Best interest-free purchase credit cards

Laura Howard
·7-min read
 (Pexels)
(Pexels)

0% interest credit cards can be a great way to spread the cost of purchases over time, which is helpful for really big-ticket items such as home improvements or holidays. And, when used with care, the cards won’t cost a penny more than the goods or services you’ve paid for.

What are 0% purchase cards?

The main draw of a 0% credit card is that it charges no interest on purchases for a given period. During that time, you won’t have to pay back anything more than what you’ve spent on the card – provided you don’t exceed your credit limit.

So, you could pay off the cost of a £1,200 sofa on a 12-month 0% purchase card at £100 a month cost-free.

The downside is, if there’s still a balance outstanding on the card at the end of the interest-free period, you’ll start being charged interest on it, typically at around 20% APR (variable).

What are the best 0% purchase cards?

Once you know what to expect from these cards, how do you make sure you’re getting the best deal for you?

Here at ES Money, we carried out research (March 2021) to uncover some of the best deals. Our findings, alongside the methodology we used to source the cards, are detailed below.

It’s important to note however, that only applicants with the very best credit scores will be in the running to be accepted.

Also that the advertised ‘go-to’ APRs are ‘representative’, which means they must only apply to 51% of successful applicants. In short, the best deal for you will depend on your personal circumstances.

Finally, while we endeavour to keep information up-to-date, deals can change frequently.

1. Marks & Spencer Shopping Plus

0% duration: 20 months

Rep. APR: 19.9% (variable)

Customer service rating*: 55%

Why we chose it: It may be one of a handful cards charging no interest on purchases for 20 months, but comes with perks for M&S shoppers.

You’ll earn one M&S point for every £1 spent in M&S stores, plus another point for every £5 spent elsewhere. What’s more, there’s a welcome bonus of 500 points (£5) that comes with the card.

There’s also no interest on balance transfer for 20 months, subject to a 2.9% fee. The post-promotion rate on both purchases and balance transfers is a representative 19.9% APR (variable).

2. Barclaycard All Rounder Platinum Credit Card

0% duration: 20 months

Rep. APR: 21.9% (variable)

Customer service rating*: 59%

Why we chose it: This card comes with access to Barclaycard Entertainment. It’s a perk that puts you in line for presale tickets for live events and discounts.

The card also offers a zero-interest balance transfer window for 18 months for a 2.9% fee – all on top of the flagship benefit of 20 months interest-free spending on purchases.

3. Sainsbury’s Bank Dual Offer Credit Card

0% duration: 20 months

Rep. APR: 21.9% (variable)

Customer service rating*: 55%

Why we chose it: Regular shopper at Sainsbury’s? This card could be useful beyond its offering of interest-free spending for 20 months. If you spend £35 or more at Sainsbury’s up to 10 times in the first two months, you can collect 750 bonus Nectar points, worth the equivalent of £37.50.

It also comes with 0% interest on balance transfers for 20 months, subject to a 3% fee.

4. Virgin Money 20 Month All Round

0% duration: 20 months

Rep. APR: 21.9% (variable)

Customer service rating*: 59%

Why we chose it: Virgin Money’s 20 Month All Round credit card offers more than just interest-free spending. You can also earn cashback on spending at selected retailers under its Virgin Money Back scheme. And this cash can even be put towards paying off your card balance.

The card also offers 20 months interest-free on balance transfers, for a 2.9% fee.

5. HSBC Purchase Plus

0% duration: 18 months

Rep. APR: 22.9%

Customer service rating: 55%

Why we chose it: HSBC's Purchase Plus credit card charges no interest on purchases or balance transfers for 18 months (when you pay a 2.9% balance transfer fee).

Any balance lingering beyond 18 months attracts interest at a not insignificant 22.9% (variable), which makes it especially important to fully clear it before then. The card has worldwide offers and discounts on shopping via HSBC’s home&Away programme.

*Fairer Finance data, March 2021

Our methodology

The best 0% purchase card for you will depend on your circumstances as well as how you use it – for example, if you will ever pay the APR. But we have ranked the deals by the following factors (in order of importance):

  • Interest-free period: how long you can spend on the card without being charged interest

  • APR: the representative APR (interest rate) charged at the end of the 0% period

  • What customers think: we’ve used data from Fairer Finance.

Here are some frequently-asked questions around 0% purchase cards...

Will I be eligible for a 0% purchase card?

Your eligibility for a 0% credit card depends on how you’ve handled credit in the past. If you’ve borrowed money and paid back your debt in full and on time, you’re likely to have a better credit history than someone who’s missed payment dates or failed to repay.

The best 0% credit card deals are reserved for those who’ve done the best job managing their credit and have higher credit scores. In practice, this means they’re eligible for the longest 0% interest-free periods.

That’s not to say you’ll be ineligible if your credit history is less than perfect; it’s always worth comparing credit card deals to see what you can get. It may be that you can still get a great 0% credit card but with a lower credit limit than someone with a better credit score might get.

Use an eligibility checker where possible to assess your chances of being accepted before applying.

Do 0% purchase cards offer protection ?

As with all credit cards, the other major benefit of 0% purchase deals, is that they provide a level of protection you don’t get when paying with cash or debit card.

Thanks to Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, you’ll be eligible for a refund on purchases of more than £100 and up to £30,000 if the goods or services aren’t right or aren’t delivered.

The credit card company assumes liability for the purchase, even if you’ve only put part of the cost on the card. For example, if you paid a £200 deposit on a 0% credit card for the £1,200 sofa and paid the rest in cash, you’d be eligible for a refund on the entire cost if the merchant went into administration or your furniture never arrived.

Even if you can afford to fund a large purchase upfront, it makes sense to pay a deposit using a credit card to take advantage of section 75 protection, and using a 0% interest-free credit card means it won’t cost you anything above and beyond the purchase price. There’s also the fringe benefit of nurturing your credit score by handling credit responsibly.

Does the 0% offer always apply?

In certain circumstances, you will forfeit your rights to the 0% purchase window. It doesn’t apply to cash advances, for example. This includes ATM withdrawals, cashback at checkouts, over the counter withdrawals at the bank or even paying a utility bill. Cash advances also come with a higher rate of interest.

When you use a credit card in this way, you’ll pay an upfront fee of around 3% of the withdrawal amount and daily interest on the total until you clear it, which can get expensive. There are also charges for late repayments or exceeding your credit limit to watch out for.

What are 0% balance transfer cards?

0% interest-free credit cards for purchases are not to be confused with 0% interest balance transfer credit cards, which are designed for transferring over debt from another card, perhaps one charging interest, to take advantage of their interest-free status.

With that said, many leading credit cards offer an interest-free period on both purchases and balance transfers.

Whichever you’re interested in, it’s important to think carefully about how you’ll use the card, to stay within the credit limit you’re given and to pay off the balance in full before the interest-free period ends.