Key takeaways

  • Using a balance transfer credit card from a credit union can reduce your debt faster than non-union cards because these cards often charge a lower APR, saving you money on total interest paid.
  • Balance transfer cards offered by credit unions also commonly offer the best deals and terms, often including no balance transfer fees.
  • The benefits of these cards, including their lower interest rates and no balance transfer fees, make credit unions strong contenders in the balance transfer market for people in a wide range of financial situations.

When you want to consolidate credit card debts into a simple single payment and pay less interest overall, it’s smart to consider getting a balance transfer credit card. Many people seek out balance transfer credit cards primarily for the opportunity to benefit from the low or even 0 percent introductory annual percentage rates (APRs) offered by the cards, typically for a period of around 12 to 21 months. This allows them to transfer high-interest debt from other cards to the new card, reducing overall interest expenses and speeding up debt repayment. Plus, balance transfer credit cards can not only save you money, but also offer other perks, such as points or cash back rewards.

Some of the most commonly recommended balance transfer credit cards are those offered by credit unions. We go over why credit unions can be a wise choice for balance transfers and the best credit union cards with no balance transfer fees.

Why credit unions can be a good choice for balance transfers

Eager to take advantage of a balance transfer credit card’s many benefits? While you can start by applying with traditional banks or household name credit card issuers, it’s also a good idea to consider applying with a local or online credit union.

“Credit unions are nonprofit institutions that are member-owned and focused on the individual versus the structure of a bank, which has an institutional focus. As a result, credit unions take on fewer risks while serving individuals and small businesses rather than primarily large investors, like a bank. This can give members a sense of security and trust.”

— Cyndie MartiniCEO and founder of Member Access Processing, an aggregator of Visa card services for credit unions

Ray Lindley, chief operating officer for Elevations Credit Union in Boulder, Colorado, agrees. “Credit unions are not positioned to profit from the debts their members carry,” he says. “They are dedicated to helping their members improve their financial well-being.”

Credit unions can be an excellent option for balance transfers because their credit cards generally have low or no fees, according to Ashley Duke, marketing manager for Georgia’s Own Credit Union. “Some credit unions may charge a balance transfer fee, but others offer promotions that waive the fee,” she says. “Additionally, the interest rates are generally lower than those charged by banks.”

Say you have a credit card balance of $8,000 at 24 percent APR with a minimum payment of $238 due each month. In this scenario, it would take you 39 months to pay off the balance, and you will fork over $1,436 in interest and fees.

“But if you transfer that balance to a credit union credit card that offers 0 percent APR for 12 months with no annual fee and no balance transfer fee, it will only take you 29 months to pay off your debt, plus $606 in interest. That equals around 42 percent in savings on interest by transferring a balance,” Duke continues.

James Allen, a certified public accountant and certified financial planner, compares credit unions to a local farmers’ market when it comes to balance transfers.

“They often offer better deals than big chains. They’re member-owned, so they are more likely to offer lower interest rates. It’s like buying apples for $2 per pound instead of $3,” he says.

In fact, for Q4 in 2023, the national average interest rate for a standard credit card from a credit union was 12.72 percent versus 15 percent at banks, per the National Credit Union Administration.

“Plus, credit unions often have more lenient credit requirements, so even if your credit score is not perfect, you might still qualify for their card,” Allen says.

How to shop for the best credit union card with no balance transfer fees

When shopping around for the best balance transfer credit card offered by credit unions, understand the pros and cons and follow these best practices.

Choose a credit union that’s relatively easy to join

Credit unions are required by law to have a “field of membership,” and eligibility criteria must be met to access their services and products — including the credit cards they offer. But the good news is that joining is usually easy, with some credit unions requiring dues of just $5 deposited into a savings account. That said, you will find that some of the most generous credit union credit cards require military membership or a specific credit score to join.

Look for cards with no additional fees

Many credit cards have additional or hidden fees, and balance transfer cards are no different. If you’re not careful, you could find yourself facing fees like:

  • Annual fees
  • Foreign transaction fees
  • Cash advance fees

Pay attention to the fine print

These 0 percent introductory APR offers can vary widely from issuer to issuer and card to card. If your credit union offers this type of promotion, be mindful of factors that include:

  • Introductory period length. Most cards typically offer an introductory period between 12 and 21 months, but you might also see offers for as low as six months, depending on your credit score.
  • Deadlines within the introductory period. Some cards stipulate that you need to make your transfers within a certain time from account opening, usually within 60 or 120 days, in order to qualify for the intro APR.
  • Type of transactions covered by the offer. Cards offer 0 percent introductory APRs on balance transfers, on purchases or on both. Plus, if a card’s offer does include both balance transfers and purchases, you might see different introductory period lengths for each.

Note the ongoing APR for your card

You should plan to pay off your balance before the end of your card’s introductory period, but that’s not always feasible. What happens if you still have a balance when your intro period ends? That balance will begin accruing interest, which is why it’s important to know just how much. Make sure you check out the card’s offer and note the APR that takes over. If the credit unions you’re considering don’t offer 0 percent introductory periods, then it’s even more crucial to shop around for low rates.

Check out cards that offer rewards or additional benefits

If you want your card to still feel valuable and useful to you after your 0 percent introductory period ends, then keep an eye out for cards that offer some sort of rewards structure. By getting a balance transfer card that also earns points or cash back, you can continue to get something out of it once you’ve finished paying off your debt.

Best credit union cards for balance transfers

Ready to start your search? The following credit union credit cards may be a good choice for you:

Navy Federal More Rewards American Express Card: Best for military members

Titanium Rewards Visa Signature Card: Best for high credit limits

DCU Visa Platinum Signature Credit Card: Best for broad eligibility

Other credit union cards with 0% introductory APR offers

There are many credit cards from local credit unions that won’t be as widely available as the cards we previously mentioned, but they nevertheless come with strong introductory APR offers. Here are just a few:

  • Community America Visa® Signature Credit Card*0 percent APR on both purchase and balance transfers for 18 months, with a variable APR of 17.49 percent or 19.49 percent after the period ends.
  • Elevations Visa® Rewards Credit Card* — 0 percent to 3.99 percent APR for 12 months depending on creditworthiness for both purchases and balance transfers, with a variable APR starting at 17.24 percent after the period ends. Plus, earn 1X points on all purchases.
  • Members Choice Credit Union Choice Cash Visa®* — 0 percent introductory APR on purchases for six months and 0 percent introductory APR on balance transfers for 12 months, with a variable APR of 13.50 percent to 18.00 percent based on your creditworthiness.

The bottom line

Joining a credit union and applying for a balance transfer credit card can be a great way to consolidate high-interest debt from other credit cards and pay less total interest overall. But it’s best to shop around among credit unions to determine if the costs and requirements involved with joining outweigh the benefits of membership and the perks of no-balance-transfer-fee cards they offer.

“Every credit union should have multiple cards to choose from,” says Lindley. “The most important thing is ensuring it’s the right card to fit your needs.”

*Issuer-required disclosure statement

Information about the Navy Federal More Rewards American Express® Card, Titanium Rewards Visa® Signature Card from Andrews Federal Credit Union, DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card, Members Choice Credit Union Choice Cash Visa®, Community America Visa® Signature Credit Card and Elevations Visa® Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate. Card details have not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.