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The best balance transfer credit cards

By Mitch Strohm · Bankrate.com
Sunday, January 15, 2017
Posted: 6 pm ET
Courtesy of bbernard/Shutterstock.com

Courtesy of bbernard/Shutterstock.com

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The best balance transfer credit cards offer lengthy interest-free periods, low fees and lenient late-payment policies. Some even offer rewards.

CARD SEARCH: Compare balance transfer credit cards today.

If you're paying high interest on credit card debt, balance transfer cards provide an opportunity to pay it off interest free. That can mean saving hundreds of dollars, depending on the 0 percent intro period, fees and other factors.

While there's no one-size-fits-all balance transfer card, there are options that appeal to a wide range of consumers.

CreditCards.com rounded up the best balance transfer cards for its recent annual balance transfer card competition, and the finalists were then rated by a panel of judges to narrow down the top three and choose an honorable mention.

Here are the three best balance transfer credit cards, and an honorable mention, according to CreditCards.com:

The best balance transfer credit cards
Balance transfer credit card Intro period Transfer fee
Citi Simplicity® Card 21-month 0% intro APR 3% of the amount transferred
Citi® Double Cash Credit Card 18-month 0% intro APR 3% of the amount transferred
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard® 12-month 0% intro APR 3% of the amount transferred
Honorable mention: Chase Slate® 15-month 0% intro APR 0% for transfers during the 1st 60 days of account opening, 5% after that

1. Citi Simplicity® Card

The Citi Simplicity® Card takes the top spot in CreditCards.com's competition for its outstanding promotional offer and lenient stance on late payments.

Highlights:

  • The Citi Simplicity® Card offers a 0 percent intro APR for 21 months on purchases and balance transfers. That's the longest interest-free intro period available.
  • There are no late fees with this card, giving borrowers the flexibility and help they need to pay off high-interest debt.
  • This card has no annual fee and no penalty rate, making it a great choice for consumers on a budget.

Fees and APR:

  • After the 21-month 0% intro period, this card has an ongoing variable APR of 13.49 percent to 23.49 percent.
  • The balance transfer fee is 3 percent of the amount transferred, which is on the low end of the typical 3-5 percent transfer fee.
  • There's no annual fee, no penalty APR and no late fees with the Citi Simplicity® Card.

Who should get this card:

  • The Citi Simplicity® Card is ideal if you need around two years to pay off your high-interest debt in full. And because of its generous stance on late fees, it's also a solid option if you need flexibility with payments.

Disadvantages:

  • Unlike some of its competitors, the Citi Simplicity® Card doesn’t offer the ability to earn rewards for purchases.
  • Though this card's 3% balance transfer rate is on the low side, a 3% balance transfer on multiple cards with a high balance can add up fast.

Bottom line

With the longest interest-free period available, the Citi Simplicity® Card is an optimal choice if you're looking to transfer a big balance and pay it off over a lengthy period. And if you need a little bit more flexibility with payment dates, you'll benefit from this card's no late-fee policy.

2. Citi® Double Cash Credit Card

The Citi® Double Cash Credit Card's long no-interest balance transfer period, its low balance transfer fee and its generous rewards program earns it second place in CreditCards.com's competition.

Highlights:

  • The Citi® Double Cash credit card offers cardholders an 18-month 0 percent intro period, well above average for balance transfer cards.
  • The balance transfer fee for the Citi® Double Cash Credit Card is 3 percent of the amount transferred, on the low side of the typical transfer fee range.
  • The Citi® Double Cash credit card offers 1 percent cash back on general purchases and an additional 1 percent when you pay your bill on time. With the chance to earn double rewards, this is an industry-leading card for cash back on general purchases.
  • The Citi® Double Cash credit card has perks including purchase protection, and trip cancellation and interruption protection.

Fees:

  • There's no annual fee with the Citi® Double Cash, making it an affordable option if you're on a budget.
  • The balance transfer fee for this card is 3 percent of the balance transferred or $5, whichever is greater.
  • After the 18-month 0 percent intro period, the Citi® Double Cash card has an ongoing variable APR of 13.49 percent to 23.49 percent.

Who should get this card

  • The Citi® Double Cash credit card is ideal if you want an extensive no-interest intro period and the option to earn rewards. It can also act as a great card if you're planning on paying off a major purchase slowly.

Disadvantages:

  • The intro period on the Citi® Double Cash isn't quite as long as the Citi Simplicity® Card's. If you're looking for more time to pay off a high balance, you may want to opt for the latter.
  • This card charges a late fee of up to $35. There's no charge for the first late payment.

Bottom line

The Citi® Double Cash card isn't traditionally used as a balance transfer card, but it's generous 0 percent intro period on balance transfers make it a solid option for paying down debt. Unlike some other balance transfer cards, it doubles as a top cash-back card, giving you a reason to keep the card after your debt is paid off. But if you're looking for a simple balance transfer card, you may benefit from other options.

3. Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard®

The bronze medal in the competition goes to the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard® for its combination of an ample 0 percent interest intro period and a generous rewards program.

Highlights:

  • Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard® comes with a 12-month interest-free period on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening.
  • This card has a balance transfer fee of 3 percent of the amount transferred, on par with other cards on this list.
  • With this card, new cardholders can earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in purchases within the first 90 days.
  • This card offers 2x miles on all purchases and 5 percent miles back as a redemption bonus, to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem.

Fees:

  • After the 0 percent 12-month intro period, and for all balance transfers that occur after 45 days, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard® has a variable APR of 16.24%, 20.24% or 23.24%, depending on your creditworthiness.
  • For purchases, this card comes with a variable APR of 16.49 percent, 20.49 percent or 23.49 percent, depending on your creditworthiness.
  • There's an annual fee of $89 for this card that's waived for the first year.

Who should get this card

  • The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard® is good for the individual that's looking to pay off high-interest debt within a year and also pick up a great travel rewards credit card.

Disadvantages:

  • The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard® comes with an annual fee of $89. While that's waived for the first year, it can put a damper on rewards if the card isn't used frequently.
  • The 0 percent introductory APR on this card is 12 months, shorter than the intro period for the other cards on this list.

Bottom line

While the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard® is typically used as a travel rewards card, its policy on balance transfers is good enough to compete. If you're interested in paying down debt while also earning rewards for travel, this card is a good choice. But if you're looking for a straight balance transfer option with a longer no-interest APR period, a card like the Citi Simplicity® Card could prove to be a better option.

Honorable mention: Chase Slate®

The Chase Slate® credit card gets an honorable mention in the competition for its extended balance transfer period and its balance transfer fee policy.

Highlights:

  • The Chase Slate® gives cardholders a 15-month no-interest intro period on balance transfers, which is certainly better than average.
  • There's no balance transfer fee if you transfer a balance during the first 60 days the account is open. After that, the fee for future balance transfers is 5 percent of the amount transferred with a minimum of $5.

Fees:

  • After the 15-month intro period, the rate for purchases and balance transfers on the Chase Slate® is a variable 15.49 percent to 24.24 percent.
  • There's no penalty APR for late payments with this card, offering cardholders flexibility with payments.
  • This card has no annual fee, keeping costs low for cardholders.

Who should get this card

  • The Chase Slate® is a good option if you're looking for a simple balance transfer card with a moderate 0 percent intro period, a 0 percent balance transfer fee and flexibility on late payments.

Disadvantages:

  • While the Chase Slate® has a better-than-average 0 percent APR intro period, it's certainly not the longest on the market.
  • There are no rewards offered with the Chase Slate®, something you'll find with other cards.
  • With the Chase Slate®, your balance transfer can't exceed $15,000 or your credit limit, whichever is lower. You also can't transfer debt from another Chase account.

Bottom line

The Chase Slate® is a great honorable mention, offering an adequate no-interest period and no fees on balance transfers for the first 60 days of account opening. It can offer significant savings for consumers. But if you need more time to pay down your balance, the Citi Simplicity® Card could be a better choice.

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