Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards of January 2020

Matt is a Certified Financial Planner® and investment advisor based in Columbia, South Carolina. He writes personal finance and investment advice, and in 2017 he received the SABEW Best in Business Award.

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Transferring high-cost credit card debt to one of our picks for best balance transfer credit cards can help you pay off your debt at a reduced interest rate. We've compiled this in-depth guide to help you get rid of debt by guiding you to our favorite offers and outlining some balance transfer credit card essentials.

Ratings Methodology
No annual fee
BankAmericard® credit card

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On Bank of America's Secure Website.

Why Apply

Among the longest 0% intro APRs on the market, this no-annual-fee card is a clear winner. Few cards provide a 0% APR of this length on both purchases and qualifying balance transfers.

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Top Perks:
  • Long 0% intro APR offer
  • No annual fee
  • FICO® Score for free
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 14.49% - 24.49% Variable
  • Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 18 billing cycles Balance Transfers: 0% Intro APR for 18 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days
Highlights
  • 0% Introductory APR for 18 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 14.49% - 24.49% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers
  • No annual fee
  • No penalty APR. Paying late won't automatically raise your interest rate (APR). Other account pricing and terms apply
  • Access your FICO® Score for free within Online Banking or your Mobile Banking app
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Long 0% APR
Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

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On Citi's Secure Website.

Why Apply

No late fees, no annual fee, and no penalty rate make this an unmatched pick, even better that it somehow packs in a market-leading 0% intro APR offer.

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Top Perks:
  • 0% intro APR for balance transfers and purchases
  • No late-payment fees
  • No annual fee
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 16.24% - 26.24% (Variable)
  • Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 12 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 21 months
Highlights
  • No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee... Ever
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from date of first transfer. All transfers must be completed in first 4 months. After that, the variable APR will be 16.24% - 26.24%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 16.24% - 26.24%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • If you transfer a balance with this offer, after your 0% Intro purchase APR expires, both new purchases and unpaid purchase balances will automatically accrue interest until all balances, including your transferred balances, are paid in full
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 16.24% - 26.24%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
  • Stay protected with Citi® Quick Lock and $0 liability on unauthorized charges
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High cash back
Discover it® Balance Transfer

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On Discover's Secure Website.

Why Apply

Few can top this offer. The balance transfer offer and cash rewards program, alone, are best in class, but you get both in one card without having to pay an annual fee.

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Top Perks:
  • Balance transfer offer
  • Rotating bonus cash back
  • No annual fee
  • FICO® Score for free
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 13.49% - 24.49% Variable
  • Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 6 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 18 months
Highlights
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • No annual fee.
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Rates & Fees
Apply Now
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On Chase's Secure Website.

Why Apply

A great pick for a one-card wallet. This offer includes unlimited 1.5% cash back and a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening, plus a long 0% intro APR offer.

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Top Perks:
  • Big sign up bonus
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back
  • 0% intro APR offer for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 16.49% - 25.24% Variable
  • Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 15 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 months
Highlights
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49 - 25.24%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5
  • No annual fee
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
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Apply Now
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On Citi's Secure Website.

Why Apply

One of the top cards on the market with up to 2% cash back on all purchases, no annual fee, and an 18-month 0% APR on balance transfers

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Top Perks:
  • Up to 2% cash back
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR for balance transfers
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
  • Intro APR: Purchases: N/A Balance Transfers: 0%, 18 months
Highlights
  • Earn cash back twice. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.49% – 25.49%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Click "Apply Now" to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.49% – 25.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
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Apply Now
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On Citi's Secure Website.

Why Apply

A perennial interest-avoiding favorite with a long 0% intro APR for both purchases and balance transfers.

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Top Perks:
  • 0% intro APR
  • No annual fee
  • Free FICO® Score
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 15.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
  • Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 12 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 21 months
Highlights
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from date of first transfer. After that, the variable APR will be 15.24% - 25.24%, based on your creditworthiness. All transfers must be completed in first 4 months.
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 15.24% - 25.24%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • If you transfer a balance with this offer, after your 0% Intro purchase APR expires, both new purchases and unpaid purchase balances will automatically accrue interest until all balances, including your transferred balance, are paid in full.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • Get free access to your FICO® score online.
  • With Citi EntertainmentSM, get special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events, including concerts, sporting events, dining experiences and more.
  • Shop with confidence knowing that you have dependable protection benefits, including $0 Liability on Unauthorized Purchases and Citi® Identity Theft Solutions.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.24% - 25.24%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
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Apply Now
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On Capital One's Secure Website.

Why Apply

This may be the most versatile and flexible cash-back card on the market. The long 0% intro APR makes the offer hard to pass up, especially if you're wanting to keep a one-card wallet that packs in a rich rewards program.

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Top Perks:
  • $150 sign-up bonus
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 0% intro APR
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 15.49% - 25.49% Variable
  • Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, for 15 months Balance Transfers: 0%, for 15 months
Highlights
  • One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.49%-25.49% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 15.49%-25.49% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
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Apply Now
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On Bank of America's Secure Website.

Why Apply

The bonus leads the pack in the no-annual fee category, plus you earn premium cash back in a category of your choice and have access to a long 0% intro APR offer.

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Top Perks:
  • Big bonus offer
  • 3% back on gas or a category of your choice
  • No annual fee
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 15.49% - 25.49% Variable
  • Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 15 billing cycles Balance Transfers: 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days
Highlights
  • No annual fee
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 15.49% - 25.49% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers
  • No expiration on rewards
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more cash back on every purchase
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The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express
Why Apply

This card is unavailable on site and card details may be out of date -- One of the few remaining balance-transfer cards that include an intro $0 balance transfer fee. Add in the premium rewards and welcome bonus, and it's hard to ignore.

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Top Perks:
  • Intro balance transfer fee
  • Earn up to 2x points at U.S. supermarkets
  • Earn up to 20% bonus points
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 14.99%-25.99% Variable
  • Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 15 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 months for transfers made within 60 days
Highlights
  • Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.74% to 25.74%.
  • $0 balance transfer fee. Balance transfers must be requested within 60 days from account opening.
  • 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x); 1x points on other purchases.
  • Use your Card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period and earn 20% more points on those purchases less returns and credits.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
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Rates & Fees
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Balance transfer credit cards are a seriously underrated financial tool for people who have high-interest credit card debt. The best balance transfer credit cards offer long 0% intro APR periods that allow you to avoid interest on your balances, pay down debt faster, and free yourself of costly credit card debt forever. Used wisely, a balance transfer card can save you thousands of dollars in interest compared to carrying a balance at a typical credit card APR of about 17% per year. The most valued balance transfer cards offer 0% intro APR for as long as 21 months on amounts transferred, while other cards go so far as to waive fees, thus offering truly free short-term financing.

Features of a top rated balance transfer credit card

Many financial decisions can be boiled down to a few key factors. We want to help you confidently find the best credit cards for your needs, which is why our top picks for balance-transfer credit cards focus on the following features:

  • A long 0% intro APR period of at least 15 months
  • No annual fee
  • 0% APR on purchases if you plan to make purchases with the card
  • Free access to your credit score

How do you do a balance transfer on a credit card?

A balance transfer is a simple process. In effect, the card company you are moving your balance to pays the card company you are moving your balance from.

For example, if you move a $5,000 balance from bank credit card one to bank credit card two, then your bank card one balance will decrease by $5,000, and your bank card two balance will increase by $5,000 (plus any applicable balance transfer fees). Industry standard balance transfer fees are about 3%, but may be higher, lower, or even free in some cases.

It's important to know that you typically cannot move a balance on one card to another card issued by the same company. Credit card companies use balance transfers as a way to win business from other card issuers, not as a way to refinance their existing customers. The best credit card balance transfer deals are almost always changing as companies introduce new cards and promotions, so it can be smart to shop around before picking the right card for you.

What credit limit will you be approved for?

Credit limits are typically determined based on your credit score, income, and your debt-to-income ratio. If you hold other credit cards with the same issuer, they may also consider the credit limits on those cards to avoid extending too much credit to you.

Finally, having a pre-existing, positive relationship with that issuer and paying down debt can help you get approved for a higher credit limit.

There's no way to know what credit limit you'll be approved for before applying, but the most recent Consumer Finance Protection Bureau Credit Card Market report provides some insight.

Consumers with good credit got approved for an average credit limit of just over $4,000 on general-purpose credit cards, while those with excellent credit got approved for roughly $9,000. That being said, every credit card product comes with a different credit limit range, and balance transfer credit cards may offer lower limits than other general-purpose credit cards.

How to pay off debt using a balance transfer

When used correctly, a balance transfer can help you pay down debt faster, avoid interest on your balances, and get you back on track toward a life free of credit card debt.

Consider an example where you want to pay off a $5,000 balance with monthly payments of $200. The table below shows how you can save $1,130 in total interest payments and pay off the balance six months faster with a 15-month balance transfer offer.

APR Monthly payment Time to pay off Interest paid
0% for 15 months, 18% thereafter $200.00 26 months $183.24
18% APR $200.00 32 months $1,313.97

The interest you can save by using a 0% intro APR card is easy to quantify, but there is also a lot to be said about the stress-reducing benefits of paying off a debt six months earlier. People who are in the market to buy a home or car, for example, would benefit by eliminating credit card debt before financing another large purchase.

Five things you need to do to use a balance transfer card:

  1. Get approved for a balance transfer card. You may receive offers from a credit card you already have, but offers for new cardholders are usually much better than the offers issuers send to existing customers.
  2. Transfer your balances. Many card issuers allow you to transfer a balance at the time of your application, while others will require you to request a balance transfer after approval, either by phone or online.
  3. Continue to make payments on your old card. A balance transfer can take one to two weeks to process. Continue to pay at least the minimum payment on your old credit card until you see that the balance transfer amount was deducted from your old card. There may be a small amount of interest due in the month following your balance transfer, even if you move your whole balance, so it’s a good idea to check back after the balance transfer is complete so that you don’t get slapped with a massive late fee for failing to pay a few dollars in remaining interest.
  4. Pay down your balances as fast as you can. A 0% intro APR or low interest rate on a balance transfer offer won’t last forever, so it’s imperative that you use the promo period wisely. If your card doesn’t offer the same promotional terms on purchases, consider using it solely for the balance transfer to avoid piling up debt at a higher purchase APR.
  5. Avoid the temptation to rack up new balances. Transferring a balance to a credit card frees up capacity on another credit card. If you have a tendency to overspend, it may be smart to avoid credit cards altogether while you pay down that existing credit card debt.

Savvy people use low interest balance transfer credit cards for the specific purpose of refinancing high interest credit card debt. Often, that means moving a balance to take advantage of a low or 0% intro APR, and then putting all your credit cards in your sock drawer until the transfer (and any other credit card debt) is paid off in full.

Credit score needed for a balance transfer credit card?

You do not need perfect credit to qualify for a balance transfer credit card. Card issuers know that people who apply for balance transfer cards are likely to carry an existing balance with another issuer, which could have already marred your credit score. (What are balance transfers good for if not for transferring existing credit card debt?)

A good to excellent credit score (above 700) will get you access to most balance transfers on the market, including those that offer 18 months or more of 0% intro APRs. People who have fair credit (scores generally above 650) can be approved for most offers as well.

Importantly, credit scores are not the only factor issuers use to decide whether or not to approve you for a card. Your income, mortgage or rent payments, and payments due on other debts also play a role in deciding whether or not you get approved for a new balance transfer card.

Is a balance transfer card right for you?

When it comes to 0% APR cards, shopaholics and lazy budgeters need not apply. Many people get into trouble by opening a balance transfer credit card account, moving a balance, then racking up another large balance on their old credit card. However, in the right hands, a balance transfer credit card can be a powerful financial tool used to pay off debt.

If these three statements apply to you, then you are likely a good candidate for a balance transfer credit card:

  • You have existing credit card debt at a high APR.
  • You are serious about paying off your credit card debt once and for all.
  • You won’t rack up a new balance on your old credit card after transferring the balance to a new credit card.

FAQs

  • A balance transfer occurs when a borrower moves a balance from one credit card to another. Balance transfers are most often used to refinance credit card debt at a low interest rate (e.g. a balance on a card at an 18% APR is transferred to a card with a 0% intro APR).

    It’s important to remember that 0% intro APR balance transfer offers are a promotional perk that do not last forever. After the 0% intro APR expires, any remaining debt will begin accruing interest at the standard APR.

    For this reason, cardholders who use a 0% balance transfer offer to move a balance would be wise to pay down their balances aggressively before the promotional period ends.

  • Most credit cards charge a fee to transfer a balance to them. The typical transfer fee is $5 or 3% of the amount transferred, whichever is greater, but some charge as much as 5%. On a $5,000 balance, that means you could pay $150 to $250 in fees just to move the balance to another card. On the other hand, there are a few cards with introductory offers that include no-fee balance transfers.

    Keep in mind that balance transfer fees are rolled into your balance. Therefore, if you move a $5,000 balance to another credit card, you will have a balance of $5,150 on the balance transfer card if it charges a fee of 3% on transfers. When the 0% intro APR expires, all balances (including the fee) begin accruing interest.

  • It can affect your credit score when you open a balance transfer credit card.

    Since the balance transfer card will add to your available credit, it can lower your credit utilization, which is responsible for 30% of your FICO Score (the most widely used credit score). That can improve your credit score.

    On the other hand, a new balance transfer card can lower your average length of credit history and add a recent credit inquiry to your file, both of which can decrease your credit score. But if it helps you save money and get out of credit card debt, then a balance transfer card is well worth a temporary drop in your credit score.

  • The total amount of balances you transfer, plus any transfer fees, cannot exceed your credit limit on the balance transfer card. For example, if your balance transfer card has a $10,000 credit limit and a 3% balance transfer fee, then you wouldn't be able to transfer $10,000 in balances, because the fee would push you over your card's credit limit.

    Some credit cards also have balance transfer limits independent of their credit limits. You can see if a card has a balance transfer limit and how much the limit is by reviewing the terms and conditions.

The Ascent's picks for best balance transfer credit cards of auto_date_month_year:
Card Balance transfer offer Great For…
BankAmericard® credit card Graphic of BankAmericard® credit card Balance transfer offer:

18 billing cycles

Great For:

Balance transfers and purchases

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever Graphic of Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever Balance transfer offer:

21 months

Great For:

Long 0% intro APR

Discover it® Balance Transfer Graphic of Discover it® Balance Transfer Balance transfer offer:

18 months

Great For:

Balance transfers and cash rewards

Chase Freedom Unlimited® Graphic of Chase Freedom Unlimited® Balance transfer offer:

15 months

Great For:

Balance transfers and purchases

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer Graphic of Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer Balance transfer offer:

18 months

Great For:

Balance transfers and cash back

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card Graphic of Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card Balance transfer offer:

21 months

Great For:

Long 0% intro APR

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card Graphic of Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card Balance transfer offer:

15 months

Great For:

0% intro APR and unlimited cash rewards

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card Graphic of Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card Balance transfer offer:

15 billing cycles

Great For:

Balance transfers and purchases

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express Graphic of The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express Balance transfer offer:

15 months

Great For:

$0 intro balance transfer fee

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