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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.
The more you know…
As debt continues to be an issue for many Americans, 13% of U.S. adults reported losing sleep over paying off credit card debt, according to our study
To go ahead and start comparing offers, skip down to Bankrate’s recap of the best balance transfer credit cards.
In this guide:
Compare the best credit cards for balance transfers
A closer look at Bankrate’s best balance transfer cards
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card
Best for automatic bonus category
- This card is best for: Anyone who wants a balance transfer credit card that also earns bonus rate cash back — automatically, in any of 10 eligible categories — based on their spending each billing cycle (up to the maximum spend each billing cycle).
- This card is not a great choice for: Those concerned about paying a balance transfer fee higher than the typical 3%. This card’s fee is 5% of the amount being transferred ($5 minimum), which could take a larger bite out of your potential interest savings.
- What makes this card unique? Some bonus-rate cards involve rotating categories that you’re required to activate every quarter. With this card, your bonus category is determined by where you spend the most each billing cycle.
- Is the Citi Custom Cash Card worth it? The length of the balance transfer offer is standard but not spectacular, and the balance transfer fee might be a concern. The Citi Custom Cash is serviceable as a balance transfer card, but the main feature is the innovative cash back program.
Read our full Citi Custom Cash℠ Card review.
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
Best for good to excellent credit
- This card is best for: Someone interested in a simple but effective method of temporarily avoiding APR on a balance transfer or purchase.
- This card is not a great choice for: Anyone looking for benefits such as rewards programs or premium perks.
- What makes this card unique? The Citi Flex Loans feature provides an opportunity to borrow money against your Citi card credit limit at a fixed rate, although it’s not available to all cardholders. Also, taking out additional loans could be risky if you’re already doing a balance transfer,
- Is the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card worth it? This is a straightforward credit card. It might not do the most things, but it does the main thing — giving you a chance at a temporary break from APR — quite well.
Read our full Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card review.
Citi® Double Cash Card
Best for cash back rewards
- This card is best for: Anyone looking for a card with lengthy introductory offers on balance transfers plus a cash back program.
- This card is not a great choice for: Shoppers looking for a temporary break from APR. The card currently doesn’t have an introductory offer on new purchases.
- What makes this card unique? The Citi Double Cash Card offers an inventive cash back rewards program. You’ll earn 1 percent cash back on every purchase and another 1 percent (2 percent total) when you pay for those purchases.
- Is the Citi® Double Cash Card worth it? The balance transfer offer and the cash back rewards promise a potent combination of short-term and long-term value. You might be tempted to keep it well after the balance transfer offer expires.
Read our full Citi® Double Cash Card review.
BankAmericard® credit card
Best for no penalty APR
- This card is best for: Those who want the assurance of a lengthy introductory offer without the prospect of penalty APR looming over them.
- This card is not a great choice for: Anyone who incorrectly assumes that “no penalty APR” means “no consequences.” You might be subject to a flat late fee for missing an on-time payment on this card, not to mention the fact that late payments of any kind can also do a number on your credit score.
- What makes this card unique? Although the BankAmericard doesn’t have a standard rewards program, you might be able to earn cash back through BankAmeriDeals if your card is eligible.
- Is the BankAmericard® credit card worth it? If you’re committed to paying off a balance transfer during the introductory period, this card might be worth a look. Just don’t let the lack of penalty APR let you get complacent about making payments on time and in full.
Read our full BankAmericard® credit card review.
Wells Fargo Platinum card
Best for good credit
- This card is best for: Someone looking to get a solid balance transfer credit card whose credit score is good but not excellent (between 670 and 800).
- This card is not a great choice for: People who have credit scores in the very good to excellent range (740 and above) can afford to consider cards with comparable intro offers but better regular APRs. The Wells Fargo Platinum’s APR after the intro APR offers expire is 16.49% – 24.49% variable.
- What makes this card unique? The My Money Map feature offers tools for managing your personal finances, an area where you might need help if you’re considering a balance transfer.
- Is the Wells Fargo Platinum card worth it? Aside from the recommended credit score and the balance transfer offer, which is one of the longest currently available, this card doesn’t really stand out from competitors. Consider it a top candidate, but by no means the only one.
Read our full Wells Fargo Platinum card review.
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card
Best for flexible rewards categories
- This card is best for: Frequent shoppers looking to match their spending habits with plus-rate cash back categories — but ideally, without letting it affect their responsible use of the introductory offer.
- This card is not a great choice for: People who just want to take advantage of an introductory APR offer and have no interest in pursuing rewards.
- What makes this card unique? Not many cards offer the opportunity to choose a rewards category. The Customized Cash Rewards card lets you earn 3 percent cash back in one of six categories — 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, then 1 percent).
- Is the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card worth it? There’s a lot of cash back potential with this card, if your spending habits are in line with the categories. Just remember that the introductory offer is a temporary break from interest charges, not a license to spend.
Read our full Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card review.
Citi Rewards+® Card
Best for rewards on small purchases
- This card is best for: Someone who wants a card that (a) has a balance transfer intro offer and (b) can help them maximize rewards without spending big.
- This card is not a great choice for: People who want a balance transfer card with a rewards program focused on categories other than supermarkets and gas stations (where the Citi Rewards+ earns 2X ThankYou Points per $1 for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points.)
- What makes this card unique? With this card, Citi rounds up your rewards to the nearest 10 points. For example, a $22 fill-up at the gas pump would earn 50 ThankYou Points instead of 44.
- Is the Citi Rewards+® Card worth it? Although the length of the introductory balance transfer offer is good but not great, the round-up feature adds a lot to this card’s long-term value.
Read our full Citi Rewards+® Card review.
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.
Although balance transfers are primarily used for credit card debt, each issuer has its own rules for what types of debt you can transfer. Depending on the issuer, your balance transfer options could include:
- Credit card balances
- Auto loans
- Personal loans
- Student loans
- Payday loans
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.
Pros and cons of balance transfer credit cards
- 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.
- 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.
Who should get a balance transfer credit card?
Used correctly, a balance transfer credit card with an introductory 0% APR offer can help you address some key financial issues. A balance transfer card is worth considering if you’re looking to:
Reduce debt while avoiding high interest
Debt can be expensive, especially credit card debt. As of June 2, Bankrate estimates the current average interest rate on credit cards at 16.09% variable. The best balance transfer credit cards come with 0% APR intro offers that provide a temporary zero-interest window.
Avoid a long-term commitment to a loan
While balance transfer offers are commonly measured in months, the typical loan is an arrangement that lasts for years. Balance transfer cards usually offer a quicker solution, along with the advantage of 0% intro APR offers. Although loans do have their benefits, they’re best suited for very large debts that exceed the normal limit for balance transfers.
Improve your overall financial health
Paying off debt can significantly improve your credit utilization, which represents how much available credit you have compared with how much you’re using. The amount of debt you owe accounts for 30 percent of your FICO credit score.
Simplify your finances
If you transfer multiple balances to one balance transfer credit card, you’ll have just one monthly payment to keep track of — no more multiple accounts, passwords and payment due dates.
Is a balance transfer credit card right for you?
Even though it has many potential benefits, a balance transfer card may or may not be the right move for everyone in every situation. Consider two important questions:
- How much do you want to transfer? The limit for balance transfer cards depends on the card, the issuer and specific aspects of your financial situation. Typically, issuers will let you transfer a balance (plus fees) that is no higher than your credit limit. If you want to make a balance transfer that exceeds your credit limit, you’ll have to ask the issuer for an increase. A Bankrate poll found that only 18 percent of cardholders requested a credit limit increase in 2020, but 70 percent of those who asked did receive a higher limit.
- What’s your credit score? By and large, it takes a credit score of 670 or higher 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.
A balance transfer card offers a lot of advantages for managing debt and getting a temporary break from interest. The keys are choosing the right card with the right offer and then paying the balance down to zero before the introductory offer ends.
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 Alliant Visa Platinum Credit Card, 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.
Example savings by credit card
|Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
||14.74% – 24.74% variable
|Citi® Double Cash Card
||13.99% – 23.99% variable
|BankAmericard® credit card
||18 billing cycles (on any transfers made in first 60 days)
||12.99% – 22.99% variable
|Wells Fargo Platinum card
||18 months on qualifying transfers
||16.49% – 24.49% variable
|Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card
||15 billing cycles (on any transfers made in first 60 days)
||13.99% – 23.99% variable
|Citi Rewards+® Card
||15 months (from date of first transfer)
||13.49% – 23.49% variable
|Alliant Visa® Platinum Credit Card
||12 months (on transfers made in first 60 days)
||10.24% – 22.24% variable
|Citi Custom Cash℠ Card
||13.99% – 23.99% variable
|PenFed Gold Visa® Card
What’s the difference in cost between a 2% and 3% balance transfer fee? On a $5,000 balance, a 2% fee would be $100 and a 3% fee would be $150. The difference in cost is even more pronounced with a 5% balance transfer fee: $250.
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.
If your balance transfer credit card has a rewards program, don’t expect to see a bundle of cash back or points show up in your account after you complete the transfer. Balance transfers generally aren’t included in the list of rewards-eligible transactions. Besides, you shouldn’t focus on earning rewards until you’ve paid off your transferred balance.
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 new balance reflects the amount you’ve transferred. 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’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)
||December 30, 2022
|Citi Double Cash Card
||18 months (13.99% – 23.99% variable after)
||December 30, 2022
|Wells Fargo Platinum card
||18 months on qualifying transfers (16.49% – 24.49% variable after)
||December 30, 2022
|BankAmericard credit card
||18 billing cycles on any balance transfers made in first 60 days (12.99%-22.99 variable after)
||December 30, 2022
|Citi Custom Cash℠ Card
||15 months from date of first transfer (13.99% – 23.99% variable after)
||September 30, 2022
|Citi Rewards+ Card
||15 months from date of first transfer (13.49% – 23.49% variable after)
||September 30, 2022
|Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card
||15 billing cycles on any balance transfers made in first 60 days (13.99%-23.99% variable after)
||September 30, 2022
*Terms and Restrictions Apply
CardSmart: Using rewards to transition to 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. The good news is that changes in credit card rewards policies could create an opportunity to ease your way into a debt-reducing balance transfer.
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. Redeeming for statement credits might not even be an option. Fortunately, some credit card issuers have responded to lifestyle changes and travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic by updating their redemption policies to provide more value when you redeem rewards for non-travel purchases.
The Pay Yourself Back program from Chase is one example. 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.
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 26%.
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.
Video guide: What you should know about balance transfer credit cards
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