Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank’s website for the most current information.

Author: Bankrate Staff | Last Updated: September 10, 2018

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How we chose the best balance transfer credit cards

Bankrate’s team of credit card experts have analyzed over 1,000 balance transfer credit cards based on features such as the cards’ balance transfer offers, introductory 0% APR offers, rewards rates, and more. Our proprietary grading system allows us to make unbiased and objective recommendations so that you can find the best balance transfer credit card for your situation, consolidate your debt, and pay off what you owe with minimal interest.

Review criteria

The three most important features on a balance transfer credit card are the balance transfer fee, the 0% introductory APR offer, and the regular variable APR. These three elements make up what we consider to be a card’s balance transfer offer and are weighted the most heavily in our Bankrate Score for this category. We also consider each card’s rewards rate in our score so that you can be sure that the cards we recommend are ones that you will want to keep in your wallet long after your balance has been paid off.

  • Balance Transfer Fee – A balance transfer is when you move part or all of the outstanding balance that you owe from one lender to another. While a good balance transfer credit card will offer a low fee on transferred balances — usually around 3%-5% of the transferred amount, a great balance transfer credit card will not charge a transfer fee at all.
  • 0% Introductory APR Offer – The key perk of a balance transfer card is that it allows you to consolidate your loan and pay down your balance without incurring additional interest expense. Balance transfer cards should typically have a long period — between 12 – 18 months — of 0% APR. The longer the period without APR, the better. That’s why we pay close attention to the fine print around the 0% introductory APR offer to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
  • Regular Variable APR – The regular APR on a credit card is important regardless of the category that it falls under. However, variable APR is especially meaningful for balance transfer cards because this is the interest rate that you will be charged after the introductory 0% APR period. If you have a remaining balance after the 12 – 18 months with no interest, this is the interest rate that will be applied to what you still owe.
  • Rewards – Even though rewards may not be the main motivation behind getting a balance transfer card we want to help you get the most rewards value from your credit card. Many credit card providers offer rewards as an incentive for becoming a cardholder but rewards can get confusing. They can come in the form of cash, miles, or points. The Bankrate scoring method takes into account the type of reward, how you earn them, and how to make the most of them.

Bankrate’s top picks for balance transfer credit cards of 2018

Card Name Bankrate Score Best For
Discover it® Balance Transfer 91/100 Best overall balance transfer credit card
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card 82/100 Best for the longest balance transfer 0% APR offer
Capital One® Quicksilver® Card 93/100 Best for recently extended 0% intro APR offer
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express Card 86/100 Best for $0 balance transfer fee
Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card 81/100 Best for financial planning and tracking
BankAmericard® credit card 89/100 Best for long intro APR and no penalty APR
Citi® Double Cash Card 94/100 Best for balance transfer offer with cash back
Citi Simplicity® Card 88/100 Lengthy 0% intro APR period with no late fees
HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card 83/100 Best for a low regular variable APR
Chase Freedom Unlimited® 92/100 Best for balance transfer offer with straightforward rewards

Discover it® Balance Transfer

With the Discover it Balance Transfer credit card, you can consolidate your debt, maximize cash rewards in rotating bonus categories, and double your cash back rewards at the end of your first year of card ownership. Combine the introductory 18 months 0% balance transfer APR offer and the lucrative 5% bonus cash back categories, this card stands out as one of the best reward-earning balance transfer credit cards on the market. Keep in mind that the 5% cash back is in rotating categories each quarter, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.

Read Bankrate’s full Discover it Balance Transfer review.

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

The Citi® Diamond Preferred® card offers one of the longest 0% introductory periods on balance transfers at 21 months. This card is a great option to consolidate and pay down your debt. Aside from the generous balance transfer terms, this card doesn’t offer a sign-up bonus or rewards. However, for cardholders looking to pay down debt you get almost two years with this card, once you’ve chipped away at your balance you may want to consider a card offering more in rewards, such as the Citi Double Cash Card.

Read Bankrate’s full Citi Diamond Preferred Card review.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Card

The Capital One Quicksilver Card has one of the shortest intro balance transfer period of any of the cards on this list. However, it offers a straightforward 1.5% cash back rewards on everything you buy. You can collect your rewards in any amount, without having to accrue a minimum, and you can apply them as a statement credit or request a check to be mailed to you.

Read Bankrate’s full Capital One Quicksilver Card review.

The Amex EveryDay Credit Card from American Express

The Amex EveryDay Credit Card is an excellent balance transfer card. It is one of the few cards on the market with an intro 0% APR offer on both purchases and balance transfers, as well as no balance transfer fees on transfers made within 60 days of opening the account.

Read Bankrate’s full Amex Everyday Credit Card review.

Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card

The Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card offers a competitive 18-months 0% APR introductory period (after that the regular 17.24%-26.74% variable APR applies) on purchases and balance transfers. It’s important to note that to secure this introductory balance transfer rate you must make your transfer within 120 days of opening the account. In addition to the introductory APR offer, Wells Fargo gives cardholders free access to their FICO Credit Score as well as valuable financial planning and tracking tools with My Money Map budget and spending-management system to help you get on top of your finances.

BankAmericard credit card

The BankAmericard credit card is one of the best balance transfer cards. It has a 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for balance transfers made in the first 60 days. Unlike many other balance transfer cards that have a capped amount, you can transfer a balance of up to the credit limit you’re approved for.

Read Bankrate’s full BankAmericard credit card review.

Citi® Double Cash Card

The Citi Double Cash Card is a leader among balance transfer cards. It comes with a lengthy 18 month, 0% APR introductory balance transfer offer. Additionally, as long as you pay your balance in full every month, this card offers a competitive cash back rate on all purchases.

Read Bankrate’s full Citi Double Cash Card review.

Citi Simplicity® Card

Citibank is known for its long intro balance transfer periods, and the Citi Simplicity Card does not disappoint. With an 18-month, 0% intro APR offer, this card has one of the longest balance transfer periods on the market. While the Citi Simplicity Card does not offer any rewards or bonuses, it is hard to beat when it comes to giving cardholders the opportunity to get out of debt.

Read Bankrate’s full Citi Simplicity Card review.

HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card

This card comes with a very respectable 18-month 0% introductory APR on both purchases and balance transfers but it also boasts a potentially low regular variable APR rate (if you qualify, variable APR of 12.74%, 16.74% or 20.74% will apply). Additionally, the card charges no penalty APR, has a waiver on late fees and charges no foreign transaction fees. Altogether this makes for a good all-around balance transfer card that you can hold onto after the introductory period.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

While the Chase Freedom Unlimited may not be a card designed specifically for balance transfers, this card offers a substantial 15 month 0% intro APR offer on both balance transfers and purchases. In addition to the introductory offer, you will want to keep this card in your wallet for its uncomplicated rewards program that pays a respectable flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

Read Bankrate’s full Chase Freedom Unlimited review.

Balance Transfer Credit Card FAQ:

What is a balance transfer credit card?

In short, a balance transfer is when you move part or all of the debt you owe from one or more credit or store cards to another credit card that has a balance transfer introductory offer period to save on interest expenses. It basically allows you to consolidate your debt onto one card with a slow rate. So a balance transfer credit card is a tool for debt consolidation. Good balance transfer credit cards offer long introductory periods of 0% APR giving consumers up to 21 months, depending on the card that you choose, to pay off debt interest-free. Great balance transfer cards also charge low balance transfer fees (the charge, often a percentage, incurred when you make a transfer).

These cards are usually targeted towards consumers with good credit and less than $15,000 in credit card debt. Most cards have a limit on how much debt you can transfer, so be sure to check the specific terms for the card that you are applying for.

If you have a smaller amount of debt or can pay off your debt within a shorter window, you can consider getting a credit card that has both a balance transfer offer and a rewards offer. The upside of these cards is that many of them are cards that you will want to keep in your wallet, even after the balances are paid and the debts are gone. The rewards offers typically don’t apply to transferred balances, but they do allow you to earn cash back or rewards points on purchases that you make with your new card.

Things to consider before getting a balance transfer credit card

If you think a balance transfer card might be right for you, there are several things to consider. The key attributes of a balance transfer card are:

  • Introductory interest rate: Balance transfer cards come with lower introductory interest rates, often 0%. The longer this introductory period the longer you have to pay down debt with low-no interest.
  • Annual percentage rate (APR) after the introductory rate: Once the introductory period is over the card’s interest will revert to the standard variable APR rate which will depend on your individual creditworthiness. This rate can be very high so it’s important that you know what it is, when it will kick in, and be prepared for it.
  • Balance transfer fee: Most balance transfer cards charge a balance transfer fee anywhere between 3% to 5% of the amount being transferred. This would mean that if you transfer $5,000 to a card charging a 5% transfer fee then you will incur a $250 transfer fee.
  • Annual fee: Some cards charge an annual fee and this should be factored into your calculation when choosing a balance transfer credit card.
  • Minimum monthly payment: All credit cards charge a minimum monthly payment which is usually determined as a percentage of your balance, plus interest and any fees.
  • Late fees and over-the-limit fees: If you make your payment late or exceed your available credit limit most credit cards will charge a fee.

Under federal law, the introductory APR rate must last at least six months. Many balance transfer credit cards will offer introductory rates for longer periods, anywhere from 12 to 21 months depending on the issuer. This can amount to significant savings for those with a lot of credit card debt.

For example, if you’re transferring a balance of $10,000 from a card with a 17% APR to a balance transfer card with an introductory 15-month 0% APR offer, over the course of a year, if you didn’t touch that balance, you’d save $1,700 in finance charges that would have accrued on the old card.

Make sure to pay attention to the fine print around the introductory offer period. For some cards, you have to execute a transfer within a certain time frame to be eligible for the introductory rate. In your calculations make sure to factor in the balance transfer fee and make sure that you can make the minimum monthly payments. Read the terms carefully to decide what the best offer is for your circumstances.

How long is a typical balance transfer offer?

A balance transfer offer typically ranges anywhere from 9 months to nearly two years. Keep in mind that many cards also charge a balance transfer fee, typically ranging from 3% to 5% of the amount being transferred, so it pays to do the math before making a transfer to see how much you’ll ultimately save.

It’s important to remember that the length of time you have at 0% is a limited time offer, meaning you’ll likely have to transfer the balance within a certain period of time after opening the account to qualify for the interest-free time period.

The Citi Diamond Preferred Card offers the longest introductory 0% APR balance transfer period at 21-months. You can pay down your debt at 0% APR for 21-months on balance transfers (from date of first transfer), after that, a variable APR of 14.74 – 24.74 percent will apply. You have to transfer the balance within four months of opening your account and there is a transfer fee or 5% or $5, whichever is greater.

You may want to compare the Citi Diamond Preferred’s lengthy offer against a card that has a shorter 0% balance transfer offer but doesn’t charge a transfer fee. The Amex EveryDay Credit Card comes equipped with an introductory 0% APR offer for 15 months with no balance transfer fee, as long as the transfer is made within 60 days of account opening. After that, a variable 14.74 – 25.74 percent variable APR applies and this card charges an annual fee of $95 which you will need to factor into your calculations. This card is one, however, that you may want to keep in your wallet after the introductory period is over as it offers 3x Membership Rewards® points on purchases made at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year, then 1x), 2x points at U.S. gas stations and 1x points on everything else.

How much can you save with a balance transfer?

Balance transfer credit cards can save the average adult cardholder up to $1,000 or more in interest payments. Total savings will vary based on how much you owe, your current interest rate, and how much you can pay per month towards your balance. Creditcards.com reports that the average credit card debt per U.S. adult with a credit card is $5,839, and the current credit card interest rate is 17.23% at the time of this writing. Here is how the savings break down with each of our top balance transfer credit cards, assuming a $250 monthly payment:

Credit Card Name Time to Payoff Balance Transfer Savings
Discover it® Balance Transfer 25 months $1,013
Citi Simplicity® Card 25 months $1,076
BankAmericard® credit card 25 months $1,102
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express 25 months $1,097
Capital One® Quicksilver® Card 25 months $900
Citi Double Cash Card 25 months $1,008
Chase Freedom Unlimited® 26 months $747

If you would like to enter your own information to calculate your savings, visit our balance transfer calculator.

Should you use a balance transfer?

Balance transfer credit cards can reduce the interest you pay on your total credit card debt, effectively lowering your monthly payments and saving you money on finance charges. These cards allow you to consolidate all of your credit debt onto one low-rate card.

These cards are typically designed for and offered to people with good to excellent credit. You may not qualify if your credit isn’t good. If you have bad credit, a personal loan might be a better option, especially if you can find a fixed-rate offer with a lower interest rate than what your credit card charges you.

Check your credit report for free before you apply.

However, if you are simply transferring balances from card to card without paying down what you owe, the new card won’t eliminate your debt woes. In fact, you could wind up exacerbating them because balance transfers can involve fees and often carry higher-than-average interest rates once the introductory period is over. Make a plan to pay down as much of your debt as you can within the introductory interest rate period.

The other big factor to consider is the credit limit on the card that you are transferring your balance to. Most balance transfer cards have a cap on the amount you can transfer. Make sure you find out how much you are allowed to transfer before applying for the card. Otherwise, you may not find out if your new account will be able to accept your balance until after the account is opened, and you’ll have to make payments on two credit cards.

All things considered, if used correctly, a balance transfer credit card can be a valuable tool to help you pay off what you owe and get out of credit card debt. The important things to remember are to read the fine print, understand all the charges, rates and fees associated with your card, and make sure that you can transfer your full balance to this new card. Have a plan in place to begin paying down as much of the balance as you can — ideally all of it — within the introductory APR window.

How do you do a balance transfer?

Completing a balance transfer is easier than you might think. After you apply for a balance transfer credit card, make sure to gather all the information you will need: credit card account numbers, bank names and addresses and the amount that you want to transfer to your new card.

The process to complete a balance transfer will vary slightly by credit card issuer but generally, the process will be to either call the customer service department or complete the transfer online. The new credit card company will contact your old credit card company and take care of moving your balance to the new card, which could take up to two weeks to complete. It’s important to follow up on your old cards to make sure they show a $0 balance before you stop making payments on them.

However, before you apply, be sure that you are ready to dedicate a portion of your budget to paying off your balance and have a debt payoff plan in place. While these cards can save you a substantial amount of money in interest, repeat applications for low-interest accounts as soon as your introductory offer expires can damage your credit score. Make a budget and take paying off your debt within the 0% APR time frame seriously.

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.