A balance transfer credit card is basically an offer of either a zero interest rate or very low interest rate for a set period. The typical period is 6 months although there are variations on this and there have even been some low rates set for the lifetime of the balance. However, these are becoming rare. Once, the offer period expires then the outstanding balance reverts to the standard rate on purchases. This is very important, as at this point the credit card company will hope the consumer will not take any action and so the company can begin to earn money on the balance.
A 0% purchase offer credit card has many similarities to the balance transfer offers. The introductory rate and period are usually 0% and 6 months in the same way as the balance transfer. Also, once the period expires the outstanding balance is subject to the standard rate on purchases. It is an important point to note that the introductory rate does not apply indefinitely on purchases made in the period, but only applies for the duration of the introductory period.
It is often the case that credit card companies will offer both the balance transfer and 0% on purchases on the same card. When this is not the case it is wise to keep balance transfers and purchases separate. This is because the balance transfer portion of an outstanding balance will be paid off quicker than the standard rate purchases. Therefore an increasing portion of the balance will be subject to the standard rate and the balance transfer portion will decrease at a faster rate. There is nothing to stop a consumer obtaining a credit card with a balance transfer and a separate low interest credit card for any purchases to be made. That way the benefits of the offers are maximised.
In summary the balance transfer and 0% purchase offers can be of great benefit to the consumer provided that the consumer understands how to use the offers to their advantage. A degree of discipline is required in managing repayments. Also, the cardholder should be aware of any penalties that may cause the offer to be cancelled. Armed with this knowledge then these cards can be made to work for the consumer, but remember that when comparing credit cards to pay close attention to the typical APR, which is, always stated where UK credit cards are promoted.