Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards of September 2022

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The average American credit card balance is $5,221, according to a 2021 study from credit bureau Experian. A cardholder with that balance could save thousands of dollars in interest by using a balance transfer card, according to our analysis.

Balance transfer credit cards offer a method of debt payoff in which you move your debt from one or in some cases multiple sources to a credit card with an introductory 0% interest rate. This can help you save time and money, as your payments go directly toward your principal balance throughout the intro period without accruing interest.

Before You Start

You should do whatever you can to pay off your balance in full by the end of the introductory period to make use of these offers. If you don’t, you’ll accrue interest once again after the intro period ends—or possibly be charged retroactive interest, prolonging your payoff and continuing the debt cycle.

Our Picks for the Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards

NextAdvisor’s Pick
Good for Long Intro Period Wells Fargo Reflect® Card
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Wells Fargo Reflect® Card
Editor’s Score: (4.2/5)
Apply Now externa link icon At Wells Fargo’s secure site. See Rates & Fees.
Good for Long Intro Period Wells Fargo Reflect® Card
Editor’s Score: (4.2/5)
  • Introductory balance transfer rate:
    0% intro APR for up to 21 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    15.99% – 27.99% Variable APR
  • Recommended credit score:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)

NextAdvisor’s Take

Pros
  • Long intro APR
  • No annual fee
  • Cell phone protection against damage or theft
Cons
  • No rewards
  • High APR after the introductory offer ends
  • Must meet requirements to get up to 21 months of 0% intro APR
The Bottom Line
The no annual fee Wells Fargo Reflect Card offers an initial 0% intro APR on purchases and qualifying balance transfers for 18 months from account opening, with the potential for an intro APR extension for 3 months with on-time minimum payments during the introductory period. After that, there will be a variable APR of 15.99% to 27.99%. It’s light on added perks and has no rewards, but carries one of the longest 0% intro periods available today.

Additional Card Details

  • Get a 0% introductory APR for up to 21 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers — start with a 0% intro APR for 18 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, then unlock three additional months with on-time minimum payments during the 18-month offer, then a 15.99% to 27.99% variable APR thereafter
  • Cell phone protection against damage or theft worth up to $600 when you pay your bill with your eligible Wells Fargo card (subject to a $25 deductible)
  • Get access to My Wells Fargo Deals: earn cash back as an account credit when you shop, dine or enjoy an experience using your eligible Wells Fargo card
  • Roadside dispatch
Good for Avoiding Fees Citi Simplicity® Card
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Citi Simplicity® Card
Editor’s Score: (4.0/5)
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Good for Avoiding Fees Citi Simplicity® Card
Editor’s Score: (4.0/5)
  • Introductory balance transfer rate:
    0% for 21 months on Balance Transfers
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    17.74% – 27.74% (Variable)
  • Recommended credit score:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)

NextAdvisor’s Take

Pros
  • 0% Intro APR for 21 months for balance transfers and 12 months for purchases (then variable APR 16.99% to 26.99%)
  • No annual fee
  • No late payment fees or penalty APR
Cons
  • No rewards
  • No welcome offer
  • 5% balance transfer fee ($5 minimum)
The Bottom Line
The Citi Simplicity Card has one of the longest 0% introductory periods available for balance transfers, at 21 months from the date of your first transfer. For purchases, cardholders can benefit from 12 months of 0% interest, making this a great card option for consolidating debt or financing planned major expenses (16.99% – 26.99% variable APR thereafter).

Additional Card Details

  • Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening
  • Includes Citi Identity Theft Solutions protection
  • Choose your payment due date
  • Digital wallet compatible
Good for Overall Value U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
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U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
Editor’s Score: (4.1/5)
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Good for Overall Value U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
Editor’s Score: (4.1/5)
  • Introductory balance transfer rate:
    0% for 20 billing cycles on balance transfers
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    16.74% – 26.74% (Variable)
  • Recommended credit score:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)

NextAdvisor’s Take

Pros
  • Long 0% interest intro offer for purchases and balance transfers
  • No annual fee
  • No penalty APR
Cons
  • Fees for late or returned payment
  • 3% balance transfer fee ($5 minimum) applies
  • No rewards structure
The Bottom Line
U.S. Bank Visa Platinum is a solid option for a 0% interest intro offer on new purchases as well as balance transfers, and it’s easy to see why: its 20-billing-cycle intro period (16.74% – 26.74% variable APR thereafter) is among the longest available. You won’t earn any ongoing rewards, but for debt payoff or forgoing interest on new purchases, this card is a great choice.

Additional Card Details

  • 0% introductory APR for 20 billing cycles on new purchases
  • 0% introductory APR for 20 billing cycles on balance transfers posted to your account within 60 days of account opening
  • Balance transfer fee of $5 or 3% of balance, whichever is greater
  • No penalty APR
  • Cellphone protection for damage or theft up to $600 for up to two claims per year with a $25 deductible.
Good for (Relatively) Lower Variable APR BankAmericard® credit card
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BankAmericard® credit card
Editor’s Score: (3.9/5)
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Good for (Relatively) Lower Variable APR BankAmericard® credit card
Editor’s Score: (3.9/5)
  • Introductory balance transfer rate:
    0% Intro APR for 21 billing cycles for any BTs made in the first 60 days. A 3% fee (min. $10) applies.
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    14.24% – 24.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • Recommended credit score:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)

NextAdvisor’s Take

Pros
  • Lengthy 0% APR offer for purchases and balance transfers
  • No annual fee
Cons
  • No ongoing rewards or benefits
  • 3% balance transfer fee (minimum $10)
  • 3% foreign transaction fees
The Bottom Line
The BankAmericard credit card* is a simple 0% interest card best suited for anyone looking to consolidate high-interest credit card debt from other cards or pay off an upcoming purchase over time. It doesn’t offer any rewards, but you can pay down your debt interest-free with one of the longest 0% introductory offers on the market.

Additional Card Details

  • Introductory 0% APR on purchases for 21 billing cycles, as well as on balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening (14.24% – 24.24% variable APR thereafter)
  • 3% balance transfer fee (minimum $10)
  • FICO Score for free, updated monthly
Good for Keeping it Simple HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card
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HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card
Editor’s Score: (3.9/5)
Learn more externa link icon At our partner’s secure site. See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply.
Good for Keeping it Simple HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card
Editor’s Score: (3.9/5)
  • Introductory balance transfer rate:
    0% Introductory APR on balance transfers for the first 18 months from account opening
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)
  • Recommended credit score:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)

NextAdvisor’s Take

Pros
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 18 months
  • Late-fee waiver (can use once per year) and no penalty APR
Cons
  • No cash back or travel rewards
  • No welcome offer
  • High balance transfer fee
The Bottom Line
The defining feature of the HSBC Gold Mastercard is its 18-month 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers (13.99% to 23.99% variable APR thereafter). This introductory rate makes it a good balance transfer option, and also offers a way to finance larger purchases with 0% interest (provided you pay off the balance within the 18-month intro period).

Additional Card Details

  • The defining feature of the HSBC Gold Mastercard is its 18-month 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers (13.99% to 23.99% variable APR thereafter). This introductory rate makes it a good balance transfer option, and also offers a way to finance larger purchases with 0% interest (provided you pay off the balance within the 18-month intro period).
  • Balance transfer fee of 4% or $10, whichever is greater
  • Mastercard Airport Concierge delivers 15% savings on Airport Meet and Greet services
  • Travel accident insurance
  • MasterRental Coverage when you rent for 15 consecutive days or less
Good for Ongoing Rewards Citi® Double Cash Card
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Citi® Double Cash Card
Editor’s Score: (4.9/5)
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Good for Ongoing Rewards Citi® Double Cash Card
Editor’s Score: (4.9/5)
  • Introductory balance transfer rate:
    0% intro for 18 months on Balance Transfers
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    16.99% – 26.99% (Variable)
  • Recommended credit score:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
Rewards rate:

Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.

NextAdvisor’s Take

Pros
  • Great limited time welcome offer
  • Flat cash back on every purchase
  • 18-month 0% intro APR for balance transfers (16.24% to 26.24% variable APR thereafter)
  • No annual fee
Cons
  • 3% balance transfer fee ($5 minimum) completed within the first 4 months of account opening. After that, your fee will be 5% of each transfer (minimum $5)
  • Delayed cash back rewards if you carry a balance
The Bottom Line
The Citi Double Cash Card has a straightforward rewards structure that gets you up to 2% back on everything — which is great if you’re looking to maximize savings on every purchase you make. It also shines as a debt management tool, with an 18-month 0% intro rate for balance transfers (16.24% to 26.24% variable APR thereafter). And for a limited time, you can benefit from the great welcome offer of $200 after spending $1,500 within the first six months.

Additional Card Details

  • Extra incentive to pay down your balance in full: You’ll earn only 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and the other 1% when you pay it off
  • 18-month 0% intro period on balance transfers, 16.24% to 26.24% variable APR thereafter
  • Redeem cash back for statement credits, direct deposit, check, or convert cash back value to Citi ThankYou points
  • Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening and a 3% ($5 minimum) fee applies, After that, your fee will be 5% of each transfer (minimum $5)

Other Balance Transfer Credit Cards We Like

In addition to the cards on our list above, we believe these credit cards can also make a great choice for paying down debt with a balance transfer. Some have more lengthy intro periods ideal for paying down large sums, while others are primarily rewards cards that also offer solid intro periods for balance transfers.

Good for Flat Cash Back Over Time Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
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Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Editor’s Score: (4.6/5)
Apply Now externa link icon At Wells Fargo’s secure site. See Rates & Fees.
Good for Flat Cash Back Over Time Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Editor’s Score: (4.6/5)
  • Introductory balance transfer rate:
    0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    17.99%, 22.99%, or 27.99% Variable APR
  • Recommended credit score:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
Rewards rate:

Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases.

NextAdvisor’s Take

Pros
  • Unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases
  • Valuable welcome bonus
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers (17.99%, 22.99%, or 27.99%) variable APR thereafter)
  • Cellphone and travel protections
Cons
  • High variable APR after introductory offer ends
  • No bonus categories to maximize
  • 3% foreign currency conversion fee
The Bottom Line
The Wells Fargo Active Cash Card comes with an enticing 2% cash rewards on purchases, along with a valuable welcome bonus. You won’t pay an annual fee, and can also benefit from the 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers (followed by a variable APR of 17.99%, 22.99%, or 27.99%.

Additional Card Details

  • 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers (followed by a variable APR of 17.99%, 22.99%, or 27.99%).
  • Cell phone protection worth up to $600 when you pay your bill with your eligible Wells Fargo card (subject to a $25 deductible)
  • Visa Signature® Concierge service
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
  • Roadside dispatch
Good for Rotating Bonus Categories Chase Freedom Flex℠
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Chase Freedom Flex℠
Editor’s Score: (4.7/5)
Apply Now externa link icon At Chase’s secure site.
Good for Rotating Bonus Categories Chase Freedom Flex℠
Editor’s Score: (4.7/5)
  • Introductory balance transfer rate:
    0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    17.24% – 25.99% Variable
  • Recommended credit score:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
Rewards rate:

5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter! 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

NextAdvisor’s Take

Pros
  • Extensive tiered rewards structure
  • Rotating bonus rewards categories every quarter
  • Valuable welcome bonus offer
  • 0% introductory APR for purchases and balance transfers
  • No annual fee
Cons
  • High ongoing APR after intro period
  • Rotating quarterly bonus categories capped after $1,500 in spending
  • Keeping track of rewards categories may be more complex than some other cash back cards
The Bottom Line
The Chase Freedom Flex card offers cash back rewards in rotating rewards categories that will let you save where you spend the most. Plus, you’ll earn rewards in ongoing bonus categories year-round.

Additional Card Details

  • 0% introductory APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers (17.24% – 25.99% variable APR thereafter) ; intro balance transfer fee of $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater in the first 60 days
  • 5% cash back on qualifying Lyft rides through March 2025
  • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Cell phone protection
  • Free credit score and monitoring
  • Access to Chase Offers savings
Good for Long Intro Period for Balance Transfers Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
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Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
Editor’s Score: (4.0/5)
Learn more externa link icon At our partner’s secure site.
Good for Long Intro Period for Balance Transfers Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
Editor’s Score: (4.0/5)
  • Introductory balance transfer rate:
    0% for 21 months on Balance Transfers
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    16.74% – 26.74% (Variable)
  • Recommended credit score:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)

NextAdvisor’s Take

Pros
  • Intro 0% interest on balance transfers for 21 months
  • No annual fee
  • Welcome offer
Cons
  • 5% balance transfer fee ($5 minimum)
  • High variable APR after the introductory period ends
  • No rewards and few cardholder benefits
  • Penalty APR up to 29.99% variable
The Bottom Line
The Citi Diamond Preferred Card can help you save money with 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months and balance transfers for 21 months (15.99% – 25.99%, variable APR thereafter). Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening. That makes it one of the longest offers available today for paying down a large purchase over time or eliminating debt balances without accruing more interest.

Additional Card Details

  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from account opening (15.99% – 25.99%, variable APR thereafter)
  • Balances must be transferred within 4 months of account opening
  • 0% intro APR on new purchases for 12 months from account opening (15.99% – 25.99%, variable APR thereafter)
  • 3% balance transfer fee (or $5, whichever is higher)
  • Qualify for Citi Entertainment benefits
  • Choose your payment due date

Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards of September 2022

Wells Fargo Reflect card

Good for: Long Intro Period

With the Wells Fargo Reflect, you’ll get a 0% intro APR for 18 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers. You can also get an extension of three months on the initial intro period, for a total of up to 21 months from account opening, if you pay your minimum monthly balance on time during the intro period. After the introductory period, the variable APR is 15.99% to 27.99%.

Citi Simplicity Card

Good for: Avoiding fees

You’ll have 21 months to take advantage of the 0% interest introductory period for this card (then it’s 16.99% to 26.99% variable APR). The Citi Simplicity Card has no penalty rate or late fees. 

U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card

Good for: Overall value

The U.S. Bank Visa Platinum will give you a lot of flexibility for paying off your debt. It has a 0% interest introductory period on balance transfers for 20 billing cycles (then it’s 16.74% to 26.74% variable APR).

BankAmericard Credit Card

Good for: (Relatively) lower variable APR

BankAmericard offers introductory 0% interest for 21 billing cycles on balance transfers you make within 60 days of account opening. After the intro period, any balances you carry take on a variable APR between 14.24% and 24.24%, lower than many other balance transfer options.

HSBC Gold Mastercard

Good for: Keeping it simple

The HSBC Gold Mastercard offers an 18-month introductory period of 0% interest for balance transfers, followed by an ongoing 13.99%-23.99% variable APR. You’ll also get a late-fee waiver once per calendar year.

Citi Double Cash Card

Good for: Ongoing rewards 

For rewards earning potential on top of your balance transfer, the Citi Double Cash Card is a solid choice. You’ll have 18 months of 0% interest on balance transfers, plus the opportunity to earn up to 2% cash back on every new purchase you make (1% when you make the purchase and 1% when you pay for the purchase). After the introductory period, the variable APR is 16.24% to 26.24%.

Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards Summary

CardWhat It’s Good ForBalance Transfer Period
Wells Fargo Reflect® CardGood for Long Intro PeriodUp to 21 Months
Citi Simplicity® CardGood for Avoiding Fees21 Months
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum CardGood for Overall Value20 Billing Cycles
BankAmericard® credit cardGood for (Relatively) Lower Variable APR21 Billing Cycles
HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit cardGood for Keeping it Simple18 Months
Citi® Double Cash CardGood for Ongoing Rewards18 Months

Other Balance Transfer Cards We Like Summary

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

Good for: Flat cash back over time

The Wells Fargo Active Cash offers 0% introductory APR for 15 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers and purchases. You can also earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on every eligible purchase, and a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 within the first three months. After the introductory period ends, you’ll have a variable APR of 17.99%, 22.99%, or 27.99%.

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Good for: Rotating bonus categories

The Chase Freedom Flex is a cash back credit card with an 0% introductory APR on both new purchases and balance transfers for 15 months from account opening, and a variable APR of 17.24% – 25.99% after that. The card also offers ongoing cash back rewards in rotating quarterly bonus categories, and a $200 welcome offer after you spend $500 within the first three months. 

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card 

Good for: Long intro period for balance transfers 

The Citi Diamond Preferred Card offers a 0% introductory APR on new purchases for just 12 months, but an extended intro period on balance transfers for up to 21 months. After that, there’s a variable APR of 15.99% – 25.99%. You can also choose your payment due date, but this card may not be the best pick if you want ongoing regards after you pay your balance. 

CardWhat It’s Good ForBalance Transfer Period
Wells Fargo Active CashGood for Flat Cash Back Over Time15 Months
Chase Freedom FlexGood for Rotating Bonus Categories15 Months
Citi Diamond PreferredGood for Long Intro Period for Balance Transfers 21 Months

What Is a Balance Transfer Credit Card?

A balance transfer is, essentially, a form of debt consolidation. Whether you accrued debt through long-term overspending, a period of temporary financial hardship, or from a loan with less-favorable terms, transferring the balance to a credit card with an introductory 0% interest rate can help you pay down your debt faster.

This strategy is beneficial because it applies payments you make throughout the introductory period directly to your principal balance, rather than having a significant portion of each payment go toward interest that’s accrued since your last payment. This is especially useful for credit card debt balances, given their substantial interest rates and daily interest accrual.

Keep in mind that a balance transfer can impact your credit. Opening any new credit card can have a temporary negative effect on your credit score, but paying down debt can ultimately help boost your score by lowering your credit utilization ratio and increasing your record of ongoing timely payments. 

How Much Can I Save With a Balance Transfer?

A balance transfer can potentially save you thousands of dollars, depending on your particular debt. Consider this example between two different balance transfer scenarios to making minimum monthly payments on a regular card. These numbers assume a balance of $5,700 and an ongoing interest rate of 16% outside of the intro period. 

Even if you’re unable to make the required monthly payments to pay off your balance in full, you will take on interest after the intro period ends. It may take more time to eliminate the debt altogether, but you can still save money with a balance transfer by prioritizing paying down as much of your principal balance as possible during this time.

Current Card Paying Minimum Monthly PaymentBalance Transfer Paid Within Intro PeriodBalance Transfer Paying Same Minimum Monthly Payment
Monthly payment$171 (will adjust as balance decreases)$391.40$171
Time to pay off189 months15 months37 months
Interest+Fees Paid$4,325.56$171$654.92
Amount paid in full$10,025.56$5,871$6,354.92

Pros and Cons of a Balance Transfer

Pros

  • Monthly payments go directly to principal balance during intro period

  • Many balance transfer cards carry no annual fee

  • Consolidate multiple types of debt to one card (not just credit card debt)

  • Some cards offer rewards and benefits that can be valuable after your balance is paid

Cons

  • Requires discipline to pay off balance in full by the end of intro period

  • Risk taking on high interest rate on remaining balance after intro period

  • Depending on your credit limit, you may not be able to transfer your full debt balance

How To Do a Balance Transfer

The journey to debt payoff can depend on your circumstances and financial situation. Here’s how balance transfers work for most credit card issuers:

  1. Review your financial situation: Check your current debt balance and determine how much you can dedicate to monthly payments.
  2. Find a balance transfer card with an introductory period that aligns with your payment ability and debt. Don’t forget to account for any fees that may apply.
  3. Make sure you have a good chance of approval before applying for the card. Read the fine print of the card’s terms for details on penalties or balance transfer restrictions.
  4. After approval, request your balance transfer. The clock starts on your intro period after approval, so act quickly to maximize the period in full.

Balance Transfer Limits 

Your balance transfer credit card’s limit will depend on your issuer, card, credit history, and other factors. The card’s overall credit limit determines how much you’re allowed to transfer, in addition to the balance transfer fee. For instance, you cannot transfer $5,000 if your limit is $5,000 and you have a 3% balance transfer fee. 

If you have a very high debt balance and you’re approved for a limit lower than your debt, you can still benefit from the balance transfer. Consider continuing to pay off as much debt as you can on your existing account while you also work toward paying down the balance transfer card. Before opening any balance transfer card, you should have a debt payoff plan in mind that aligns with the card’s intro period.

Before you apply, you can also make sure you’re getting the best credit limit possible by establishing good to excellent credit and listing all of your income when applying for the balance transfer credit card.

How To Compare Balance Transfer Cards

The right balance transfer offer should help you reduce as much existing debt as you can afford before interest kicks in. Your individual financial details — your total debt, amount you’re able to pay monthly, other financial obligations, etc. — can help you choose the card best suited for your debt payoff goals. As you compare offers, consider these card details:

  • Introductory Period: Intro periods may last 6, 12, 15, or 18 months (the highest available today is 20 months). A smaller balance may take less time to pay off, while a longer intro period can give you more flexibility to pay down a larger balance.
  • Balance Transfer Fee: A typical balance transfer fee ranges 3%-4% of your total balance, with a minimum of $5 or $10. There are also cards that charge no balance transfer fees, though they may offer shorter 0% interest intro periods. 
  • Other Fees and Penalties: Some balance transfer cards charge an annual fee along with other fees for late payments, returned payments, and more. You may also incur a penalty APR and even have your 0% interest offer revoked for late or missed payments. Review the penalties your card may charge (and how to avoid them) before applying.
  • Ongoing variable APR: Any remaining, unpaid balance at the end of the intro period will accrue interest at your assigned variable APR, along with new balances you carry on the card. These high interest rates can lead to more debt quickly, so it’s important to avoid carrying a balance whenever you can. Ignoring your APR is a common credit card mistake which can be detrimental to your credit and finances.
  • Rewards and Benefits: A card with ongoing rewards and benefits can add value to your spending after your debt is paid — if you pay any new purchases off in full each month. Consider how a balance transfer card with rewards or benefits might fit with your spending habits and maximize your purchases over time.

How To Maximize Your Balance Transfer Credit Card

The purpose of a balance transfer card is to pay down as much existing debt as you can throughout the intro period, before you accrue interest. Before applying, take time to establish a payoff plan and stick to it throughout the intro period. Here are a few strategies that can help you further maximize your balance transfer.

1. Start Early

Take full advantage of your intro period. If your issuer allows, apply for the balance transfer along with your card application. The clock starts on your intro period after account opening, so the sooner you can transfer your balance and begin paying down that principal, the better.

2. Calculate Your Payments

Do the math to determine how much you actually need to pay each month to pay your balance in full by the end of the introductory period. This is why it’s important to make sure it’s the right time for your debt payoff before you apply; the best way to maximize a balance transfer is by paying your debt in full before interest starts to accrue.

3. Make Extra Payments

If you receive extra money throughout your card’s intro period — a tax refund, for example, or cash gift — consider using it to make extra payments toward your debt. You can give yourself some added flexibility for future payments, or pay your balance down earlier than expected.

4. Don’t Take on More Debt

Dedicate your balance transfer card solely to debt payoff. Unless an emergency arises, don’t make any purchases with your new card over the course of the intro period. You also don’t want to risk coming too close to your credit limit and taking a hit to your credit score with a higher utilization ratio.

Alternatives To a Balance Transfer

Given today’s economic and interest rate environment, balance transfer offers are relatively scarce. Not only have many issuers pulled back their balance transfer terms, but some, including American Express, Capital One, and Chase, have temporarily eliminated introductory balance transfer offers altogether. 

If you have bad credit or a limited credit history, it will be difficult to qualify for a balance transfer card in 2020. That doesn’t mean you don’t have options, though. 

You may have a better chance of qualifying for a balance transfer with a local credit union or regional bank. But if your credit isn’t great right now, continuing to slowly chip away at your balances can help improve your credit and put you in a better position to apply for a balance transfer card further into your debt payoff journey. Consider different methods of debt consolidation, such as debt management plans or personal loan consolidation

Frequently Asked Questions About Balance Transfer Credit Cards

What is a balance transfer?

A balance transfer is a debt payoff method. Balance transfer credit cards offer an introductory 0% interest period on balance transfers, so you can transfer existing high-interest debt and pay down the principal balance interest-free for a period of time.

When is a balance transfer a good idea?

A balance transfer is a good idea only when you have the money to commit to monthly payments and you’ve established a plan to pay down your full balance (or as much as possible) by the end of the introductory period. If you don’t eliminate all or most of your debt within the 0% interest period, the remaining balance will accrue interest on your new card, which can quickly land you in the same position you were before.

What should I look for in a balance transfer card?

Start by choosing a balance transfer card with good approval odds for your credit range. Then, figure out your total debt balance and how much you can commit to monthly payments. This can help you determine the length of introductory 0% interest you should look for. Other factors to consider before applying include balance transfer fee, other fees and penalties, the ongoing APR, and any rewards or benefits.

Does a balance transfer help your credit score?

Opening a new credit card can have a negative effect on your credit score. You may take a temporary credit hit when the issuer runs a hard credit check to determine your creditworthiness. A new credit card can also lower your average account age. When you complete the transfer, keep your old credit account open, even if you don’t plan to use it often (especially if it was one of your first credit accounts).

But in the long run, eliminating debt through any method — including balance transfer — can help your credit score. Paying off debt builds your positive payment history, and reducing your debt balance can help you maintain a better credit utilization ratio, or the amount of credit you’re using versus your total available credit. These are the two most influential factors in your credit score.

Who can qualify for a balance transfer card?

Many of the best balance transfer credit cards require a solid credit history and good-to-excellent credit score (670 or higher) for the best chances of approval.

Methodology

EDITORIAL INDEPENDENCE

As with all of our credit card reviews, our analysis is not influenced by any partnerships or advertising relationships.

To determine the best balance transfer credit cards, NextAdvisor’s editorial team evaluated  balance transfer offers on cards currently accepting applications from major card issuers and networks based on national average consumer debt and interest rate data. 

We calculated overall savings, monthly payment, fees, and payoff period compared to paying off the same balance on an average credit card. You’ll see a breakdown of how these factors compare under each of our picks. We also considered intro APR, intro period length, time limit to request the balance transfer, fees, and ongoing APR. For cards with ongoing rewards, we accounted for rewards value over time.

*All information about the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card, HSBC Gold Mastercard credit card, Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum Credit Card, and SunTrust Bank Prime Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by NextAdvisor and has not been reviewed by the issuer.