Compare our picks for longest balance transfer promotions and learn how they can help you cut down credit card debt.
If you’re looking for the longest balance transfer offer available, you probably already know how a balance transfer works. But what about promotional periods?
When you transfer existing debts on to a credit card with a balance transfer promotion, you save money by paying lower or no interest on your transferred debt for the promotional period. At the end of that period, any remaining debt from the transfer will be charged interest at the standard rate for that card (which is usually much higher).
Depending on the size of your debt, the difference between a 6-month and 24-month 0% balance transfer promotional period could mean hundreds or thousands of dollars saved on interest charges. That said, the longest offers aren’t necessarily right for everyone. This guide will take you through the other factors to consider when comparing long balance transfer deals.
Our pick for 18-month intro APR balance transfers: HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit cardRead more
Compare 15-21 month balance transfer credit cards
Which cards have the longest balance transfer offer?
Here are a few select cards with some of the longest balance transfer offers to US customers with varying credit scores.
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
- 0% balance transfer APR for 20 billing cycles , 14.74% to 25.74% variable after
- 0% purchase rate for 20 billing cycles, 14.74% to 25.74% variable after
- $0 annual fee
- Recommended FICO score: Excellent
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
- 0% balance transfer APR for 15 months, 17.24% to 25.99% after
- 0% purchase rate for 15 months, 17.24% to 25.99% after
- $0 annual fee
- Recommended FICO score: Good
Sphere® Credit Card
- 0% balance transfer APR for 18 billing cycles, 14.74% to 24.74% after
- 0% purchase rate for 18 billing cycles, 14.74% to 24.74% after
- $0 annual fee
- Recommended FICO score: Low to Fair
What is the longest balance transfer period?
Some of the longest balance transfer promotional periods to date have been up to 36 months. This provides the opportunity to transfer and pay off debt with a much lower or 0% interest rate within a long payment window. However, the longest deals are the toughest ones to get, requiring good to excellent credit score. While there aren’t currently any 24- or 30-month promotional periods, there are still some great offers of 18, 20 and 21 months with 0% APR.
You’ll find which cards have the longest balance transfer offer towards the top of the article.
How to compare long balance transfer offers
It’s always important to research and compare your options when choosing a credit card. When specifically looking at balance transfer credit cards, these are the key features to consider:
Introductory offers are typically worded like this: “Enjoy X% balance transfer interest for Y months”. In general, you will want the lowest X and the highest Y, ie, the lowest promotional interest rate over the longest term.
This is the regular rate that interest reverts to once the promotional period ends. It’s usually the standard cash advance rate for that card, and sometimes the purchase rate. This is important in case you still have outstanding debt on your card when the revert rate applies.
Balance transfer fee
Some credit cards charge a one-time balance transfer fee ranging from 1-2.5% of your balance transfer amount. Be aware that cards with longer promotional periods tend to charge a higher balance transfer fee.
Balance transfer provider
This is important because balance transfers are often prohibited between affiliated banks and cards issued by the same card issuer. Learn more about which banks you can transfer your balance to and from.
Maximum transfer amount
This could be your new card’s credit limit, or even up to a certain percentage of your credit limit, ranging from 75-90%. For example, if you are approved for a credit limit of $5,000 on a card that allows transfers of up to 75% of your limit, the maximum amount you could move to the new card would be $3,750.
Other balance transfer conditions
This varies with each card, but there may be other conditions limiting where you can transfer your balance from. For example, some cards only allow balance transfers from other credit cards and store cards, while some accept debts from personal loans as well.
Some promotional offers combine perks to offer more attractive savings or rewards. For example, a card could offer a 0% balance transfer rate and a 0% purchase interest rate, or a 0% balance rate and bonus frequent flyer points. Usually there are conditions to being eligible for each introductory offer, such as spending requirements to get bonus points. Make sure you’re aware of the requirements for each offer, so that you know exactly what you need to do to get all the benefits you want as a new cardholder.
Credit card annual fees can have an impact on the value you get from a balance transfer offer, so make sure your savings more than offset any card fees.
Late payment fees
If you don’t pay at least the minimum amount by the statement due date, you could be charged a late payment fee and a black mark could be placed on your credit file. These types of charges typically range from $5–$35 and will start accruing interest right away.
Some cards charge a penalty fee if you go over the available credit limit on your account. Remember that the higher the percentage of your limit that’s taken up by a balance transfer, the greater the potential risk of maxing out your card, so it’s important to be aware of the fees that could apply.
How long of a balance transfer offer do I need?
You might not need to go out of your way to find the longest transfer offer on the market — you only need an intro period long enough for you to pay off your balance transfer comfortably. If you do the math on how long you need to pay off your balance within your monthly budget, you might have more flexibility when it comes to which card you choose to apply for. Consider the following case study:
Finding a long balance transfer offer
Sundari has a credit card debt of $8,000 on a card that charges an interest rate of 18% p.a. She wants to clear the debt as quickly as possible, and calculates that she can afford to pay $500 a month towards it.
If Sundari made these payments on her current card, it would take her 19 months to pay off the debt and cost her $1,060 in interest charges. But, if she was paying 0% interest on the balance, it would only take her 16 months to clear the debt.
With this in mind, Sundari compares balance transfer cards offering 0% interest for 16–24 months. She decides to apply for a card offering 0% for 18 months, which gives her an extra 2 months of flexibility if other expenses come up in the meantime.
Other factors to consider
While the following factors are not usually a major priority when considering a balance transfer credit card, they should still generally be factored into choosing a new card.
The purchase rate.
This is very important for balance transfer cards with a long promotional period, since there’ll be a greater chance of wanting or needing to make new purchases with it during this time. Most cards offer interest-free days on purchases, but this only applies if you have paid your full account balance. This means that interest will start accruing on new purchases immediately if you have a balance transfer.
The cash advance rate.
This is the interest rate you’ll be charged when you get cash from an ATM or for cash-equivalent purchases such as travelers’ cheques or gambling tokens.
Cash advance fee.
A charge of 1–3.5% of your transaction amount is applied for every cash advance transaction you make on your card. This is in addition to the cash advance interest rate.
Many credit cards include additional perks to sweeten the deal, such as complimentary travel insurance or concierge services. These extras are usually reflected in the cost of the annual fee, so make sure you’re not paying for things you don’t need and eroding your interest savings.
Some cards have their own rewards programs or frequent flyer programs, which let you earn points for new spending on your credit card. Since they often come with higher annual fees, carefully consider what you need and what you’re actually paying for. Note that balance transfers are not eligible for these points, and remember that new purchases could attract high interest charges if you already have a balance transfer on the card.
Foreign transaction fees.
This fee applies when you use your card abroad or for online purchases from an international retailer. It’s usually around 2–3% of each transaction.
An additional note on purchase rates: If you know you’ll need to make purchases with the new card straight away, you may want to look at 0% balance transfer and 0% purchase rate credit cards — just make sure you know when each of the promotional periods end as the purchase rate promotional period is usually shorter than that of the balance transfer.
Tips for making the most of a long balance transfer offer
To get the most out of your balance transfer, consider the following tips:
Consider closing your old account.
Closing your old account will prevent you from being charged any further costs, such as the annual fee, and eliminate the temptation of using your old credit card. To cancel your account, make sure the balance is zero after the transfer is complete and then call your issuer to request account closure. Please note that closing your account could negatively affect your credit score.
Make regular repayments.
Make full use of the interest-free period by drawing out a schedule of regular repayments. Aim to pay off your full balance within the promotional period if possible, and follow that schedule responsibly to achieve your debt freedom.
Use savings to help pay down the balance.
Channel all resources towards paying off your debts, including spare cash and savings. Note: This tip is especially relevant if you’re near the end of the balance transfer promotional period and you still have debt remaining.
Avoid making new purchases.
Apart from being potentially charged interest on your new purchases, your best strategy is to dedicate all available resources towards paying down your debt. Even if the card is offering 0% interest on purchases, remember that any new purchases will set you back that much further.
Using these tips, you can now compare long-term balance transfer credit cards to find the one that most suits your personal needs and circumstances.
Sit down, research the options and do the math to see which card will deliver the greatest savings and convenience in the long run. Remember to only buy what you need and spend the rest on repaying that debt. When you compare providers be sure to factor in how well they serve your plan on the whole rather than just the longest intro rate. Good luck!