Can you earn rewards points with a balance transfer? | finder.com
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Can you earn reward points on a balance transfer?

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Getting a new credit card can give you new opportunities to earn rewards. But do those rewards extend to balance transfers?

There are many credit cards that offer rewards for spending, however, none of them give you points for a balance transfer. This is because balance transfer transactions are different from the regular purchase transactions that earn you rewards.

With purchases, you pay for items or services using your card. But with balance transfers, your new provider pays out your existing debt to be moved to the new card. Most issuers classify this type of transaction as a cash advance and exempt it from earning points because it’s not a regular purchase.

Even if you want that 0% balance transfer offer with a card that offers rewards, consider if you can make it worth the transfer.

Get a balance transfer and earn cash back on purchases

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

  • $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 3 months.
  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).
  • 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 15.24% to 26.24%.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms apply.
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See Rates & Fees
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Compare balance transfer credit cards

Name Product Introductory Balance Transfer APR Standard APR for Balance Transfer Annual Fee
0% for the first 15 months (then 17.24% to 25.99% variable)
17.24% to 25.99% variable
$0
0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers.
0% for the first 15 months (then 17.24% to 25.99% variable)
17.24% to 25.99% variable
$0
0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers.
0% for the first 15 months (then 15.24% to 26.24% variable)
15.24% to 26.24% variable
$0
Earn a $150 bonus statement credit after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
0% for the first 12 months (then 15.24% to 26.24% variable)
15.24% to 26.24% variable
$95
Earn $200 bonus cash back after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
0% for the first 15 months (then 15.24% to 26.24% variable)
15.24% to 26.24% variable
$0
Earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 or more in purchases with your new card within the first 3 months of card membership. Rates & Fees
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 14.24% variable)
14.24% variable
$0
A low, variable APR on purchases, balance transfers and cash advances.
0% for the first 15 months (then 15.24%, 19.24% or 25.24% variable)
15.24%, 19.24% or 25.24% variable
$0
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees.
0% for the first 18 months (then 13.24%, 17.24% or 21.24% variable)
13.24%, 17.24% or 21.24% variable
$0
An 18 months 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 17.24% variable)
17.24% variable
$195
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 17.24% variable)
17.24% variable
$495
Receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 17.24% variable)
17.24% variable
$995
Earn 1x points when redeemed for airfare through the Luxury rewards program.
0% for the first 12 months (then 15.15% to 25.15% variable)
15.15% to 25.15% variable
$0
Earn $150 in statement credit after you spend $1,200 on purchases within the first 90 days from account opening.
0% for the first 12 months (then 15.99% to 25.99% variable)
15.99% to 25.99% variable
$59
20,000 bonus LifeMiles after first card use
0% for the first 12 months (then 15.99% to 25.99% variable)
15.99% to 25.99% variable
$149
40,000 bonus LifeMiles after first card use
0% for the first 12 months (then 12.99% to 17.99% variable)
12.99% to 17.99% variable
$0
Earn 25,000 bonus points when you spend $2,500 in the first 90 days from account opening.
0% for the first 12 months (then 11.99% to 17.99% variable)
11.99% to 17.99% variable
$0
2% cash back for all PenFed Honors Advantage members and 1.5% cash back on all purchases made with your card.
0% for the first 12 months (then 9.24% to 17.99% variable)
9.24% to 17.99% variable
$0
Low APR on all purchases including cash advances.
0% for the first 12 months (then 11.99% to 17.99% variable)
11.99% to 17.99% variable
$0
Earn 5x points on gas at the pump and 3x points on groceries. Earn 1x points on all other purchases.
1.99% for the first 6 monthly billing cycles (then 16.24% to 22.24% variable)
16.24% to 22.24% variable
$0
1% cash back to the nonprofits, K-12 schools, colleges and religious organizations of your choice.
9.95% for the first 6 months (then 17.99% fixed)
17.99% fixed
$39
Borrow up to $10,000 and get your credit score back on track.

N/A

9.15% to 26.15% variable
$0
This card offers the same low rate for purchases, cash advances and balance transfers.
0% for the first 12 statement closing dates (then 15.49% to 25.49% variable)
15.49% to 25.49% variable
$0
Earn more cash back for the things you buy most.
7.9% for the first 90 days (then 12.15% to 17.99% variable)
12.15% to 17.99% variable
$0
Enjoy perks and save money while gaining points with every purchase.
10.99% for the first 6 months (then 25.24% variable)
25.24% variable
$0
2% cashback at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus 1% cash back on all other credit card purchases.

N/A

21.24% variable
$25
Establish credit history - with responsible use you may be upgraded to an unsecured credit card.

N/A

22.49% variable
$39
Helps establish, strengthen and even rebuild your credit.

N/A

21.24% variable
$29
Get worldwide purchasing power and flexibility as you work to build or re-establish your credit history.

N/A

26.99% variable
$0
Take control and build your credit with responsible use.
Aspire Platinum Mastercard®
Aspire Platinum Mastercard®
0% for the first 6 billing cycles (then 8.9% to 18% variable)
8.9% to 18% variable
$0
Enjoy a 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 6 months.

Compare up to 4 providers

Would it be worth earning points on a balance transfer?

Not really. Even if you could earn a point for each dollar transferred, you’d have to transfer at least $10,000 of your debt just to redeem your points for a $100 gift card. You’d also have to factor in the following costs and risks:

  • Annual fee.
    Reward credit cards typically have annual fees ranging from $90 to $450 or more. So, in most cases, this cost would cancel out the value of the points right away.
  • Balance transfer fee.
    Depending on the card, you could pay a one-time processing fee worth 2% to 3% of the debt. That would be an extra $200 to $300 on a $10,000 balance transfer, meaning you’d likely pay more than you’d earn from reward points.
  • Balance transfer interest charges.
    Even if a card has no interest for 12 months, if you transfer enough debt to get value from the points, you probably wouldn’t be able to pay it off during the introductory period. Any debt remaining after that time would be charged interest at the standard rate for your card, which is usually between 19% and 22%.

Basically, if you have existing credit card debt you want to pay off, you’re usually better off getting a 0% balance transfer credit card. Then, you could focus on paying down your debt without worrying about points. That allows you to save as much money on interest as possible.

Once you’ve paid off your debt, you could consider getting a card that earns points for your everyday spending. Just remember that these cards offer the most value when you pay your balance in full each month.

What about credit cards that offer 0% on balance transfers and introductory bonus points?

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Some credit cards offer new customers both introductory 0% balance transfers and bonus points. But to get the bonus points, you usually need to spend a specific amount on new purchases when you first get the card. For example, a card might offer 50,000 bonus points if you make $3,000 worth of eligible purchases in the first three months.

If you’ve already transferred your older debt to the card, meeting this spending requirement adds to your balance. Plus, new purchases are charged interest at the purchase rate for that card, which could be as high as 22% APR.

How to decide if it’s worth getting a credit card with 0% on balance transfers and bonus points

If you really want to get points and a balance transfer, these are the key factors to consider:

  • What can you get with the bonus points?
    Check out the rewards or frequent flyer program to figure out the value of the bonus points. Sometimes these offers can be worth hundreds of dollars, although it depends on how you use them.
  • What are the bonus point spending requirements?
    Look at how much you need to spend and how long you have to meet this requirement. Is it reasonable considering your existing balance?
  • Can you pay off your debt during the balance transfer promotional period?
    Consider how long you’ll get the promotional balance transfer rate based on the size of your debt. For example, if a card offers 0% interest for six months and you have a debt of $6,000, you’d have to pay $1,000 a month to avoid interest charges on this debt.
  • Can you afford to pay off both your balance transfer and the debt from any spending you do to get bonus points? When you use a credit card for both a balance transfer and new purchases, you’ll likely have different interest rates for each part of the balance. When this happens, any payments you make will automatically go towards paying off the debt with the highest interest rate (usually your new purchases). If you can’t afford to pay off all your debt during the introductory period, you could end up paying more later on.

Is it worth getting a balance transfer and bonus points?

blonde_lady_laptop_creditcard_coffee_Shutterstock

Let’s say Ester wants to switch from her current credit card to one that earns frequent flyer points. She has a current credit card debt of $6,000 that she’d like to pay off through a balance transfer promotion. So, she decides to look for a card that offers 0% on balance transfers and bonus points.

After comparing cards, Ester finds one that has a balance transfer offer of 0% APR for 12 months. Plus, it offers a bonus 50,000 points if she spends $3,000 on new purchases in the first three months. If Ester makes the $3,000 worth of purchases, it would bring her balance up to $9,000. While she may only have to pay 0% interest on the initial $6,000 balance transfer debt, her $3,000 in new purchases would accrue a 19.99% APR.

Ester calculates that she can afford to pay $500 per month towards her credit card balance. At this rate, it would take her seven months just to pay off the $3,000 worth of purchases. She’d also pay around $187.95 in interest on this portion of her balance.

If she chose to do this, she’d only have five months of 0% interest left on her balance transfer debt of $6,000. To pay this debt off before the introductory period ends, Ester would need to make monthly repayments of $1,200. If she couldn’t repay it in that time, her remaining balance would attract interest charges that could lead to even more debt.

In this case, Ester decides it’s more affordable for her to focus on paying off her existing credit card debt. After that’s done, she’ll compare her options again to see if a frequent flyer credit card could work for her.

When is it worth getting a 0% balance transfer card with bonus points?

Some scenarios would benefit from getting a credit card that has both 0% interest on balance transfers and bonus points, such as:

  • If you know you can pay off the debt, including bonus point spending, during the 0% period.
  • If you want to cancel your current account and only owe a small amount.
  • If you don’t need the 0% balance transfer offer.
  • If you decide the 0% offer and card work for you, even if you can’t meet the bonus point spending requirements.

Remember, when two cards offer different introductory promotions, focus on the deal that gives you the greatest value based on your circumstances. If you have existing debt, that might mean using the 0% balance transfer offer and not worrying about bonus points.

If, however, you don’t have credit card debt, you can focus on the bonus point offer without worrying about the 0% balance transfer rate. In fact, you may even want to look for a card that offers bonus points and 0% interest on purchases instead.

Balance transfers and reward points each have the potential to give you more value from the card you choose. Both have features that are usually designed to suit different needs. If your goal is to pay off existing debt, a 0% balance transfer card could help you save money in the process. If your goal is to earn points, getting a new card that offers bonus points will help you get rewards faster. But either way, remember to consider your budget and compare a range of cards so that you can find one that works for you.

Bottom Line

Ultimately, you’ll need to evaluate whether a rewards program or a balance transfer card is best for your situation. If you have a large amount of debt that you’re paying back at high-interest rates, a balance transfer card is likely the best solution for you. However, if your debt isn’t that high, but you spend lots of money on everyday purchases or travel a lot, a rewards card could help you score in a huge way. It’s unlikely you’ll find a card that’ll serve both purposes as any potential benefits of one would cancel out the other.

Frequently asked questions

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Jeremy Cabral

Jeremy is finder's Global Head of Publishing & Editorial. Jeremy has been with finder since the very beginning and is part of the founding team working closely with Fred and Frank to build finder.com into the comparison network it is today.

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