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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
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 this card worth it? The Citi Diamond Preferred 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 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 this 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 Citi® Double Cash 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 this 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 Wells Fargo Platinum 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 this 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 BankAmericard® credit 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 this 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 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 this 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 Citi Rewards+® Card review.
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card
Best for digital wallet bonus
- This card is best for: People looking for a balance transfer card with a cash back program that offers some extra rewards on phone-first shopping.
- This card is not a great choice for: Someone who wants a longer introductory offer on qualifying balance transfers and couldn’t care less about cash back rewards or digital wallets.
- What makes this card unique? You can earn 1.8 percent cash rewards (a 20-percent bonus) on qualifying digital wallet purchases during your first 12 months from account opening.
- Is this card worth it? Frequent mobile wallet users looking for balance transfer options will find a lot to like with this card, although that segment of the consumer population is probably pretty narrow.
Read our Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® 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.
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 21, Bankrate estimates the current average interest rate on credit cards at 15.98% 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?
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 can call the issuer to ask if they’ll increase it. While it’s not guaranteed that the issuer will approve the increase, research by CreditCards.com found that cardholders had an 85-percent chance of getting a credit limit increase just by asking.
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 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
|Wells Fargo Platinum card
||18 months on qualifying transfers
||16.49% – 24.49% variable
|BankAmericard® credit card
||18 billing cycles (on any transfers made in first 60 days)
||12.99% – 22.99% variable
|Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card
||15 months on qualifying transfers
||14.49% – 24.99%
|Citi Rewards+® Card
||15 months (from date of first transfer)
||13.49% – 23.49% 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
|Alliant Visa® Platinum Credit Card
||12 months (on transfers made in first 60 days)
||10.24% – 22.24% 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.
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.
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’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 1, 2022
|Citi Double Cash Card
||18 months (13.99% – 23.99% variable after)
||December 1, 2022
|Wells Fargo Platinum card
||18 months on qualifying transfers (16.49% – 24.49% variable after)
||December 1, 2022
|BankAmericard credit card
||18 billing cycles on any balance transfers made in first 60 days (12.99%-22.99 variable after)
||December 1, 2022
|Citi Rewards+ Card
||15 months from date of first transfer (13.49% – 23.49% variable after)
||August 31, 2022
|Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card
||15 months on qualifying transfers (14.49%-24.99% variable after)
||August 31, 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)
||August 31, 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.
Video guide: What you should know about balance transfer credit cards
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 email@example.com.
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