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Balance transfer credit cards
Compare more than 200 balance transfer credit cards and save money on interest.
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5 features to compare when choosing a balance transfer card
When sizing up possible balance transfer cards, carefully consider these five card features.
- Length of intro APR period if you’re trying to pay down debt. The longest 0% intro APR period is 21 months. However, sometimes banks may lower this offer to a shorter period.
- Revert APR if you plan on carrying a balance. If you’re worried you won’t be able to pay off your debt in time, a lower revert APR can help keep your interest down after your period ends.
- Balance transfer fees if you’re worried about extra payments. Most balance transfer credit cards charge either a 3% or 5% fee of the amount. This fee can add up if you’re transferring a larger sum. Some cards waive this fee. Make sure you read the fine print to know what you’re getting.
- Rewards if you want to get value after you pay off your debt. A rewards card is the way to go. Most rewards cards that also offer a 0% intro APR period do so for 12 to 18 months. This isn’t bad, considering you earn rewards and save money on interest.
- Credit limit if you want to transfer larger amounts. Typically, you can transfer amounts, including fees, up to the card’s credit limit. If you want to transfer a larger amount, look for balance transfer cards with high credit limits.
Pros and cons of balance transfer cards
Before applying for a balance transfer card, take a look at the positives and negatives of owning one:
- Generous 0% APR promotions.
A good balance transfer card will give you a 0% interest rate on transfers for a long time. This gives you time to pay off your balance.
- Potential rewards and card perks.
Depending on your needs, you might be able to find a card that offers perks like travel rewards or cash back in addition to a 0% APR promotion.
- 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 ends may be charged a high interest rate.
21 months is the longest balance transfer offer
Citi offers the two cards with the strongest balance transfer offer: the Citi Diamond Preferred and the Citi Simplicity.
At one point there was a no-interest credit card for 24 months on the market. But that length for a 0% APR is extremely rare.
If you can’t qualify for a 21-month intro balance transfer, a range of cards still come up just short of 21 months and can still save you hundreds of dollars.
High limit balance transfer cards
Information on maximum credit limits is sparse. Most of what exists is anecdotal, and the limits included are estimations based on reviews and details provided by credit card issuers.
Your assigned credit limit varies based on several factors, including your creditworthiness. To receive a higher credit limit, you need a good to excellent credit score.
|Credit card||Estimated maximum limit|
|Luxury Card Mastercard® Black Card™||$25,000|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®||$25,000|
|U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card||$25,000|
|Discover it® Cash Back||$30,000|
|Citi® Double Cash Card||$50,000|
|Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards||$95,000|
A balance transfer credit card helps you save on interest
A balance transfer credit card allows you to move debts, like loans and credit card balances, to a new card with a lower interest rate. This allows you to quickly pay off your balances and save money on interest.
A balance transfer credit card may help your credit score
There are two ways a balance transfer credit card could improve your credit score:
Utilization rate. Adding another card to your wallet comes with an additional line of credit. If your debt levels stay the same, adding another line of credit will lower your utilization rate, which positively affects your credit score.
Paying off your balance. It’s best to use an interest-free period to pay off your debt. Once you pay off your balance, the lower debt levels will positively affect your credit score.
Keep in mind that moving your balance won’t erase your debt or poor spending habits. Even if you close your account, anything that happened with the old account will remain on your credit report.
How to perform a balance transfer
Though the transfer process might differ slightly from provider to provider, you’ll generally perform the same three steps during your balance transfer.
- Compare and apply for a card. Look for balance transfer offers with a 0% intro APR period for as long as possible — often 12, 15, 18 or even 21 months if you have great credit.
- Transfer the balance. Follow the instructions provided by the card issuer to transfer your existing balances to your new card.
- Pay off the debt. Be sure to pay down the balance within the intro offer period, so you can save the most money on interest, get out of debt, and avoid any repercussions of the revert rate.
How to do a balance transfer by phone
- Call the number on the back of your card.
- Tell the representative that you wish to make a balance transfer.
- Give pertinent information to the representative, including the details about your other issuer and the balance you want to transfer.
- Confirm details of your balance transfer with the representative.
How to do a balance transfer online
- Sign up for online banking after you receive your card.
- Log in to your online account and navigate to the balance transfer section.
- If necessary, choose a balance transfer option offered to you.
- Enter details of your balance transfer, including information about your other issuer and the amount you want to transfer.
Can I transfer debt with the same issuer?
Transferring debt between cards with the same issuer is typically not allowed. Most credit card companies have restrictions on transferring balances on other credit cards or loans from the same issuer.
For example, if you have debt on a Citi® Double Cash Card and apply for a Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card, your transfer application will likely be denied because they’re both Citi credit cards.
Check with the issuer before you apply for your balance transfer card to learn if you can transfer balances from particular cards.
While it’s very rare an issuer will approve a balance transfer within the same bank or provider, there are sometimes exceptions. For example, Barclays will consider a transfer between some of its issued cards at its discretion.
Why don’t banks allow balance transfers from the same bank?
It comes down to profit. Lenders make their money from cardholders through fees and interest. There’s not much benefit for the lender to let their customers freely save on interest.
Plus, when you’re sent balance transfer offers in the mail, the issuer is often looking for new customers. A balance transfer serves as an incentive to open up that account with a new bank.
Here’s how to apply for a balance transfer card
Applying for a balance transfer card is much like applying for a standard credit card:
- Choose the balance transfer credit card that fits your needs and select Apply.
- Submit the required documentation and information requested. This typically includes your:
- Personal contact information.
- Social Security number and date of birth.
- Residential status.
- Financial details, such as your annual salary and other income.
- In many cases, you’ll also request your balance transfer on the application itself. You’ll need to provide:
- Account details for the debt you’re hoping to transfer.
- The amount to transfer to your new card.
- Submit your application and wait for approval.
2 costs associated with balance transfers
There are two main costs to keep in mind when it comes to the costs of a balance transfer: APR and transfer fees.
- Balance transfer fee. A transfer fee is the price of transferring a balance to a balance transfer card. This is usually between 3% and 5% of the amount you’re transferring, though some balance transfer cards charge no fee as part of their welcome offer.
- APR. Your purchase APR affects how much interest your balance accrues each month. If you have an APR of 19% and a balance of $4,000, you can expect to rack up an additional $63.60 a month in interest charges, assuming you make no or minimal payments.
Note that you only need to worry about your revert APR if you don’t have an intro APR offer or you were unable to pay off your balance transfer before the end of your intro APR offer. Check out our balance transfer calculator to see how these two costs work together.
Get a balance transfer card to avoid paying interest on debts
A balance transfer credit card can be a great tool to save money on your debts, but it’s not always the optimal choice. Here’s a quick cheat sheet on whether a balance transfer card could work for you.
Get a balance transfer card if you:
- Want to avoid paying interest on an existing debt.
- Need between six and 18 months to pay off your debt in full.
- Save on interest enough to outweigh the fees you’ll pay. You’ll usually pay a balance transfer fee when transferring your debt. Make sure the interest you save exceeds this fee.
Consider another option if you:
- Have excessive debt. The maximum debt you can transfer to a credit card is dictated by your maximum credit limit. If your debt is too large, you won’t be able to fit it on a card.
- Are using a balance transfer to cover up bad financial habits. If you continue to spend beyond your means while paying off your balance transfer, you’re defeating the purpose of the balance transfer.
- Need longer than 21 months to pay off your debt interest-free. If you don’t think you can pay off your transferred balance within the allotted time, you might consider a longer debt consolidation loan instead.
- Want a high-powered rewards card. While some balance transfer cards come with rewards, these cards are usually less powerful when it comes to earning rewards compared to a dedicated rewards credit card.
How much interest will I save with a 0% balance transfer credit card?
If you have a credit card debt of $1,000 and you make $100 repayments per month, a balance transfer offer can help you regain control of your finances and save.
|Normal credit card without balance transfer offer||0% balance transfer credit card|
|Months required to repay||12 months||10 months|
|Interest paid over this period||$200||$0|
In the example above, not only can you save $200, but you’ll also repay your debt faster — as long as you pay your debt before the 0% offer ends. Any debt not paid off is subject to the revert APR.
You can calculate how much interest you’ll save with your balance transfer credit card using our balance transfer calculator. By considering the interest you can save helps you compare your options and determine which 0% balance transfer credit card is right for you.
Balance transfer calculator
What’s better? A no-fee balance transfer card or 0% APR balance transfer card?
The type of balance transfer card that’s best for you depends on how much debt you’re transferring and how long you need to pay off the balance. Balance transfer cards with a balance transfer fee tend to have longer intro APR periods. This can help you pay less per month over a longer period, albeit at the price of the balance transfer fee tagged onto the balance.
If you’re looking to pay off that transferred debt as soon as possible, a no-fee balance transfer card is the most effective way to do so as long as you can make the higher monthly payments.
What credit cards offer 0% interest and no balance transfer fees?
While rare, there are some balance transfer cards that offer both. The Amex Everyday, for example, features a 15-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers and no balance transfer fee provided you make your transfer within 60 days of account opening.
Also, some balance transfer cards will offer a no-fee period as part of a limited-time welcome offer, so keep an eye out for any potential deals.
How to get approved for a card with no balance transfer fee and 0% APR on balance transfers
If you want to qualify for a card with no balance transfer fees and 0% APR on balance transfer, you’ll need good to excellent credit. If you’re unsure whether you qualify, check whether your preferred card choice allows for pre-qualification. And if you need help raising your credit score, check out some simple credit-building tips to give your credit score a boost.
How do you earn points on a balance transfer?
Barclays has been known to offer rewards with balance transfers on rare occasion.
At the time of writing, you can earn rewards on balance transfers made with the Wyndham Rewards® Earner℠ Card. The first use of the card for a purchase or balance transfer will earn 30,000 points. A similar offer is available for the Carnival® World Mastercard® and other Barclaycard cruise line credit cards.
Does a balance transfer count as a payment?
Yes, a balance transfer does count as a payment. As soon as your balance transfer request is approved, you authorize your new card provider to pay for your old debt. You can see it in your credit card statement or payment history as paid.
But because your card provider makes the payment and not you, you rarely earn rewards on balance transfers.
Is it worth earning points on a balance transfer?
If you don’t care much about what kind of credit card you get, or if the card that rewards you on a balance transfer that aligns with your financial situation — earning points on a balance transfer may be worth it. If nothing more, it’ll offset a small portion of your balance transfer fee.
But if you want a credit card with even greater value after the intro APR period expires, then a balance transfer card with a rewards program you will actually use may be the more prudent choice.
Can you get a balance transfer card with rewards?
Yes, you can — though you’ll usually need a strong credit score of 670 or higher to qualify. Also, your rewards or balance transfer intro APR period may not be as strong as a card that specializes in one or the other.
That said, plenty of solid rewards cards have balance transfer offers, including 0% intro APRs and no balance transfer fees. You can earn points, miles or cash back with these cards — some with rewards rates of up to 3%.
How to choose the right credit card for balance transfers and rewards
You’ll have to weigh what’s most important when choosing a credit card for balance transfers and rewards. Consider the following:
- Balance transfers don’t earn rewards. Generally, only a few credit cards offer rewards for making a balance transfer.
- Introductory rate and fees. Compare how long the introductory rate is, if it’s a 0% intro offer and what the balance transfer fees are. Also, factor in an annual fee if there is one.
- Earn rate. How much you can earn in points, miles or cash can vary from one rewards card to the next — as do the types of purchases that may give you an accelerated rate.
- The revert APR. At the end of the promotional period, any outstanding balance from transfers starts attracting the balance transfer APR.
4 tips to making the most out of your balance transfer card
The best way to leverage the benefits of a balance transfer card is to focus on doing away with your debt, rather than the perks banks and providers use to lure you in:
- Make sure you’ll save money. A balance transfer card with an annual fee and high transfer fees can eat into your savings. The interest you’ll save on your debt should outweigh the card’s costs.
- Pay more than the minimum. Knock out your balance quicker by paying as much as you can beyond your statement’s minimum. Find the magic number by dividing your remaining balance by the months left in your intro period.
- Avoid additional purchases. Many cards prioritize your payment toward new purchases, which could threaten your ability to repay your transfers before the end of your intro. Hold off on swiping your card until your balance is down to $0.
- Mind the revert rate. If you don’t pay off your balance by the end of your intro period, your rate reverts to the everyday APR. Adopt your revert date as your payoff deadline if you can to avoid paying more than you need to.
How do I tell what my revert rate is?
A balance transfer credit card with a promotional offer can be a great way to repay your debt without interest. But once your promotional period ends, the revert rate — usually the purchase or cash advance rate — kicks in on any remaining balance, ranging from around 14% to 26%.
Find your card’s revert rate in your credit card terms and conditions. This rate is located in the section detailing your intro balance transfer APR details.
When will I have to pay the revert rate?
If your balance transfer credit card comes with a promotional offer, the 0% or low interest intro on balance transfers will only be available for a set period — usually between six to 21 months, depending on the card and offer. Once this promotional offer ends, you’re required to pay the revert rate on any remaining balances. This is the standard purchase rate or cash advance rate, and it’s usually much higher than the promotional rate.
How can I extend the promotional interest rate?
If you negotiate with the credit card company before you open a new account with a promotional period, you could try to get it extended — for example negotiate a 0% intro APR from 12 to 21 months. It never hurts to ask.
However, if you’ve already made the transfer and your promotional time is almost up, it’s harder to negotiate a longer 0% promotional period. Credit card companies offer 0% promotional periods to hook you into getting the card. They aren’t motivated to keep you at a 0% intro APR when the revert rate is right around the corner.
So, what can you do if you’re at the end of your promotional period and still have a balance? If you’ve been a loyal customer who consistently makes on-time payments, you could try to negotiate a lower revert rate by expressing interest in transferring your balance to another provider. Credit card companies can’t make money if they lose customers.
Ask the experts
- Michele Langbein, Ph.D.
- Professor of Business Management
- Point Park University
When is it a good idea to do a balance transfer on a credit card?
A balance transfer can be a good idea when you are paying high interest on a current credit card if you are going to be able to make the payments on the new card and get it paid off within the terms of the new offer. For example, if the credit offer is for 2.9% interest for one year and your current rate is significantly higher than that rate and you’ll be able to get it paid off within the one year period, then it may be a good idea because the lower interest rate will result in a lower amount of interest that you will pay. However, many people who do balance transfers don’t pay it off within the introductory offer period and often pay a much higher interest rate.
- Eric Rosenberg
- Personal Finance Expert
What are the biggest mistakes you can make when requesting a balance transfer?
The biggest balance transfer mistake would be moving a balance to a card with a higher interest rate. Always look at the interest rate you’ll pay after the 0% introductory period ends before moving a balance.
- Kashif A. Ahmed
- Adjunct Professor of Finance
- Suffolk University
When are balance transfer cards worth it?
They are worth it if you are getting a much better (not just marginal) rate, ideally zero %, AND you trust yourself to have discipline to pay off the balance before the rate jumps, usually astronomically. Using this strategy, you can get interim relief from making interest payments, though you still have to make the principal payments.
- Andrew Burnstine
- Associate Professor
- Lynn University
How can balance transfers affect your credit score?
Transferring a high-interest credit card balance to a card with a lower balance — or, if possible, with a 0% Interest period — can save you lots of money over the long run. Depending on several factors, balance transfers can help or hurt your credit score:
- Money saved on interest with a balance transfer can help you pay down your balance and lower debt quicker.
- Missed payments on the old account will still affect your score. Make sure that you make current payments on your old account or work to pay it off completely.
Does a balance transfer close my account?
No. After you transfer your balance to your new credit card, your old card account remains open. The only difference is the balance is reduced, assuming your transfer was successful.
To stay current on your account — and avoid your old issuer submitting negative reports to the credit bureaus — continue making regular payments on your old balance until your new card confirms the transfer. After that confirmation, you can request to close your old credit card account if you wish.
When to close an account after a balance transfer
You don’t have to close a card account after a balance transfer. In fact, it can be beneficial to your credit score to keep it open. But there might be a few reasons you decide to close the account:
- Annual fees. Paying an annual fee for a card you’re not using can be a waste of money unless the perks and other benefits outweigh the cost. If you truly aren’t using the card but you’re paying an annual fee, it may be wise to cancel the card.
- Temptation to spend. If you don’t think you can keep a card in your wallet without feeling the urge to use it, you may want to cancel it.
Balance transfers can be a good way to make a dent in your debt when high-interest charges are eating away at your payments. Before you apply, make sure the switch will save you time and money.
Find the right balance transfer card for your financial situation by thoroughly comparing your options.
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