Confused woman looking at credit card bill statement

Credit card charges

Whether it’s the annual fee, currency conversion costs or balance transfer fee, find out everything you need to know to avoid credit card charges in the UK and overseas.

Credit cards have a wide range of features and benefits, but also come with many different fees and charges. These costs quickly add up and can lead to serious credit card debt when they’re left unchecked.

The good news is that you can avoid most credit card fees if you’re aware of them. Here, we outline the most common credit card fees, how much they’re worth and what you can do to stop or minimise their impact on your card.

Card surcharge ban

Surcharges on paying by credit or debit card were banned in the UK and EU on 13 January 2018. This means you cannot be charged more by a business for choosing to pay via card, PayPal or mobile payment methods, rather than paying in cash or another method. All transactions should be treated equally.

Prior to the law change, retailers (particularly online companies) regularly imposed a surcharge to the customer, charging them a set fee or percentage for processing their transaction via debit or credit card. These were often called a “processing fee” or “payment fee” by the retailer. For example, buying a long-haul flight for £800 could include a £24 credit card processing fee at 3%.

Some retailers have got around the ban by imposing a “service” or “admin” fee. As long as this applies to all transactions, regardless of payment method, it is allowed. However, you may find you are charged a surcharge when using your debit or credit card outside the EU.

The ruling applies to personal credit cards, and not to corporate cards.

Interest rate

Credit cards charge interest when you carry a balance. The amount you pay is based on a percentage of your balance. This percentage is represented by an annual rate, such as 19.99% p.a., but is calculated daily and charged monthly. Depending on your card, you could have any or all of the following interest rates applied to your balance:

  • Purchase rate. This is the interest rate charged for new purchases made on the card and can be anywhere from 5.9% to 49.9%.
  • Cash advance rate. This is the interest rate applied for cash advance transactions, such as cash machine withdrawals. It is usually between 23.9% and 44.95% and generally starts accruing immediately (unlike the interest-free days on purchases each statement period).
  • Balance transfer rate. This is the interest rate applied to any balance you have moved from an old card to the current card. If you get a balance transfer credit card, you will usually pay a low or 0% promotional rate for the introductory period. Standard balance transfer rates (after the intro period) are usually based on the card’s cash advance or purchase rate and can be as high as 69.95%.
  • Promotional interest rate. A 0% interest rate is usually offered to new cardholders for a set period of time, usually between 12 and 28 months, but sometimes longer. If you’re looking at getting a card with a promotional interest rate for purchases and/or balance transfers, make sure you also check the standard interest rate that’s applied after it ends.

How to avoid it: If you pay your balance in full by the due date on your statement, you won’t be charged interest. But if you do carry a balance, aim to pay more than the minimum each month or choose a card that has a low ongoing interest rate, or a 0% promotional interest rate. These strategies will help you keep costs down, at least in the short term.

Jake's interest savings

Jake had a credit card with a £5,000 balance and an interest rate of 19.99%. By only making minimum payments on this card, he would be charged around £955 in interest for the year.

Jake decided to switch to a card that offers a low ongoing interest rate of 12.99%, meaning he could save around £354 in interest over the course of the year. He could save even more money by making larger repayments. Jake would also be able to avoid interest charges completely if he transferred the debt to a 0% balance transfer card and paid it off before the end of the introductory period.

Compare 0% purchase credit cards

The cards below are sorted by their representative APRs, and the length of their 0% on purchases offer period, but if you’re interested in comparing the cards by a different feature, you can re-order the table.

Updated May 26th, 2019
Name Product Purchases Balance transfers Annual/monthly fees Rep. APR Incentive Representative example
0% for 27 months reverting to 19.9%
0% for 27 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
19.9% p.a. (variable)
Buy tickets for up to 3500 selected live events through Barclaycard entertainment and get 5% off tickets per year and exclusive pre-sale tickets on selected festivals with 10% off ticket prices.
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).
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
19.9% p.a. (variable)
Earn 1 point for every £1 spent at Marks and Spencer's and 1 point for every £5 spent elsewhere. 100 points = £1 reward voucher. Points will be converted into reward vouchers 4 times a year.
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).
0% for 18 months reverting to 22.9%
N/A
£0
22.9% p.a. (variable)
Earn 1 Membership Rewards® point for every £1 spent.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 22.9% APR (variable).
0% for 6 months reverting to 19.9%
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
19.9% p.a. (variable)
Buy tickets for up to 3500 selected live events through Barclaycard entertainment and get 5% off tickets per year and exclusive pre-sale tickets on selected festivals with 10% off ticket prices.
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).
0% for 6 months reverting to 19.9%
0% for 28 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
19.9% p.a. (variable)
Buy tickets for up to 3500 selected live events through Barclaycard entertainment and get 5% off tickets per year and exclusive pre-sale tickets on selected festivals with 10% off ticket prices. Save 5% on food and drink at all UK 02 Academy venues.
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).

Compare up to 4 providers

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Balance transfer fees

Some balance transfer credit cards charge a fee for moving your existing debt from a current card to the new account, usually between 1% and 3% of the total debt you move. Balance transfer fees get charged as soon as you transfer a balance and get added to the principal amount of the debt you transferred, not accruing interest until the 0% introductory period expires.

How to avoid it: Compare balance transfer credit cards and look for options that don’t charge a balance transfer fee. Often, these cards that don’t charge a fee offer a shorter interest-free introductory period than the ones that do charge. Remember, the fee should be listed in the “Fees” section for any card you consider. You can also find out the fee by looking at a credit card’s summary box or fees breakdown.

Move your debt and save like Maryam

Maryam has seen a balance transfer credit card that offers 0% interest for 20 months and charges a 2.5% balance transfer fee. She has a £6,000 debt she wants to move, but would have to have a £150 transfer fee added to her balance if she got this new credit card. Instead of applying, Maryam compares a range of balance transfer options and finds a different card that doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee. This means she can transfer her debt, save money in the process and pay off her balance faster.

Compare balance transfer credit cards

Comparison ordered by representative APR with affiliated products shown first.
Updated May 26th, 2019
Name Product Balance transfers Balance transfer fee Purchases Rep. APR Incentive Representative example
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%
2.9% (min. £5)
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%
19.9%
Earn 1 point for every £1 spent at Marks and Spencer's and 1 point for every £5 spent elsewhere. 100 points = £1 reward voucher. Points will be converted into reward vouchers 4 times a year.
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).
0% for 12 months reverting to 19.9%
3% (min. £3)
19.9%
19.9%
Earn Asda vouchers every time you shop - 1% cashback on all Asda spend, 0.2% on all other transactions and 10% on selected insurance products. Once £2.5 is earnt a voucher can be downloaded to spend in Asda stores.
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).
0% for 28 months reverting to 19.9%
1.75% for transfers in first 60 days
0% for 6 months reverting to 19.9%
19.9%
Buy tickets for up to 3500 selected live events through Barclaycard entertainment and get 5% off tickets per year and exclusive pre-sale tickets on selected festivals with 10% off ticket prices. Save 5% on food and drink at all UK 02 Academy venues.
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).
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%
0% for transfers in first 60 days
0% for 6 months reverting to 19.9%
19.9%
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).
0% for 27 months reverting to 19.9%
2.7% for transfers in first 60 days
0% for 27 months reverting to 19.9%
19.9%
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).

Compare up to 4 providers

Annual fees

Some credit cards charge an annual fee (or occasionally a monthly fee), which can cost as little as £3 or as much as £450. The more features and benefits a credit card has – such as a rewards program, complimentary travel insurance or airport lounge access – the more likely it is to have a high annual fee.

Annual fees usually start when you first activate a card, and can be charged monthly or annually every year you have the card. Some cards also waive this fee in the first year as an introductory bonus, so be sure to check the ongoing rates and fees before you apply.

How to avoid it: If you take advantage of credit card perks, you could find that the value they offer outweighs the cost of the annual fee. Otherwise, you should consider a card that offers a lower fee or one that charges no annual fee for life.

How Alexandra avoided annual fees

Alexandra was paying an annual fee of £199 for her platinum rewards credit card. While she earned 1 point per £1 spent on the card, she only spent about £12,000 per year on her card. This was just enough points to get a £100 gift card, which meant Alex was paying £99 more for the card than what she got from the benefits.

After realising this, Alexandra switched to a no annual fee rewards credit card, which meant she can save between £99 and £199 on the card and still get rewards.

Compare no annual fee credit cards

Comparison ordered by representative APR with affiliated products shown first
Updated May 26th, 2019
Name Product Balance transfers Balance transfer fee Purchases Rep. APR Incentive Representative example
0% for 26 months reverting to 19.9%
1.5% for transfers in first 60 days
0% for 6 months reverting to 19.9%
19.9%
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).
0% for 6 months reverting to 19.9%
2.9% (min. £5)
0% for 6 months reverting to 19.9%
19.9%
Double points on spend in M&S for first 12 months (2 points per £1). Then earn 1 point for every £1 spent at Marks and Spencer's and 1 point or every £5 spent elsewhere. 100 points = £1 reward voucher. Points will be converted into reward vouchers 4 times a year.
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).
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%
2.9% (min. £5)
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%
19.9%
Earn 1 point for every £1 spent at Marks and Spencer's and 1 point for every £5 spent elsewhere. 100 points = £1 reward voucher. Points will be converted into reward vouchers 4 times a year.
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).
0% for 12 months reverting to 19.9%
3% (min. £3)
19.9%
19.9%
Earn Asda vouchers every time you shop - 1% cashback on all Asda spend, 0.2% on all other transactions and 10% on selected insurance products. Once £2.5 is earnt a voucher can be downloaded to spend in Asda stores.
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).
0% for 28 months reverting to 19.9%
1.75% for transfers in first 60 days
0% for 6 months reverting to 19.9%
19.9%
Buy tickets for up to 3500 selected live events through Barclaycard entertainment and get 5% off tickets per year and exclusive pre-sale tickets on selected festivals with 10% off ticket prices. Save 5% on food and drink at all UK 02 Academy venues.
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).