Long 0 percent introductory APRs are tempting, but they tend to save you less money than credit cards that don’t charge a balance transfer fee. However, some rewards credit cards with 0 percent APR periods may be able to offset what you pay in balance transfer fees.
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For cardholders ready to break out of credit card debt, there are several different strategies to get you there. One of these is to take advantage of a balance transfer offer — a credit card designed to give you more time to pay off your debt without accruing steep interest.
With so many great balance transfer cards out there, it can be hard to decide which is best for you. Of course, you should consider your credit score and approval odds, as well as any other perks the card may have. You’ll also want to take a look at how many months you’ll get with a 0 percent intro APR — and determine if that’s enough time to pay down your debt.
There’s one other thing you should always keep an eye on when choosing a balance transfer card — the transfer fee. Typically between 3 percent and 5 percent of your balance, balance transfer fees can be very costly if you have significant debt to pay down. They can be worth it — especially if you’ll save more on interest in the long run — but it can be a tough price to pay.
The hard part is scoring a balance transfer card without a balance transfer fee. There are relatively few cards on the market without balance transfer fees, but we still managed to find a few no-balance-transfer-fee options.
Balance transfer cards with no balance transfer fee
Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum card
Why we picked it: With an ongoing purchase and balance transfer APR as low as 8.99 percent, the Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum card* is a good one to keep around even after the introductory period expires — especially if you regularly carry a balance or think you may have a balance leftover after the promotional period ends.
- 0.99 percent intro APR for 12 months on balance transfers
- Low regular APR at 8.99 percent to 18 percent variable
No foreign transaction fees
- Intro APR only applies to balance transfers done in first 60 days
- 0.99 percent intro APR rate is instead of the usual 0 percent
Who should apply: This card is great for cardholders chasing a balance transfer offer coupled with a low ongoing APR.
Who should skip: If your debt is relatively small and you know you’ll pay it off within the intro period, you don’t need to apply for this low-interest card.
Wings Visa Platinum Credit Card
Why we picked it: Another option is the Wings Visa Platinum Credit Card*, which charges no annual fee, balance transfer fees or foreign transaction fees. It comes with a 0 percent intro APR offer, lasting 12 months and applicable to balance transfers and new purchases. Its regular APR is 11.15 percent to 18 percent variable.
- 0 percent intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers
- Relatively low regular APR at 11.15 percent to 18 percent variable
- May qualify for a Visa Signature card instead
- Credit union somewhat difficult to join
Who should apply: If you or an immediate family member works for an airline or in the aviation industry, this is a great balance transfer card to apply for. It’s also a good card for anyone who wants to resolve their debt as well as make a few purchases here and there.
Who should skip: The Wings Financial Credit Union might be more difficult to join as a member since it depends on where you work or live (the locations are fairly limited) or if you work within the aviation industry. If you don’t meet the qualifications, then skip this card.
Union Bank Platinum Visa Credit Card
Why we picked it: Rather than the 12-month intro periods offered by the first two, the Union Bank Platinum Visa Credit Card* provides 0 percent APR on balance transfers (and new purchases) for 15 months. The $0 intro balance transfer fee only applies to transfers completed within the first 60 days. After 60 days, the transfer fee goes up to 3 percent (or minimum $10) per transfer.
- 0 percent APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months
- No annual fee
- Cellphone insurance and purchase protection
- Cannot apply online
- $0 balance transfer fee only applies to balance transfers made in first 60 days
- Regular APR can be quite high at 12.24 percent to 23.74 percent variable
Who should apply: If you’re looking for a balance transfer card with a little longer intro APR period, the card’s 15-month promotional offer is decently long.
Who should skip: Since you must apply for this card in person at a Union Bank branch, you should skip it if there’s no branch location close to you.
First Tech Choice Rewards World Mastercard
Why we picked it: Distinct from the others, the First Tech Choice Rewards World Mastercard* offers a sign-up bonus of 20,000 points if you spend $3,000 in the first 60 days. And like the other cards, it charges no balance transfer fees, cash advance fees or foreign transaction fees. In addition to a 0 percent intro APR on balance transfers for 12 billing cycles (on balance transfers done within the first 90 days) it also earns 2X points on everyday categories like gas, groceries and more.
- Rare sign-up bonus offered
- Ongoing APR of 12 percent to 18 percent variable
- Credit union relatively easy to join
- Terms of rewards program a bit vague
Who should apply: This credit union seems fairly easy to join, so you could opt for this balance transfer card if the other credit unions or banks are too inconvenient to join or visit. This card could also suit anyone who values rewards alongside their balance transfer offer.
Who should skip: If the card’s rewards potential tempts you into overspending once again, before you even rein in your debt, you should avoid the First Tech Choice Rewards World Mastercard.
Why a no-transfer-fee card is better than a longer intro APR period
If you’ve been paying hefty interest charges on a large balance for a while, it is natural to hope for some reprieve when you choose a balance transfer card. While it can be tempting to jump at an 18-month or longer interest-free intro offer, it is almost always a better idea to go with a no-fee card — even if you’ll have less time with a 0 percent APR.
Since balance transfer fees typically hover between 3 percent and 5 percent, you’ll usually save more money with a no-transfer-fee card than you’d pay in interest with a shorter introductory period. Plus, it’ll help you pay off your card debt as quickly as possible, since your entire payment is dedicated toward your principal. If you expect a credit check soon — for an apartment application or auto loan — resolving your debt as soon as possible is likely your top priority.
To understand just how this works out, consider the Citi® Double Cash Card. While the Citi Double Cash has a regular variable APR of 18.24 percent to 28.24 percent, it has one of the longer introductory APRs you’ll find on a balance transfer card — 0 percent for 18 months (transfer must be made in the first four months). That’s six more interest-free months than the Navy Federal Platinum Card. However, the Double Cash’s intro offer comes with a 3 percent balance transfer fee or $5 minimum (after the first four months, the 3 percent bumps up to 5 percent).
The table below shows the cost of transferring and paying down the same balance over 18 months. For the Citi Double Cash, this is the cost of the balance transfer fee and then you’d have 0 percent APR for the 18 months. The Navy Federal Platinum has no balance transfer fee, but the regular APR would kick in after the first 12 months, so the table reflects what you’d pay in interest on the remaining transferred balance, for the last six months at an 18 percent APR.
Rather than do the calculations yourself, you could use our payoff calculator. For the first example, if you start off with a debt of $500 and pay $29 a month for a 12-month promotional period, you’d end up with a balance of $152. Paying that remaining balance off with an APR of 18 percent, you would pay a total interest of $8. That $8 in interest would still be less than the $15 you’d pay in balance transfer fees on the Citi Double Cash, despite the card’s longer intro APR period.
|Transferred balance and monthly payments||Cost of Citi Double Cash Card (with 3% or $5 minimum transfer fee)||Cost of Navy Federal Platinum Card (with an 18% APR for last six months)|
|$500 balance with $29 monthly payments||$15 balance transfer fee||$8 in interest|
|$2,000 balance with $114 monthly payments||$60 balance transfer fee||$33 in interest|
|$4,000 balance with $227 monthly payments||$120 balance transfer fee||$68 in interest|
|$8,000 balance with $453 monthly payments||$240 balance transfer fee||$136 in interest|
Cards to consider despite their balance transfer fees
While choosing a card with no balance transfer fee can often save you money, there are still plenty of reasons to opt for a card that does charge a fee — particularly since there aren’t many no-balance-transfer-fee options available currently. For example, you may be looking to double-dip a hard pull to your credit by scoring a new rewards credit card alongside a balance transfer offer. Many of the most valuable rewards cards offer some kind of balance transfer introductory period but won’t have quite as competitive offers (and will charge a balance transfer fee).
You also might be able to offset a balance transfer fee with a high introductory bonus if you are planning on putting enough early spending on the card to qualify for the offer.
If you’re going to get plenty of ongoing value out of the card, paying the fee upfront might be worth it. Here are some of our favorite cards to consider despite their balance transfer fee.
|Card||Rewards rate||Intro APR period on balance transfers||Balance transfer fee|
|Citi® Double Cash Card||18 months (18.24% to 28.24% variable APR thereafter)||$5 or 3% (whichever is greater) for first 4 months, then $5 or 5% (whichever is greater)|
|Citi Rewards+® Card||15 months (17.74% to 27.74% variable APR thereafter)||$5 or 3% (whichever is greater) for first 4 months, then $5 or 5% (whichever is greater)|
|Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card||18 billing cycles (17.49% to 27.49% variable APR thereafter)||3% of each amount transferred|
|Discover it® Cash Back||15 months (16.49% to 27.49%|
variable APR thereafter)
|3% for first 3 months, then 5%|
If paying down debt is a top priority, we usually recommend a balance transfer card with no transfer fee, especially if your debt is small enough to pay off the entire debt before the intro period ends. Even if your debt isn’t completely paid off during your intro period, what you pay in interest on the remaining balance may still be lower than what you’d pay in balance transfer fees, so be sure to do your homework before you apply for a card.
*Information about the First Tech Choice Rewards World Mastercard, Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum card, Union Bank Platinum Visa Credit Card and Wings Visa Platinum Credit Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.
The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.