Carrying a balance on your credit card can cost you, but when it’s impossible to avoid, some cards work better than others.
The best way to manage credit card debt is to pay off your balance in full each month, period.
When you carry a balance you’ll pay significant interest charges – and it could even lower your credit score, because it could raise your credit utilization ratio, which indicates how much of your available credit you’re using.
But sometimes it’s just not feasible to pay off your balance – you might need to make a big purchase that you simply can’t afford to pay off all at once, or perhaps you’ve lost your job and you need to use your credit to get by for a time.
If that’s your situation, don’t despair. There are some cards on the market that are pretty much perfect for those times when you must carry a balance.
Below you’ll find a list of the best credit cards to use when you just have to pay over time.
Best credit cards for carrying a balance:
Intro APR offers at a glance
The best cards to have if you must carry a balance offer introductory periods in which you pay no interest – and some of those cards come with the same offer for balance transfers.
If you have a large outstanding balance and want to pay it off interest-free, choose a card that offers a 0% intro period for balance transfers and use that card. If you don’t have any other balances you need to pay down, you’ll be fine with a card that offers a number of months interest-free. Here are some cards that will work for either situation.
Chase Slate Edge
- The Slate Edge has a 0% introductory period of 12 months (then 14.99% to 23.74% variable) on purchases and balance transfers.
- If you need to transfer another balance to the card and you do it during the first 60 days, you’ll pay $5 or 3% (whichever is greater), then $5 or 5% after that.
Citi Simplicity Card
- The Citi Simplicity offers a 0% introductory period of 18 months (then 14.74% to 24.74% variable) on both purchases and balance transfers.
- If you want to make a balance transfer at the promotion rate, you must do it within the first four months, and you’ll pay a fee of $5 or 3% (whichever is greater).
Citi Diamond Preferred Card
- The Citi Diamond Preferred offers a 0% introductory period of 18 months (then 13.74% to 23.74% variable) on both purchases and balance transfers.
- If you want to make a balance transfer, you’ll pay a fee of $5 or 3% (whichever is greater). You’ll need to do the balance transfer within four months to get the intro rate.
Wells Fargo Active Cash Card
- The Wells Fargo Active Cash Card offers a 0% introductory period of 15 months (then 14.99% to 24.99% variable) on both qualifying balance transfers and purchases.
- If you need to transfer a balance to the card, you must do it during the first 120 days and you’ll pay $5 or 3%. After that, the fee is $5 or 5% (whichever is greater).
Best cards for carrying a balance
Chase Slate Edge – Best for a sign-up bonus
The Chase Slate Edge’s 0% intro rate on purchases and balance transfers lasts for 12 months (14.99% to 23.74% variable APR thereafter), giving you some wiggle room in paying off your balance.
In addition, the Slate Edge comes with a $100 cash back bonus when you spend at least $500 in the first six months, which could be a nice little “discount” on whatever big purchase you’re making.
Chase will also lower your APR by 2% each year if you pay on time and spend at least $1,000 by your next account anniversary. And you’ll get an automatic, one-time credit limit review if you pay on time and spend $500 in the first six months.
See related: What is a balance transfer and how does it work?
Citi Simplicity Card – Best for a long intro period
The Citi Simplicity’s 0% intro rate on purchases and balance transfers lasts for a very long 18 months (14.74% to 24.74% variable APR thereafter), which should give you time to get rid of any balance you might have – and enable you to transfer a balance from another card and pay that off, too.
The Citi Simplicity Card’s intro offer on purchases and balance transfers is one of the longest on the market, and you won’t pay any annual or late fees or penalty APRs.
In addition, you can choose your payment due date, use your card for contactless payments and gain access to Citi Identity Theft Solutions if your personal information is compromised.
Even without a sign-up cash bonus or rewards program, the Citi Simplicity is a great card to have if you must carry a balance.
See related: How to do a balance transfer in 5 steps
Citi Diamond Preferred Card – Best for low APR after intro period
The Citi Diamond Preferred Card is another offering that comes with a 0% intro rate on purchases and balance transfers for 18 months, with a relatively low 13.74% to 23.74% variable APR after that.
The Citi Diamond Preferred comes with perks that include no annual fee, free access to your FICO score, $0 liability on unauthorized purchases and access to Citi Identity Theft Solutions. You can also use Citi Entertainment for special access to tickets to all kinds of events.
Wells Fargo Active Cash Card – Best for cash back rewards
The Wells Fargo Active Cash Card is a solid choice for those who have to carry a balance thanks to its host of features and benefits. It comes with a 0% intro rate on purchases and qualifying balance transfers for 15 months (14.99% to 24.99% variable APR thereafter).
Spend $1,000 on the card within three months and you’ll get a $200 cash bonus, plus you’ll earn a generous, unlimited 2% cash back on every purchase you make. The card also comes with:
- No annual fee
- Access to high-end hotel properties with Visa Signature Concierge
- Up to $600 protection on your cell phone ($25 deductible) when you pay your monthly cellular bill with your card
- Zero liability protection
No one wants to carry a balance on their credit card. But sometimes situations pop up where you really have no choice.
A card that has a 0% intro APR can allow you time to pay off large purchases without paying interest.
Just make sure you’re budgeting to pay off whatever balance you have before the intro period ends, or you might end up right back where you started.
*All information about the Chase Slate Edge has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer.
See related: How to create a budget that works for you