Best credit cards for paying off debt in 2021

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Americans, on average, carry $5,525 in credit card debt, according to Experian. 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 2021

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 2021:

Citi Simplicity Card

  • Rewards: None
  • 0 percent offer: 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 21 months
  • Regular APR: 14.74 percent to 24.74 percent variable
  • Balance transfer fee: 5 percent ($5 minimum)
  • Welcome offer: None
  • Annual fee: $0

Why it’s best for a long intro APR offer

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 21 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. Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening.

Wells Fargo Reflect Card

  • Rewards: None
  • 0 percent offer: 0 percent intro APR on purchases and qualifying balance transfers for 18 months from account opening (up to 21 months with on-time minimum payments during the intro period).
  • Regular APR: 12.99 percent to 24.99 percent (variable)
  • Balance transfer fee: 3 percent (5 percent after the first 120 days, $5 minimum)
  • Welcome offer: None
  • Annual fee: $0

Why it’s best for purchases and balance transfers

The cards on this list all have great balance transfer offers. Often, though, a solid balance transfer offer comes at the expense of a so-so introductory offer for new purchases. This is not the case.

The Wells Fargo Reflect Card offers one of the longest 0 percent periods for both purchases and balance transfers: up to 21 months with on-time minimum payments during the intro period. After that, the regular APR of 12.99 percent to 24.99 percent (variable) kicks in.

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
  • 0 percent offer: 0 percent intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months
  • Regular APR: 13.99 percent to 23.99 percent variable
  • Balance transfer fee: 3 percent ($5 minimum)
  • 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.

U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card

  • Rewards: None
  • 0 percent offer: Qualify for 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 20 billing cycles, followed by a variable APR of 14.49 percent to 24.49 percent variable
  • Regular APR: 14.49% – 24.49% (variable)
  • Balance transfer fee: 3 percent ($5 minimum)
  • Welcome offer: None
  • Annual fee: $0

Why it gets an honorable mention

The U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card gives you 20 billing cycles with zero interest on purchases and balance transfers, putting it right on the heels of the Wells Fargo Reflect and Citi Simplicity cards. This card doesn’t offer rewards, but it also 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.

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 21 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 Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Author, Award-Winning Writer
Holly Johnson began her career working in the funeral industry, which may make you wonder why she works in personal finance now. Yet, the funeral industry taught the author everything she needs to know about the value of one's money and time. Johnson left the mortuary business a decade ago in order to explore her passion for personal finance and travel the world, and since then, she and her husband have built a debt-free lifestyle that has them on the path to retire very wealthy in their 40s. Holly's love of budgeting also led to the creation of her debt payoff book, “Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love."
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