How to consolidate credit card debt

If you’ve got a lot of credit card debt to pay off, consolidating it into one place with one monthly repayment can make your life a lot easier.

Credit card debt can quickly become expensive, and if you’ve got debt on several different credit cards, managing each one can get complicated. That’s why it can make good financial sense to move all of your debt over to the one place.

How does credit card debt consolidation work?

Credit card debt consolidation is the process of combining all of your credit card debts into one. One way to do this is by taking out a personal or consolidation loan and paying off your card providers with the money you’ve borrowed. You then repay your loan provider in monthly instalments.

Alternatively, you can consolidate card debt by using a balance transfer credit card to merge your debts onto the one card. If you choose the right credit card, a balance transfer can often be cheaper than a personal loan.

Why should you consolidate your debt?

Consolidating your credit card debt has many benefits. For a start, merging all your debts into one means you’ll only have one monthly repayment to make rather than several. This can make it much easier to keep track of what you owe and when.

Another benefit is that you may be able to take advantage of a lower interest rate which has the potential to save you hundreds of pounds. If the loan or credit card you choose has a lower interest rate than what you’ve been paying, you’ll be much better off and be able to clear your debt faster.

Using a balance transfer to consolidate debt

One of the most popular ways to consolidate credit card debt is to carry out a balance transfer. This is the process of moving debt from existing credit cards to a brand new one – ideally one that offers a lower interest rate.

Some balance transfer credit cards charge no interest at all for a number of months – up to three years in the best cases. This should give you plenty of breathing space to start tackling your debt head on without worrying about interest building up, and this should allow you to clear your debt more quickly.

Be aware that many balance transfer credit cards will charge a transfer fee of around 1% to 3%. But given how much interest you could save, this fee could be worth paying.

Also note that to fully benefit from a 0% balance transfer card, it is important that you clear your balance before the 0% deal ends and interest kicks in.

If you’re concerned about being able to clear your debt within that time, you could either transfer your debt again to another balance transfer card. Or you could take out a low APR balance transfer card that charges a low rate of interest for the life of the debt. This means that while you will still pay interest on your debt, the rate is likely to be lower compared to the amount you were paying before and there is no deadline by which you need to have paid off your debt in full. Some low interest balance transfer cards don’t charge transfer fees either.

Table: sorted by representative APR, promoted deals first
Name Product Balance transfers Balance transfer fee Purchases Annual/monthly fees Representative APR Incentive Link
M&S Bank Credit Card Rewards Offer Mastercard
0% for 12 months reverting to 19.9%
2.9% (min. £5)
0% for 12 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
19.9% APR (variable)
Double points on spend in M&S for first year (2 points per £1). Then 1 point per £1 spent with M&S and 1 point per £5 spent elsewhere. Enjoy 55 days interest free, preferential rates plus no cash advance fee when buying M&S travel money with the card.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
Santander Everyday No Balance Transfer Fee Credit Card
0% for 21 months reverting to 21.9%
0% for 21 months reverting to 3% (min. £5)
0% for 3 months reverting to 21.9%
£0
21.9% APR (variable)
Earn up to 15% cashback with your selected Retailer Offers at selected major retailers.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 21.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 21.9% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
Santander Everyday Long Term Balance Transfer Credit Card
0% for 33 months reverting to 21.9%
2.65% (min. £5) for 33 months reverting to 3% (min. £5)
0% for 3 months reverting to 21.9%
£0
21.9% APR (variable)
Earn up to 15% cashback with your selected Retailer Offers at selected major retailers.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 21.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 21.9% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
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What are the pros and cons of balance transfers?

Pros

  • All your debt will be in the one place
  • There’s only one monthly payment to make
  • You could save hundreds in interest
  • You could clear your debts faster
  • Your credit score could improve as a result

Cons

  • You may have to pay a balance transfer fee
  • The best balance transfer offers are reserved for those with a good credit rating
  • If your card has a 0% offer, the interest rate will jump once this has expired
  • You could hurt your credit score if you don’t manage your debt carefully

Alternatives to credit card debt consolidation

If you’re struggling to repay your debts and you don’t want to or can’t use a balance transfer or a personal loan to consolidate it, there are other options open to you, but these will need to be considered with care.

  • A debt management plan (DMP) is an agreement between you and your creditors to pay off your debts. You can arrange a plan with your creditors yourself, through a licensed debt management company for a fee, or through a debt charity like StepChange for free. Your DMP is designed to help you manage your debts and pay them off at a more affordable rate by making reduced monthly payments.
  • A debt relief order (DRO) is a way to have your debts written off, provided you have debts of less than £30,000, assets of less than £2,000, you do not have much spare income and you do not own your home. With a DRO you won’t pay anything towards your debts for 12 months and after this time they will be written off.
  • An individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) is a formal and legally binding agreement between you and your creditors to pay back your debts over a period of time. IVAs can be flexible but they can also be expensive.

If you’re considering any of the above options, always seek free debt advice first through organisations such as StepChange, National Debtline, Citizens Advice and PayPlan.
If you live in England and Wales, you can also get temporary protection from your creditors while you get debt advice and make a plan. This scheme is called Breathing Space and gives you protection for up to 60 days (longer if you’re getting mental health crisis treatment).

You’ll still need to make your debt repayments but it means that enforcement action cannot be taken against you, your creditors cannot contact you about debts included in your Breathing Space, and your creditors cannot add interest or charges to your debt.

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