Balance transfer fees: What they are and how to avoid them

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It’s 2020 and you’re ready to take the first step toward your goal of paying off credit card debt.

When it comes to transferring credit card debt to a balance transfer credit card, you might be wondering what that so-called balance transfer fee is and how it’ll affect your payments.

What is a balance transfer fee?

Most balance transfer cards charge a balance transfer fee in exchange for a low or zero percent interest APR offer. The fee usually ranges between 3 and 5 percent of the amount of each transfer with a minimum transfer requirement of $5 to $10. It’s added to your overall credit card balance, allowing you to pay the fee over time, and it won’t accrue interest in any circumstance.

If you owe $5,000 in credit card debt, for example, and transfer it to the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card within the first 15 months of owning the card, you’ll owe a 3 percent balance transfer fee. In other words, you’ll pay 3 percent of $5,000 (equal to $150) in exchange for transferring your balance to the Quicksilver.

Credit cards without a balance transfer fee

In most if not all cases, you’ll need to pay this fee in order to complete your balance transfer  — but there are a handful of cards that either don’t charge the fee or offer introductory periods in which to avoid it.

BankAmericard® Credit Card for Students

If you’re a college student with credit card debt, the BankAmericard® Credit Card for Students offers a 15-billing cycle zero percent APR for balance transfer made within 60 days of opening your account (14.49 percent — 24.49 percent variable APR thereafter).

You’ll receive an introductory $0 balance transfer fee for the first 60 days your account is open, meaning as long as you transfer your balance within that time frame, you won’t owe a fee. After the fact, you’ll owe 3 percent of each transaction (minimum $10).

One significant downside of the BankAmericard is that it doesn’t have a rewards structure. But if you’re truly set on not paying a fee, it may be worth it.

Chase Slate

The Chase Slate offers a 15-month zero percent introductory APR on balance transfers (16.49 percent — 25.24 percent), and as long as you transfer your balance within the first 60 days your account is open, you’ll receive an introductory $0 balance transfer fee. After that, you’ll owe a significantly higher fee of 5 percent of the amount transferred ($5 minimum).

Those who have a history of making late payments will benefit from the card’s lack of a penalty APR (meaning your interest rate won’t raise for making a late payment). You will though, owe a late payment fee of up to $39.

Unfortunately, there’s no opportunity to earn rewards for your spending on the card, but you also won’t be subject to an annual fee.

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

With the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express, you’ll receive a 15-month zero percent intro APR offer on balance transfers (14.49 percent — 25.49 percent variable APR thereafter) without paying an annual fee. The card doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee, making it one of the very few to do so without the fine print of an introductory offer.

Unlike other cards in this list, the Amex EveryDay offers a rewards structure (but you’ll need a good to excellent credit score to qualify). The card earns you 2X points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1X) and 1X points on all other eligible purchases. There’s also a host of travel perks associated with the card, including car rental loss and damage insurance, access to Global Assist® Hotline and the ability to transfer your points to a variety of Amex travel partners.

The bottom line

Though balance transfer fees can be a nuisance, there are a handful of credit cards that offer a way to bypass them. You can further explore your options by reading Bankrate’s list of the best balance transfer cards for 2020.

The information about the Amex Everyday Credit Card from American Express, the Chase Slate and the Bank Americard Credit Card for Students has been collected independently by The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.