[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
If you’re trying to pay down a large credit card balance and you feel like you’re getting nowhere, one potential solution is to move your debts to a balance transfer card. Balance transfer cards often offer introductory periods of 0% interest, giving you time to pay down your balance without accruing additional debt.
If you’re looking for a balance transfer credit card, you should be examining the introductory period, transfer fees and any additional benefits the cards provide to help you decide which one is right for you. To help you get started, check out these cards, which all offer solid intro periods for you to pay down your balances interest-free. (Paying your debt down means you’ll be on the path to improving your credit utilization and, in turn, your credit scores. You can see two of your scores free on Credit.com.)
Balance Transfer Fee: $0 for 60 days, then $5 or 5% of the transfer amount, whichever is greater
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% intro APR for 15 months, then variable 15.74% to 24.49%
Annual Fee: None
Why We Picked It: This card has a lengthy 0% intro period and cardholders can avoid balance transfer fees for 60 days.
Benefits: Fifteen months is a solid intro period, and you can save further by completing your balance transfers within 60 days to avoid transfer fees. There’s also no penalty APR if you make a late payment.
Drawbacks: After the initial 60-day window, balance transfers incur a $5 or 5% transfer fee, which is higher than many competing cards.
Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 3% of the transfer amount, whichever is greater
APR: 0% intro APR for 21 months, then variable 14.24% to 24.24%
Annual Fee: None
Why We Picked It: Citi’s 21 months of interest-free financing is impressive. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
Benefits: With 21 months interest free, Citi Simplicity sets the bar high for balance transfer cards. That’s almost two years to pay down your balance. There are no late fees or penalty APRs.
Drawbacks: There are no rewards policies.
Alliant Visa Platinum Rewards Card
Balance Transfer Fee: None
APR: 0% to 5.99% intro APR for 12 months, then variable 13.99% to 23.99%
Annual Fee: None
Why We Picked It: Alliant Credit Union’s rewards card offers no balance transfer fees and a year with no interest. Plus, cardholders earn rewards points for valuable redemptions.
Benefits: Qualifying cardholders get a year of 0% APR and no balance transfer fees. They’ll also earn two points for every dollar spent in purchases and 5,000 bonus points when spending $500 in the first three months. Points can be redeemed for travel, gift cards, cash back and more.
Drawbacks: You’ll have to be an Alliant Credit Union member to access this card, although a simple $10 donation to Foster Care to Success can make you eligible. Beyond that, you need the right credit to qualify for the 0% intro APR offer. If you don’t, Alliant may impose an intro APR up to 5.99%.
Balance Transfer Fee: 3% of the transfer amount
APR: 0% intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers (6 months on purchases), then variable 11.74% to 23.74%
Annual Fee: None
Why We Picked It: Discover it offers 18 months of 0% APR on balance transers and earns cash back with a nice bonus the first year.
Benefits: Eighteen interest-free months is a solid time frame to catch up on debt. Cardholders also earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases for quarterly rotating spending categories such as gas, dining and home improvement. All other purchases get unlimited 1% cash back. Discover matches all earned cash back for the first year of the card.
Drawbacks: Earning cash back requires spending on the card, which may be counterproductive if you’re trying to pay down debt.
Barclaycard Ring MasterCard
Balance Transfer Fee: $0
APR: 0% intro APR for 15 months, then variable 13.74%
Annual Fee: None
Why We Picked It: This card has 15 months with no interest, no balance transfer fees and a decent APR once interest kicks in.
Benefits: For 15 months, cardholders can pay down their balances with no interest. They’ll also pay nothing for balance transfer fees. Once the interest kicks in, it’s a decent rate.
Drawbacks: The card’s Giveback rewards program is a profit-sharing feature that offers cardholders little control.
Choosing & Using a Balance Transfer Card
Assuming you intend to use your balance transfer card to pay down large balances, there are some things you should know about selecting and using these cards.
Before you apply for any card, you’ll want to check the APR that kicks in after the 0% intro period. If it’s higher than the APR on your current cards, think twice about applying. If you don’t manage to pay off your balance transfers before the intro period runs out, a card with a higher APR will slap you with a worse interest rate than you currently have.
The balance transfer fee also requires close attention. Some balance transfer cards won’t charge a fee on transfers, while others will charge $5 or 3% to 5% of the transfer amount. Depending on your current balances, this could wind up costing hundreds of dollars.
When you open a card, transferring your balances immediately will pay off. That’s because you’ll get the full intro period to pay down your balance interest-free. Also, if your card only offers free balance transfers for a limited time, you’ll want to take advantage while you can.
Finally, you’ll want to use the card in the most fiscally responsible way. Paying off your entire balance within the intro period will save you the most money, so you may want to figure out the minimum monthly payment required to accomplish that. Using the card for everyday spending will add to that balance, and if your focus is reducing debt, you’ll probably want to limit or completely avoid using the card for purchases until the balance reaches zero.
At publishing time, the Chase Slate, Citi Simplicity, Discover it and Barclaycard Ring MasterCard credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.