Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards

A balance transfer credit card is a handy financial tool that can help you pay off debt by transferring your existing balance to a new credit card with a 0% intro APR period. Some credit cards have balance transfer offers up to nearly two years, which can save you hundreds in interest payments. Check out our recommendations for the top balance transfer credit cards from our partners.

Best balance transfer cards offered in 2019:

Need more information?

Skip down to read our expert advice on balance transfer credit cards.

Best for overall balance transfer value

Discover Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Discover's secure website

Discover it® Balance Transfer

Rewards Rate:
Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Earn 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Welcome Offer:
Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% for 6 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% for 18 months
Regular APR:
13.49% - 24.49% Variable

Card Details

  • Intro Offer: Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • No annual fee.

Best for straightforward rewards

Capital One Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Capital One's secure website

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
Welcome Offer:
$150 after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% intro on purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% intro on balance transfers for 15 months
Regular APR:
15.74% - 25.74% (Variable)

Card Details

  • One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.74%-25.74% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 15.74%-25.74% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for longest 0% intro APR period and no late fees

Citi Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Citi's secure website

Citi Simplicity® Card

Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% for 12 months on Purchases
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% for 21 months on Balance Transfers
Regular APR:
16.24% - 26.24% (Variable)

Card Details

  • No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee... Ever
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from date of first transfer. All transfers must be completed in first 4 months. After that, the variable APR will be 16.24% - 26.24%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 16.24% - 26.24%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • If you transfer a balance with this offer, after your 0% Intro purchase APR expires, both new purchases and unpaid purchase balances will automatically accrue interest until all balances, including your transferred balances, are paid in full
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 16.24% - 26.24%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
  • Stay protected with Citi® Quick Lock and $0 liability on unauthorized charges
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for earning rewards as you go

Citi Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Citi's secure website

Citi® Double Cash Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn cash back twice. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% intro for 18 months on Balance Transfers
Regular APR:
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)

Card Details

  • Earn cash back twice. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.49% – 25.49%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Click "Apply Now" to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.49% – 25.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for no penalty APR

Bank of America Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Bank of America's secure website

BankAmericard® credit card

Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% Introductory APR on purchases for 18 billing cycles
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% Intro APR for 18 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days
Regular APR:
14.74% - 24.74% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Card Details

  • 0% Introductory APR for 18 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 14.74% - 24.74% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers
  • No annual fee
  • No penalty APR. Paying late won't automatically raise your interest rate (APR). Other account pricing and terms apply
  • Access your FICO® Score for free within Online Banking or your Mobile Banking app
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for overall versatility

Chase Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Chase's secure website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Rewards Rate:
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
Welcome Offer:
Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
Regular APR:
16.74% - 25.49% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for dining and entertainment

Capital One Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Capital One's secure website

Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment Earn 2% at grocery stores Earn 1% on all other purchases
Welcome Offer:
$150 after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% intro on purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% intro on balance transfers for 15 months
Regular APR:
15.74% - 25.74% (Variable)

Card Details

  • Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.74% - 25.74% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 15.74% - 25.74% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
Terms and Restrictions Apply

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.

Details about the BankAmericard® credit card were last updated on 10.01.2019.


Author: Barry Bridges | bbridges@bankrate.com


How to reduce debt with a balance transfer credit card

Debt can cause a major disruption in your personal finances, affecting not only your current situation but also your future opportunities. The good news is that you have the ability to calm things down with the help of a balance transfer credit card.

A balance transfer provides an easy and effective way to reduce debt while avoiding interest charges, either temporarily or altogether. Many banks and other financial companies offer credit cards designed specifically for balance transfers. It’s important to use them for that purpose rather than treating them like any other credit card.

The best credit cards for balance transfers offer an introductory period of 0% APR that lasts anywhere from 15 to 21 months. During that time, you have the chance to pay off the money you’ve borrowed (the principal) without having to pay for borrowing it (the interest).

What does it mean to you as a consumer? It means that any of the cards profiled on this page could help you avoid high-interest APR on a transferred balance until the year 2021. To hold up your part of the bargain, just keep making your monthly payments during the intro period until the balance reaches zero.

To learn more about how balance transfer credit cards work and how they can help you free yourself from debt, keep reading. To go ahead and start comparing offers, skip down to Bankrate’s recap of the best balance transfer credit cards.

The scoop on balance transfer credit cards

Compare 2019’s best balance transfer cards

Card Name Bankrate’s pick for Balance transfer Intro APR Period Regular APR
Discover it® Balance Transfer Overall balance transfer value 18 months 13.49% – 24.49% variable
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card Straightforward rewards 15 months 15.74%-25.74% variable
Citi Simplicity® Card Longest intro APR period and no late fees 21 months 16.24% – 26.24% variable
Citi® Double Cash Card Earning rewards as you go 18 months 15.49% – 25.49% variable
BankAmericard® credit card No penalty APR 18 billing cycles (made in first 60 days) 14.74% – 24.74% variable
Chase Freedom Unlimited® Overall versatility 15 months 16.74% – 25.49% variable
Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card Dining and entertainment 15 months 15.74% – 25.74% variable

A closer look at our top-rated balance transfer cards

Discover it® Balance Transfer

Why we rate it best for overall balance transfer value

The Discover it Balance Transfer combines a generous cash back rewards program with a better-than-average balance transfer offer, plus a welcome offer that’s worth waiting for. It’s a great all-around credit card that both credit card beginners and experts can use. You’ll need to enroll every quarter in the rotating 5% cash back categories (eligible on the first $1,500 in purchases each quarter; 1% cash back on all other purchases).

Pro-tip

If you plan to use it as both a balance transfer and rewards card, be extra diligent about paying your monthly statements in full and on time. A failure to manage your new card (including the transferred debt plus any new purchases you make with it) could defeat the whole purpose of your balance transfer.

Bottom line

This Discover card is more than a balance transfer card, as well as being more than a cash back card. Used correctly, it can provide a lot of value in the short term and the long term.

Read our full review and find out how to apply.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Why we rate it best for straightforward rewards

If you’re searching for a simple way to earn rewards on new purchases while paying down transferred debt, the Capital One Quicksilver could be a good option. You’ll earn 1.5% cash back on all eligible purchases, with no rotating categories, no calendars and no quarterly activations.

Pro-tip

Make $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening and you qualify for the sign-up bonus. What to do with your $150 cash bonus windfall? We recommend redeeming it for a statement credit as soon as possible. Anything that helps you pay down what you owe from the balance transfer, your Quicksilver purchases or both will bring you that much closer to being free of credit card debt.

The bottom line

While you might be able to find higher rewards rates 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 than the Capital One Quicksilver.

Read our full review and find out how to apply.

Citi Simplicity® Card

Why we rate it best for longest 0% intro APR period and no late fees

The Citi Simplicity offers the longest balance transfer intro period currently available from our credit card partners. You’ll have 21 months of 0% interest to pay down balance transfers made within the first 4 months (16.24% – 26.24% variable APR after). You’ll also enjoy the benefits of no late fees, no annual fees and no penalty APR.

Pro-tip

The 21-month balance transfer offer is exceptional, but don’t get complacent during the long holiday from credit card APR. Keep paying your monthly statement — in full, on time, every time — and stay on schedule for chipping away at your transferred balance until it hits $0. Time might be on your side, but 21 months isn’t forever.

The bottom line

The Citi Simplicity has no rewards program or sign-up bonus. It’s essentially a balance transfer machine. What it lacks in flash, it makes up for with its potential to help you pay off transferred debt with more cushion than any other card on our list.

Read our full review and find out how to apply.

Citi® Double Cash Card

Why we rate it best for earning rewards as you go

The Citi Double Cash Card offers an inventive cash back rewards program on top of a generous 18-month 0% balance transfer offer (15.49% – 25.49% 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 for those purchases.

Pro-tip

Waiting for the second half of your cash back rewards (the additional 1 percent when you pay for your purchases) is a lesson in delayed gratification. Learn from it. Getting better acquainted with patience could help you correct the habits that made a balance transfer necessary in the first place.

The bottom line

The Citi Double Cash Card can make it much easier for you to pay off existing debt, but you might be tempted to keep it for the rewards program well after the balance transfer offer expires.

Read our full review and find out how to apply.

BankAmericard® credit card

Why we rate it best for no penalty APR

This card has matching zero-percent intro offers for balance transfers (made within the first 60 days of account opening) and purchases: zero-percent interest for 18 billing cycles and 14.74% – 24.74% variable APR after. The benefit of no penalty APR adds another layer of protection between you and high interest charges, although managing your debt obligations responsibly reduces the chances that you’ll need it.

Pro-tip

Despite the lack of penalty APR, you might be subject to a flat late fee for missing an on-time payment. It’s another reminder that the best way to avoid paying extra, whether through APR or late fees, is to consistently pay your monthly credit card statement on time and in full.

The bottom line

If you’re looking for a straightforward balance transfer card, the BankAmericard® credit card is definitely worth a look. You won’t get rewards points or a welcome offer, but the BankAmericard credit card can be an effective tool for getting debt under control.

Read our full review and find out how to apply.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Why we rate it best for overall versatility

If you’re interested in a balance transfer card that’s not just a balance transfer card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited deserves your consideration. Zero-percent APR offers are available for both balance transfers and purchases (15 months, after which the regular APR of 16.74% – 25.49% variable applies). It also offers unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases.

Pro-tip

Until you’ve zeroed out your transferred balance, we recommend redeeming your cash back as statement credits to supplement your debt payoff plan. Once you’ve completed that objective, you can devote more attention to Chase Ultimate Rewards®, one of the industry’s premier loyalty programs. The Ultimate Rewards portal gives you the ability to redeem your Chase Freedom Unlimited cash back for travel, among other options.

The bottom line

The Chase Freedom Unlimited might not be the ultimate balance transfer card or the ultimate cash back card, but it offers a useful (and potentially lucrative) combination of the two. Its versatility makes it much more than a run-of-the-mill balance transfer credit card.

Read our full review and find out how to apply.

Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Why we rate it best for dining and entertainment

With the Capital One SavorOne, you don’t have to spend a great deal on dining and entertainment and at grocery stores to see generous cash back returns. The rewards rates in those categories should make it easier for you to enjoy the benefits while spending responsibly and paying off your balance transfer.

Pro-tip

This card has one of the shorter balance transfer offers on our list (15 months) and one of the higher regular APRs (15.74% – 25.74% variable). Look at these factors as providing extra incentive to (1) pay off your balance transfer before the introductory period ends and (2) be diligent about paying your monthly statement in full and on-time.

The bottom line

The Capital One SavorOne is an intriguing option for paying off a small balance transfer while earning cash back when you purchase some of the things that make life more enjoyable — meals, movie tickets and much more.

Read our full review and find out how to apply.

Is a balance transfer credit card right for you?

Used correctly, balance transfer cards can help you:

  • Reduce debt while avoiding high interest. Debt can be expensive, especially credit card debt. As of November 13, Bankrate estimates the current average interest rate on credit cards at 17.47%. Most balance transfer credit cards come with 0% APR intro periods, which can help you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on interest.
  • Simplify your finances. If you transfer multiple balances to one credit card, you’ll have just one monthly payment to keep track of. No more multiple accounts, passwords and payment due dates.
  • Improve your overall financial health. Credit utilization accounts for 30% of your credit score. The more credit you’ve used in relation to your available credit, the lower your score might be.

However, transferring balances may or may not be the right move depending on your circumstances. Consider the following situations:

My balance situation is …

Should I consider a balance transfer?
$10,000 or less on one credit card Yes
$10,000 or less total on multiple credit cards Yes
$10,000 or less in different kinds of debt Yes
More than $10,000 in card or loan debt Maybe not

 

My credit score is … Should I consider a balance transfer?
Good or excellent Yes
Fair, poor or bad Maybe not

Under $10K with good or excellent credit — Yes

A balance transfer is ideal when it involves less than $10,000 in debt, whether on a single credit card, multiple cards or different types of credit accounts.

  • A balance on one credit card: A credit card-to-credit card balance transfer is probably the most common use.
  • Balances on multiple cards: Some balance transfer cards allow you to transfer balances from more than one credit card account. Still, don’t forget that you’ll probably have to pay a fee for each transfer, so multiple transfers will raise your total cost accordingly.
  • Different kinds of card/loan debt: Depending on the balance transfer card, you may be able to transfer balances from different types of credit accounts, including cards, car loans and student loans. Keep in mind that multiple transfers can mean multiple transfer fees.

With a good or excellent FICO score (between 670 and 850), qualifying for a top-rated balance transfer credit card shouldn’t be a problem.

Over $10K with fair, poor or bad credit — Maybe not

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. For other credit rankings, it’s much lower. Also, 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.

With a FICO score of 660 or below, you may have trouble qualifying for one of the better balance transfer credit cards. Fortunately, a number of lenders offer loans for people with low credit scores, so a loan could be an alternative solution.

The question of balance transfer vs. personal loan involves several factors, including interest rates, fees and potential effects on your credit score. Make sure you do your homework before deciding.

How much money can you save with a balance transfer?

If you’re paying down a large balance, a 0% intro offer can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Experian reported that the average credit card balance reached $6,028 in the first quarter of 2019. Here’s how much you could save by transferring $6,028 in debt to one of our top balance transfer credit cards:

Balance transfer intro offer period Regular APR Potential savings*
Discover it® Balance Transfer 18 months 13.49% – 24.49% variable $818
Capital One Quicksilver 15 months 15.74%-25.74% variable $653
Citi Simplicity® Card 21 months 16.24% – 26.24% variable $865
Citi® Double Cash Card 18 months 15.49% – 25.49% variable $818
BankAmericard 18 billing cycles (made in first 60 days) 14.74% – 24.74% variable $999
Chase Freedom Unlimited 15 months 16.74% – 25.49% variable $653
Capital One SavorOne 15 months 15.74% – 25.74% variable $653

If you’re interested in simulating your own credit card numbers to get an idea of your payoff timeline, try the Bankrate Credit Card Payoff Calculator.

*Potential savings calculated by comparing how much interest you would pay on your current card with an average variable APR of 20%. The formula also takes into account the balance transfer fee, where applicable. Calculations are made with the assumption that you will pay off a $6,028 balance within the intro offer period.

Questions and answers about balance transfers


If you’re not sure how balance transfer credit cards work, don’t worry. We have answers for several frequently asked questions to help you get better informed about the process.

How does a balance transfer credit card work?

Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert in personal finance to understand the balance transfer process. It’s essentially a matter of moving debt from one credit account to another.

The main things to know are:

  1. Once you’ve applied for and received a balance transfer card, you’ll have a certain period of time (spelled out in the card’s terms and conditions) when you can make transfers that qualify for the zero-interest offer.
  2. Most issuers will have a process online or in their mobile app that allows you to make balance transfer requests. Depending on the issuer, you might be able to make the request by phone.
  3. You’ll need to give the issuer the account numbers of the card or loan accounts you want to transfer balances from.

If you request your balance transfer online, your card issuer’s website will take you through a step-by-step process where you’ll select options and enter information on a series of screens. Here’s an example of what it looks like with Discover:

Capital One dashboard for transferring a balance

Capital One dashboard - balance transfer details

If you have questions at any point in the process, contact a customer service representative for help. It’s your money, after all, so you’ll want to get everything right.

How long do balance transfers take?

As long as you have your account numbers and other information ready beforehand, the process of requesting a balance transfer shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

Equally important: How long before your balance is transferred to your new card so that you can start paying off the debt? You can find the answer in the balance transfer card’s terms and conditions.

Timelines for processing balance transfers vary from issuer to issuer. It could take 7 to 10 days, but in some cases it could take a couple of weeks — or even as long as a month.

Depending on the issuer, the online “dashboard” for your balance transfer card’s account might include a tracking feature that lets you follow the transfer’s progress. In any case, keep an eye on your dashboard to see when the transferred debt appears on your new card.

Also, make sure you’re still making payments on the existing balance until you receive official confirmation that the balance transfer has gone through.

Is there a limit to how much you can transfer?

Typically, issuers will let you transfer a balance (plus fees) that is no higher than your credit limit. Two of the biggest factors that determine your credit limit are your credit score and annual income.

If you want to make a balance transfer that exceeds your credit limit, you can call the issuer to ask if they’ll increase it. While it’s not guaranteed that the issuer will approve the increase, it’s highly possible. In fact, research by CreditCards.com found that cardholders had an 85% shot at getting a credit limit increase just by asking.

Can you transfer different kinds of debt besides credit card debt?

Yes, depending on the company that issues your balance transfer card.

Although balance transfers are primarily used for credit card debt, each issuer has its own rules for what types of debt you can transfer. For example, Chase customers can transfer credit card balances only, but Bank of America and Citi both allow credit card balances, auto loans, personal loans, home equity and student loans to be transferred.

Also, some issuers let you transfer multiple debts to one balance transfer card, a form of debt consolidation.

Another important point to remember is that most issuers will not let you transfer a balance from an existing account with that same issuer.

Should you pay off a loan with a balance transfer credit card?

It depends on how much you owe on the loan. Balance transfer credit cards are best suited for managing smaller amounts of debt, ideally less than $10,000. With bigger debts — a $15,000 car loan, for example — you’d find it considerably more difficult to pay off the entire balance before the 0% intro APR offer expired and the regular APR took effect.

Also, you pay more in fees for bigger balances. Using the hypothetical $15,000 car loan as an example, a typical 3% balance transfer fee would cost you $450.

It might be possible to transfer part of a large balance to a balance transfer credit card and get some relief from interest charges. The tradeoff would be the inconvenience of now having two credit accounts to keep track of instead of the one account you started out with.

No two situations are alike, though. Do some thorough research, and maybe even talk to a financial adviser, before you transfer a large loan balance. Even if the card has an attractive balance transfer offer, it might not provide the best option for larger amounts of debt.

How long is the average balance transfer offer?

The Credit CARD Act of 2009 requires that introductory offers must be at least 6 months long, but offer periods can run as long as 21 months. The average is somewhere in the middle, with common offer periods falling at 12, 15 or 18 months.

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 debt and your monthly budget.

Should you close your old account after transferring a balance?

You might be tempted to cut up your high-balance card once you transfer, but that move could 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 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 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.

How do balance transfers affect 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 make up 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 raise your credit score dramatically over time.

What’s the longest 0% APR balance transfer offer?

Among the many exceptional balance transfer cards profiled on this page, one really stands out. The Citi Simplicity Card has the longest 0% APR introductory period for balance transfers — 21 months — of any card available from our partners. (After the intro rate expires, you pay a variable APR of 16.24% – 26.24%.)

The Citi Simplicity’s zero-interest introductory offer on balance transfers is one of the longest, if not the longest, currently on the market. A few other cards on our list of top balance transfer options offer 18 months at an introductory zero-interest rate. The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card almost matches the Citi Simplicity (20 billing cycles of 0% intro APR, 13.99% – 24.99% variable after), but it’s currently unavailable through Bankrate.

Here’s a look at how the longest 0% intro APR offers on our list (and even some of the less lengthy ones) can help you avoid paying interest on a transferred balance not just in the coming year but well into 2021.

Balance transfer credit card and 0% intro APR offer

Transfer a balance by Dec. 31, 2019, and avoid regular APR until:

Citi Simplicity Card
21 months (16.24% – 26.24% variable after)
October 1, 2021
Discover it Balance Transfer
18 months (13.49% – 24.49% variable after)
July 1, 2021
Citi Double Cash Card
18 months (15.49% – 25.49% variable after)
July 1, 2021
BankAmericard credit card
18 billing cycles (14.74% – 24.74% variable after)*
July 1, 2021
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
15 months (15.74% – 25.74% variable after)
March 31, 2021
Chase Freedom Unlimited
15 months (16.74% – 25.49% variable after)
March 31, 2021
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
15 months (15.74% – 25.74% variable after)
March 31, 2021

*On transfers made within the first 60 days

Are you missing out on a balance transfer?

Potential solutions to credit card debt include one in particular that is both widely accessible yet disproportionately under-utilized: the balance transfer credit card.

Results from a Bankrate.com survey found that less than half of U.S. adults who owe credit card debt have applied for a balance transfer credit card. Of the people who did apply, however, more than three-quarters were approved.

The survey results on balance transfer cards are part of a larger inquiry into the way credit card users prioritize debt vs. rewards. According to the survey, 68% of credit card debtors make an effort to maximize credit card rewards, including 27% who say they make “every effort” and 41% who make “some effort.”

Personal finance experts recommend focusing on debt ahead of rewards. The basic arithmetic of interest makes the pursuit of rewards financially inadvisable.

“It doesn’t make sense to chase 1, 2 or 3% in cash back or airline miles if you’re paying roughly 18% in interest,” says Ted Rossman, credit card analyst for Bankrate.com.

The results suggest that many Americans are missing out on opportunities to reduce their credit card debt with balance transfer credit cards.

Rossman’s advice: “Forget about rewards until you’re debt-free. Sign up for a 0% balance transfer card instead.”

How we analyze balance transfer cards

Bankrate writers and editors have evaluated dozens of options to determine which cards are most likely to help you achieve your financial goals with a balance transfer. In this category, our 5-point scoring process pays particular attention to the essential features of a balance transfer credit card, including:

0% introductory APR offer

Balance transfer cards should ideally have a long period — between 12 and 18 months, if not longer — of 0% APR. You’ll find it easier to pay off the transferred balance before the regular APR takes effect.

Balance transfer fee

A good balance transfer credit card will charge a low fee on transferred balances, or even no fee at all. If you have an excellent credit score, consider asking to have the fee lowered or waived.

Regular variable APR

Regular variable APR is the interest rate that you will be charged after the introductory 0% APR period. You’ll want this rate to fall in a reasonable range, at least a few points below 30%.

Transfer limit

Make sure the card you choose has enough capacity to handle the amount of debt you want to transfer. A low cap could make it difficult to fit the entire balance on a single card.

Rewards

Rewards may not be the main motivation behind getting a balance transfer card, but you should aim to get the most value from your credit card.

More information on balance transfer credit cards

Want to know more about transferring balances to a credit card? Here’s a list of resources from Bankrate’s personal finance experts:

Balance transfer guides by credit card issuer

If you want to do a balance transfer with a specific bank or card issuer, Bankrate has detailed guides from the following financial companies:


Senior Editor Barry Bridges has been writing about credit cards, personal loans, mortgages and other personal finance products since 2017. Before joining Bankrate, he was an award-winning newspaper journalist in his native North Carolina. Send your questions about credit cards (and fantasy baseball) to bbridges@bankrate.com.

Have more questions for our credit cards editors? Feel free to send us an email, find us on Facebook, or Tweet us @Bankrate.

* 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.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.