Balance transfer credit card offers: what to look for | finder.com
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Comparing balance transfer credit card offers: What to look for

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Here’s how to choose the balance transfer credit card that’s best for you.

Paying down high-interest debt or debt from several places can be daunting. Luckily, many balance transfer credit cards offer temporary periods of low or no interest. You can pay down your balance during this time, saving money you’d otherwise spend on interest. And if you have debt from multiple sources, you can consolidate it on one card.

Not all balance transfer credit card offers are created equal. Some cards have more enticing terms than others, so it’s best to know which factors to consider while comparing offers. Here, we’ll cover everything you need to know to find your perfect balance transfer card.

How do balance transfer offers work?

With a balance transfer, you can move high-interest debt to a new credit card. If the card provider allows it, you’ll receive a low APR on the debt — often 0%.

This low rate will be in effect only for a certain time, typically between six and 21 months. The promotional period usually begins as soon as your card is approved, so consider making payments as soon as possible to take full advantage of the low rate.

Once the introductory offer ends, your remaining balance will start accruing interest at the revert rate, which is usually the much higher purchase or cash advance APR. That said, it’s a good idea to repay your entire balance before the revert rate kicks in.

Top considerations for a balance transfer card

compare features balance transfer credit card image
Weigh these factors while looking for a balance transfer card.

  • Introductory balance transfer APR: When you transfer your balances, this is the APR that will be charged to those balances. Many balance transfer cards offer 0% introductory APRs on transferred balances.
  • Length of introductory period: Usually, the promotional interest rate lasts between six and 21 months. Generally, a longer introductory period is better, as it gives you more time to pay down balances with a low APR.
  • Balance transfer fee: With most cards, you’ll be charged a one-time balance transfer fee of 3% to 5% when you make a transfer. However, some cards let you transfer balances without paying fees. Look for cards that cap their balance transfer fees. Also, understand how to calculate your fee, especially if you’re transferring a large balance.
  • Balance transfer time frame: If you open a card with no balance transfer fees, you generally have to transfer your balances within a certain time to avoid paying the transfer fee. If you miss this window, you’ll pay a fee or may not be allowed to transfer your balances at all.
  • Revert APR: When picking a card, keep an eye on the revert APR, which is the APR you receive after the introductory interest rate ends. Ideally the revert APR should be lower than the APR on your original credit card, or you’ll be stuck with a higher interest rate.
  • Balance transfer limit: Check with your card provider to learn the maximum amount you can transfer. Look for a card with a limit that’s high enough to accommodate your transfer size.
  • Credit card issuer: A card provider generally won’t transfer a balance from a card it issued to you — only from a card issued by another bank.
  • Other fees and rates: The balance transfer fee might not be the only fee to consider. Check out other potential fees such as annual fees, late fees and foreign transaction fees.
  • Other benefits: It’s usually best to use a balance transfer card solely for consolidating debt. However, card perks may tip the scales when you’re torn between a few products — especially if you plan to keep using your card after paying off your transferred balance. Consider whether the card comes with a rewards program.

When you open a balance transfer card, the exact terms you receive will vary based on your credit. The best balance transfer cards are generally offered only to those with good to excellent credit scores.

However, if you have less-than-stellar credit, you can still find cards that let you transfer debt. Check out our guides below to compare cards for fair and poor credit.

Types of debt

You might not be able to transfer all types of debt to your new card. Here are a few sources you may or not be able to transfer from:
  • Store credit card
  • Auto loan
  • Student loan
  • Mortgage/HELOC
  • Small business loan
  • Payday loan

Check with your lender to see which transfer sources it allows.

Comparison of balance transfer credit cards

Updated September 26th, 2018
Name Product Introductory Balance Transfer APR APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases Annual Fee Minimum Credit Score
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.74%, 18.74% or 24.74% variable)
14.74%, 18.74% or 24.74% variable
$0
Fair (660-699)
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees
0% for the first 18 months (then 12.74%, 16.74% or 20.74% variable)
12.74%, 16.74% or 20.74% variable
$0
Fair (660-699)
An 18-month 0% Intro APR period on both purchases and balance transfers, plus zero foreign transaction fees, makes this is a strong well-rounded card. See Rates and Fees
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then to variable)
16.74% variable
$195
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then to variable)
16.74% variable
$495
Good (700-739)
Mastercard Black Card members receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.74% to 25.74% variable)
14.74% to 25.74% variable
$0
Fair (660-699)
Earn 15,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.74% to 25.74% variable)
14.74% to 25.74% variable
$0
Fair (660-699)
Snag a $150 bonus statement credit after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months
0% for the first 12 months (then 14.74% to 24.74% variable)
14.74% to 24.74% variable
$95
Fair (660-699)
15,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of opening your account
0% for the first 12 months (then 14.74% to 25.74% variable)
14.74% to 25.74% variable
$95
Fair (660-699)
Earn $200 bonus cash back after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months
0% for the first 15 months (then 16.74% to 25.49% variable)
16.74% to 25.49% variable
$0
Fair (660-699)
Jumpstart your financial fitness! 60 day introductory balance transfer offer, save on interest, and get your free monthly credit score.
0% for the first 15 statement closing dates (then 14.74% to 24.74% variable)
14.74% to 24.74% variable
$0
Fair (660-699)
Transfer high rate balances and save on interest with an Introductory $0 balance transfer fee for the first 60 days your account is open. After that, the fee for future balance transfers is 3% (min. $10).
0% for the first 15 months (then 16.74% to 25.49% variable)
16.74% to 25.49% variable
$0
Fair (660-699)
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic. No minimum to redeem for cash back.
0% for the first 12 statement closing dates (then 14.99% to 24.99% variable)
14.99% to 24.99% variable
$0
Good (700-739)
Earn more cash back for the things you buy most.

Compare up to 4 providers

How to find the best balance transfer offers for…

There are different types of balance transfer cards, and one might work better for you than the others. Here are a few types you may want to look into more closely.

0% APR

Many balance transfer cards offer 0% intro APR to entice new customers. These aren’t difficult to find. However, consider what else is important to you in a balance transfer card.

For example, you may want rewards, which means you may have to settle for a slightly shorter zero-interest period. Or you may want a market-leading 0% intro APR, when you might not find rewards.

Here are a few cards with a good mix of 0% APR and rewards:

Balance transfer credit cards with rewards

Longest intro period

Balance transfer promotions can extend for impressive periods — up to almost two years. Currently, one of the top choices on the market is the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card.

  • Citi Simplicity® Card: 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 18 months.
  • Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card: You’ll have a 0% APR on purchases for only 12 months. However, the balance transfer offer is the real prize: Receive 0% APR on transfers for 21 months.
  • Chase Slate® Credit Card: 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months. No fees on balance transfers made within the first 60 days.

What is the longest balance transfer credit card deal?

High-limit balance transfers

Different providers will cap your balance transfer maximum at different limits. With some cards, you may be able to transfer up to 100% or 95% of your credit limit. With other cards, you may be able to transfer only up to 75% or 50% of your credit limit.

If a high balance transfer limit is important to you, check with your provider to learn its rules.

High credit limit balance transfer credit cards

No fee

With some cards, you won’t have to pay balance transfer fees for a certain period (or at all). If a card comes with no balance transfer fees at any time, it’s far less likely to offer a 0% intro APR.

How to get a no-fee and 0% interest balance transfer credit card

6 tips to get the most out of your balance transfer card

Balance transfer cards can be incredibly helpful as long as you know what you’re doing with them. Here’s how to use one properly so it’ll be smooth sailing for you:

1. Make a plan to pay off your balance fully before the revert rate strikes.

Balance transfer cards are great tools that help you pay off debt. However, you’ll want to make sure you pay off your debt before the intro APR period ends. If your card has a high revert APR and you still have a balance, you may be in a worse situation than before you transferred the balance. To avoid this, carefully create and follow a plan to pay off the balance before the intro APR ends.

2. Make sure you make the minimum payments.

Some people think that “0% APR” means they don’t have to make any payments on their balances. The 0% APR means your balance won’t accumulate within the promotional period. You’ll still need to make at least the minimum payment each month (though we recommend paying more than that to make sure you can repay the debt during the intro period).

3. Don’t get hit with APR penalties for late payments.

This is one of those stipulations that is buried in the fine print: You can lose that great 0% intro APR if you pay late even once. To avoid this, apply for a card that doesn’t charge a penalty rate for late payments or set up automatic payments so you’ll never pay late.

4. Avoid using the card for purchases.

Because you’re primarily using your balance transfer card to repay debts, it is recommended that you not purchase anything with the card and add more to your balance. Some cards also charge interest on your purchases immediately. If you start accumulating interest, it defeats the purpose of getting a balance transfer credit card. If you need to make an emergency purchase, consider using another card with a low APR.

5. Know your interest rate for cash advances.

Don’t confuse your cash advance APR with your balance transfer APR. Most cards won’t give you the same attractive 0% interest rate on cash advances. In fact, the APR on cash advances can actually be very high. Before taking out a cash advance, check out your card’s terms and conditions carefully.

6. Avoid a late fee on your original card.

It can take a while for a balance transfer to be completed — usually 7 to 10 days. To avoid being charged late fees on your old card, continue to make timely payments until the balance has been successfully transferred to your new card.

What is a balance transfer?

Balance transfer credit card calculator: How much can you save?

Your current credit cards:

Amount Owing

APR

Card 1

Card 2

Card 3

Card 4

Card 5

Card that you are transferring to:

Intro APR

Intro Term (months)

Ongoing APR

Balance Transfer Fee

Annual Fee

Your monthly repayment
$500

 
 
Critical
At this rate, you will not pay off your debt.
 
Recommended
At this rate you will pay off your debt during the card's intro period

At that rate you will not pay off your debt. You will need to make higher repayments.

Months that it will take you to pay off your debt:

With a balance transfer
12 months

Without a balance transfer
15 months

Money saved transferring debt to a balance transfer card:

Savings = $1,000

By moving forward with a balance transfer credit card and transferring the maximum amount, you could be saving $1,000 on fees and interest charges.
You will save an infinite amount of money as you will not pay off your debt on your current cards at that rate.
In this case, a balance transfer card is not the best option. You might want to consider a personal loan to help consolidate your debt. You can find out more here.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this calculator, the results should be used as indication only. Certain assumptions have been made around the repayments made. This calculator is neither a quote nor a pre-qualification for a credit card

Bottom line

There are many great balance transfer cards, and there will be a few that are better for your needs. Take the time to compare several cards and providers. Once you’ve received your balance transfer card, keep up with payments to avoid penalties and pay off your debt in good time.

Frequently asked questions

Adrienne Fuller

Adrienne Fuller leads the publishing team at finder.com. She has one goal: to deliver the accurate and transparent information she wishes she had when she made some of life's important financial decisions. When she's not helping folks save money, she's hiking with her two Catahoulas around her home in San Diego.

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