Best credit cards for paying off debt in 2020

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Americans, on average, carry $6,194 in credit card debt and $90,460 in personal debt (which includes revolving debt like credit cards, housing debt and consumer loans like personal loans and student loans). Secured debt, including mortgage debt, is typically considered “good debt” since it’s backed up by an asset that should increase in value over time. Secured debts like mortgages and auto loans also tend to come with competitive interest rates that can make paying these loans off slowly a reasonable choice.

However, credit card debt can be especially problematic, partially due to the exorbitant interest rates credit cards can charge. With that in mind, many consumers look to a specific type of credit card called a balance transfer credit card to dig their way out once and for all.

Best credit cards for paying off debt in 2020

If you are dealing with debt and you need a leg up when it comes to paying it off, a credit card that offers 0 percent APR for a limited time can help. Keep reading to learn about the best credit cards that help you pay off credit card debt faster and with lower costs.

Here are Bankrate’s top options for paying off credit card debt in 2020:

  • Best for long introductory APR: U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
  • Best for cash back rewards: Citi® Double Cash Card
  • Best for earning a bonus offer: Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card
  • Best for no late fees: Citi Simplicity® Card

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

  • Rewards: None
  • Zero percent offer: Qualify for 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 20 billing cycles, followed by a variable APR of 13.99 percent to 23.99 percent
  • Welcome offer: None
  • Annual fee: $0

Why it’s best for a long introductory APR

The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card offers the longest 0 percent APR offer on the market today, giving you 20 billing cycles with zero interest on purchases and balance transfers. You won’t earn any rewards, but this card doesn’t charge an annual fee. Just remember that a 3 percent balance transfer fee (minimum $5) applies when you transfer high-interest credit card debt from another card.

Citi® Double Cash Card

  • Rewards: Earn 2 percent on all purchases made with the card—1 percent when the purchase is made and another 1 percent when you pay it off
  • Zero percent offer: Zero percent intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months, followed by a variable APR of 13.99 percent to 23.99 percent
  • Welcome offer: None
  • Annual fee: $0

Why it’s best for cash back rewards

The Citi® Double Cash Card offers a generous 2 percent rewards rate for each dollar you spend, although it’s offered in two tiers—1 percent back on purchases and another 1 percent back when you pay them off. The fact you can pay 0 percent intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months is also a major plus, although you should note that this introductory rate doesn’t apply to purchases. There’s no annual fee, but you will need to pay a 3 percent balance transfer fee (minimum $5) when you transfer other high-interest balances to this card.

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card

  • Rewards: Earn an unlimited 1.5 percent back in cash rewards
  • Zero percent offer: Zero percent intro APR on purchases and qualifying balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.49 to 24.99 percent
  • Welcome offer: Earn a $150 cash rewards bonus when you spend $500 on your card within three months of account opening
  • Annual fee: $0

Why it’s best for earning a bonus offer

Where other balance transfer credit cards let you earn cash back, the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card lets you earn ongoing rewards on your spending and offers a generous welcome bonus. When you sign up for this card, you’ll earn 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases and an additional $150 in cash rewards when you spend $500 on your card within three months of account opening. The 0 percent intro APR you receive for 15 months is also good for both purchases and qualifying balance transfers (14.49 percent to 24.99 percent variable APR after).

Citi Simplicity® Card

  • Rewards: None
  • Zero percent offer: Zero percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 18 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.74 percent to 24.74 percent
  • Welcome offer: None
  • Annual fee: $0

Why it’s best for no late fees

The Citi Simplicity® Card stands out due to the fact you won’t be charged a late fee if you make your payment late. This card also refrains from charging a penalty APR after a late payment, and you’ll never pay an annual fee, either. In terms of the introductory offer, you’ll get 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 18 months (14.74 percent to 24.74 percent variable APR after). However, a 3 percent (minimum $5) balance transfer fee will apply to balances you transfer from other cards.

How to select the best credit cards for paying off debt

Using a credit card to pay off debt may seem counterproductive, but the 0 percent introductory terms some balance transfer cards offer can make this strategy a smart move. After all, paying off credit cards in full is considerably easier when you don’t have to make interest payments each month, and the savings can be substantial even after accounting for balance transfer fees.

If you’re considering a card that offers 0 percent APR for a limited time, these tips can help you find the right one:

  • Decide if you want 0 percent APR on purchases, balance transfers or both. It’s easy to see that some cards offer an introductory APR for balance transfers only while others include purchases as well. If you want to save money on purchases you make with your card for a limited time, look for an option that offers 0 percent APR on both.
  • Figure out how long you need to pay off your debt. Compare the length of the introductory offers available, keeping in mind that the longest 0 percent APR term available is 20 months. If you need as much time as possible to pay off your credit card debt, look for the longest offer you can find.
  • Determine if you want to earn rewards. Not all balance transfer cards offer rewards, so keep that in mind. If you want to earn rewards with a 0 percent APR credit card you likely can, but you’ll typically wind up with a shorter introductory interest offer.
  • Compare fee structures. Make sure to compare cards in terms of their fees, including annual fees and balance transfer fees. Also, take note of the ongoing variable APR and note your debt will accrue interest at this rate when your introductory period is over.

The bottom line

Paying off debt becomes considerably easier when you get the chance to avoid interest for a year or more. After all, the average credit card interest rate is over 16 percent, and avoiding this added charge each month means that every dollar you pay on your credit card goes directly toward the principal of your balance.

With that being said, using a credit card payoff calculator to figure out how long you might need to pay off your debt can be helpful. Also, make sure to compare all the cards that make this scenario possible before you pull the trigger.

The information about the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum, Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa, and Citi Simplicity Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.