The Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards
A card designed to help you consolidate your debt
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There are dozens of balance transfer cards out there — we compared rates, fees, and intro offers of the top 56 balance transfer cards. The best need to offer two things: no transfer fees and lengthy 0% APR grace periods, so you can pay off remaining debt at your own pace.
If you’ve got a lot of debt, you’re probably very familiar with the whole “make a payment every month; watch interest eat up half of that payment” thing. Even if you’re making more than the minimum payments on your credit cards, you’re still seeing a lot of your hard work — and money — go straight to interest payments, thanks to credit card APRs that might be anywhere from 12 to 25%. It can make those debts seem insurmountable.
Balance transfer credit cards can help ease that burden: Let’s say you have a balance on three different cards. Instead of paying interest on all three each month, you can move the outstanding debt from each card onto one, new card. While most cards charge a sizable fee to transfer outstanding debt from other cards, a balance transfer card charges low (or no) transfer fees and gives you extra time to pay off that balance interest-free. But everyone’s debt is different, and there are lots of different balance transfer credit cards to choose from.
But everyone’s debt is different, and there are lots of different balance transfer credit cards to choose from. Our favorite is Chase Slate® because it has the best introductory offer out there: No balance transfer fees for 60 days, and 0% intro APR for 15 months. No other cards offer that double-whammy of savings, making it especially appealing if you’re transferring thousands of dollars in debt.
If you’ve done the math and know you need a little more time to pay off your balance, the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever has the longest 0% intro APR grace period of them all — a whopping 21 months.
For those who want to pay down old debt, but are ready to take on “new debt” responsibly, there are balance transfer credit cards that offer perks. Our favorite is the Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer, which offers 5% cashback on rotating product categories, 1% cashback on everything else, and a gracious 18 months of 0% intro APR on balance transfers.
The only caveat is that all of the best balance transfer credit cards are for people with at least average — if not good or excellent — credit. Our pick for a poor credit balance transfer credit card is the Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee, which requires a cash security deposit to open the card, but then offers a relatively low 10.99% APR for the first six months.
How We Found the Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards
We reviewed over 50 different balance transfer credit cards, looking for which ones had the right criteria:
- 0% APR for at least 12 months. Most cards have a 0% APR grace period that ranges from six to 21 months; we wanted cards that offer at least a year without interest payments.
- 0% APR applicable to both balance transfers and new purchases. A person trying to pay down old debt may still need to use a credit card for new purchases — and although it’s best to pay off new debt in full every month, we know it’s not an option for everyone.
- Balance transfer fees at 3% or lower. This is the second-lowest balance transfer fee available — some cards offer 0%; some offer 3%, and it goes up from there.
- No annual fee. We avoided cards that have an annual fee because there are so many good options that don’t.
Of the 56 cards we reviewed, 11 fit what we were looking for. From there, we narrowed down the best options by looking for which cards offered the lowest fees and the longest 0% APR period. Then, since all of the cards that fit our criteria were for people with good or excellent credit, we went back to our initial list to find a card that would help people with bad credit transfer balances and pay down their debts as well.
We didn’t consider rewards or APR after the initial 0% APR expired. These can be nice perks, , but a good balance transfer card isn’t about racking up airline points or getting cash back on gas — it’s about transferring your debt for as little money as possible and paying it down over a reasonable period of time. And all of these cards are going to charge you interest at some point, so we focused on the cards that gave you the most time to pay down your debt interest-free.
Our Picks for the Best Balance Transfer Cards
Chase Slate® is the only balance transfer credit card that offers both a $0 intro balance transfer fee and 0% introductory APR. If you’ve got a lot of debt to transfer, this might be the right card for you. Let’s break it down:
If you’re looking to transfer a large amount of credit card debt in order to pay it off interest-free, Chase Slate® lets you make that transfer without paying any fees. Other cards, like the Discover it® Cashback Match, charge balance transfer fees of at least 3%, which means an extra $3 is tacked on to your debt for every $100 you transfer. If you have $5,000 in credit card debt, that’s an extra $150 you won’t have to pay if you use Chase Slate®.
You’ll need to be quick though: That no-transfer fee expires after 60 days — if your account has been open for longer than that, you’ll be charged $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Chase Slate® also offers a 0% introductory APR on both balance transfers and purchases for 15 months after you open your account. After 15 months, expect a variable 15.99% to 24.74% APR depending on your creditworthiness.
Heads-up: If you currently have a Chase credit card with promotional pricing, you will not be eligible for a second Chase promotional pricing offer. If you already have a Chase credit card in a similar Chase Rewards Program, you may not be eligible for Chase Slate®.
The Citi Simplicity® Card – No Late Fees Ever charges a 3% balance transfer fee, but once you’re done with that, it offers 0% intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 21 months — the longest of any card out there. Even better: there is no penalty or fee for making a late payment. If you need to work down your debt slowly by making smaller payments over a longer period of time — and are worried you might slip here and there — this is a great option.
What do “smaller payments” look like in reality? If you have $3,000 in credit card debt, paying it off over 21 months means making payments of $143 per month (plus the initial 3% balance transfer fee, which would be $90 in this example). Paying your $3,000 debt off on a balance transfer card like Chase Slate®, which offers a 15-month 0% intro APR, means contributing $200 per month. Paying it off in 12 months tallies up to $250 per month.
The caveats: You must make your balance transfers within the first four months of opening the account, and after 21 months, APR jumps to 15.24% – 25.24% — which is comparable to our other top picks.
Discover offers two cards that are great for balance transferring and offer cashback rewards: the Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer card and the Discover it® Cashback Match™ card.
These two cards are neck-and-neck for cashback rewards. They both earn 5% cashback in different purchase categories that change every quarter (gas, for example, and then restaurants) and 1% on every other purchase. Discover will also match the cashrewards that new members accrue in their first year for both cards.
The main difference lies in their balance transfer offerings, and the card that is right for you depends on your debt and your spending habits.
The Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer offers a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months, and a 0% intro APR on purchases for six months. That means you have a year and a half to pay off the outstanding debt you transferred to your card interest-free. However, you’ll start paying interest on any new debt after six months.
This card is good for people who have a large amount of “old debt” that they’re working to pay off, but are also ready to manage “new debt” responsibly and pay it off in full every month. Just remember that, unlike Chase Slate®, this card also charges a 3% fee on all balance transfers.
The Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer card has a 3% balance transfer fee, then offers a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months, and a 0% intro APR on purchases for six months. That means you have 18 months to pay off the outstanding debt you transferred to your card interest-free, but you’ll start paying interest (expect a variable APR of 12.24% – 24.24%) on any new debt after six months.
This card is good for people who have a large amount of “old debt” that they’re working to pay off, but are also ready to manage “new debt” responsibly and pay it off in full every month.
The Discover it® Cashback Match™ card also has a 3% balance transfer fee, but offers 0% intro APR on both balance transfers and purchases for 12 months — a little less time to pay off your balance transfer than the Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer card, but a little more time to pay off any new debt interest-free.
If you’re using your balance transfer credit card for day-to-day purchases, having a card that offers cashback rewards makes sense. However, don’t let a cashback rewards program lure you into additional debt; make sure you pay off those new purchases in full every month.
One more thing to be aware of: Some merchants do not accept Discover, so make sure it isn’t the only payment tool in your wallet.
The Discover it® Secured Card – No Annual Fee is designed to help you build or rebuild your credit. It’s a “secured card,” which means you pay Discover a security deposit that is equal to the credit line they offer you (a $500 deposit for a $500 credit line, and so on).
Those with poor credit don’t get the perk of a 0% APR, but we liked the Discover it® Secured Card – No Annual Fee because it has a relatively low 10.99% intro APR on balance transfers for the first six months, which is a lot better than the 20% or more you pay on high-interest credit cards. As you build up your credit score, you’ll be eligible for better credit card options with lower and lower APR.
We also liked the Discover it® Secured Card because it lets you earn cash back right away: 2% on restaurants and gas stations (up to $1,000 in purchases every quarter) and 1% on all other purchases. Discover will even match your cash back earnings after 12 months if you are a new cardmember.
To take advantage of the Discover it® Secured Card – No Annual Fee, you have to transfer your balance within four months of opening the account, and once that six-month introductory period is over, you’ll pay 24.24% APR on any unpaid balance transfers, as well as on all new purchases.
Our Top Picks at a Glance
0% Intro APR Period
Balance Transfer Fee
Balance Transfer Window
APR After Intro Period
0% for 60 days, then $5 or 5% of each transfer, whichever is greater
15.99% to 24.74%
$5 or 3% of of each transfer, whichever is greater
15.24% - 25.24%,
18 mo. balance transfer / 6 mo. for new purchases
15.24% - 25.24%
14 mo. balance transfer and new purchases
12.24% - 24.24%
*0% intro APR is not available with the Discover it® Secured Card – No Annual Fee card.
How to Choose the Best Card for You
Only you can determine which balance transfer credit card is your best option, but here are some questions to consider as you make your decision:
- What’s your credit score? Take a look at your credit score before you start applying; some of the best balance transfer cards are only available to people with good or excellent credit. If you have poor credit, consider the Discover it® Secured Card – No Annual Fee.
- Where’s your debt coming from? None of the credit cards on our list allow you to transfer debt from another credit card within the same issuing system — Chase Slate® won’t let you transfer debt from other Chase cards or from loans made by Chase and its affiliates; you can’t transfer Citi debt onto the Citi Simplicity® Card – No Late Fees Ever.
- How much debt are you trying to pay down? We don’t know what credit limit you’ll get on your new balance transfer credit card, but if your outstanding debt is higher than your balance transfer card’s credit limit, you’re going to need to make more than one balance transfer to get everything paid off and to take advantage of the 0% intro APR period.
- How much of a monthly payment can you afford? Take a look at your household budget and figure how much money you can put aside every month to pay off your outstanding debts. Then see which balance transfer card allows you to fully pay off those debts, with the monthly payment you can afford, in the 0% intro APR period available.
- Are you planning to also use this credit card for day-to-day purchases? If you’re planning to use this card to make day-to-day purchases, consider one of the Discover it® cards so you can take advantage of the cashback rewards. Pay off your new purchases in full every month so you don’t accumulate new debt.
- Are you planning to also use this credit card to finance a large purchase? It’s possible to use a balance transfer card’s 0% intro APR period to both transfer a balance and finance a new large purchase, such as an upcoming vacation.In that case, stay away from the Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer card, because it only gives you a 0% intro APR on purchases for the first six months — unless you know you can pay that large purchase off before the six-month period expires.
- Is your income variable? If you don’t receive steady paychecks, consider a card like the Citi Simplicity® Card – No Late Fees Ever, which doesn’t penalize you for late payments.
Did You Know?
It’s a good idea to keep your old cards open after you transfer your balances.
It might sound counterintuitive, but you shouldn’t close out all your existing accounts right away. Why? Your credit score is partially based on the amount of debt you have compared to the amount of credit available to you, and you want that debt-vs.-credit number to be as low as possible.
For example, if you have $1,500 on Card A (with a $3,000 credit limit) and $500 on Card B (with a $3,000 credit limit), you have $2,000 in debt and $6,000 in available credit. If you get a balance transfer card with a $5,000 credit limit and transfer both of those debts to the card, you now have $2,000 in debt and $11,000 in available credit — which is better for your credit score.
There’s another reason to keep those cards open, and it has to do with what credit score services call “age of credit.” Simply put, the longer you’ve been able to keep a credit account open, the better it looks on your credit score. Close those accounts and you lose all of that good credit you’ve built up.
Transferring a balance can help you get a better credit card.
When should you close out an old credit card? Consider closing out an old card if it has an annual fee. You don’t need to pay $100 or so every year for a credit card you’re not actively using.
As your credit score goes up, better credit cards — with better interest rates and rewards — become available to you. Applying for a balance transfer credit card and successfully transferring and paying down a balance will likely make your credit score increase.
Once your score is high enough, you can apply for one of those cards designed for people with good or excellent credit, and reap the rewards (think cashback, airline points, the works!). Just make sure to pay off that balance every month.
If your balance transfer card’s credit limit is less than your outstanding credit card debt, transfer your highest interest debt first.
Let’s say you have $5,000 in outstanding credit card debt, but your new balance transfer card only has a $3,000 credit limit. Look at your outstanding credit card debt and figure out which card is charging you the most interest. Transfer that debt first. As you start to pay off your balance transfer credit card, you can continue to transfer more outstanding debt.
The Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards: Summed Up