and the cost of doing a transfer. You want to get the cheapest deal that comes with a timeframe you can work comfortably within.

Longest 0% balance transfer deals

I have rounded up the deals with the longest interest free periods (20 months and over) and arranged them by cost of balance transfer to help you pinpoint the best deal for you.

Card

0% period on balance transfers

Balance transfer fee

Fee paid on £1,000

Fee paid on £2,000

Fee paid on £3,000

Fee paid on £4,000

Fee paid on £5,000

Barclaycard 23-Month Platinum Visa

23 months

2.60%

£26.00

£52.00

£78.00

£104.00

£130.00

Barclaycard 24-Month Platinum Visa

24 months

2.80%

£28.00

£56.00

£84.00

£112.00

£140.00

MBNA Platinum Visa

20 months

2.85%

£28.50

£57.00

£85.50

£114.00

£142.50

Capital One Platinum MasterCard

Until 31st October 2014

2.90%

£29.00

£58.00

£87.00

£116.00

£145.00

Tesco Clubcard Credit Card for Balance Transfers

22 months

2.90%

£29.00

£58.00

£87.00

£116.00

£145.00

Virgin Money Balance Transfer Credit Card

20 months

2.99%

£29.90

£59.80

£89.70

£119.60

£149.50

Halifax 22-Month MasterCard

22 months

3.00%

£30.00

£60.00

£90.00

£120.00

£150.00

Nationwide Credit Card

20 months

3.10%

£31.00

£62.00

£93.00

£124.00

£155.00

Nationwide Select Credit Card*

20 months

3.10%

£31.00

£62.00

£93.00

£124.00

£155.00

NatWest Platinum MasterCard

22 months

3.20%

£32.00

£64.00

£96.00

£128.00

£160.00

Royal Bank of Scotland Platinum MasterCard

22 months

3.20%

£32.00

£64.00

£96.00

£128.00

£160.00

HSBC Credit Card*

23 months

3.30%

£33.00

£66.00

£99.00

£132.00

£165.00

NatWest Platinum BT Credit Card

23 months

3.50%

£35.00

£70.00

£105.00

£140.00

£175.00

Royal Bank of Scotland Platinum BT Credit Card

23 months

3.50%

£35.00

£70.00

£105.00

£140.00

£175.0

*Only available to existing current account holders



If you have £5,000 of debt to clear and need 20 months or more to clear it, you could be paying between £130 and £175 for the privilege.

Shorter interest-free periods with cheaper fees

But you can get a cheaper balance transfer if you can repay your debt over a shorter period of time. For instance, Barclaycard's Platinum Lowest Ever Balance Transfer Fee card charges just a 0.9% fee. So on a debt of £5,000, you'll pay a fee of £45. But you only have a year to repay your debt.

Similarly, the NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland Platinum Low Balance Transfer Fee cards charge 1%, but they give you a slightly more generous 13 months to pay your card off.



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