Best Balance-Transfer Credit Cards
Transferring high-cost credit card debt to one of our picks of the best balance-transfer credit cards can help you chip away at debt with the power of a jackhammer. We've compiled this in-depth guide to help you get rid of debt by guiding your to our favorite offers and outlining some balance-transfer credit card essentials. Let's get started!
Best for: Balance transfers and cash rewards Discover it® Balance Transfer
- INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
- Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs 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.
- Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
- No annual fee.
Best for: Balance transfers and purchases BankAmericard® Credit Card
- 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, then, 14.74% - 24.74% Variable APR. 3% fee (min $10) applies to 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
Best for: Long 0% intro APR offer Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card
- 0% Intro APR for 18 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a 16.90%-26.74% variable APR; balance transfer fees apply
- Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card
- Free access to your FICO® Credit Score with Wells Fargo Online®
- Zero Liability protection for promptly reported unauthorized transactions
- Convenient tools to help create a budget and manage your spending with My Money Map
- $0 Annual Fee
- Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms, and conditions
Best for: 0% intro APR and unlimited cash rewards Capital One® Quicksilver® Card - 0% Intro APR for 15 Months
- 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; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that
- 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
- Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Best for: Balance transfers and purchases Chase Freedom®
- Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
- Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
- Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
- Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – it's automatic
- 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
- Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
- Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit JourneySM
- No annual fee
Best for: Low interest rate and $0 balance transfer fee offer Barclaycard Ring® Mastercard®
- Enjoy a 0% intro APR for 12 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable 13.74% APR will apply
- Low 13.74% variable APR on purchases and cash advances
- No annual fee
- No foreign transaction fees
- International Chip and PIN
Best for: Long 0% intro APR Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
Credit Rating Requirement:
- 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 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness*
- 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%%, 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
- $0 liability on unauthorized purchases and Citi® Identity Theft Solutions
- No annual fee*
- Free access to FICO® Scores*
Best for: Balance transfers and cash back Citi® Double Cash Card
Credit Rating Requirement:
- Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay
- Balance Transfers do not earn cash back
- 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.24% - 25.24% based on your creditworthiness
- Click 'Apply Now' to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases
- No categories to track, no caps on cash back, no annual fee
Best for: $0 intro balance transfer fee Amex EveryDay® Credit Card
Credit Rating Requirement:
- 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.
Best for: Long 0% intro APR offer U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
Credit Rating Requirement:
- 0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 20 billing cycles. After that, a variable APR currently 11.74% - 23.74%
- Great Offer for Customers of U.S. Bank, a 2018 World's Most Ethical Company® - Ethisphere Institute, February 2018
- No Annual Fee
- Flexibility to choose a payment due date that fits your schedule
- Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your U.S.Bank Visa® Platinum Credit Card. Certain terms, conditions, and exclusions apply.
Get our latest tips and uncover more of our top picks to help you conquer your money goals
- Jump to
- Why you can trust us
- How we picked the winners
- What is a balance transfer?
- Using balance transfers to pay off debt faster
- The balance transfer card checklist
- Everything about balance transfer fees
- What the best balance transfer credit cards offer
- Credit scores and balance transfer cards
- Use a balance transfer offer the smart way
Why you can trust us
Combined, we’ve published over 2,300 finance articles that have appeared on sites such as MSN, Yahoo!, and AOL. Perhaps most relevant, we both helped to launch The Ascent’s credit card ratings strategy by analyzing over 300 credit card offers and 6,000 data points to nail down our top picks.
How we picked the winners
Many financial decisions can be boiled down to a few key factors, whereas mostly everything else is noise that risks overcomplicating straightforward financial decisions as paralysis by analysis kicks in. We want to help you confidently find the right cards for your needs, which is why the lens through which we picked the top balance-transfer credit cards focuses heavily on the following features:
- Length of the 0% intro APR for balance transfers
- Inclusion and length of a 0% intro APR for purchases
- Fees, including balance transfer fees and annual fees
- Access to a FICO credit score for free
What is a balance transfer?
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.
How do balance transfers work?
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 American Express to Bank of America, then your Amex balance will decrease by $5,000, and your Bank of America card balance will increase by $5,000 (plus any applicable balance transfer fees).Importantly, you cannot typically 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.
How to save money with a balance transfer
Using a 0% intro APR balance transfer to refinance existing credit card debt can save you a fortune in interest over the 0% promo period. The difference between paying 0% in interest and 18% in interest is substantial, particularly for people who have larger balances.
The table below shows you how much you can save in interest by using a 0% intro APR balance transfer offer to pay off a $5,000 credit card balance during the promo period compared to paying down the same debt over the same period of time at an 18% APR.
Interest saved by paying off a $5,000 balance with a 0% intro APR card
The amount of interest you can save is highly dependent on the duration of the balance transfer offer, the interest rate you pay on your existing debt, and how much debt you have to repay. That said, most people will find that a 0% balance transfer offer can save them hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in interest compared to a balance carried at an ordinary double-digit APR.
Using balance transfers to pay off debt faster
Balance transfers can help you save money on interest, which can equate to helping you pay down your debt faster. That’s because your payments will be applied solely to the principal (not interest) during the 0% intro APR period.
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.
The balance transfer card checklist
A balance transfer credit card is not for everyone. In the right hands, a balance transfer credit card can be a powerful financial tool used to pay off debt. Used incorrectly, however, a balance transfer credit card can be used to get even deeper into 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.
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 at double-digit interest rates while making little to no progress paying down the balance they moved in the first place.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.
Everything about balance transfer fees
The typical fee is $5 or 3% -- 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 or 5%, whichever is greater. On a $5,000 balance, that means you could pay $150 to $250 in fees just to move the balance to another card.
Balance transfer fees are added to your balance -- 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’s our view that people who are serious about paying down credit card debt should prioritize cards that waive balance transfer fees for new cardholders, or do not have balance transfer fees at all, even if it means getting a shorter 0% intro APR period.
The table below shows you how a 15-month 0% intro APR offer without balance transfer fees works out to be a slightly better deal than a 21-month 0% intro APR offer that carries a 3% balance transfer fee when paying off a $5,000 balance with $200 monthly payments.
Comparing two balance transfer cards for a $5,000 balance
|Balance transfer APR offer||Transfer fee||Monthly payment||Time to pay off debt||Total fees and interest|
|0% for 15 months, 18% thereafter||$0||$200||26 months||$183.24|
|0% for 21 months, 18% thereafter||3% of the transfer amount||$200||26 months||$192.97|
Many people overvalue a longer 0% promo APR, falsely believing that it makes sense to pay a fee for a longer 0% intro period. But in this example, the shorter promo period is actually better. That’s because transfer fees are assessed on all amounts you transfer, whereas interest is only charged on amounts that remain after the 0% intro period expires. By the time the interest kicks in on either offer, much of the debt has already been repaid!
What the best balance transfer credit cards offer
There are four things you should look for when it comes to balance transfer cards.
- A long 0% intro APR period of at least 15 months
- Low or no balance transfer fee -- 3% and lower is competitive
- 0% APR on purchases if you plan to make purchases with the card
- Free access to your credit score
For obvious reasons, the best credit card for balance transfers should offer a long 0% intro APR on balance transfers and little to no fees to transfer a balance. If you plan to use the balance transfer card to make purchases, you want to find a card that offers a 0% APR on purchases, too.
A 0% intro APR on purchases is more important than you might think. Suppose you have a card with a $5,000 balance, of which $4,000 is from a 0% intro APR balance transfer, and $1,000 is from purchases you made a month after getting the card. When you receive your statement in the mail, the credit card might require you to make a minimum payment of at least $200, or 4% of your balance that month.
If you make the minimum payment of $200, all of the payment would be used to pay down the $5,000 balance transfer at a 0% APR. However, if you pay more than the minimum… say, $1,000, then $200 would be applied toward the 0% APR balance, and $800 would be applied toward the $1,000 purchase balance.
By law, credit card companies only have to apply amounts in excess of the minimum monthly payment to your highest APR balance. That means that if you don’t pay an amount equal to your purchase balance and minimum payment each month, you might end up paying down your 0% intro APR balance transfer while racking up purchase debts at an 18% APR. This can be a costly mistake.
You can avoid this problem all together by employing one of three basic strategies:
Only use balance transfer cards for purchases when they offer 0% intro APRs on balance transfers and purchases for the same length of time.
If a 0% balance transfer card does not offer a 0% intro APR on purchases, don’t put purchases on the credit card until the 0% balance transfer APR expires, or until you pay off the 0% APR balance transfer.
When you make a monthly payment, pay an amount equal to your purchase balance for that statement plus the minimum payment to avoid building up a purchase balance at a high APR. If your minimum payment is $100 and your purchase balance is $500, you should pay at least $600 to avoid interest on the purchase balance.
All three of these strategies will enable you to get the full benefit of a 0% into APR on balance transfers and avoid building up debt from purchases at high interest rates. The easiest route often makes the most sense -- transfer a balance to get a 0% promo APR and then avoid using the card for purchases until the transfer is paid off or the 0% promo APR expires.
Credit scores and balance transfer cards
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.
Use a balance transfer offer the smart way
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.
As for actually using a balance transfer, there are only five things you need to do:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here are the best balance-transfer credit cards
- Balance transfer offer
- Best For…
Balance transfers and cash rewards
15 billing cycles
Balance transfers and purchases
Long 0% intro APR offer
0% intro APR and unlimited cash rewards
Balance transfers and purchases
Lowest ongoing rate
Low interest rate and $0 balance transfer fee offer
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
Long 0% intro APR
Citi® Double Cash Card
Balance transfers and cash back
Amex EveryDay® Credit Card
$0 intro balance transfer fee
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
20 billing cycles
Long 0% intro APR offer