18 months 0% Intro APR | Excellent credit

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

Terms Apply
18 months 0% for 18 months on Balance Transfers
Apply Now
On Citi's secure site
Purchase intro APR
0% for 18 months on Purchases
Regular APR
13.74% - 23.74% (Variable)
Rewards rate
N/A
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)
18 billing cycles Intro APR | No penalty APR

BankAmericard® credit card

Terms Apply
18 billing cycles 0% Intro APR for 18 billing cycles for any BTs made in the first 60 days. A 3% fee (min. $10) applies.
Apply Now
On Bank of America's secure site
Purchase intro APR
0% Intro APR for 18 billing cycles for purchases
Regular APR
12.99% - 22.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Rewards rate
N/A
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)
18 MONTH 0% INTRO APR | BEST FOR ROTATING CATEGORY CASH BACK

Discover it® Balance Transfer

See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
18 months 0% for 18 months
Apply Now
On Discover's secure site
Purchase intro APR
0% for 6 months
Regular APR
11.99% - 22.99% Variable
Rewards rate
1%–5% Cash back
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)
15 months 0% intro APR | 2% cash rewards

Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card

See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
15 months 0% intro APR for 15 months on qualifying balance transfers
Apply Now
On Wells Fargo's secure site
Purchase intro APR
0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening
Regular APR
14.99%-24.99% (Variable)
Rewards rate
2% Cash back
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)
20 Billing Cycles Intro APR | Best for long intro APR period

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
20 billing cycles 0%* for 20 billing cycles on balance transfers*
Apply Now
On U.S. Bank's secure site
Purchase intro APR
0%* for 20 billing cycles on purchases*
Regular APR
14.49% - 24.49%* (Variable)
Rewards rate
N/A
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)
15 Months 0% intro APR | Automatic bonus category

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

Terms Apply
15 months 0% for 15 months on balance transfers
Apply Now
On Citi's secure site
Purchase intro APR
0% for 15 months on purchases
Regular APR
13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)
Rewards rate
1%–5% Cash back
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)
18 months 0% Intro APR | Good credit

Wells Fargo Platinum card

See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
18 months 0% intro APR for 18 months on qualifying balance transfers
Apply Now
On Wells Fargo's secure site
Purchase intro APR
0% intro APR for 18 months from account opening
Regular APR
16.49%-24.49% (Variable)
Rewards rate
N/A
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)
18 months 0% intro APR | Best for no late fee

Citi Simplicity® Card

Terms Apply
18 months 0% for 18 months on Balance Transfers
Apply Now
On Citi's secure site
Purchase intro APR
0% for 18 months on Purchases
Regular APR
14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
Rewards rate
N/A
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)
18 months 0% Intro APR | Up to 2% cash back

Citi® Double Cash Card

Terms Apply
18 months 0% intro for 18 months on Balance Transfers
Apply Now
On Citi's secure site
Purchase intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
Rewards rate
2% Cash back
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)
15 billing cycles Intro APR | Flexible rewards categories

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card

Terms Apply
15 billing cycles 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any BTs made in the first 60 days. A 3% fee (min. $10) applies.
Apply Now
On Bank of America's secure site
Purchase intro APR
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases
Regular APR
13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Rewards rate
1%–3% Cash back
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)
15 Billing Cycles Intro APR | Best for unlimited 1.5% cash back

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card

Terms Apply
15 billing cycles 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any BTs made in the first 60 days. A 3% fee (min. $10) applies.
Apply Now
On Bank of America's secure site
Purchase intro APR
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases
Regular APR
13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Rewards rate
1.5% Cash back
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

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.


Compare the best credit cards for balance transfers

Card Name Bankrate’s pick for Balance transfer Intro APR Period Regular APR
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card  Excellent credit 18 months 13.74% – 23.74% variable
BankAmericard® credit card No penalty APR 0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days 12.99% – 22.99% variable
Discover it® Balance Transfer Rotating category cash back 18 months 11.99% – 22.99% variable
Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card Best for 2% cash rewards 15 months 14.99%-24.99% variable
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card Best for long intro APR period 0% intro APR for 20 billing cycles for balance transfers made in the first 60 days 14.49% – 24.49% variable
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card Automatic bonus category 15 months 13.99% – 23.99% variable
Wells Fargo Platinum card Good credit 18 months (on qualifying transfers) 16.49% – 24.49% variable
Citi Simplicity® Card No late fee 18 months 14.74% – 24.74% variable
Citi® Double Cash Card Up to 2% cash back 18 months 13.99% – 23.99% variable
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card Flexible rewards categories 0% intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days 13.99% – 23.99% variable
Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card Best for unlimited 1.5% cash back 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days 13.99% – 23.99% variable

A closer look at Bankrate’s best balance transfer cards

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.
Jump back to offer details.

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.
Jump back to offer details.

Discover it® Balance Transfer

Best for rotating category cash back

  • This card is best for: Someone who needs to pay down existing credit card debt in the short term, but wants to earn rewards for the long term.
  • This card is not a great choice for: People who are looking for a low maintenance rewards program as you’ll need to enroll each quarter to earn your 5% bonus cash back (on rotating categories each quarter when you activate, up to $1,500 in combined purchases, then 1%) and you’ll need to pay attention to applicable categories to maximize your spend. You might also want to avoid this card if you fear the opportunity to earn cash back will entice you to overspend.
  • What makes this card unique? The competitive base rewards, generous welcome offer and consumer-friendly terms make this a decidedly well-rounded balance transfer credit card.
  • Is the Discover It® Balance Transfer worth it? This is a solid balance transfer offer, and, for disciplined spenders, the rewards program could prove to be a boon in the long term.

Read our full Discover it® Balance Transfer review.
Jump back to offer details.

Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card

Best for 2% cash rewards

  • This card is best for: Anyone looking for a card that has both a 0% intro APR offer for qualifying balance transfers and purchases from account opening, as well as an exceptional cash rewards program.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Those who make the length of the introductory offer the top priority. This card offers 15 months of introductory 0% APR (followed by 14.99% – 24.99% variable APR) on qualifying balance transfers and purchases from account opening , which is average.
  • What makes this card unique? Cards that earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases are rare, but a card that also has introductory APR offers is rarer still.
  • Is the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card worth it? Although a 15-month window to avoid APR is fairly run-of-the-mill, the potential long-term value for cash rewards could more than make up for the length of the intro offer.

Read our full Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

Best for long intro APR period

  • This card is best for: Anyone who needs a significant amount of time to pay down a card balance. This card boasts one of the longest intro APR periods on the market.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Those looking to earn extra rewards like cash back in the long term.
  • What makes this card unique? The length of this card’s intro APR period is rare and the balance transfer fee is on the lower side of the standard when paired with the intro APR length.
  • Is the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card worth it? The value of this card is strongly based on the amount of time you need to pay down your balance. If you need more time, this card is one of the best out there. If you don’t need as much time or ultimately want to cash in on rewards, another card may be a better fit.

Read our full U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

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.
Jump back to offer details.

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.
Jump back to offer details.

Citi Simplicity® Card

Best for no late fee

  • This card is best for: People with two goals in mind: temporarily avoiding APR on a balance transfer for an extended period and not having to pay late fees or annual fees.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Anyone interested in a card for everyday use. The balance transfer offer is this card’s main appeal, since it doesn’t have a rewards program that earns cash back or points.
  • What makes this card unique? Citi cardholders enjoy a solid array of security benefits, including Citi® Identity Theft Solutions and Citi® Quick Lock. If you’re looking to manage debt with a balance transfer, you might also appreciate features designed to protect you from fraudulent threats to your credit score.
  • Is the Citi Simplicity Card worth it? What it lacks in flash, this card makes up for with its potential to help you pay off debt while temporarily avoiding APR. The lack of late fees and annual fees adds to its value.

Read our full Citi Simplicity® Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Citi® Double Cash Card

Best for up to 2% cash back

  • 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.
Jump back to offer details.

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.
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Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card

Best for unlimited 1.5% cash back

  • This card is best for: Those seeking unlimited, uncomplicated cash back that never expires.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Cash back maximizers who don’t mind keeping track of a few bonus categories to earn a higher rewards rate.
  • What makes this card unique? Bank of America Preferred Rewards members earn 25 percent – 75 percent more cash back (based on your enrolled tier). That means Preferred Rewards members could earn a maximum of up to 2.62 percent cash back on every purchase.
  • Is the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card worth it? If you’re a Preferred Rewards member, the boosted rewards rate makes this card a no-brainer. Otherwise, a flat rate of 1.5 percent cash back is becoming less competitive in the cash back market. But it’s still a solid rate, especially because it’s paired with a good balance transfer offer.

Read our full Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card review.
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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.

Bankrate insight
How much credit card debt does the average American owe? According to Experian, the average credit card balance was $5,313 in 2020.

Pros and cons of balance transfer credit cards

Pros

  • Save money: By temporarily avoiding interest on the debt you’ve transferred, you could save money on interest payments.
  • Improve credit utilization ratio: Over the long term, reducing debt can improve your credit utilization ratio, meaning that you’re using less of the credit available to you.
  • Reduce monthly payments: The temporary break from interest on your transferred balance could translate to a smaller monthly payment than what you’re currently making.
  • Consolidate debts: 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.

Cons

  • High credit approval threshold: The best offers with the longest 0% APR terms tend to go to people who have good or excellent credit.
  • Dip in credit score: As with any credit card, applying for a balance transfer card typically leads to a short-term dip in your credit score.
  • Accrued interest on remaining balance: 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.
  • Less attractive rewards: The main feature on most balance transfer cards is a lengthy intro APR period, though some cards do offer fairly modest cash back rewards.
  • Limits on transfer amounts: Balance transfer cards may limit the amount that you’re allowed to transfer and it can be difficult to know these limits until you apply for the card.

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 for the following people:

The debt reducer

If you’re looking to pay down credit card debt and avoid added interest costs, a solid balance transfer card may work well for you. Debt can be expensive, especially credit card debt. As of August 25, Bankrate estimates the current average interest rate on credit cards at 16.21% variable. The best balance transfer credit cards come with 0% APR intro offers that provide a temporary zero-interest window.

The quick payer

While balance transfer offers are commonly measured in months, the typical loan is an arrangement that lasts for years. If you find yourself looking for extra time to pay off a balance but you don’t want the long-term commitment of a loan, 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.

The financial wellness seeker

For people who are looking to improve their overall financial health, paying off debt can significantly improve your credit utilization. Your credit utilization ratio 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.

The consolidator

If you like to keep all your ducks in a row and in one place, consider transferring multiple balances to one balance transfer credit card. This way, you’ll have just one monthly payment to keep track of — no more multiple accounts, passwords and payment due dates.

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.
  • 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

Card Name Balance transfer intro offer period Regular APR Balance transfer fee Potential savings minus transfer fee
Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card 15 months for qualifying transfers 14.99%-24.99% variable $159.45 (3%) $575
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card 18 months 13.74% – 23.74% variable $159.45 (3%) $720
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card 15 months 13.99% – 23.99% variable $265.75 (5%) $469
BankAmericard® credit card 18 billing cycles (on any transfers made in first 60 days) 12.99% – 22.99% variable $159.45 (3%) $720
Wells Fargo Platinum card 18 months on qualifying transfers 16.49% – 24.49% variable $159.45 (3%)* $720
Citi Simplicity® Card 18 months 14.74% – 24.74% variable $159.45 (3%) $720
Citi® Double Cash Card 18 months 13.99% – 23.99% variable $159.45 (3%) $720
Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card 15 months 13.99% to 23.99% variable $159.45 (3%) $575
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card 20 billing cycles (on transfers made in first 60 days) 14.49% – 24.49% variable $159.45 (3%) $819
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card 15 billing cycles (on any transfers made in first 60 days) 13.99% – 23.99% variable $159.45 (3%) $575
Discover it® Balance Transfer 18 months 11.99 percent to 22.99 percent variable $159.45 (3%)* $720

*The introductory balance transfer fee for the Wells Fargo Platinum and Wells Fargo Active Cash Card 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. The introductory balance transfer fee for the Discover it® Balance Transfer is 3% of the amount of each transfer. After, the fee for each qualifying balance transfer after is up to 5%.

Bankrate insight
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 questions:

What is 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 (usually 670 or higher). Although you might find it easier to get a balance transfer card for bad credit, the tradeoff will probably involve a shorter introductory offer.

Does the card have 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.

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.

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 is the balance transfer fee?

Understanding balance transfer fees is one of the most important parts of having a balance transfer credit card. A balance transfer fee will be applied to whatever balance you are transferring onto your new card, usually at 3 or 5 percent of that balance amount. For example, if you have $10,000 in credit card debt to transfer, a balance transfer fee of 3 percent is equal to $300. A balance transfer fee of 5 percent would be $500. It’s very important to be fully aware of any potential fees you incur on your card, as they could hamper your goals to pay down debt in a timely or more cost-effective manner. Look for cards with lower balance transfer fees.

What are the card’s terms and conditions?

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.

What is 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.

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.

Still unsure? Read the full story: Is a balance transfer a good idea?

Bankrate insight
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:

  1. Know how much time you have: 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. Initiate the transfer: 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. Provide your account info: You’ll need to give the issuer the account numbers of the card or loan accounts you want to transfer balances from.
  4. Follow the issuer’s instructions: 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.
  5. 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:

Balance transfer credit card 0% intro APR offer Transfer a balance by September 30, 2021 and avoid regular APR until:
Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card 15 months on qualifying transfers (14.99% – 24.99% variable after) December 30, 2022
Citi Diamond Preferred Card 18 months (13.74% – 23.74% variable after) March 31, 2023
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card 15 months from date of first transfer (13.99% – 23.99% 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) March 31, 2023
Wells Fargo Platinum card 18 months on qualifying transfers (16.49% – 24.49% variable after) March 31, 2023
Citi Simplicity Card 18 months (14.74% – 24.74% variable after) March 31, 2023
Citi Double Cash Card 18 months (13.99% – 23.99% variable after) March 31, 2023
Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days (13.99%-23.99% variable after) December 30, 2022
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card 20 billing cycles on balance transfers made in first 60 days (14.49%﹘24.49% variable after) March 31, 2023
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) December 30, 2022
Discover it® Balance Transfer 18 months (11.99%-22.99% variable after) March 31, 2023

*Terms and Restrictions Apply

CardSmart: Using rewards to transition to a balance transfer

Expert advice on choosing and using credit cards from Bankrate

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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Frequently Asked Questions

about the author
Former 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.
about the editor
Mariah Ackary is a personal finance writer who specializes in credit card rewards and small business credit. Mariah is a lifelong writer, but she began writing about finance in 2018. She joined the Bankrate team in 2019, excited by the opportunity to directly help people make good financial decisions. Send your questions to mackary@bankrate.com ...

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