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Your guide to choosing the best balance transfer credit card
Debt can cause a major disruption in your personal finances, affecting not only your current situation but also future credit opportunities. The good news is that you have the ability to calm things down with the help of a balance transfer credit card.
On this page, you can check out recommendations for the best balance transfer credit cards available from our partners. You’ll also find useful everyday tips on managing debt.
To go ahead and start comparing offers, skip down to Bankrate’s recap of the best balance transfer credit cards.
Compare the best credit cards for balance transfers
A closer look at Bankrate’s best balance transfer cards
Wells Fargo Platinum card
- 0% intro APR offer: 18 months on qualifying balance transfers and purchases from account opening
- Regular APR: 16.49% – 24.49% variable)
- Bankrate’s View: Best for good credit
This card’s introductory balance transfer offer (18 months at 0% APR on qualifying transfers, then 16.49% – 24.49% variable based on creditworthiness) is among the longest available from our partners. The recommended credit score to apply is in the good to excellent range (670-850), but the balance transfer offer and spending and budget management tools through My Money Map could appeal to credit-conscious consumers looking to manage debt.
Read our Wells Fargo Platinum card review.
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card
- 0% intro APR offer: 15 billing cycles on any balance transfers made in the first 60 days and purchases
- Regular APR: (13.99% – 23.99% variable)
- Bankrate’s View: Best for flexible rewards categories
If you’re a frequent shopper looking to optimize cash back potential, this card offers a lot to choose from. The choice category earns 3 percent cash back on one of the following categories such as travel, gas, dining, online shopping, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings and 2 percent on grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter (on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases). Plus, the 0% introductory APR offer for 15 billing cycles on purchases and any balance transfers made within 60 days (13.99%-23.99% variable APR thereafter) can provide a temporary break from interest charges.
Read our Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card review.
BankAmericard® credit card
- 0% intro APR offer: 18 billing cycles on any balance transfers made in the first 60 days and purchases
- Regular APR: (12.99% – 22.99% variable)
- Bankrate’s View: Best for no penalty APR
Any balance transfers made in the first 60 days get 0% introductory APR for 18 billing cycles, which more or less translates to 18 months (12.99% – 22.99% variable APR thereafter). The lack of penalty APR with the BankAmericard credit card adds another layer of protection against interest charges, although you might be subject to a flat late fee for missing an on-time payment. If you’re committed to paying off a transferred balance in a year or less, this card might be worth a look.
Read our BankAmericard® credit card review.
Citi Rewards+® Card
- 0% intro APR offer: 15 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer and purchases from date of account opening
- Regular APR: (13.49% – 23.49% variable, based on creditworthiness)
- Bankrate’s View: Best for rewards on small purchases
With this card, Citi rounds up your rewards to the nearest 10 points — meaning that a $22 fill-up at the gas pump would earn 50 ThankYou Points instead of 44. The 15-month 0% intro APR offers for balance transfers from date of first transfer and purchases from date of account opening (13.49% – 23.49% variable APR after) are middle-of-the-road, and the recommended credit score puts it out of reach for many applicants. However, thrifty consumers with excellent credit could use the balance transfer offer and the round-up feature to their advantage.
Read our Citi Rewards+® Card review.
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card
- 0% intro APR offer: 15 months on qualifying balance transfers and purchases from account opening
- Regular APR: (14.49% – 24.99% variable)
- Bankrate’s View: Best for digital wallet bonus
The Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card offers two key opportunities. One, you can transfer a qualifying balance from another credit account and avoid APR for 15 introductory months, with the regular 14.49%-24.99% variable rate applying afterward. Two, you can earn 1.8 percent cash rewards back (a 20-percent bonus) on qualifying digital wallet purchases during your first year of owning the card. Frequent mobile wallet users looking for balance transfer options will find a lot to like here.
Read our Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card review.
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
- 0% intro APR offer: 18 months on balance transfers (made in the first 4 months) and purchases
- Regular APR: (14.74% – 24.74% variable)
- Bankrate’s View: Best for good to excellent credit
The Citi Diamond Preferred Card offers one of the longest 0% introductory periods on balance transfers you’ll find anywhere: 18 months, after which a variable APR of 14.74% – 24.74% applies. With no rewards program, this card is ideally suited as a debt management tool. A good to excellent credit score is recommended to apply for the card, but using the balance transfer offer to pay down debt from another account could help you protect that status.
Read our Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card review.
Citi® Double Cash Card
- 0% intro APR offer: 18 months on balance transfers
- Regular APR: (13.99% – 23.99% variable)
- Bankrate’s View: Best for cash back rewards
The Citi Double Cash Card offers an inventive cash back rewards program on top of a generous 18-month 0% introductory balance transfer offer (13.99% – 23.99% variable APR after the intro period ends). You’ll earn 1 percent cash back on every purchase and another 1 percent (2 percent total) when you pay for those purchases. This 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 Citi® Double Cash Card review.
Alliant Visa® Platinum Credit Card
- Intro APR offer: 12 months at 0% to 5.99%, depending on creditworthiness, on balance transfers and purchases
- Regular APR: (10.24% – 22.24% variable)
- Bankrate’s View: Best for low balance transfer fee
Most credit cards charge a balance transfer fee of 3 percent of the amount transferred, but the Alliant Visa Platinum Credit Card charges just 2 percent or $5, whichever is greater. Your introductory APR on balance transfers could vary from 0% to 5.99% depending on your creditworthiness, with 10.24% – 22.24% variable APR after. Having a balance transfer fee lower than the industry standard helps this card stand apart from competitors despite a relatively short 12-month intro APR offer.
Read our Alliant Visa® Platinum Credit Card review.
PenFed Gold Visa® Card
- 0% intro APR offer: 12 months on balance transfers
- Regular APR: (7.49% – 17.99% variable)
- Bankrate’s View: Best for low interest
This card from the Pentagon Federal Credit Union and Visa offers 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 12 months, after which a fixed 17.99% APR applies. However, the standard APR for purchases begins at 7.49% for qualified applicants (7.49% – 17.99% variable APR), well below the average credit card interest rate. Although many cards have longer introductory offers that could save you more money on a balance transfer, the low starting point for this card’s standard APR is notable in its own right.
Read our PenFed Gold Visa® Card review.
SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card
- Intro APR offer: 3 years at Prime Rate (currently at 4.75% variable) on balance transfers made in the first 60 days
- Regular APR: (12.74% – 22.74% variable)
- Bankrate’s View: Best for $0 intro balance transfer fee
The zero balance transfer fee offer is good for the first 60 days after your account opening. Still, depending on the size of the balance you’re transferring, the savings from avoiding a balance transfer fee could be worth a couple of hundred dollars. You should also note that this card’s 3 Year Introductory Offer at Prime Rate provides a longer window for paying off a balance, but the trade-off is that you would pay 4.75% variable APR rather than 0% APR during the introductory period (12.74% – 22.74% variable APR after).
Review for the SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card coming soon.
What is a balance transfer credit card?
A balance transfer involves moving debt from one credit account to a different account, typically by using a balance transfer credit card that has a lower interest rate than the original account. A balance transfer card can help you pay off debt by transferring your existing balance to a new credit card with a 0% intro APR period. During that time, you have the chance to pay off the principal without having to pay interest.
Pros and cons of balance transfer credit cards
The advantages of balance transfers with 0% introductory APR offers include:
- By temporarily avoiding interest on the debt you’ve transferred, you could save money on interest payments.
- Over the long term, reducing debt can improve your credit utilization ratio, meaning that you’re using less of the credit available to you.
- The temporary break from interest on your transferred balance could translate to a smaller monthly payment than what you’re currently making.
- Depending on the card and the issuer, you might have the option of transferring a balance from another credit card, a loan or from multiple credit accounts. Grouping multiple debts into one new credit account is a type of debt consolidation.
The drawbacks of a balance transfer credit card include:
- The best offers with the longest 0% APR terms tend to go to people who have good or excellent credit.
- As with any credit card, applying for a balance transfer card typically leads to a short-term dip in your credit score.
- If you don’t pay off the transfer entirely during the introductory period, the remaining balance will be subject to the new card’s regular APR.
The key to getting the most value out of a balance transfer credit card is to keep making your monthly payments during the intro period until the balance reaches zero. The potential benefits are significant, just as long as you hold up your end of the bargain.
Should you get a balance transfer credit card?
Used correctly, balance transfer cards with introductory zero-interest offers can help you:
- Reduce debt while avoiding high interest. Debt can be expensive, especially credit card debt. As of April 7, Bankrate estimates the current average interest rate on credit cards at 15.93% variable. Most balance transfer credit cards come with 0% APR intro periods, which could help you save money 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. Paying off debt can significantly improve your credit utilization, which accounts for 30 percent of your credit score.
However, a balance transfer may or may not be the right move depending on your current situation. Consider two important questions:
How much do you want to transfer?
You typically can’t transfer a balance higher than your credit limit, and $10,000 is at the high end. The average credit limit on a new credit line for an account holder with super-prime credit is $10,069, according to the American Bankers Association’s Credit Card Market Monitor. If the debt you’re trying to address is above $10,000, you might consider a personal loan as an alternative to a balance transfer.
What’s your credit score?
By and large, it takes a good or excellent FICO Score (between 670 and 850) to qualify for a top balance transfer card with a lengthy introductory offer. Although you might find it easier to get a balance transfer card for bad credit, the tradeoff will probably involve a shorter introductory offer.
How to choose a balance transfer credit card
The best credit cards for balance transfers share a number of key features. To find the one that’s best for you and your unique financial situation, consider the following tips:
Choose the right card for your credit score
Most credit cards, including cards for balance transfers, list a recommended credit score to apply. Check your credit score before you start shopping and then compare it with each card’s recommended credit score to get an idea of whether you might qualify. Most balance transfer cards recommend credit scores ranging from good to excellent.
Look for a zero-interest or low-interest offer
The most useful balance transfer cards are the ones that include an introductory offer providing a temporary window to pay off the balance interest-free before the standard APR would apply. The second-best option would be a low-interest intro offer. If you can’t find a card with an introductory offer, at the very least look for one with a standard APR lower than what you’re currently paying.
Find the longest introductory offer you can
The longer the intro offer lasts, the more time you’ll have to pay down your transferred debt. A longer introductory period also translates to smaller monthly payments. Every month of temporary relief from interest represents potential savings.
Read the terms and conditions before you apply
You’ll find essential details in the card’s terms and conditions, including the balance transfer fee, penalties for late payments and how much time you’ll have to transfer the balance to qualify for the introductory offer. If you have trouble finding the information you’re looking for, call the issuer or go to their website.
Consider the card’s long-term value
Does the card have features that make it worth keeping after you’ve used the balance transfer offer to pay off debt? Credit card rewards shouldn’t be the main motivation behind getting a balance transfer card, but cash back or points can increase a card’s long-term value.
How to do a balance transfer
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Look for confirmation. The issuer of your balance transfer card will notify you when the transfer is approved, but always check your other account(s) to make sure the old balance has been zeroed out. Pending charges made before you initiated the transfer will still show up.
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.
What is a balance transfer fee?
A balance transfer fee provides some compensation to a lender — in this case, the credit card issuer — for taking on the risk of issuing what amounts to a temporary interest-free loan. The typical fee is 3 percent or 5 percent of the balance being transferred. The fee might also have a minimum cash alternative, as in 3 percent or $5, whichever is greater. In most cases, you’ll have to pay the balance transfer fee upfront.
Although this fee is standard with most balance transfer offers, you might be able to avoid it. One option is to shop around for a credit card that doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee. Another possibility is negotiating the balance transfer fee with the credit card issuer.
Rewards offers could open the door for a balance transfer
If you have a large credit card balance that you’ve been carrying over from month to month, redeeming your rewards for travel or merchandise should probably be the last thing on your mind. Fortunately, cash back cards and changes in credit card rewards policies could create an opportunity to ease your way into a debt-reducing balance transfer.
As reported in Bankrate’s preferred payments survey, many credit card issuers have responded to lifestyle changes and travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Some travel credit cards have adjusted their redemption policies to provide more value when you redeem rewards for non-travel purchases.
If you have a standard cash back card, it’s easy to redeem rewards as a statement credit or as a deposit into your bank account. With travel cards, however, you normally lose value when you redeem for anything other than travel expenses and redeeming for statement credits might not even be an option. The “Pay Yourself Back” program from Chase is one example of issuers offering more and better redemption choices.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders get a boost in value when they redeem points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Now, “Pay Yourself Back” has given these cardholders the option of redeeming points against certain existing purchases — essentially a statement credit — with the same increases in point value (50 percent with the Sapphire Reserve and 25 percent with the Sapphire Preferred).
If your rewards card balance has become unmanageable and your issuer allows this kind of redemption, you might consider this strategy:
- Apply your rewards to your outstanding balance
- Get a balance transfer credit card with an introductory 0% APR offer and transfer your remaining rewards card balance to it
- Pay off the transferred balance before the intro offer expires so that you can avoid the interest you’re currently paying with the rewards card
In the meantime, keep your rewards card open and use it for essential purchases only to keep from running up another big balance. Continue making on-time and in-full payments on your new balance transfer credit card until you’ve paid off the debt you transferred to it.
Maybe your life was different when you first got that rewards card. The pandemic changed virtually everything, but new options for redeeming your rewards could help you make a change in your credit card debt situation too.
What debts can you transfer to a credit 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. However, most issuers will not let you transfer a balance from an existing account with that same issuer.
Also, some issuers let you transfer multiple debts to one balance transfer card, a form of debt consolidation.
Although it’s possible to pay off a loan with a balance transfer credit card, keep in mind that they’re best suited for managing smaller debts. It might be possible to transfer part of a large loan 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 you started out with.
How much money could you save with a balance transfer?
If you’re paying down a large balance, a 0% intro offer could save you several hundred dollars or more.
Experian reports that the average credit card balance reached $5,315 in 2020. Here’s how much you could save by transferring $5,315 in debt to one of our best balance transfer credit cards, based on the following conditions:
- That you would pay the balance transfer fee upfront and pay off a $5,315 balance within the intro offer period.
- That with the two Alliant credit cards, you would qualify for an introductory APR of 0%. The actual rate could be 0% – 5.99% depending on your creditworthiness.
- Potential savings with each card are calculated by comparing how much interest you would pay on your current card at 20% APR, minus the balance transfer fee.
|Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
||14.74% – 24.74% variable
|Citi® Double Cash Card
||13.99% – 23.99% variable
|Wells Fargo Platinum card
||18 months on qualifying transfers
||16.49% – 24.49% variable
|Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card
||15 months on qualifying transfers
||14.49% – 24.49%
|Citi Rewards+® Card
||15 months (from date of first transfer)
||13.49% – 23.49% variable
|Alliant Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card
||13.24% – 23.24% variable
|Alliant Visa® Platinum Credit Card
||12 months (on transfers made in first 60 days)
||10.24% – 22.24% variable
|Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card
||15 billing cycles (on any transfers made in first 60 days)
||13.99% – 23.99% variable
|BankAmericard® credit card
||18 billing cycles (on any transfers made in first 60 days)
||12.99% – 22.99% variable
|PenFed Gold Visa® Card
*The introductory balance transfer fee for the Wells Fargo Platinum and Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa is 3% or $5 for 120 days after account opening. The fee for each qualifying balance transfer after 120 days is up to 5%, with a minimum of $5.
What’s the longest 0% APR balance transfer offer?
Nowadays, 20 months and 18 months are the gold and silver standards for 0% intro APR offers with balance transfer credit cards. A number of cards offer 15 months at an introductory zero-interest rate, while others fall into the 12-month range.
Although any temporary break from credit card APR is beneficial, a more lengthy intro offer will give you the best opportunity to avoid interest as you pay off your transferred balance.
Here’s a look at some of the longest 0% intro APR offers currently available:
|Citi Diamond Preferred Card
||18 months (14.74% – 24.74% variable after)
||October 30, 2022
|Citi Double Cash Card
||18 months (13.99% – 23.99% variable after)
||October 30, 2022
|Wells Fargo Platinum card
||18 months on qualifying transfers (16.49% – 24.49% variable after)
||October 30, 2022
|BankAmericard credit card
||18 billing cycles on any balance transfers made in first 60 days (12.99%-22.99 variable after)
||October 30, 2022
|Citi Rewards+ Card
||15 months from date of first transfer (13.49% – 23.49% variable after)
||July 30, 2022
|Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card
||15 months on qualifying transfers (14.49%-24.99% variable after)
||July 30, 2022
|Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card
||15 billing cycles on any balance transfers made in first 60 days (13.99%-23.99% variable after)
||July 30, 2022
*Terms and Restrictions Apply
CardSmart: Which offer is better, longer low APR or shorter zero APR?
As you shop around for balance transfer credit cards, you might find that not all cards provide an introductory offer of 12-20 months at zero interest. Some cards have intro periods of low (but not zero) interest that last considerably longer.
One example is the SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card and its 3 Year Introductory Offer at Prime Rate. It provides a 36-month window on transfers made in the first 60 days, which is 80 percent longer than a zero-interest offer lasting 20 months. However, the trade-off is that you would pay 4.75% variable APR during the introductory period (and 12.74% – 22.74% variable after) rather than 0% APR.
It comes down to one question: Would you rather pay zero interest for nearly two years or low interest for a full three years? To help you find the answer, we’ve used Bankrate’s Credit Card Payoff Calculator to simulate payoff plans with the SunTrust card and one of our top-rated zero APR balance transfer cards, the Citi Diamond Preferred Card. Here’s what paying off a $5,000 balance transfer would look like with each card:
|Months to pay
|Balance transfer fee
*Intro offer on balances transferred during the first 60 days from account opening. Fee for balances transferred after the first 60 days is $10 or 3% of the amount of the transfer, whichever is greater.
More information on balance transfer credit cards
Want to know more about transferring balances to a credit card? Here’s a list of our top 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:
How we chose our best 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-star scoring system 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 0% APR introductory offer — between 12 and 18 months, if not longer. You’ll have more time to pay off the transferred balance before the regular APR takes effect.
Regular variable APR
Regular variable APR is the interest rate that you will be charged after the introductory 0% APR period. Ideally, the low end of the variable APR range should be at least a few points below 16% with a high end no more than 30%.
Balance transfer fee
The best balance transfer credit cards 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.
Senior Editor Barry Bridges has been writing about credit cards, loans, mortgages and other personal finance products for Bankrate since 2018. His work has also appeared on websites including Nasdaq.com, Zillow.com and The Simple Dollar. He was previously an award-winning newspaper journalist in his native North Carolina. Send your questions about credit cards (and fantasy baseball) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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