Balance Transfer Credit Cards

If you are managing debt, try a balance transfer card to help you pay down debt faster by transferring an existing balance to a new card with lower interest. We analyzed over 1,000 balance transfer offers to find the best recommendations for you - compare our editor's picks for the 10 best balance transfer credit cards from our partners below and see how much each card could help you save.

Try one of our 10 best balance transfer cards to help pay down your existing debt balance.

Summary

CreditCards.com's Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards of 2018

BankAmericard® credit card

BankAmericard® credit card

13,255 Reviews

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Bank of America's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0%
Intro Balance Transfer Period
18 billing cycles for BTs made in the first 60 days
Regular Balance Transfer APR
14.99% - 24.99% variable

Show Less

Highlights

  • New Offer: 0% Introductory APR for 18 billing cycles for purchases and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, then, 14.99% - 24.99% Variable APR. 3% fee (min $10) applies to balance transfers
  • No annual fee
  • No penalty APR. Paying late won't automatically raise your interest rate (APR). Other account pricing and terms apply.
  • Access your FICO® Score for free within Online Banking or your Mobile Banking app

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% Introductory APR on purchases for 18 billing cycles
Regular APR
14.99% - 24.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% Intro APR for 18 billing cycles for balance transfers made in the first 60 days
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.

View All Card Details

Show More

Discover it® Balance Transfer

Discover it® Balance Transfer

26,257 Reviews

See Rates & Fees

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Discover's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0%
Intro Balance Transfer Period
18 months
Regular Balance Transfer APR
13.99% - 24.99% variable

See Rates & Fees

Show Less

Highlights

  • Intro Offer: Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Receive Free Social Security number alerts— Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 6 months
Regular APR
13.99% - 24.99% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% for 18 months
Balance Transfer Fee
3%

View All Card Details

Show More

Citi Simplicity® Card

Citi Simplicity® Card
Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Citi's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0%
Intro Balance Transfer Period
21 months
Regular Balance Transfer APR
15.99% - 25.99% variable

Show Less

Highlights

  • The only card with No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee... Ever
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from date of first transfer. All transfers must be completed in first 4 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.99% - 25.99%, based on your creditworthiness
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 15.99% - 25.99%, based on your creditworthiness
  • If you transfer a balance with this offer, after your 0% Intro purchase APR expires, both new purchases and unpaid purchase balances will automatically accrue interest until all balances, including your transferred balance, are paid in full
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • The same great rate for all balances, after the introductory period
  • Save time when you call with fast, personal help, 24 hours a day — just say "representative"
  • Enjoy the convenience of setting up your own bill payment schedule on any available due date throughout the month

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0*
Intro Purchase APR
0%* for 12 months on Purchases*
Regular APR
15.99% - 25.99%* (Variable)
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers*
Balance Transfer Fee
5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.

View All Card Details

Show More

Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card

Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card
Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Wells Fargo's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0%
Intro Balance Transfer Period
18 months
Regular Balance Transfer APR
17.49% - 26.99% variable

Show Less

Highlights

  • 0% Intro APR for 18 months on purchases and balance transfers (fees apply), then a 17.49%-26.99% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rates and fees
  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Credit Card
  • Free access to your FICO® Credit Score with Wells Fargo Online®
  • Zero Liability protection for promptly reported unauthorized transactions
  • Convenient tools to help create a budget and manage your spending with My Money Map
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms, and conditions

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 18 months
Regular APR
17.49%-26.99% (Variable)
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% for 18 months
Balance Transfer Fee
3% Intro for 18 months, then 5%

View All Card Details

Show More

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

9,884 Reviews

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Chase's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0%
Intro Balance Transfer Period
15 months
Regular Balance Transfer APR
16.74% - 25.49% variable

Show Less

Highlights

  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Regular APR
16.74% - 25.49% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

View All Card Details

Show More

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

Excellent Credit Recommended (740-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at U.S. Bank's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0%
Intro Balance Transfer Period
20 months
Regular Balance Transfer APR
11.99% - 23.99% variable

See Rates & Fees

Show Less

Highlights

  • 0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 20 billing cycles. After that, a variable APR currently 11.99% - 23.99%
  • Great Offer for Customers of U.S. Bank, a 2018 World's Most Ethical Company® - Ethisphere Institute, February 2018
  • No Annual Fee
  • Flexibility to choose a payment due date that fits your schedule
  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your U.S.Bank Visa® Platinum Credit Card. Certain terms, conditions, and exclusions apply.

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0*
Intro Purchase APR
0%* for 20 billing cycles on purchases*
Regular APR
11.99% - 23.99%* (Variable)
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0%* intro on BTs for 20 months
Balance Transfer Fee
3%

View All Card Details

Show More

Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi® Double Cash Card
Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Citi's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0%
Intro Balance Transfer Period
18 months
Regular Balance Transfer APR
15.49% - 25.49% variable

Show Less

Highlights

  • Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.49% - 25.49% based on your creditworthiness*
  • Click 'Apply Now' to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases
  • No categories to track, no caps on cash back, no annual fee*

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0*
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
15.49% - 25.49%* (Variable)
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% for 18 months*
Balance Transfer Fee
3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.

View All Card Details

Show More

HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at HSBC's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0%
Intro Balance Transfer Period
18 months
Regular Balance Transfer APR
Variable APR of 12.74%, 16.74% or 20.74% will apply after the Introductory Period

See Rates & Fees

Show Less

Highlights

  • 0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 18 months from account opening. Then a variable APR of 12.74%, 16.74% or 20.74% will apply.
  • No Penalty APR.
  • Late Fee Waiver.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $0 Annual Fee.
  • $0 liability for unauthorized purchases.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% Introductory APR on credit card purchases for the first 18 months from account opening
Regular APR
Variable APR of 12.74%, 16.74% or 20.74% will apply after the Introductory Period
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% Introductory APR on balance transfers for the first 18 months from account opening
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $10 or 4%, whichever is greater, will apply on each balance transfer and credit card check.

View All Card Details

Show More

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at American Express's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0%
Intro Balance Transfer Period
15 months
Regular Balance Transfer APR
14.99% - 25.99% variable

See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

Show Less

Highlights

  • $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).
  • 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.99% to 25.99%.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% on Purchases for 15 months
Regular APR
14.99%-25.99% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% on Balance Transfers for 15 months
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

View All Card Details

Show More


Back to top

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by CreditCards.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank's website for the most current information.

Comparing Balance Transfer Credit Card Offers

Updated: October 15, 2018

We found that a whopping 49% of American adults wrongly thought that you can't transfer a balance to a new card and pay 0% for more than a year. Polling 1,259 people from Oct. 5-8, 2018, YouGov PLC found for us that only 51% of those polled correctly answered that statement as true.

So, yes, balance transfer cards are a good way to address that debt – and more.

You might want to consolidate your debt. Or perhaps you want to stop paying prohibitive interest charges. There are a number of reasons for obtaining a balance transfer, all excellent ways to save money and improve your budgeting skills.

However, it’s important to learn from your mistakes, and recognize what got you in the financial straits you are in in the first place. That means start a budget that includes room for fun and saving.

Ready for a balance transfer card? Here, we look at:

Not sure what the pitfalls are? Want to know more about how to use a balance transfer card? We can help.


Full comparison of the best balance transfer credit cards of 2018

The best balance transfer credit cards come with lengthy 0% intro APR periods and have low balance transfer fees. For example, the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card can help save a substantial amount of money as it has an interest-free period of 20 billing cycles followed up by low regular APR of 11.99% - 23.99% variable.

Credit CardBest For:Balance Transfers Intro APRRegular APRBalance Transfer FeeAnnual FeeCreditCards.com Rating
Capital One® Quicksilver® CardLong balance transfer period and no foreign transaction fees15 months14.74% - 24.74% Variable3.00%$03.1 / 5
BankAmericard® credit cardVery long 0% APR period and free access to FICO score18 billing cycles14.99% - 24.99% Variable3% of the amount transferred, $10 minimum$03.5 / 5
Discover it® Balance TransferVery long promo period and low variable APR18 months13.99% - 24.99% Variable3.00%$04.3 / 5
Citi Simplicity® CardVery long promo period and no late fees21 months15.99% - 25.99% Variable5% or $5 (whichever is greater)$04.5 / 5
Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® CardVery lengthy promo period and no annual fee18 months17.49% - 26.99% Variable3% intro for 18 months, then 5%$04.2 / 5
Chase Freedom Unlimited®Long promo period and sign-up bonus15 months16.74% - 25.49% Variable5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum$02.4 / 5
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum CardVery long 0% APR intro period and flexible payments20 billing cycles11.99% - 23.99% Variable$5 or 3% (whichever is higher)$04.3 / 5
Citi® Double Cash CardLong promo period and flat-rate cash back18 months15.49% - 25.49% Variable3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum$03.6 / 5
HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit cardLong promo period and no annual fee18 monthsVariable APR of 12.74%, 16.74% or 20.74%4% or $10 (whichever is greater)$0N/A
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American ExpressLong promo period and excellent rewards15 months14.99% - 25.99% Variable3% or $5 (whichever is greater)$03.6/ 5

How we picked the best cards

Number of cards analyzed: 1,002

Criteria used: 0% intro APR period for balance transfers, balance transfer fees, regular APR, savings period, current APR assumption, monthly payment assumption, other rates and fees, customer service, credit needed, security, ease of application, potential rewards, miscellaneous benefits

Ranking methodology: While a large number of factors contribute to the quality of a credit card, the following were our most important criteria in evaluating and choosing the best balance transfer cards:

  1. Length of 0% intro APR period: A good balance transfer card should have an introductory 0% APR period of at least 15 months. In a few cases, a card with a shorter intro offer may be worth it for its other benefits but if balance transfers are your primary intended use, then the longer the better.
  2. Balance transfer fee: If you have a large balance to transfer, this fee can become quite costly. We only considered credit cards with balance transfer fees of no more than 5%.
  3. Regular APR after intro period: Ideally, you want to pay off your balance before the 0% intro APR period is over. However, if this is not possible then you should keep an eye out for cards with reasonable regular interest rates.
  4. Annual fee: The entire point of a balance transfer credit card is to avoid paying more than you have to; paying an annual fee would run counter to that goal. The best balance transfer credit cards have no annual fee – you'll notice that we've eschewed cards that charge such a fee in compiling our list.

Editor's take on our best balance transfer cards

best balance transfer credit cards

Capital One® Quicksilver Card – 0% Intro APR for 15 Months

Analysis: While the Quicksilver's 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfer is 15 months, the regular APR ranges from 14.74% - 24.74% variable. It has a flat rate on all purchases of 1.5% cash back and there's also a $150 cash bonus after a $500 spend within the first 3 months of opening your account.

Annual Fee: $0

Recommended credit: Good to excellent

Bottom line: The Quicksilver's required spend on the intro bonus is lower than the Blue Cash Everyday's, but the bonus is the same, which is worth noting. Also, there's a flat rate of 1.5%, so you don't have to think about what types of purchases you are making.

BankAmericard® credit card

Analysis: All in all, this credit card is fairly straightforward. Its 0% APR period is a solid 18 billing cycles (then 14.99% - 24.99% variable), allowing you plenty of time to pay off purchases and balance transfers. Importantly, there is no penalty APR, meaning that your APR won't go up automatically if you pay late (although you should still always avoid paying late). Beyond that, there's not a ton of fancy benefits, but one noteworthy feature is free access to your FICO credit score.

Annual Fee: $0

Recommended credit: Good to excellent

Bottom line: If you need a balance transfer card that gets the job done and you don't mind the lack of bells and whistles, the BankAmericard is a good choice.

Discover it® Balance Transfer

Analysis: This card doubles as a cashback card and a balance transfer card, but it's important to stay on top of any new purchases so you don't carry a balance that incurs interest charges. As long as you pay down at least the balance of the new purchases after the first 6 months and before 18 months, you won't incur interest, and you'll fully benefit from the cash back.

The Discover it Balance Transfer gives you an excellent 18-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers (13.99% - 24.99% variable APR), as well as 5% back on select rotating categories up to the quarterly max each time you activate, and cash back match at the end of your first year. So, if you spend $500 a month on select categories, you can earn $600 – $75 a quarter for your purchases plus $300 at year end.

Annual Fee: $0

Recommended credit: Good to excellent

Bottom line: If you're looking for a card with a generous intro APR on purchases, look elsewhere – this one has a paltry 6-month 0% APR (then 13.99% - 24.99% variable). But with a generous balance transfer offer and rewards, this card can be a great addition to your wallet.

Citi Simplicity®

Analysis: This card has the rare feature of an 21-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers, although the balance transfer fee is high at 5% or $5, whichever is greater. The regular ongoing rate of 15.99% - 25.99% variable applies after the intro period ends.

Annual Fee: $0

Recommended credit: Good to excellent

Bottom line: This card offers no rewards, but it offers no late fees and no penalty rate, and the 0% intro APR offer is superb.

Wells Fargo Platinum Visa®

Analysis: This card has the unusual feature of 0% APR for 18 months on both purchases and balance transfers. However, the regular APR weighs in at 17.49% - 26.99% variable, so you'll want to pay off your balance before 18 months end. Also keep in mind that you must make your balance transfers within 120 days in order to qualify for intro rates and fees. During the first 120 days, the balance transfer fee is a lower 3%, but goes up to 5% after that. You can also get up to $600 protection on your cellphone (with a $25 deductible) for covered damage and theft when you pay your cell bill with this card.

Annual Fee: $0

Recommended credit: Good to excellent

Bottom line: This card an unusually long 0% intro APR offer; just make sure you are aware of the caveats and pay off your balance before the high regular APR kicks in.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Analysis: This card is similar to the Quicksilver, with the lower spend of $500 in the first 3 months for a $150 sign-up bonus, 1.5% back on all purchases, and a 15-month introductory offer of 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers (then 16.74% - 25.49% variable).

Annual Fee: $0

Recommended credit: Good to excellent

Bottom line: While the the balance transfer fee is high at 5%, with a $5 minimum, the Chase Freedom Unlimited can be partnered with one of the Sapphire cards to get an increased rate on travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

Analysis: The U.S. Bank Visa Platinum card offers one of the absolute best 0% introductory APR offers on the market right now at 20 billing cycles, which is phenomenal if you need more time to pay off an outstanding balance. The variable APR also starts at a low 11.99%, so if you have excellent credit and need to carry a balance, it is a reasonable interest rate among low interest cards.

Annual Fee: $0

Recommended credit: Excellent

Bottom line: This card should be one of your go-to choices if you have excellent credit and need to pay off a balance over an extended period of time.

Citi® Double Cash Card

Analysis: A few balance transfer cards double as cashback cards, and this card is a good option if you want to earn the same amount on all purchases. With the Citi Double Cash, you earn 1% when you make a purchase, then another 1% back when you pay it off. Add to that, the Citi Double Cash offers a great 18-month 0% intro APR (after that, 15.49% - 25.49% variable APR applies), although there's no 0% APR on purchases.

Annual Fee: $0

Recommended credit: Good to excellent

Bottom line: The balance transfer fee is a little lower than other cards, at 3% or $5, whichever is greater, and the balance transfer offer is competitive. Unfortunately, it's no go on 0% APR on purchases.

HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card

Analysis: The HSBC Gold Mastercard is another good card on the market with an 18-month 0% intro APR period for both purchases and balance transfers (Variable APR of 12.74%, 16.74% or 20.74% after that). The balance transfer fee is a little high at 4% or $10 (whichever is higher), but it also boasts no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

Annual Fee: $0

Recommended credit: Good to excellent

Bottom line: Overall, the intro APR period for balance transfers makes this a leading contender and card to consider.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Analysis: This card boasts outstanding value alongside its 15-month 0% intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers. The regular ongoing rate of 14.99% - 25.99% variable applies after the intro period ends. The BCE's rewards stand out, as you can earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 of purchases per year before it goes to 1%. You earn 2% at U.S. gas stations and U.S. department stores, and 1% on all other purchases.

Annual Fee: $0

Recommended credit: Good to excellent

Bottom line: This card is good for consumers looking for cash back alongside a long intro APR offer.


What are balance transfer credit cards and how do they work?

Balance transfer cards are credit cards that allow you to move debt from one card to another – essentially paying off credit card “A” with new credit card “B.” Typically, a person will transfer his or her balance to a card with a lower interest rate, allowing them to save money on monthly payments or pay off the balance more quickly. For example, if you’re paying 12 percent interest on a $3,000 debt, you will have to pay $560 per month for six months to pay off the balance. If you transfer that $3,000 balance to a card that doesn’t charge interest for the first six months, your payments will be $500 – for a savings of $60 each month.

Given the benefits of balance transfer cards, it was a bit of a shocker for us to find out in our October 2018 poll that almost two-thirds of those polled had never applied for a balance transfer card. Yet, used correctly, they are an excellent tool for recovering from card debt.

Have you ever applied for a balance transfer credit card?...

  •  30%
  • Yes, and I got the balance transfer card
  •  7%
  • Yes, I applied, but I wasn't approved
  •  48%
  • No, I've never applied for a balance transfer card
  •  16%
  • No, I didn't know balance transfer cards existed
  • Source: CreditCards.com Oct. 2018 balance transfer card survey

As CreditCards.com industry analyst Ted Rossman points out, "Balance transfer credit cards are an excellent tool for getting out of debt at the lowest possible cost. At present, the best offers are 0% interest for 20 months (with a 3% transfer fee) or 0% interest for 15 months (with no transfer fee). Take advantage of these promotions and be careful to avoid running up more debt once you've worked so hard to get out of it."

While many credit cards offer a balance transfer option, only select cards offer an interest-free introductory period and/or waive balance transfer fees. According to CreditCards.com’s 2017 balance transfer survey, 38 out of the 100 cards polled offered a 0 percent interest rate on balance transfers. This teaser rate is usually offered for a promotional time period which ranges anywhere from six to 21 months, depending on the card.

For example, The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express* offers a 0 percent introductory APR on balance transfers for 15 months before the regular variable APR of 14.99% - 25.99% applies, and does not charge a balance transfer fee if the transfer is made within 60 days of opening an account. According to Russ Nuata of CreditCardReviews.com, "The smartest thing to do with a balance transfer card is to find one with no transfer fee because it's the best way to save money." Cards that don’t waive the balance transfer fee generally charge 3 to 5 percent of each transfer with a minimum of $5 or $10.

Balance transfers are not limited to transferring debt from other credit cards. Some cards also allow you to transfer debt from student loans and other installment payments, such as appliance purchases.

How do they work?

Once you sign up for a balance transfer card, you can request to transfer a card balance onto the new card either online or by calling customer service. You will be required to provide a few key details, including the account number of the old card and the amount you want to transfer. After receiving this information, the credit card company will evaluate your request and, based on your credit limit or other factors, may approve you for all or part of the requested transfer amount.

The new credit card issuer will contact the old issuer to transfer the balance. During this time – which may take up to three weeks – you should continue making payments on the old card account to avoid possible penalties.

How does a balance transfer credit card save you money?

A card with a 0-percent introductory APR can help you save money by sparing you interest payments for a limited time and allowing you to pay down your debt faster.

For example, let’s say you are currently carrying a $5,000 balance on a credit card with an 18 percent APR and you want to transfer it to the Amex EveryDay* card – which doesn’t charge a fee for balances transferred within 60 days of account opening – and offers a 0-percent intro APR on balance transfers for the first 15 months (then 14.99% - 25.99% Variable).

If you made a monthly payment of $333 to the Amex EveryDay* card, you could fully pay it off in 15 months, owing no fees or interest.

In comparison, if you kept the $5,000 balance on the original card and made the same monthly payment, it would take 18 months to pay off and would cost you $633 in interest. In other words, you would save over $600 in interest by transferring your debt to the Amex EveryDay* in this scenario.

Interest and fees owed on a $5,000 balance
Sample card
(18% APR)
Amex EveryDay* card
(0% intro APR on balance transfer for 15 months (then 14.99% - 25.99% Variable), $0 intro balance transfer fee if made within 60 days of account opening)
Monthly payment = $333
Time to pay off balance = 18 months
Total interest = $633
Monthly payment = $333
Time to pay off balance = 15 months
Total interest = $0

How to perform a balance transfer

If you’re considering a balance transfer card, you may be wondering how much work goes into moving the balance from one card to another. Overall, the process is relatively simple on the end of the cardholder. Here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Apply for a balance transfer card – Before choosing a card, check out our balance transfer calculator, which factors in fees and interest rates to determine how much you’ll save by transferring your existing balance to a different card. Once you find the balance transfer card that best suits you, complete the card application.
  2. Collect your information – Next, gather the account details for the card that has the debt – referred to as the “transfer from” card – including the account number and card balance.
  3. Contact customer service – After receiving your balance transfer card, call customer service and inform them that you want to transfer a balance onto your new card. Once you provide them with the necessary information, they will reach out to the old card company and move the requested amount onto your new card. Many cards also allow you to make balance transfers through your online account, but Nuata advises that you should wait until you receive the physical card to initiate a balance transfer. "This is the best method because when you do the transfer online, you may not receive a credit line high enough to cover the transfer(s). If you wait until you receive the card, you can always call the bank and explain the situation and request a greater line of credit."

Balances can take up to three weeks to transfer, so we recommend that you pay the minimum amount on your card before transferring the debt to avoid late fees and other penalties. Also, be sure to transfer your balance before the card’s introductory offer ends.

Tips on using balance transfer cards

Balance transfer cards can be an excellent savings tool, but they also tend to carry high APRs, which can be a pitfall if you aren’t diligent in paying down your balance. Here are a few tips to keep you from digging yourself into more debt:

Figure out the best amount to transfer

Usually it makes sense to transfer as much of your debt as possible onto a 0-percent card to minimize your interest payments – but not always. Balance transfer cards usually carry higher-than-average APRs and – if you can’t repay the balance before the introductory period – it could potentially cost you more in interest rates and fees than if you leave the balance where it is. If your current account has a lower interest rate, you should do some math to figure out whether transferring all of your balance or just a portion of it will cost less.

Create a plan to pay off your balance

You’re not off the hook once you’ve transferred your balance – you need to pay it off in a timely manner so you don’t end up racking up a ton of interest on it. As Mike Sullivan of Take Charge America says, "Balance transfers are best for consumers who are serious about paying off debt for good. To be effective long term, you must control future spending." Have a plan in place that includes monthly installment payments before you do the transfer.

Pay your bill on time

Be sure to send your payment by the due date to avoid penalty fees. In fact, check the card’s terms and conditions, because making a payment even a day late may result in you losing your 0-percent introductory rate. Set up an automatic payment through your bank and schedule it a few days before your due date to be on the safe side.

Try to pay it off before the introductory period expires

You should try to pay off your balance before the regular APR kicks in. However, you should also take into account balances on other cards. You may want to focus on paying down accounts with higher interest rates first, and then make larger payments toward your 0-percent card once you’ve paid off your other accounts.

Avoid making new purchases on your card

Don’t get yourself in more debt. Incurring new debt could undermine your ability to repay your balance transfer before the introductory period expires, and – unless your new card includes a 0-percent introductory period for new purchases – you will immediately start incurring interest on that new debt. Put your new card to the side until you’ve finished paying it off.

Keep your old card open

Don’t close down your old account once you’ve transferred your balance from it, especially if you’ve had it for a long time. Doing so could significantly lower your credit score, by lowering the average age of your accounts and raising your credit utilization ratio. However, you don't want to incur new debt either. Instead, put a small charge on the old card and pay it off in full each month to keep the account active.

Evaluate your spending habits

Consider how you accumulated a large balance and steps you need to modify your spending habits. Perhaps the balance was the result of an emergency that couldn’t be avoided. Or maybe you are living beyond your means. Create a budget and seek the help of a credit counselor.

Pros and cons of balance transfer credit cards

While there are several benefits to using a balance transfer card, there are also drawbacks. Here are a few pros and cons of using a balance transfer card.

Pros

  • Avoid paying interest on old debt – By transferring your current credit card debt to a card with a 0-percent interest rate on balance transfers, you can pay off your debt without incurring interest charges.
  • Consolidate monthly payments – Instead of keeping track of several card balances and different payment due dates each month, you can streamline your payments by transferring debt from various cards to a single card. As Nathalie Noisette, owner of Credit Conversion, puts it: "An additional upside [to saving on interest] is keeping everything in one place and not worrying about multiple cards."
  • Save money on interest - You can save money on interest and pay off your debt faster when you transfer your balance from a high-interest card to one with a promotional 0% interest rate. Specifically, you should aim for 0 APR offers rather than just a card with lower interest than your current one. According to Rebecca House of American Financial Solutions, "One of the most common things I see is people using balance transfers to lower payments rather than to get out of debt. If you are transferring a balance solely for lower interest, you may be setting yourself up for financial failure. Use a zero percent interest rate to focus on getting out of debt and have a plan for making that goal a reality."
  • Transfer non-credit card debt – Balance transfers are not limited to credit card debt. You may also be able to transfer car loans and monthly installment payments from appliances, furniture and more.

Cons

  • Possible negative impact on your credit score – While transferring a balance won’t necessarily affect your credit score, applying for a new balance transfer card will. Freddie Huynh of Freedom Financial Network notes, "There is potential impact on credit profiles and scores, since credit reporting agencies calculate credit utilization for each credit card you have. If you transfer a balance to a card with a lower credit limit, the amount of available credit may decrease. Adding a new card will lower ‘credit age,’ which may impact credit scores."
  • Additional fees – Many balance transfer cards charge balance transfer fees, typically ranging from 3 to 5 percent per transfer. Out of the 100 credit cards polled in our annual balance transfer survey, 91 cards charged a balance transfer fee.
  • Exposure to more debt – Once you transfer your balance to a new card, you may be tempted to continue racking up debt on your old credit card. Additionally, Jory McEachern of ScoreShuttle points out, "Balance transfer credit cards lead to extremely high-interest rates if balances are not paid off within the given time period." In other words, there is a great deal of risk involved if you don't have a plan to to pay off your debt before the 0% offer ends.
  • You may get a higher interest rate – If you don’t have excellent credit, you typically won’t be approved for promotional interest rates. Instead, you will only qualify for the regular, higher interest rates.

Effect on credit

A balance transfer can save you money in the short term, but it can also impact your credit score. For example, performing too many balance transfers can appear to creditors that you are simply shuffling high-interest debts to lower interest cards instead of paying off your balances quickly.

Here are a few ways that a balance transfer can negatively impact your credit score:

Hard inquiry

If you apply for a balance transfer card, or any type of loan, a hard inquiry will appear on your credit report. A hard inquiry indicates that a lender has reviewed your credit because you have applied to borrow from them. Because a hard inquiry typically drops your credit score between five and 10 points each time you apply for a new loan, it is important to avoid applying for several loans within a brief period.

Length of credit history

The length of your credit history accounts for approximately 15 percent of your credit score. Two scoring factors that can be hurt by opening a new balance transfer card are the average account age, which can be affected by introducing a new card, and the age of the newest account, which gets younger each time a new account is opened.

Credit card utilization

In terms of credit scoring, credit card utilization is the second most important factor after paying your bill on time. Essentially, your card utilization ratio compares the amount of debt you’re using to the total credit available to you. The lower your utilization ratio, the better.

Because the amount of overall debt does not change when you move your balance from one card to another card, you probably wouldn’t expect a balance transfer to affect your utilization ratio. On the contrary, a transfer could raise your utilization on the receiving end of the transfer, and having just one highly utilized card can have a negative impact on your credit score.

Is a balance transfer card right for me?

For those struggling under the weight of heavy credit card debt, a balance transfer card can offer a great opportunity to lower your interest payments and pay off your debt more quickly. If you can relate to any of the following, a balance transfer card may be the right fit for you.

  • You want to save money – Balance transfers are typically performed by those who want to reduce the amount of interest they pay. You may even qualify for a card that doesn’t charge interest on balance transfers and/or balance transfer fees.
  • You want convenience – Balance transfer cards allow you to make one low-interest payment each month instead of juggling several different card payments.
  • You want to pay off your debt fast – You can apply the money you’ll save on interest to the principal of your balance and pay off your debt more quickly.

If you qualify for a balance transfer card with a lower interest rate than your current card, then transferring your balance could be a good idea. However, there are a few important things to consider before making your decision.

First, determine if you can pay off your current balance quickly. If you can pay your current balance off in six months or less, transferring your debt may not be worth it. While there are select cards that don’t have balance transfer fees, most cards charge between 3 and 5 percent each time you transfer a balance. These fees can easily outweigh the savings you would receive in interest.

Second, consider your credit score. If your credit score is below 720, you most likely will not be approved for a low interest balance transfer offer or a 0 percent introductory offer. Remember: The main reason to transfer your balance to a different card is to get a lower interest rate.

Finally, it is important to be a responsible cardholder. If you have a difficult time making credit card payments on time, you should think twice about getting a balance transfer card. In addition to racking up expensive late fees, issuers will typically cancel any promotional interest rate offers if you pay your bill late – meaning, you could be responsible for high interest payments right away.

If you can pay off your balance within the promotional period of your new card before interest rates rise, then balance transfers are a helpful tool. But if you don’t think you’ll be able to pay off your debt soon after transferring your balance, you should consider another option, such as a personal loan.

To see how much you can save from transferring your balance to a lower-interest card, use our balance transfer calculator.

How to choose the right balance transfer card

Just because it says “0-percent” doesn’t mean a balance transfer doesn’t come with costs. Most balance transfer cards charge a 3 and 5 percent fee, which can really add up if you are transferring thousands of dollars. You will find a few cards – that don’t charge a balance transfer fee. Cards without balance transfer fees are rare (only 9 out of the 38 cards in our balance transfer survey), but keep a lookout for them – transferring a balance to a card without a fee could save you more money than transferring a balance to a card with a longer introductory period.

You also want to look for a card that’s not going to hassle you with a lot of restrictions, and – when all else is equal – might be worth keeping in the long run. Here’s a list of criteria you should use in selecting a balance transfer card:

Do you qualify for the card?

If you are in debt, your credit score may already be lower than usual, so you need to be especially careful in applying for a credit card. Applying for a card can temporarily lower your credit score due the hard inquiry generated on your credit report. If you are rejected by a card, it makes it even harder to qualify for others. Make sure your FICO score is high enough to qualify for a card before you apply.

Is it a true 0-percent APR card?

Be on the lookout for cards with deferred interest deals. Deferred interest means just that — if you don’t repay every last cent of your balance by the end of the introductory period -- you will owe interest for all of the preceding months. A true 0-percent balance transfer card does not charge interest during the introductory period (as long as you make your monthly payments on time), even if you are still carrying a balance at the end of the introductory period.

How long is the introductory period?

The introductory period is the length of time that the card offers a 0-percent APR on balance transfers (and new purchases, depending on the card). The length of the introductory period can vary drastically. According to our recent balance transfer survey, the average promotional period lasts 12 months, but you can find offers as short as six months or as long as 21 months. Steven Millstein, editor at CreditRepairExpert.org, says "Ideally you want to look for a balance transfer card with a 0% p.a. interest rate for longer than 12 months. You should also confirm whether you are in a position to repay the entire debt within the promotional period." Generally, you want to shoot for the longest promotional period, but there’s another very important consideration:

What is the balance transfer fee?

Just because it says “0-percent” doesn’t mean a balance transfer doesn’t come with costs. Most balance transfer cards charge a 3 and 5 percent fee, which can really add up if you are transferring thousands of dollars. You will find a few cards – that don’t charge a balance transfer fee. Cards without balance transfer fees are rare (only 9 out of the 38 cards in our balance transfer survey), but keep a lookout for them – transferring a balance to a card without a fee could save you more money than transferring a balance to a card with a longer introductory period.

What is the regular APR?

Behind a 0-percent introductory offer often lies a very pricey regular APR. Make sure you know exactly how much you are going to be paying in interest once the introductory period expires, so you aren’t caught off card. And keep an eye out for low-interest-rate cards that offer a reasonable APR in combination with a 0-percent introductory APR.

Is there a 0-percent APR on new purchases?

Some cards offer a combination of a 0-percent APR on balance transfers and new purchases. We don’t recommend using your card for new purchases until you’ve paid down your balance, but a card with a 0-percent APR can be useful if you have to use your new card in a bind – at least you won’t incur interest on that new balance.

Is there an annual fee?

Some balance transfer cards include an annual membership fee – try to avoid any cards with annual fees until you’ve dug yourself out of debt.

What is the penalty for missing a payment?

Take a careful look at the card’s terms and conditions to see what’s in store if you send a payment past the due date or completely miss a payment. Possible penalties can include losing your 0-percent introductory APR (even for paying just a day late), penalty fees and interest and penalty APRs of nearly 30 percent. You should opt for a card with more forgiving terms.

What are the other features? Is there a rewards program?

Since you shouldn’t be making new purchases with a balance transfer card, rewards programs shouldn’t be your primary concern. But they’re a nice-to-have in case you want to keep the card in the long run, along with other card benefits such as purchase and travel protections.

Read all the fine print

A misstep with a balance transfer card can be costly, so you should familiarize yourself with all the restrictions in the card’s terms and conditions. Other things to consider: how long do you have to transfer a balance at 0-percent and/or with the balance transfer fee waived? Is there a grace period for new balances? Are there other unexpected fees or penalties? Make sure there’s nothing in the fine print that could catch you off guard.

How to compare two balance transfer cards

When comparing balance transfer cards, your gut may tell you to choose the card with the longest introductory period. You’re not entirely wrong, but there’s another very important consideration: The balance transfer fee. Most balance transfer cards charge a 3 to 5 percent fee to transfer a balance, which can add up to $100 or more in fees if you have a large balance to transfer.

There are a few cards – such as the Amex EveryDay* card – that don’t charge a fee for your initial balance transfer within 60 days of account opening. So, which is a better way to go? A no-fee balance transfer offer, or a card with an especially long introductory period? Most of the time, the no-fee card wins out. Here’s the math to help you decide, with the factors from the previous section condensed into a four-step process:

Step 1: Figure out your payment terms

Before you start comparing balance transfer cards, you need to figure out the following:

  • What size balance do you want to transfer? – What is the total existing balance that you want to transfer from your existing cards to your new card? (Keep in mind that your new card will come with a credit limit that may restrict the amount that you’re able to transfer.)
  • How much can you afford to pay each month? – How much can you reasonably afford to pay on the balance each month? While it’s a good idea to pay down your debt as quickly as possible, you should come up with a manageable amount.

Step 2: Calculate fees and interest

Once you know the size of the balance transfer and the installment amount, you need to calculate the fees and interest for each card. Basically, you need to calculate how much of a balance remains for each card once the introductory period expires (don’t forget to add the card’s balance transfer fee to the initial balance), and then calculate the interest that you will owe each month until the balance is paid off.

To calculate the monthly interest rate, you will have to estimate the card’s APR by looking at the card’s APR range and guessing where you might fall within that range, and then divide that APR by 12.

For example, in the table below, we show the interest and fees paid on a $5,000 balance transfer with an 18-month 0-percent introductory APR, 3 percent balance transfer fee and regular APR of 18.74 percent. You would pay a $150 balance transfer fee up front. It would take 21 months to pay the balance in full, resulting in $19.14 in interest payments. Your total paid, including the balance transfer fee and interest payments, would come to $5,169.14.

Payment schedule for $5,000 balance
(0% APR for 18 months, 18.74% APR for 3 months, 3% balance transfer fee)
Month 1 (0% APR)$5,000 + (3% x $5,000) - $250$4,900$150
Month 2 (0% APR)$4,900 - $250$4,650$0
Month 3 (0% APR)$4,650 - $250$4,400$0
Month 4 (0% APR)$4,400 - $250$4,150$0
Month 5 (0% APR)$4,150 - $250$3,900$0
Month 6 (0% APR)$3,900 - $250$3,650$0
Month 7 (0% APR)$3,650 - $250$3,400$0
Month 8 (0% APR)$3,400 - $250$3,150$0
Month 9 (0% APR)$3,150 - $250$2,900$0
Month 10 (0% APR)$2,900 - $250$2,650$0
Month 11 (0% APR)$2,650 - $250$2,400$0
Month 12 (0% APR)$2,400 - $250$2,150$0
Month 13 (0% APR)$2,150 - $250$1,900$0
Month 14 (0% APR)$1,900 - $250$1,650$0
Month 15 (0% APR)$1,650 - $250$1,400$0
Month 16 (0% APR)$1,400 - $250$1,150$0
Month 17 (0% APR)$1,150 - $250$900$0
Month 18 (0% APR)$900 - $250$650$0
Month 19 (18.74% APR)$650 + ($650 x 1.56%) - $250$410.14$10.14
Month 20 (18.74% APR)$410.14 + ($410.14 x 1.56%) - $250$166.54$6.40
Month 21 (18.74% APR)$166.54 + ($166.54 x 1.56%) - $169.14$0$2.60
Total paid (including fees and interest) = $5,169.14

Step 3: Compare fees and interest on each card

Using the same balance transfer amount and installment payment, calculate the fees and interest for both cards, then compare the amounts side by side.

For example, in the table below, we compare the costs of transferring a $5,000 balance to the Discover it Balance Transfer card and the Amex EveryDay* cards with a repayment period of 21 months. Even though the introductory period on the EveryDay is shorter, you would save more than $100 with it in this scenario, due to its waived balance transfer fee.

Cost of a $5,000 balance transfer over 21 months
Discover it Balance Transfer card
(0% intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers (then 13.99% - 24.99% Variable), 3% balance transfer fee)
Amex EveryDay* card
(0% intro APR on balance transfer for 15 months (then 14.99% - 25.99% Variable), $0 intro balance transfer fee if made within 60 days of account opening)
Monthly payment = $250
3 months interest (18.74% APR) = $19.14
Balance transfer fee = $150
Total paid = $5,169.14
Monthly payment = $250
6 months interest (18.74% APR) = $61.93
Balance transfer fee = $0
Total paid = $5,061.93

Credit cards without a balance transfer fee

  • Amex EveryDay* card - within the first 60 days
  • Barclaycard Ring® Mastercard® - after the first 45 days
  • Chase Slate card - within the first 60 days

Step 4: Compare the cards' remaining features

Finding the card that will cost you the least to pay down your balance should be your first priority. However, if all else is equal between the cards, you should look at remaining features on the cards to see if either is worth holding onto in the long run. For instance, the Discover it Balance Transfer card from our example has a very valuable cash back program. You can enroll every quarter to earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases made in various categories throughout the year.

What to do if your balance transfer is rejected

Sometimes, you are approved for a balance transfer card but when it comes time to make the actual transfer, it is rejected. What to do?

You may have been denied because the balance is greater than the amount you have been approved for. Balance transfers can be approved for a set amount or a percentage of your credit limit. For example, USAA caps balance transfers at 95% of the credit limit.

Here's what you can do if this happens to you:

  • If the balance transfer is denied – Simply ask the card issuer to reconsider. The reason why you were denied can be the deciding factor.
  • If your credit is poor – If your credit score was too low or you don't have high enough income, you may be denied. Sometimes you can get approval if there are extenuating circumstances.
  • If it's due to lack of available credit – Try resubmitting with a lower amount. If your first problem hasn't been solved (transferring the old balance), you might consider another card. Just make sure you have sufficient income and credit score for that card. Keep in mind that each hard inquiry impacts your score by about 5 points.

* All information about The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express is no longer available through CreditCards.com.


Laura is an editor and writer at CreditCards.com. She has written extensively on all things credit cards and works to bring you the most up-to-date analysis and advice. Laura's work has been cited in such publications as the New York Times and Associated Press. You can reach her by e-mail at laura.mohammad@creditcards.com and on Twitter @creditcards_lm.


Join the Discussion

We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, we ask that you do not disclose confidential or personal information such as your bank account number, phone number, or email address. Keep in mind that anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by the card issuers or advertisers. Additionally, the card issuer or advertiser does not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.