How a dual credit card could give you the best of both worlds

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There may come a time in your life when you want, or need, to make a particular large purchase, but you might not have the spare cash to make it happen straight away.

In many cases, a credit card with a long-term interest-free promotional period could be the answer, by helping you spread the cost of large purchases. But equally you might already have a credit card with a balance you'd like to transfer, so as to cut the interest you're paying.

Getting a dual credit card from your bank or a specialist provider could combine your two priorities in one fell swoop.

A dual card offers deals on any purchases made online or in store, and on balance transfers - where you can move your debts across from existing credit cards.

What are the benefits?

  • The deals on dual cards can be very attractive - frequently offering 0% interest rates on both balance transfers and purchases for an introductory period generally lasting up to 25 months.
  • If you're transferring money from cards where you are paying interest, a 0% rate can reduce your monthly repayments.
  • If you consolidate debt from a number of cards, it's easier to see exactly how much you owe, and given the 0% rate you may be able to pay down the remaining debt faster.
  • You can also get the best of both worlds. A dual card means you can make new purchases whilst paying off your old debt, provided your credit limit is high enough. But this may push your monthly repayments up, so you need to be sure you can afford them.

What do you need to be aware of?

  • Look out for the balance transfer fee. You will be charged a percentage of your balance when you transfer debt from another card (or cards) on to the dual card. For example, if you're transferring a balance of £5,000 on a 2.5% fee, you would pay £125. Look carefully at how long the introductory 0% interest rate lasts and calculate whether you will save money on your interest payments or spend more on fees.
  • Also compare cards before applying - fees on some dual cards are much higher than on others.
  • When the promotional offer ends - on both balance transfers and purchases - any outstanding amount will then be charged at the APR interest rate, which is often around 18.9%. It makes sense to pay off your balance before then if you can.
  • Also keep in mind that you must make your payments on time each month as you would do with any credit card, and stay within your credit limit. Failure to do so means that you could forfeit the promotional rates and go on to the standard APR.
  • Consider whether taking out a separate balance transfer card and purchase card will make more financial sense. You may be able to get longer term promotional deals with single cards. It's important to note, however, that this will include two applications and two new accounts, which could have a negative impact on your credit score.
  • You might want to cut up your other cards when you get a dual card. You don't want to make a mistaken purchase on an old card and build up more debt.

How to apply

Applying for a dual card is pretty straightforward - the most common ways are online or in person at a bank branch. However, you may well want to check that you are eligible first, as lenders have specific criteria.

Every time you apply for credit, a lender will verify your ID and carry out the necessary fraud and credit checks. This will make a 'hard check' of your credit history.

Too many applications can damage your credit rating, so it's worth visiting a price comparison site before actually making the application. Soft searches look at your eligibility and give you a steer on which cards you are more likely to be successful with, but they don't leave a footprint on your credit report that is visible to lenders.

Then once you have your new dual card in your hand, you can take control of your finances or make that big purchase.

Before you apply for a credit card, use our comparison service - it can show you the personal loans and credit cards you're more likely to be accepted for and only leaves a 'soft' search on your credit report, which isn't seen by lenders. So it doesn't affect your credit score at all.

As a credit broker rather than a lender†, Experian uses your credit information, as well as information you provide about your requirements and financial circumstances, to show you personal loans and credit cards that are matched to you. This means you can see a personalised list of credit cards and personal loans that you are more likely to be accepted for, without affecting your credit score.

Join Experian to start your search now.

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