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Author: Madison Blancaflor | Last Updated: April 5, 2019
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Quick comparison: Bankrate’s best balance transfer credit cards of 2019
|Wells Fargo Platinum card
||Long intro period & financial planning and tracking
|Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
||Recently extended 0% intro APR offer
|Discover it® Balance Transfer
||Overall balance transfer value
|Barclaycard® Ring Mastercard®
||Low balance transfer fee
|BankAmericard® credit card
||No penalty APR
|Citi® Double Cash Card
|HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card
||Low regular variable APR
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®
|Capital One® SavorOneSM Cash Rewards Credit Card
||Dining and entertainment
|Citi Simplicity® Card
||Best for longest 0% intro APR period and no late fees
Bankrate’s team of financial services experts have years of experience studying the financial services industry and offering thoughtful, tailored advice depending on your circumstance. We take your financial health as seriously as you do and focus on offering impartial and well-researched guidance for every stage of your financial life cycle. From mortgages to home loans, and personal loans to 0% APR cards, our team covers the spectrum of financial services. We are here to answer all your credit card questions. In the case of balance transfer credit cards, we have evaluated as many credit cards as possible to determine the best cards to suit your lifestyle.
We take into account every element of a balance transfer cards offering: From its introductory APR offer, its fees, and standard APRs, to additional perks and extra rewards. A good balance transfer credit card is one that allows you to consolidate high-interest debt, pay down what you owe at low-to-no interest, thereby saving you on interest and helping to improve your overall financial health. We also know that although a card may seem great on paper, it needs to work well for you, fit your lifestyle and provide the best tool for you to achieve your goals. Our Bankrate Score takes into account a number of factors but we have weighted what we consider to be the most important more heavily:
- Balance Transfer Fee: A good balance transfer credit card will offer a low fee on transferred balances and a great balance transfer credit card might not charge a transfer fee at all.
- 0% Introductory APR Offer: Balance transfer cards should typically have a long period — between 12 – 18 months — of 0% APR.
- Regular Variable APR: Regular variable APR is especially important to consider for balance transfer cards because this is the interest rate that you will be charged after the introductory 0% APR period.
- Rewards: Rewards may not be the main motivation behind getting a balance transfer card but we want to help you get the most value from your credit card. Many credit card providers offer rewards as an incentive for becoming a cardholder.
Debt can easily snowball, especially with credit card issuers constantly raising interest rates. It can cause a lot of stress and prevent you from meeting your overall financial goals. If you’re juggling balances on multiple credit cards, a balance transfer offer might be a great option for you. They help you pay down debt so you can focus on your other financial goals. According to the Federal Reserve’s March 2019 Consumer Credit report, American consumers have accumulated $1.05 trillion in outstanding revolving debt. That means the average American owes thousands of dollars in credit card debt.
Table of Contents:
The best balance transfer credit cards:
This card takes it a step farther than just helping you pay off debt with a long balance transfer offer. With the Wells Fargo Platinum card, you also receive access to the My Money Map budgeting and spending management system. If you are a current Wells Fargo banking customer, you’ll be able to keep your accounts organized within one app, too.
- The balance transfer offer is longer than average, giving you more time to pay off debt without interest charges.
- If you use your card to pay your cellphone bill each month, your smartphone is eligible for up to $600 in protection insurance (subject to a $25 deductible).
- You won’t earn rewards with this credit card, which means it may not be a great long-term credit card.
- If you don’t pay off your balance transfer within the 18-month 0% interest offer period, a 17.74% – 27.24% variable APR will apply.
If you’re searching for a simple way to earn rewards on new purchases while paying down existing credit card debt, the Capital One Quicksilver could be a good option. You’ll earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases, and the card offers a 15-month 0% intro period on purchases and balance transfers (16.24% – 26.24% variable APR after the intro period ends). While you might be able to find higher rewards categories with other credit cards, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better balance transfer offer on a card that offers such simple, straightforward rewards.
- Unlimited 1.5% cash back means no rotating categories and no cap on your earning potential.
- If you spend $500 within the first 3 months of account opening, you’ll receive a $150 cash bonus.
- If you’re willing to put in the effort to track bonus categories, you can find a higher-yield rewards structure with other credit cards.
- The intro period isn’t as long as other cards on our top balance transfer cards list.
The Discover it® Balance Transfer card offers one of the most competitive cash back rewards structures, a generous welcome offer and a solid balance transfer offer. It’s a great all-around credit card that both credit card beginners and experts can utilize. Cardholders can enroll in rotating 5% cash back categories (eligible on the first $1,500 in purchases each quarter; 1% cash back on all other purchases), plus an 18-month 0% balance transfer offer (14.24% – 25.24% variable APR after the intro period ends).
- The Discover it® Balance Transfer card will match the cash back you earn at the end of your first year. So, if you earn $500 throughout your first year with the card, Discover will give you an additional $500.
- This card offers a generous rewards structure alongside its balance transfer offer, meaning it will add value to your wallet long after the intro period ends.
- You have to enroll in the new 5% cash back categories each quarter.
- 5% cash back rewards are capped at $1,500 in purchases each quarter.
The Barclaycard Ring® Mastercard® doesn’t offer the most generous rewards program or the longest balance transfer offer period, but it does come with one perk that makes it incredibly attractive for some cardholders: a low regular variable APR at 14.24%. Additionally, the balance transfer fee is only 2% (or $5, whichever is greater) for balance transfers completed within 45 days of account opening, compared to 3% and 5% fees on other top cards.
- If you know you might have to carry a balance at some point, this is a good card to have in your wallet due to its low regularly variable APR.
- This card offers a lower-than-average balance transfer fee, which can help you save money on transfers made within the first 45 days.
- The card doesn’t come with a sign-up bonus or reliable rewards program.
- Only balance transfers made within the first 45 days of account opening are eligible for 15 months of no interest (14.24% variable APR afterward); no fee on balance transfers made after, but you’ll be required to pay the regular APR.
If you’re looking for a straight-forward balance transfer card, check out the BankAmericard® credit card. You’ll pay 0% interest for 18 billing cycles on balance transfers made within the first 60 days of account opening (15.24% – 25.24% variable APR after the intro period ends). This card doesn’t hold a candle to the rewards you’ll earn with other cards, but its simplicity is definitely an advantage for some no-nonsense cardholders.
- 18 billing cycles is a solid intro period length, and you could save hundreds by taking advantage of it (15.24% – 25.24% variable APR after the intro period ends).
- If you make a late payment, you won’t be subject to a penalty APR (a flat late fee may apply instead).
- You won’t earn rewards with this credit card.
- The card doesn’t offer any budgeting or spend management tools like some of the other balance transfer cards that do not come with rewards.
The Citi® Double Cash Card offers one of the highest flat-rate rewards rates, on top of a generous 18-month 0% balance transfer offer (15.74% – 25.74% variable APR after the intro period ends). You’ll earn 1% cash back on every purchase and another 1% cash back (2% cash back total) when you pay your bill. This card can help you pay off debt, but you’ll be able to keep it as your main credit card well after the intro period expires.
- It’s rare to find a card with such a stellar flat-rate rewards structure that also offers a lengthy intro APR offer.
- The card also comes with Citi Private Pass, which gives you access to exclusive discounts, presale tickets and more.
- The rewards you’ll earn with the card are worth far less than the interest you’ll accrue if you don’t pay off new purchases in full each month.
- There is a hefty penalty APR (up to 29.99% variable) that could be applied if you make a late payment.
If you have a history of paying your credit card bill late every once in a while, the HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card might be perfect for you. Once a year, HSBC will waive one late payment fee and forgo the penalty APR. The card also offers a 15-month 0% balance transfer offer and the potential for a low regular APR — a variable APR of 14.24%, 20.24% or 25.24% based on creditworthiness will apply after the intro period ends. If you have excellent credit, you could qualify for as low as 14.24% APR, which is a strong rate.
- Those with a forgetful streak when it comes to bills could find the annual waived late fee a lifesaver.
- The intro period is longer than average, giving you plenty of time to pay off debt.
- The balance transfer fee is 4% ($10 minimum), which is higher than other balance transfer cards.
- You’ll earn no rewards with this card.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers one of the most competitive flat-rate rewards structures available. In your first year, you’ll earn a whopping 3% cash back on the first $20,000 spent in purchases, and after, you’ll earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases. The card also comes with a 0% APR offer on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (17.24% – 25.99% variable APR after the intro period ends). If you’re looking for a great cash back rewards card that can also help you finance a large purchase or consolidate debt, you should seriously consider the Freedom Unlimited.
- If you maximize the 3% cash back potential in your first year, you’ll earn $600 in cash back.
- For such a great cash back rewards credit card, it offers a strong 15-month intro APR offer.
- The regular variable APR of 17.24% – 25.99% is higher than some of our other top balance transfer cards.
- The 3% cash back offer is only valid for new cardholders in the first year.
Another great rewards card that comes with a solid balance transfer offer, the Capital One® SavorOne(SM) Cash Rewards Credit Card is an excellent choice for those looking to maximize the long-term value of their balance transfer credit card. You’ll earn 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% cash back at grocery stores and 1% cash back on all other purchases — all with no annual fee. This is a great card for those looking to pay off a smaller balance while they rack up serious rewards on new purchases.
- This card has one of the best rewards structures that any balance transfer credit card offers.
- You’ll have 15 months to pay off any balance transfers with no interest (16.24% – 26.24% variable APR after the intro period ends).
- The regular APR is higher than the average balance transfer credit card, so make sure you can pay off your balance before the intro period is over.
- You need a high credit score to be approved for this card.
The Citi Simplicity offers the longest balance transfer intro period currently available. While the card doesn’t offer a lucrative rewards program, you’ll have 21 months of 0% interest to pay down balance transfers made within the first 4 months (16.24% – 26.24%). A longer intro offer period means your monthly payment would be lower, making this a great option for those with a lower monthly budget.
- There are no late fees, penalty APR and no annual fee — ever!
- The card also comes with Citi’s price rewind feature.
- You won’t get any rewards or earn a sign-up bonus with this card.
- The regular APR on this card (16.24% – 26.24% variable) is a bit high, meaning you could get stuck with large interest charges if you fail to pay off your balance transfer before the 21-month intro period ends.
How do balance transfers work?
Balance transfers can involve consolidating multiple debts onto one credit card. They can help you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in interest — most come with attractive 0% APR intro periods. In most cases, you’ll pay a small balance transfer fee (typically between 3% and 5% of each balance transfer) instead of compounding interest.
Balance transfers can also help you organize your budget and payment schedule. By combining balances, you’ll have just one payment once a month rather than juggling multiple payment due dates.
When you take full advantage of balance transfer offers, they can help you meet financial goals, save money and improve your credit score.
When is a balance transfer credit card offer a good idea?
A balance transfer credit card can be a lifesaver when — and this is the kicker — it’s used in the right situation. However, a balance transfer for the wrong reasons or under the wrong circumstances can cause financial stress and hurt your credit score.
Balance transfers are perfect for those looking to consolidate small amounts of debt.
Maybe you got caught up in the “churn and burn” mindset with multiple high-interest travel credit cards when you were younger. Or you could have gone through a rough patch financially last year, and you used credit cards to help you bridge the gap paycheck to paycheck. Now, you might be stuck with $10,000 in debt across 4 credit cards that are charging an average of 20% in interest. With a 15-month balance transfer offer, you would save $1,384 if you paid off the full balance within the offer period.
While a balance transfer can be a great way to streamline your monthly payments and pay off debt, they aren’t right for everyone. If your combined balance is higher than $10,000, you might want to consider other options. You typically can’t transfer a balance higher than your credit limit, and $10,000 is at the high end. (In fact, the average credit limit for a new credit line for an account holder with super-prime credit is $10,300, according to the American Bankers Association’s Q3 2018 Credit Card Monitor report. For other credit rankings, it’s much lower than that.) Furthermore, the larger the balance, the harder it will be to pay it all off within an intro offer period.
If you think a balance transfer isn’t quite right for your personal situation, consider getting a personal loan to help you consolidate debt.
Comparing balance transfer offers
There is a balance transfer card out there for just about every situation — whether you’re just looking for a no-nonsense card to consolidate debt or want a card that you can earn rewards with for years to come. Which one is right for you really depends on what you hope to use the card for, how much you are planning to transfer to the card and what you can feasibly put toward paying it off each month.
The first step is deciding what you hope to accomplish with your balance transfer credit card.
If you want to use the card long-term to earn rewards, you’ll want a card like the Capital One Quicksilver or Capital One SavorOne. These cards offer a solid intro offer, but they also come with some serious cash back earning potential. If you’re more interested in budgeting tools to help you stay on track, a more straightforward balance transfer card like the Wells Fargo Platinum card might be a better fit.
Once you have an idea of what type of card you want, you should compare offer details to find the one that works best for your balance and budget. Use our balance transfer calculator to figure out which card offer is right for you.
For example, let’s say you have good-to-excellent credit, and you’re looking to consolidate $10,000 on a balance transfer card. In this example, we’ll assume you aren’t concerned with the rewards rate or extraneous features of the card. Here are two of our top balance transfer credit cards:
||Wells Fargo Platinum Visa
||Barclaycard Ring Mastercard
|Intro period length
||18 months for transfers made within the first 120 days
||15 months for transfers made within the first 45 days
|Balance transfer fee
||$300 (3% of each transfer)
||$200 (2% of each transfer)
*Calculations made with the assumption that you will pay the balance transfer fee upfront and pay off a $10,000 balance within the intro offer period.
**Potential savings calculated by comparing how much interest you would accumulate across your other cards with an average variable APR of 20% and takes the balance transfer fee into account.
While it might be tempting to only pay attention to your potential savings, that’s not the only factor to consider. Although you would technically save more in this case with the Wells Fargo Platinum Visa, the regular APR is considerably lower with the Barclaycard Ring Mastercard.
If there is any chance that you could need longer than the intro period to pay off debt, it might be worth it to pick the card that has a lower APR rate, even if your potential savings aren’t quite as high.
Conversely, if you can’t budget more than $600 a month to pay off your balance, choosing the credit card with a longer intro period (which also means a lower monthly payment) is probably the better option for your specific situation.
How long is the average balance transfer offer?
The Credit CARD Act of 2009 states that introductory offers must by at least 6 months long, but offer periods range up to 21 months. The average is somewhere in the middle, with common offer periods falling at 12 months, 15 months or 18 months long.
Unless you’re transferring a very small balance (in which case your balance transfer fee might outweigh your potential interest savings), you probably want to have at least 12 months to pay off that balance. Which specific offer length is best for you really depends on your monthly budget.
Using the same $10,000 balance example from earlier, here are the monthly payments you would need to make on a 12-month, 15-month and 18-month balance transfer offer in order to avoid interest payments:
||Necessary monthly payment
|12-month intro period
|15-month intro period
|18-month intro period
What is the average credit limit for a balance transfer?
Typically, issuers will only let you transfer a balance plus fees that are no higher than your credit limit, and how that limit is determined is based on multiple factors. Two of the largest factors that most if not all issuers look at when determining your initial limit are your credit score and annual income. Usually the higher your credit score and income, the higher your credit limit.
If you want to make a balance transfer that exceeds your credit limit, you can call the issuer to ask if they will increase your credit limit. Explain your situation and why you are wanting a higher credit limit. It might help to say that you are trying to lower your utilization ratio. While it’s not a guarantee that they will approve the increase, it’s highly possible. The worst they can say is no, right? In fact, CreditCards.com found in April 2018 that cardholders had an 85% shot at getting a credit limit increase just by asking.
How much money can you save with a balance transfer offer?
If you’re paying down a large balance, a 0% intro offer can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Experian reported in Q3 2018 that the average credit card debt in America was $4,293 per person. Here’s how much you can save by consolidating balances totaling $4,293 with each of our top balance transfer credit cards:
||Balance transfer intro offer period
|Wells Fargo Platinum
||17.74% – 27.24% variable
|Discover it® Balance Transfer
||14.24% – 25.24% variable
|Capital One Quicksilver
||16.24% – 26.24% variable
|Barclaycard Ring Mastercard
||18 billing cycles
||15.24% – 25.24% variable
|Citi Double Cash
||15.74% – 25.74% variable
||14.24%, 20.24% or 25.24% variable
|Chase Freedom Unlimited
||17.24% – 25.99% variable
|Capital One SavorOne
||16.24% – 26.24% variable
|Citi Simplicity® Card
||16.24% – 26.24% variable
**Potential savings calculated by comparing how much interest you would accumulate across your other cards with an average variable APR of 20% and takes the balance transfer fee into account. Calculations made with the assumption that you will pay off a $4,293 balance within the intro offer period.
Do balance transfers hurt your credit score?
You might experience a temporary dip in your credit score after you complete a balance transfer. Applying for a new credit card involves a hard inquiry into your account and will shorten your average account age, and transferring multiple balances to one card will hurt your credit utilization ratio for that new card. These are all factors that go into the composition of your credit score.
However, consolidating your debt with a balance transfer credit card and successfully paying off your balance within the intro offer period can significantly reduce your overall credit utilization ratio and prove to lenders that you can be trusted to pay back lines of credit issued to you — both of which can drastically raise your credit score over time.
How to complete a balance transfer
Once you’ve applied for and received a balance transfer card, you’ll have a window in which to make qualifying balance transfers. Most issuers who have a balance transfer offer will have a process online or in their mobile app that allows you to make balance transfer requests.
You’ll have to know the account numbers of the cards you want to transfer balances from and the balance amounts you want to transfer from each.
Most issuers also allow you to make balance transfer requests via phone if you would rather not go through their online process.
How long do balance transfers take?
Timelines for processing balance transfers vary from issuer to issuer. On average, balance transfers take between 7 and 10 days, but it could take weeks.
Make sure you’re still making payments on those existing balances until you receive official confirmation that the balance transfer has gone through.
Should you close your old account after transferring a balance to a new card?
It can be tempting to cut up all of your old cards once you transfer your balance, but that can actually damage your credit score. One of the factors in determining your score is the average length of open accounts. If you close multiple accounts that you’ve had open for years, you could seriously reduce that average and subsequently hurt your score. Closing accounts also raises your credit utilization ratio (by taking away multiple lines of credit that factor into your overall average ratio), which can also lower your score.
If you keep those accounts open and use them for small purchases once a year (paying off those balances immediately), you can actually help strengthen your credit score over time.
The exception to this is if you have cards with annual fees. If you’re consolidating debt from multiple rewards credit cards with high annual fees, it might not be worth it to keep those in your wallet long-term if you don’t plan on consistently using them. However, keep in mind that if you close those accounts, the issuer might not let you reapply for the card for a specific time frame.
What types of debt can you transfer?
Balance transfers are primarily used to consolidate multiple balances from different credit cards. However, each issuer has its own rules for what types of debt you can transfer.
For example, Chase only allows customers to transfer credit card balances, but Bank of America and Citi both allow credit card balances, auto loans, personal loans, home equity and student loans to be transferred. Most issuers do not let you transfer a balance from an existing account with that same issuer.
Can you pay off a loan with a credit card?
Some issuers allow you to transfer loan debt to a credit card, but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Balance transfer credit cards are meant to help you consolidate smaller lines of credit, so you wouldn’t want to put a $20,000 car loan on a balance transfer credit card.
More importantly, loans often have much better interest rates and lower fees. While balance transfer credit cards often offer a 0% APR period, your balance transfer fee might actually be higher than your loan interest rate. Most of the time, it’s simply not worth it to pay off a loan with a credit card.
There are always exceptions, but make sure you do thorough research and potentially reach out to a financial advisor before you transfer a large loan balance to a credit card — even if the card has an attractive balance transfer option.