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Please note: The interest rates, APR calculations, charges, awards and other conditions applying to credit cards on these pages may be changed by the card providers at any time.

Types of UK Credit Cards Online

Balance transfers, initial free period, cashback rewards . . . what's it all mean?

Set out below you'll find the broad types of credit card accounts offered by the major UK credit card providers.

With the exception of proprietary cards like American Express™ and Diners Club™ UK credit cards are all variants on the products offered by Visa™ and MasterCard™, so we haven't gone into the differences between charge cards, debit cards and credit cards, as most people want a plain and simple credit card, and a bit of common sense about what all the jargon means.

If you need more information, and a selection of our picks for the best providers of each type, click on the "Card types" button in the top left corner of each section. If you think you've got enough information here to make a decision, click on the "Compare and Apply" button.


0% balance transfer

0% balance transfer simply means the card issuer is prepared to pay a premium to shift business from a competitor to the issuer's own card. So, when you apply, you can transfer the balance of the card accounts to your new card and enjoy a removal of the interest payable on those amounts, while paying the normal interest on new transactions (unless of course a free initial period applies — see below).

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Interest Free/Low Interest

Interest free initial periods, free interest on certain transactions, or a special low interest rate for certain conditions are all ways in which the card issuers try to gain that little edge on the competition.

The effect of these offers is to set off an interest reduction against APR ( Annual Percentage Rate), thus providing the issuers with a marketing tool, and the cards holder with some advantages, instead of simply offering a lower rate of interest on the face of it.

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Student Cards

Student cards vary from a simple credit card loaded with the sort of benefits the issuers think will attract new young customers to their bank, to debit cards that are designed for the careful parent to supply their offspring's account with an allowance while at University.

Most credit card issuers are banks, and they not only want your credit card account, they in fact want your bank account, and a credit card is a good way to win a new bank account customer.

With a little care, intelligent use and punctual repayment a special Student Card from one of the major issuers can help you through tertiary education.

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There's a mass of cashback variants. And no, you don't get cash back in your hand, for the most part. What you do get is a reduction on the amount of a cash transaction (buying petrol, lunch in a pub, that sort of thing), of an agreed amount, as to what is charged to your card.

There are cards that offer "cashback" on airline tickets, cinema tickets, DVD purchases, practically anything.

Check the APR, and figure it out for yourself. Some are good, some not so good. Our "More Information" page has our picks of the best cashback offers.

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No Annual Fee

This is almost automatic with most bank issued cards, as they reckon, (rightly) that they will pick up the business on a bank account coupled to the card.

As with all things credit card, it's a bit of a balancing act, as the issuer can set off apparent discounts, benefits and rewards on the card against other charges.

However, no annual fee does lower the APR (Annual Percentage Rate, and if you couple that with a 0% balance transfer, and given that the major issuers are slashing interest to win share, this becomes a good source of cheap short term money, but remember, credit cards are a very expensive way to borrow long term.

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