If you need to make a big purchase you can’t afford to pay for outright, a credit card that charges 0% on spending might be the answer.

Don’t take one out if it’s going to encourage you to spend money you don’t have, but credit cards can be useful, not least because they give you valuable consumer protection. And with a 0% credit card, as long as you clear your balance by the time the 0% deal runs out, you won’t be hit with hefty interest charges.

Only borrow what you absolutely need though and steer clear if you know you’re going to struggle to repay what you owe within the interest-free period.

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The pick of the 0% credit card deals

There are several cards that won’t charge interest on purchases for the first year or more. Remember that deals change regularly, so it’s worth looking on comparison sites such as MoneySuperMarket.com, uSwitch.com and Comparethemarket.com to find the current best deals.

Some 0% purchase cards that may be worth considering include:

  • Barclaycard’s Platinum Purchase Card: This card charges 0% interest on purchases for up to 21 months. You may be offered a shorter period of 10 months interest-free depending on your circumstances and credit history. After that the interest rate rises to 24.9%. It also has 0% on balance transfers for up to 18 months with a balance transfer fee of 2.99%, again, you might be offered less than this, depending on your credit history.
  • HSBC Purchase Plus Credit Card: Up to 18 months of interest-free purchases and 16 months of interest-free balance transfers, after which the interest rate will be 24.9%. The balance transfer fee is 3.49% with a £5 minimum.
  • M&S Bank Everyday Spending Card: This card charges 0% interest on purchases for 18 months. After that the interest rate will be 23.9%. This card also offers 0% on balance transfers for up to 15 months, and a 2.99% balance transfer fee applies. You’ll also collect 1 point for every £1 spent in M&S and every £5 spent elsewhere, which can be converted into vouchers.

(Rates correct at time of writing: 4.12.23)

If you have a less than perfect credit score

The best credit card deals are usually only offered to those with excellent credit scores, who’ve never missed any debt repayments. If you’re worried your credit score isn’t up to scratch, you can find out how you might be able to improve it in our article Seven steps to improve your credit score. Or, you could try using a card especially for building credit – find out more in our article What are the best credit cards for building your credit score?

You can easily check your credit score for free. ClearScore offers a free credit checking service that accesses Equifax data. They also offer free identity protection that scans for stolen passwords, security problems and fraud defence tips. Additionally, MoneySuperMarket offers a Credit Monitor tool which enables you to check your credit score and report free of charge using data from credit reference agency TransUnion and offers free personalised tips to help it grow. Experian also has a free service that enables you to sign up and check your credit score with them.

If you have struggled with debts in the past, think very carefully before borrowing again. If you’re confident that your finances are back on track, some providers, such as Vanquis and Aqua specialise in cards that can help you rebuild your credit score. They usually offer a low credit limit and charge steep rates of interest, so it’s vital to pay off your balance in full each month.

If you are refused a credit card, don’t make another application for a different card straight afterwards. Any applications you make will be recorded on your credit file, so if you make several in quick succession, lenders are likely to think you’re experiencing financial difficulties. Plenty of lenders now offer online eligibility tools that can tell you how likely you are to have your application accepted without performing a full credit search that leaves a mark on your file.

If you feel like your debts are spiralling out of control, don’t apply for more credit – it’s vital that you seek help as soon as possible. Contact your lenders and tell them you’re finding it difficult to pay back what you owe – they might be able to work out a more affordable repayment plan with you. You may also be able to reduce your other outgoings so that you can pay back your debts. Learn how to cut costs in our article How to save money – 19 money saving tips.

If you need further help, get in touch with one of the charities specialising in free debt advice. These include StepChange, National Debtline and the Debt Advice Foundation. You can find out about your options if you’re in serious debt here.

Get a free no-obligation pension consultation

Pension advice can help you get the most out of your retirement income, helping you on your way to a secure financial future. If you have more than £75k in pension savings, take the first step by arranging a free, no-obligation initial consultation with an expert from Aviva Financial Advice. Any recommendations advisers make will be for products from Aviva and other carefully selected partners. There’s no obligation, but if they feel you’d benefit from paid financial advice, they’ll go over how that works and the charges involved. Capital at risk.

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