Looking for a balance transfer card? Take a look at the top balance transfer cards on the market and pick the one that’s best for you.
The term “balance transfer card” might sound complicated, but its idea is simple. A balance transfer means that, for a one-time fee, you take the debt you owe on one credit card and move that amount to another card (a balance transfer credit card).
A balance transfer can be a great option if you’re paying heavy interest on your current credit card — you can move your existing balance to another card that offers low or no interest for a long period of time. This can help you pay off your debt faster and with less interest.
What to look for in a balance transfer card
As with any credit card, choosing the right balance transfer card will depend on your individual needs. However, you’ll typically want to weigh these factors while considering balance transfer cards:
- 0% APR promotions. Since the purpose of a balance transfer card is to shield you from interest payments, you want a card that offers 0% APR on balance transfers for a long time. You can find 0% APR promotions that last a year or more (potentially upwards of 20 months).
- Annual fees. Balance transfer cards are all about savings, but annual fees can eat into those savings. Keep in mind that many good balance transfer cards come with no annual fees.
- Balance transfer fees. Unfortunately, transferring balances is usually not free. Read each card’s fine print to see what the applicable balance transfer fees are.
- Perks. Many good balance transfer cards are designed solely for cardholders to pay down debt — which means they don’t offer much in terms of rewards or perks. However, it’s definitely possible to find cards with solid balance transfer promotions and attractive rewards.
Now that you know what you’re looking for with balance transfer cards, take a look at our list of the best balance transfer cards on the market.
What makes these balance transfer cards effective?
The Chase Slate’s 0% APR promotion for 15 billing cycles on balance transfers is quite good. But what really makes the Chase Slate stand out is its unique no-fee promotion: On balance transfers you make within 60 days of opening your account, you won’t pay any fees whatsoever. The 0% intro APR includes purchases too, and afterward revers to 13.24% to 23.24%. Plus, no annual fee.
Citi Simplicity Card
The Citi Simplicity Card is a heavy hitter when it comes to APR promotions. Many balance transfer cards offer 0% APR on transfers for up to year, but the Citi Simplicity offers 0% APR on transfers for a generous 21 months. You have a lengthy four months to transfer your balances to get the intro rate, and after the promo period you’ll qualify for 13.24% to 23.24% APR. This card also has no annual fee.
Santander Sphere Credit Card
Out of all the credit cards on our list, the Santander Sphere Credit Card takes the prize for longest 0%-APR promotion. You’ll receive 0% APR for 24 billing cycles (and 12.74% to 22.74% after that) on balance transfers you make within the first 90 days. There is a similar intro rate on purchases but it is limited to 12 months. Transfer your debt within 90 days to get the intro rate.
Though the Barclaycard Arrival Plus offers a decent 12-month 0%-APR promotion (Afterwards, 16.24%, 20.24%, or 23.24%), that’s not the primary reason it’s a great balance transfer card. It’s because the Arrival Plus is hands-down one of the best travel cards you can find anywhere with 50,000 bonus miles awarded after $3,000 in purchases made, then 2x miles on all purchases and 5% miles back each time you redeem. Not only will you get a solid balance transfer promotion, but you’ll also receive travel miles through regular spending that you can use as statement credit (just be sure to factor in the card’s $89 annual fee starting the second year).
BankAmericard Credit Card
The BankAmericard offers an attractive 0% APR for 18 billing cycles on balance transfers made within the first 60 days. You’ll also potentially receive a balance transfer revert rate of as low as 11.24% (or as high as 21.24%). Take note there is no introductory promotion rate on purchases, and there’s also no annual fee for this card.
The U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Credit Card offers 0% APR for a respectable 12 months. It’s the potential for a 10.24% revert rate, however, that makes this card far more attractive. To get that rate, you’ll need stellar credit when applying for the card.
The Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express offers a solid 0% APR for 12 months on balance transfers and purchases (afterwards, 13.24% to 23.24%). Perhaps more enticingly, it offers these perks:
- Earn $100 back when you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months.
- Earn 10% back on Amazon.com purchases you make within the first 6 months (earn up to $200).
- 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 a year; afterwards, 1% cash back).
- 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations.
- 1% cash back on everything else.
That’s a great suite of features, especially considering the decent balance transfer intro APR and $0 annual fee.
- Generous 0% APR promotions. A good balance transfer card will give you a 0% interest rate on transfers for a long period of time. This will give you ample time to pay off your balance.
- Potentially rewarding collection of balance transfer promotions and card perks. Depending on your needs, you might be able to find a card that hits the sweet spot of a long 0%-APR promotion and perks like travel rewards or cash back.
- Potential lack of perks. Balance transfer cards that offer attractive 0% promotional APRs sometimes do so to the exclusion of perks and rewards.
- Potentially high revert rates. It’s a good idea to pay off your balance before your 0% APR expires. That’s because any balance you still have after your APR promotion may be charged a high interest rate.
What you need to apply for a balance transfer card
To apply for a balance transfer card, you’ll need to provide different information depending on which provider you’re applying with. Generally, however, you should have the following information ready:
- Driver’s license and Social Security number.
- Personal details. Have personal details ready (your residential address, phone number, email address, etc.) for your application.
- Financial details. You will also need to provide details like employment information and total annual income.
What credit score do you need?Usually, credit card providers only want to take on your debt via balance transfers if they’re reasonably certain you’ll pay off that debt. That said, they’ll typically require strong credit for balance transfer cards. Consider applying for a balance transfer card only with a credit score that’s good or better (700+).
Frequently asked questions
Do balance transfers come with fees?
Most likely, yes. You’ll typically pay around 3% of the transferred amount in fees.
How long does a balance transfer take?
Balance transfer speeds can vary from provider to provider, but a good rule of thumb is to expect your balance transfer to be completed within 7 to 10 days.
Can I only transfer credit card debt to a balance transfer card?
Not always. Some providers will allow transfers of debt like auto loans, mortgages, and student loans. Contact a representative of your credit card company to see what’s allowed.
Why do companies give promotions on balance transfers?
Credit card companies offer generous 0%-APR promotions because doing so can be an effective way to acquire a customer. Furthermore, card companies may start making money from you if continue to hold balances on your credit cards after your balance transfer promotions end.
How much can I transfer through a balance transfer?
Maximums will vary from provider to provider; check with a representative of your credit card company to confirm what’s allowed.
Will getting a balance transfer card affect my credit rating?
Getting any new credit card typically lowers your credit score slightly in the short-term. That’s because acquiring a new card lowers your average account age, which is a metric used to calculate your credit score. The good news, however, is the drop generally amounts to just 5 to 20 points, which you can recover from quickly by making timely credit card payments.