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How to get a credit card with no balance transfer fee
Maximize your savings with a no-fee balance transfer.
A balance transfer may be a helpful part of your get-out-of-debt plan. Typically, a balance transfer means moving debt from one credit card to another to take advantage of a temporarily low-interest rate. But balance transfers usually come with fees that can add to your debt before you get a chance to take advantage of your new card. That’s why a card with no balance transfer fees can be helpful.
What is a no-fee balance transfer card?
A no-fee balance transfer credit card allows you to transfer balances from other credit cards without paying a balance transfer fee. Some cards may waive their balance transfer fee as part of an introductory welcome offer.
Qualifying for a no-fee balance transfer card
Now that you know what a no-fee balance transfer card is, let’s discuss how you might qualify.
Your credit history
Generally, credit card companies will take on your debt if they’re reasonably certain they’ll be repaid. That said, it’s easier to qualify for a no-fee balance transfer card if you have good or excellent credit of 670 or higher. It may be possible to get a balance transfer card with lower credit, but the card’s terms may not be as generous.
The size of your debt
Another factor to consider is how much debt you’re planning on transferring. The less credit card debt you have, the better. That’s because almost a third of your credit score is based on how much of your available credit you’re using — or your credit utilization ratio.
Card providers want to see that you’re using a relatively small amount of your available credit. This implies you’re in control of your finances and can make credit card payments.
If you have a lot of debt, your credit card company may extend a lower balance transfer limit than you hoped for. Even though you might not be able to transfer all of your debt, you should still consider transferring at least some of it, especially if the new card offers a solid interest rate.
Income and other factors
Like any other credit card, applying for a no-fee balance transfer card means you’ll submit your income and other financial information for approval. Your income can indicate whether you’re a good candidate for a no-fee balance transfer card.
The minimum income required for a no-fee balance transfer card varies by card provider. However, the higher your income, the better your chances of approval.
Compare no-fee balance transfer cards
How to compare no-fee balance transfer cards
To help you decide on the best no-fee balance transfer card for you, consider these factors:
- Intro APR. Most balance transfer cards offer a low or 0% intro APR on balance transfers for a designated period of months from account opening.
- Ongoing APR. Consider if you can pay off the entirety of your debt during the intro APR. If not, consider what the ongoing APR will be. If you plan on carrying debt for a long time, low-APR cards might be a more attractive option, even if you have to start paying interest on your balance immediately.
- Annual fee. An annual fee can knock off a bit of your savings from a balance transfer card, so factor it in when you’re doing the math.
- Ongoing balance transfer fees. If you plan on transferring balances over long periods of time, confirm whether your card offers no fees indefinitely or only for an intro period.
How much money can I save with no-fee balance transfers?
Typically, you’ll save anywhere from 3% to 5% of the debt you’re transferring. That’s because most balance transfer fees will run about this much, with some banks also instating a minimum fee cap. For example, your credit card company might write the terms of your balance transfer fee as:
“Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.”
Let’s say you’re transferring $1,000
Using the balance transfer terms above, you’d pay the greater of $5 or 5% of your transfer amount. To calculate 5% of $1,000, multiply 1,000 by 0.05 to get $50.
You’ll be charged a $50 fee for the transfer since it’s more than the flat $5 fee.
If you transfer $1,000 to a no-fee balance transfer card, however, you’ll pay $0 in fees. Which could lead to big savings, especially if you’re transferring large balances or making multiple balance transfers.
Potential costs of balance transfers
When it comes to balance transfers, the math can add up. Check out the fees you’ll pay for typical balance transfer cards compared to a no-fee balance transfer card.
|Balance transfer fee||$5,000||$15,000||$30,000|
Do balance transfers ever have flat-fees?
There’s a lot of misinformation about balance transfers, especially when it comes to fees.
One myth is that a balance transfer is cheap because you’ll always pay a flat fee for it. As we’ve shown above, initiating a balance transfer rarely comes with just a flat fee.
Many people miss the “whichever is greater” part of the credit card terms and end up paying a shockingly big fee based on a percentage of the transfer.
Always calculate your percentage fee when transferring to a credit card that’s not a no-fee balance transfer card. A large balance will likely exceed the flat fee.
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.
Are there any credit card offers with 0% interest and no balance transfer fees?
Yes. 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.
Potential no-fee balance transfer card mistakes
To stay out of trouble with no-fee balance transfer cards, avoid these common mistakes.
Defaulting on payments
Even with a 0% interest rate on balance transfers, you’re required to make monthly payments.
Missing monthly payments can lead to painful consequences. Not only will your credit score go down, but you could also be subject to a penalty rate.
- You may immediately lose your nice 0% interest rate.
- Your interest rate may shoot up to as high as 29.99%.
You can avoid an unfortunate credit card fate by staying vigilant with your payments.
Getting hit with late fees
Beyond potentially receiving a penalty interest rate for defaulting on payments, you might also pay late fees, which can run up to $35.
To avoid missing payments, consider setting up automatic payments if your card provider allows them.
Transferring balances after the intro fee period ends
Unfortunately, the “no fee” part of “no-fee balance transfer cards” sometimes expires. You may pay nothing on balance transfer fees for a set time following your account opening. After that, you’ll have to start paying fees. To avoid surprise balance transfer fees, read your card’s fine print to see if and when your no-fee promotion ends.
Making more purchases with the card
Moving your debt to a no-fee balance transfer card — especially one with a 0% APR promo — is a fresh start. Namely, it’s a golden opportunity to pay off your debt while it’s not burdened by heavy interest rates. If you can, try to avoid adding more debt to your card with new purchases.
Research is key when it comes to getting a balance transfer credit card. Your individual financial wellness will dictate what is or isn’t right for you, so take the time to evaluate where you’re at and what options make the most sense. Your debt doesn’t define you, but it’ll be a great day when you get out from under it.
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