|Balance Transfer Card||Introductory APR||Annual Fee||Balance Transfer Fee|
|U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card||0% for the first 20 billing cycles||$0||3% or $5|
|Discover it® Cash Back Card||0% for the first 14 months||$0||3%|
|PenFed Gold Visa® Card||0% for the first 12 months||$0||3%|
|Aspire Platinum Mastercard®||0% for the first 6 billing cycles||$0||2% or $5|
>>Read the methodology our credit card experts use to determine the best balance transfer cards.
* Jump to most frequently asked questions about balance transfer cards.
Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards in October 2021
Trying to pay off credit card debt can be a huge undertaking. The interest rates alone can make it practically impossible to feel like you’re making meaningful headway. The good news is that, with the best balance transfer credit cards, it’s possible to tackle that debt a little bit faster. A balance transfer can take away the interest charges for a limited period of time, allowing you to put all of your payments toward principal.
If you’re looking for a way to bypass the interest and supercharge your debt repayment efforts, here are the best balance transfer credit cards available today.
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
While the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card does not offer rewards for everyday spending or a sign-up bonus, it’s designed specifically as a balance transfer credit card, and it does its job very well. Offering no interest on both new purchases and balance transfers for 20 billing cycles, the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card offers long-term zero interest with no annual fee.
Discover it® Cash Back Card
The Discover it Cash Back Card is a rewards credit card that also offers a generous 0% APR on both new purchases and balance transfers for the first 14 months of account opening. It charges an introductory balance transfer fee of 3%, but that transaction percentage can go as high as 5% outside of the initial offer. All in all, the Discover it Cash Back gives cardholders lots of time to pay down their transferred credit card balances, as well as new purchases. Add in the 5% cash-back rewards on quarterly rotating categories, and you have a lot of value for a card with no annual fee.
PenFed Gold Visa® Card
While the PenFed Gold Visa is not a rewards credit card, unlike many other strictly balance transfer cards, it does offer a sign-up bonus. New cardholders can earn a $100 statement credit after spending $1,500 during the first 90 days of account membership. That’s over 6% cash-back for your first $1,500 spent with the card. On top of the PenFed Gold bonus, you’ll also get 12 months of 0% interest on both new purchases and balance transfers. Afterwards, the APR raises; so be sure to pay off any credit card balances before the offer ends to avoid fees. Note that since Pen Fed is a credit union, you’ll need to at least open a no-fee, basic savings account before applying for any Ped Fed credit cards.
Aspire Platinum Mastercard®
At first glance, there’s not much to get excited about with the Aspire Platinum Mastercard. There’s no rewards or new account bonus. However, it’s main feature sets this card apart from its competitors. The Aspire Platinum is designed for people with fair credit who are looking do pay down high-interest debt and rebuild their credit. You’ll only get six months of introductory 0% interest on balance transfers and new purchases, but afterwards the variable APR is lower than other cards on this list. So if you’d rather pay lower interest on your credit card balance once the intro 0% APR concludes on month seven, then the Aspire Platinum could be the card to help you get back on your feet.
Balance transfer credit cards on this list were chosen to reflect a variety of spending styles and needs. Everyone has different preferences and goals, and this list is designed to help people with different expectations and needs in credit cards to have a better chance of choosing between some of the best balance transfer cards based on what works best for them.
It’s possible to find a balance transfer card that works for you, whether you’re looking for more manageable payments over a longer period of time or want to earn rewards on purchases even as you work toward paying down your debt.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is a Balance Transfer Credit Card?
Unlike travel cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Sapphire Reserve, a balance transfer card is a credit card specifically focused on encouraging consumers to move their debt. A balance transfer card usually offers a 0% APR for a limited period of time to attract borrowers who are tired of a high interest rate. In many cases, it’s possible to find a balance transfer card that will offer 0% APR on credit card balances for 12, 15, 18 or 21 months.
Generally, your new card issuer pays off your debt with the other creditor and you make payments to your new creditor instead.
What Is a Balance Transfer Fee?
Many credit card issuers charge a fee to handle the process of moving your debt from your old creditor to the new card. It’s common for balance transfer fees to be between 3% and 5% of the amount you transfer. Some creditors might also impose a minimum fee of $5 or $10. This fee is typically added to your credit card balance.
For example, if you transfer $2,000 to your new card, and the balance transfer fee is 5%, you’ll end up paying $100 to move the money. That amount is added to your balance, making it $2,100. However, the interest savings from moving your money could easily make up for your balance transfer fee.
How to Make a Balance Transfer
Most credit card issuers have their own instructions for making a balance transfer. In general, though, you need to provide the following information to your new creditor:
- Old creditor’s company name
- Your account number
- The payment addressed used to by your previous creditor
Make sure you follow the directions provided by your new creditor to ensure that your balances are transferred properly.
How Much Can You Save With a Balance Transfer Card?
The amount of money you can save with a balance transfer depends on the size of your credit card balance and your interest rate. Let’s say that you have $1,000 on a credit card with an APR of 17.49%. According to Bankrate’s calculator, if you make a payment of $50 each month, it will take you 24 months and you’ll pay $190 in interest over that time.
Now, if you get a balance transfer card with no balance transfer fee, you can pay $56 per month to have that debt paid off in 18 months — with no money going toward interest. That’s $190 you don’t have spend on interest. You could potentially save even more if you have a bigger balance or a higher interest rate.
For example, if you’ve got a credit card with a 22.49% APR and you’re only making $35 per month in payments, you’d pay $445 in interest and be in debt for 42 months.
You can see how a balance transfer, when you don’t have to pay interest, and you can make slightly higher payments, can save you hundreds of dollars. If you want to get out of debt faster, a balance transfer card can be a good step in the right direction.
Benefits of a Balance Transfer Card
Even with a balance transfer fee, though, you can still come out ahead with one of the best balance transfer credit cards. For example, let’s say you transfer $5,000 from a card with a 17.49% APR. You’re currently paying $200 per month. If you stick with that schedule, you’ll take 32 months to pay it off — and pay $1,263 in interest.
Now, if you perform a balance transfer to card with a 3% fee, you’ll have to pay off $5,150. If you can make a payment of $287 per month, you can have the total taken care of in 18 months, and save $1,113 in interest. Even paying the balance transfer fee, you come out ahead.
With a balance transfer credit card, you save money in interest and get out of debt faster.
What to Look for in a Balance Transfer Offer
When considering a balance transfer credit card, it’s important to pay attention to what matters to you, and what is likely to help you to reach your goals. Some features to pay attention to include:
- Introductory period: Pay attention to how long the intro period lasts. Many of the best balance transfer credit cards come with a period of 15 months. If you need longer, though, you can look for a card with an 18-month or 21-month intro period.
- 0% APR: Most balance transfer offers come with a 0% APR, but there are some with low rates of up to 3.99%. Try first for balance transfer offers that don’t charge interest so your entire payment goes to principal.
- No or low balance transfer fee: Your best results come when there’s no balance transfer fee. However, cards that don’t charge a balance transfer fee are few and far between. If you have a big balance, look for a card with no fee, or one that charges a lower 3% fee instead of a 5% fee.
- 0% APR purchase APR: When possible, look for a card that also offers 0% APR on new purchases. You might not get a purchase period as long as the balance transfer offer, but it can be a way to put off paying interest on purchases, especially if you’re making a large purchase.
- Rewards program and signing bonuses: Don’t forget to consider rewards programs and signing bonuses that can make cards more efficient. You can earn cash back that can then put toward paying down your debt. As long as you work toward paying off what you spend each month and have a plan to pay off your balance before the end of the intro period, you should come out ahead.
Prioritize different features based on your immediate needs so that your most pressing issues are handled first. You might have to make trade-offs in order to get the best result.
How Does Balance Transfer Impact Credit Score?
A balance transfer can have an impact on your credit score first by resulting in a hard inquiry. When you apply for a credit card, the hard inquiry can lower your score by right around five points. On top of that, opening a new credit card affects the average age of your credit. New credit can mean a lower average age, which can also have a small negative impact on your score.
However, over time, the positive impact on your credit score can outweigh these issues. When you complete your balance transfer, your credit utilization changes. You end up with a smaller ratio, which can boost your score. As long as you keep making on-time payments on the new card, you’ll see positive impacts from your payment history. Credit utilization and payment history account for about 65% of your FICO score. Properly managing a balance transfer can boost your score.
How to Pay Your Credit Card Debt
When the economy turns south, it’s important to take some time to review and update your personal finances with the goal of debt-free living. One place you certainly shouldn’t ignore is your credit cards.
1. Take an Inventory of Your Credit Cards
Start by taking an inventory of your credit cards to make sure you understand the whole picture. You might have some cards you use every day and some older cards you don’t use very often. Whether they have a balance or not, it’s a good idea to make a list of every card you have.
When making your list, note these details for each card:
- Card name
- Card balance
- Interest rate
- Minimum payment (if you carry a balance)
- Type of rewards (cash back or travel)
- Rewards rates and bonus categories
With a solid list of cards in front of you, it’s easier to know which card to use when. Try to maximize the rewards, particularly with cash-back cards. But don’t spend any extra just to earn rewards and never spend more than you can afford to pay off in full every month by the due date.
There is no specific rule on the right number of cards to have. Review your typical spending habits and budget to make sure your card gives you the best rewards where you spend most.
2. Review Your Credit Card Annual Fees
If you have credit cards without annual fees, it’s a good idea to keep them even if you don’t use them regularly. Keeping credit cards open and in good standing for a long time can help build your credit. Closing cards with a positive payment history hurts your credit.
With many people looking to trim extra spending in their budgets, cutting cards with annual fees can make sense. Annual fees are well worth it for many people who get more back in rewards and benefits than the cost. But if you have a card that isn’t worth the cost to you, it may be worth making some changes.
Start by calling the number on the back of the card and asking to downgrade to a no-annual-fee version, if possible. This preserves your credit while lowering your annual fees. If there are no downgrades available, it may be the right move to cancel.
3. Consolidate Balances With 0% APR Offers
When writing about credit card rewards, I always remind readers that they should only use cards if they can pay off the balance in full every month. Doing so helps you avoid paying any interest charges. If you have outstanding balances on your cards, this could be a good time to consolidate and pay them off, if you’re able. Opening a new balance transfer credit card with a np-interest offer allows you to combine balances from other cards into one new card.
With a 0% introductory period, you can stop paying interest on your card for a year or two, depending on the card. This is hopefully enough time to pay off your balances for good. Just be sure to look out for balance transfer fees before applying for a new card. Balance transfer fees are often worth it, however, if they can save you a small fortune on interest every month.
The economic fallout from COVID-19 signaled many issuers to change their balance transfer benefits amid concerns that consumers would not be able to pay down their debts. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express once offered introductory no-interest balance transfer APR, but has since cancelled the benefit. Similarly, the Chase Slate once offered long-term zero-interest balance transfer APR, but has also withdrawn the offer.
4. Don’t Treat Credit Cards Like an ATM
One important rule: Don’t treat your credit card like an ATM. Cards have cash advance features, but those usually come with big fees and higher interest rates than regular purchases. In general, it’s a good practice to only use your credit cards for purchases you would have made anyway and can afford to pay off in full by the monthly due date.
If you find yourself in a dire financial situation, your best bet may be to put some living expenses on the card. However, try to keep that to an absolute minimum so you don’t get into a ton of debt that will be hard to pay off later.
I use my credit card for every single purchase and have never paid a penny in credit card interest. If you can follow the same habits, credit cards are an excellent financial tool to use in good or bad economic times. Just use your card with care to avoid excess debt that you’ll struggle to pay off.