You can earn rewards on balance transfer cards but you won’t earn rewards on your transferred balance. You can still earn cash back, miles or even points on new spending – but you’ll accrue interest immediately.
Credit card rewards can be a helpful and lucrative benefit. You can earn cash back or frequent flyer miles or points that are redeemable for travel or other perks.If you are carrying a balance on a card – or if you have trouble paying your bills on time – you really shouldn’t be shopping around for a rewards credit card because any rewards that you earn will be meager compared to the money you spend on interest charges or late fees. Instead, focus on paying off your balance and on lowering that monthly payment by finding a balance transfer card with a 0% introductory APR.
There are cards that offer both low-interest balance transfers and rewards. But you shouldn’t let the promise of rewards be the deciding factor in choosing a card.
Benefits of a balance transfer credit card
A balance transfer can help you pay off a large balance in a timely manner, without getting charged interest (but typically for a balance transfer fee of 3% or 5% of the transferred amount).
Let’s say, right now, you have a $2,000 balance on a credit card that has 25% annual interest. It would take payments of around $200 per month to pay off your credit card balance in 12 months. You would also pay approximately $267 in interest charges.
But if you transferred your balance to a card with a promotional rate of 0% APR for 12 months, no annual fee and a 3% balance transfer fee, you could pay off your balance in 12 months by making payments of $172 per month.
You won’t pay interest on that balance, but you will pay immediate interest on any other charges unless your card also has a 0% introductory APR on purchases.
Can you earn rewards for a balance transfer?
Before you choose a balance transfer rewards card, you should know you do not earn rewards on the amount of a balance transfer. You earn rewards only on new spending. And if you’re carrying a balance, you’ll pay interest immediately on any new spending.
Let’s look at some examples. If you look at the best balance transfer credit cards, you’ll notice a wide variety of cards from different issuers. The cards on this list tend to have lower interest rates than other cards – as well as introductory balance transfer APRs of 0% for 12 to 18 months.
Some of the best balance transfer cards also happen to have rewards programs:
- The Citi® Double Cash Card offers a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers for the first 18 months (followed by a variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99%). You can also earn 1% cash back when you spend and another 1% when you pay off your purchases. But the card does not offer an introductory APR on purchases.
- The Chase Slate Edge℠* offers a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers for the first 12 months (followed by a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74%). Other notable features of the card include an annual 2% reduction in your APR if you pay your balance on time and spend at least $1,000 in the first year after opening the card, and a $100 bonus when you spend $500 in the first six months.
- The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card offers a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers and purchases for the first 15 billing cycles (then a variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99%). This card also allows you to earn 3% cash back on one of the following categories: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores or home improvement – it’s your choice. It also offers 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1% back on everything else. Note that you’ll earn bonus cash back on up to a combined $2,500 in spending in the 3% and 2% categories each quarter.
- The Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ card offers a 0% introductory APR on qualifying balance transfers for the first 15 months from account opening (then a variable APR of 14.99% to 24.99%). Additional card benefits include a $200 cash rewards bonus when you spend $1,000 in the first three months and a flat rate 2% cash rewards on purchases.
Should you get a balance transfer credit card without rewards?
If you are dead-set on earning rewards, you might want to separate the cards that have balances from those that have rewards. In other words, don’t try to earn rewards with cards on which you carry balances, because you will pay interest on those charges.
Instead, if you qualify for a rewards-earning card, don’t carry a balance on it. Rather, carry the balance on a card with low or introductory 0% interest.
And there are some good non-rewards-earning options among balance transfer cards. For instance, the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card offers 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months and a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months (then a variable APR of 13.74% to 23.74%). Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening. It also provides cardholders with VIP access to ticket sales, preferred seating and other perks through Citi Entertainment.
Should you get a balance transfer credit card with rewards?
If you like any of the aforementioned balance transfer cards that offer rewards, by all means, apply for it. But you may want to consider holding off on making any new purchases on the new card until you’ve paid off your transferred balance. So, if you want one of these cards and want to earn rewards now, don’t transfer a balance to it.
It’s better to focus on paying down your debt than worry about rewards. But if you absolutely must have a rewards card, make it one that you’re not paying interest for the privilege of earning rewards.
*All information about the Chase Slate Edge has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer.