Comparing Balance Transfer Credit Card Offers
Updated: March 9, 2018
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.
CreditCards.com's Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards of 2018
We have listed below our favorite balance transfer cards for 2018. Of these cards, the Discover it® card offers the highest estimated savings at $445.51. The Discover it® and Citi® Double Cash both offer an intro 0% APR period of 18 months.
What Our Experts Are Saying
Laura Adams, personal finance expert and host of the Money Girl podcast
Favorite balance transfer card: U.S. Bank Visa Platinum card
"The U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card is my top choice for the best balance transfer credit card. It gives you a long, 18-month promotional period with 0 percent APR for both transfers and new purchases."
Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com
Favorite balance transfer card: The Chase Slate card
"What sets the Slate by Chase card apart is the ability to avoid paying a balance transfer fee. Other cards offer longer zero-percent introductory periods, but having no balance transfer fee is a big deal, so Slate is my pick."
Daniel Ray, editor-in-chief at CreditCards.com
Favorite balance transfer card: The Chase Slate card
"Run the numbers yourself and you will see that the Chase Slate card, in most circumstances, gives the greatest value."
Rebecca Lake, Personal finance journalist
Favorite balance transfer card: Discover it
"If you’re looking for a balance transfer card that blends a generous introductory APR period with cash rewards, Discover it is a standout choice."
Holly Johnson, ClubThrifty.com
Favorite balance transfer card: Chase Slate
"It doesn't charge any balance transfer fees on balances transferred during the first 60 days, yet it still offers 0 percent APR on balance transfers for 15 months."
Barry Moltz, Small business expert and speaker
Favorite balance transfer card: Citi Diamond Preferred
"Citi Diamond can be your best friend. It offers an unbelievable 0 percent interest rate on balance transfers for 21 months! Where do I sign up?"
What is a balance transfer card?
A balance transfer card is a credit card that gives you a lower intro APR, often as low as 0%, for a limited time, up to 18 months . There is usually a balance transfer fee, and a go-to rate kicks in after the offer ends, often for more than the APR of the previous card.
How do balance transfer cards work?
- Balance transfer fee. Most balance transfer cards charge a balance transfer fee of up to 5% of the balance transferred. However, a few don’t charge the fee if you transfer the balance within a certain amount of time.
- Length of offer. Most balance transfer cards offer 0% APR for a set amount of time, typically from 6 months to 18 months. The trick is to anticipate how much time you need to pay off the balance.
- Percentage. Some cards, such as Discover it for Students, offers a low intro APR on balance transfers, while others offer 0% APR for a set amount of time. The 0% offers tend to want good or excellent credit.
- Late payments. If you violate the terms of the agreement, such as paying late, you risk losing the offer period. That means that you can prematurely face the go-to rate, which is the rate you’ve agreed to pay when the offer ends.
- New charges. While some cards allow a 0% offer on purchases within a set amount of time, not all do, and you can actually end up being charged different interest rates for different items. For example, you might be charged 0% for a balance transfer, but the full percentage rate for new purchases. That’s why it can be a bad idea to make new charges.
- Offer ends. Once the offer ends, the go-to rate kicks in, and if you haven’t paid off the balance, you could incur even higher interest charges than what was on your previous card.
What are the pitfalls of balance transfer cards?
- Offer ends. When the offer ends, if you haven’t paid off the balance, you will incur interest charges again, sometimes higher than the original card.
- Not learning from mistakes. If you haven’t created a workable budget and you continue your bad financial habits, a balance transfer card is of little value.
- Balance transfer fees. Balance transfer fees, which are on most balance transfer cards, can be sizeable and charged upfront. For example, a $10,000 balance might require a $300 fee.
- Late payments, over limit. If you don’t follow the contractual agreement, you risk the offer period ending and you are again slapped with interest charges.
How many cards allow balance transfers?
In a recent survey conducted by CreditCards.com, of 100 market-representative credit cards, 89 cards included balance transfers as a feature. Furthermore, 38 credit cards offered 0% introductory APRs. Balance transfer credit cards with no transfer fees were somewhat rarer - only 9 of the 100 reviewed cards boasted this feature.
CreditCards.com Survey, December 2017
How do you use a balance transfer card?
- How it works. By transferring a credit card (or other) balance to a balance transfer card, you have the opportunity to pay back the debt interest free. However, you’ll need to follow the contractual agreement and pay it off by the end of the offer period to avoid charges.
- Choose carefully. Check to see if there is a balance transfer fee, for example, and decide if that’s something you need. Also, choose an offer length that you can realistically pay by.
- Transfer the balance. Gather the information for the transfer, including the old card’s account information and the exact amount you want to transfer. Call the new card issuer and they can help you make the transfer within minutes.
- Plan out how much you can pay each month. Figure out how much you need to pay each month to pay off the balance before the offer ends. Draw up a budget and shoot for austerity for the next few months, although it’s always a good idea to plan for a little fun.
- Don’t incur new debt. If there is no 0% APR offer for purchases, you will pay a higher, separate rate for new purchases. For that reason, avoid piling on more new debt.
- Pay on time. Live up to the agreement, because the offer can end prematurely because you don’t meet up to the contractual agreement, such as paying late.
- Offer ends. When the offer ends, the go-to rate kicks in, which means you pay a higher interest rate if you carry a balance.
- Don’t plan another balance transfer. As tempting as it may be to plan on endlessly transferring balances once an offer ends, that can impact your credit score, because lenders might see that habit as desperation for credit.
Recap: The Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards of 2018
|Card||0% Intro BT APR Period||Balance Transfer Fee||Our Savings Estimate||Regular APR|
|Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express||15 months||3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum||N/A||14.24% - 25.24% Variable|
|Discover it®||18 months||3.00%||$441.51||13.24% - 24.24% Variable|
|Chase Slate®||15 months||$0 intro fee for first 60 days. After that, 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum||$417.12||16.99% - 24.99% Variable|
|Citi® Double Cash Card||18 months||3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum||$433.78||14.74% - 24.74%* Variable|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®||15 months||5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum||$271.41||16.24% - 24.99% Variable|
|The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express||15 months||$0, balance transfers must be requested within 60 days from account opening||N/A||14.24% - 25.24% Variable|
|Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card||15 months||3% intro for 15 months, then 5%||$261.88||16.40% - 26.24% Variable|
|HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® Credit Card||15 months||Either $10 or 4% of transfer amount, whichever is greater||$318.71||14.24%, 18.24%, or 24.24% Variable|
|Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card||9 months||3.00%||$124.45||14.24% - 24.24% Variable|
|Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card||15 months||3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum||$341.08||14.74% - 24.74% Variable|
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