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NatWest loosens criteria for market-leading balance transfer card: Here's how it works

Over the past few months lengths on 0% balance transfer credit cards have been shrinking and it looked like this would continue for some time. However, last week NatWest made an unexpected move to loosen up the application criteria for its market-leading 33 month 0% balance transfer card. No longer do you have to be an existing NatWest customer to apply for it.

So, is it worth getting this card if you have existing credit card debt? And how does it compare to other balance transfer cards in the market? Let's take a look.

What is a balance transfer?

If you've built up debt on a credit card a 0% balance transfer could slash your interest rate to zero. That's because these are very special types of credit card that allow you to move over debt from other cards onto them. When you do this you owe your new card instead of the old one.

The 0% lengths on balance transfer cards can vary widely between providers. If you've a less than stellar credit score you might not get accepted for the longest deals either. Also, many of the cards that do offer generous 0% periods charge a fee on any debt you shit across. However, there are a number of no-fee balance transfer cards out there so it's possible to move debt on the cheap.

How a balance transfer card works

If you're paying interest on credit card debt and you shift it to a 0% balance transfer credit card, you won't have to service interest for the duration of the 0% period. That's as long as you play by the rules and ensure you repay at least the minimum each month — preferably you'll be able to repay a lot more (see below).

While a 0% balance transfer credit card can give you huge respite from existing debts, if you use them wisely it may be possible to completely clear your debt without having to pay a penny in interest.

To do this you'll need to work out how much you need to repay each month to clear your balance by the end of the 0% period.

For example, say you transfer £3,000 of credit card debt to a 0% balance transfer card offering 12 interest-free months. In this scenario you'll need to set up monthly payments of £250 to fully clear your balance within the 0% period. The only reason you shouldn't be aiming to clear your debt is if you've pricier debts elsewhere. If this applies to you it's best to concentrate on clearing your most expensive debt first before focusing on anything you have at 0%.

How does NatWest's 33month card work?

NatWest's 33 month 0% balance transfer card has been sitting at the top of the best-buy tables for a while now. Yet until last week, this card was exclusively available to its own customers which significantly limited its appeal.

Yet this has now changed. NatWest has made its market-leading balance transfer card open to all. This doesn't mean everyone can get it — you still have to be accepted and acceptance will depend on your credit score. However, it does mean that anyone can apply for it.

As such NatWest's offering is currently the longest 0% balance transfer card out there. The card offers 33 interest-free months and applies a 2.9% fee on any debt you shift across. The card's representative APR is 22.9%.

Natwest's card isn't an 'up to' card. So if you apply you'll either be accepted, or you'll be turned down — you won't be offered fewer months at 0% as is the case with some other balance transfer cards.

How does the card compare?

NatWest's 33 month balance transfer credit card is market-leading by a decent margin.

The next-longest offering is from Barclaycard which offers up to 30 months 0% for a near-identical 2.98% fee (22.9% rep APR). If you've a poor credit score then you could be offered half the amount of interest-free months, or you could be rejected altogether.

A shorter 0% period could work out cheaper

If you don't need such a long time to clear your debt then it might be cheaper for you to go with a card that has a shorter 0% length. That's because cards with less generous 0% period often have lower fees than the longest cards. For example, Sainbsury's Bank offers a balance transfer card offering up to 25 months at 0%. While that's 8 fewer months than NatWest's market-leading deal its fee is just 1%. It should be noted that some poor credit scorers could be offered just 17 months at 0%, or be refused for the card (21.9% rep APR).

Can you clear your debt in just 22 months? If you can clear your debt in a shorter period it's worth knowing that NatWest also has a no-fee balance transfer card offering 22 interest-free months (21.9% rep APR).

The next-longest no-fee card is from Sainbsury's Bank. This no-fee offering gives up to 17 months at 0%. However, thiose with weaker credit scores may have to pay a 1% fee or be turned away (21.9% rep APR).

Will cards become more generous in future?

It's too early to say if NatWest's latest move to open up its market-leading cards will be a game-changer for the balance transfer market. However, if you're paying debt on existing credit card debt it's probably best not to wait around. Market-leading deals can be pulled at any time and there are no guarantees other, more generous cards will take their place.

To see a full list of the latest cards available right now take a look at our best 0% balance transfer credit cards guide.


The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.