Balance transfer intro APR: what is it and how does it work? | finder.com
balance transfer intro APR

What is balance transfer intro APR?

We value our editorial independence, basing our comparison results, content and reviews on objective analysis without bias. But we may receive compensation when you click links on our site. Learn more about how we make money from our partners.

A key balance transfer credit card benefit explained.

The struggle to get out of debt can feel insurmountable when there are balances in different places, especially with rates and payment styles that vary by lender. Luckily there are some solutions that can help ease the journey to freedom from debt.

One such solution, a balance transfer card, allows the cardholder to take some or all of their debt and consolidate it into one place. What you can transfer is usually determined by your creditworthiness and the transferable amount allowed by any given lender.

When you’re looking to pay down debt, a balance transfer card can also help if it offers a window of time with a reduced APR — also known as an introductory APR.

Our pick for 0% intro APR balance transfers: 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 14.99% to 25.99%.
  • 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.
  • See Rates & Fees
Promoted

Compare balance transfer credit cards

Name Product Filter values Introductory Balance Transfer APR APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases Annual Fee Minimum Credit Score
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 25.99% variable)
14.99% to 25.99% variable
$0
680
Earn a $150 bonus statement credit after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 25.99% variable)
14.99% to 25.99% variable
$0
680
Earn up to $250 back. Earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 or more in purchases with your new card within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn an additional $100 back after you spend an additional $6,500 in purchases within your first 12 months. You will receive the cash back in the form of a statement credit. Rates & Fees
0% for the first 12 months (then 14.99% to 25.99% variable)
14.99% to 25.99% variable
$95
680
Earn $200 bonus cash back after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
0% for the first 12 billing cycles (then 13.99% variable)
13.99% variable
$0
720
A low, variable APR on purchases, balance transfers and cash advances.
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.99%, 18.99% or 24.99% variable)
14.99%, 18.99% or 24.99% variable
$0
680
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees.
0% for the first 18 months (then 12.99%, 16.99% or 20.99% variable)
12.99%, 16.99% or 20.99% variable
$0
680
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 16.99% variable)
16.99% variable
$195
715
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 16.99% variable)
16.99% variable
$495
715
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 billing cycles (then 16.99% variable)
16.99% variable
$995
715
Earn points every time you spend. Luxury Card enhances your purchasing power by providing you with one (1) point for every one dollar ($1) you spend. Every purchase gets you closer to the rewards you want.
9.95% for the first 6 months (then 17.99% fixed)
17.99% fixed
$39
350
Borrow up to $10,000 and get your credit score back on track.
8.90% to 25.90% variable
$0
630
This card offers the same low rate for purchases, cash advances and balance transfers.
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 25.99% variable)
14.99% to 25.99% variable
$0
680
Earn 10,000 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 16.99% to 25.74% variable)
16.99% to 25.74% variable
$0
680
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 14.99% to 24.99% variable)
14.99% to 24.99% variable
$0
680
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 16.99% to 25.74% variable)
16.99% to 25.74% variable
$0
690
Earn 1.5% unlimited cash back for each dollar spent.
0% for the first 12 statement closing dates (then 15.24% to 25.24% variable)
15.24% to 25.24% variable
$0
720
Earn more cash back for the things you buy most.
NASA Federal Platinum Advantage Rewards Credit Card
NASA Federal Platinum Advantage Rewards Credit Card
7.9% for the first 90 days (then 11.9% to 17.99% variable)
11.9% to 17.99% variable
$0
680
Enjoy perks and save money while gaining points that never expire with every purchase.
10.99% for the first 6 months (then 24.99% variable)
24.99% variable
$0
300
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.
20.99% variable
$25
300
Establish credit history - with responsible use you may be upgraded to an unsecured credit card.
21.99% variable
$39
300
Help establish, strengthen - even rebuild your credit
20.99% variable
$29
300
Establish your credit and reap the benefits. Get worldwide purchasing power and flexibility as you work to build or re-establish your credit history.
24.99% variable
$0
300
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
620
We'll help you score major savings with a 0% introductory APR* on purchases and balance transfers for 6 months.
1.99% for the first 6 monthly billing cycles (then 11.99% to 21.99% variable)
11.99% to 21.99% variable
$0
670
1% cash back to the nonprofits, K-12 schools, colleges and religious organizations of your choice.
22.97%, 24.97% or 26.97 variable
$39
630
Get unlimited 1.5 cash back on every purchase with no limit on how much you can earn, and no changing categories.

Compare up to 4 providers

How does an intro APR work?

A significant hindrance to paying off debt can be high APRs that load on interest charges, especially when they get to the point where your balances never seem to move down even with timely payments.

With an intro APR you get a set window of time — usually between 6 and 15 months, and sometimes as long as 21 months — where your APR for the balance, or balances, that you transfer will be low or 0%. You’ll need to make the minimum payments or more on your balance each month, but your existing debt won’t accrue new interest during this temporary period.

Let’s use an example of a $5,000 credit balance. If you qualify for a 0% interest introductory APR for 12 months, here’s how much you’ll save:

  • First calculate the balance transfer fee. With a $5,000 balance and a 3% balance transfer fee (no cap) your fee is 5,000 x .03 = $150.
  • Next, calculate the monthly payments. With a $5,150 balance (your balance transfer + the fee), you’ll need to pay $430 per month in order to pay off your balance within the intro period.
  • Calculate your savings. If the APR on your previous balance was 15%, you would pay $452 per month to pay off your debt in 12 months — that is, if you don’t make any new purchases. This makes for a savings of $264 in interest over the same 12-month period.

Is this intro APR a good deal?

Here are a few key points to look for when choosing a balance transfer card with an intro APR:

  • Length of introductory period. Introductory windows will vary based on the lender and your creditworthiness. It’s important to shop around and find one that will best serve your needs. Perhaps a shorter window is all you need to pay off a smaller balance, but the same period may not be as beneficial if you have a larger balance that you need to pay off in smaller amounts.
  • Intro APR. You can expect this APR to be different from lender to lender. Some cards offer as low as 0%, but they can go up to 3% to 4% based on your creditworthiness.
  • Full APR. After the introductory period is over, there will be a higher APR applied to any remaining balance. If you know you’ll still have a large balance remaining, it may be beneficial to seek a card with a lower full APR.
  • Variable APR vs. fixed APR. Will your APR after the intro window ends be variable, meaning it can go up or down dependent on the Federal Reserve’s prime rate, or fixed? Having a fixed rate with a low APR can help you pay off a higher credit card balance without worrying about your rate skyrocketing.
  • Balance transfer fees. When transferring a balance, there may be a fee associated that is charged by the lender you are moving to. These fees can range from 2% to 5% of the amount being transferred.
  • Rewards program. To earn rewards for any additional purchases on your new card, you’ll want to check out the various reward programs offered by different lenders.

Fixed- vs. variable-rate balance transfer offers

The majority of credit card issuers in the US offer variable APRs, which are tied to the prime rate. Your variable-rate credit card is assigned a margin, or the percentage above the prime rate that your credit card will charge. This means that when the Federal Reserve increases the prime rate, your credit card’s variable APR will likely increase. This isn’t the case with fixed APRs.

If you’re able to score a credit card with a fixed rate, the APR will stay the same for the first year of your account opening. After the first year, the fixed-rate card typically reverts back to a variable rate, but this all depends on the credit card issuer.

In terms of balance transfer credit cards, you should look at the overall benefits of the credit card and not just whether it offers a variable or fixed rate. A variable-rate balance transfer credit card with a 0% intro APR may make more sense if you’re planning on paying off your debt within the introductory period. However, a fixed-rate card with no balance transfer fees may be a good idea if you have a lot of debt and plan on taking longer to pay it off, since you won’t need to worry about your APR skyrocketing.

While it’d be nice, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a fixed-rate credit card that offers a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers, followed by a fixed APR for the following year.

How do you find a fixed-rate offer?

After the CARD Act of 2010, many credit card issuers stopped offering fixed-rate cards because the new law made it difficult for them to increase interest rates on those cards — something they used to be able to do quite easily when the market was unregulated.

Now, your best chance of finding a fixed-rate credit card is by looking at community banks and local credit unions. Right now, UNIFY Financial Federal Credit Union offers three different fixed-rate credit cards with fixed introductory APRs for balance transfers starting at 4.99% for the first 12 months, and then a fixed-rate APR starting at 8.99% after that — with no balance transfer fees.

Platinum Plus® for Business Mastercard®

What to look out for

An intro APR is only effective if you make full use of it and know any caveats that may apply.

  • Once your intro APR window closes you revert to the lender’s full APR for your creditworthiness and card-type. Any balance that you have not yet paid off begins earning interest just as it would with any other credit card. Some lenders also treat balance transfers as cash advances, which may have a higher APR.
  • Missing payments can cause your intro APR to end early. There is a chance that the lender will cancel the intro APR when minimum payments are not made, and your balance will again start earning interest at the full APR.
  • Intro APR may not cover new purchases. It is possible that the card you transfer your balance to will not apply the intro APR to new purchases or cash advances. Make sure to fully read and understand the terms of the offer before selecting a card.
  • Fees are not part of the balance. If there is a balance transfer fee associated with the card, the fee may not fall under the terms of the intro APR.

How do I get a balance transfer card with an intro APR?

Once you’ve figured out the card that’s right for you and what you want to transfer, here’s what you’ll want to do next:

  1. Gather account information for all debts that you are going to transfer.
  2. Determine the amount that you want to transfer.
  3. Obtain any documents needed to verify your identity.
  4. Click on the link for the card of your choosing.
  5. Click on Apply.
  6. Enter in the requested information.
  7. Wait. After you submit your application it may take up to 10 business days for review and approval.

Rhys Subitch

Rhys Subitch is a content creator and editor for finder.com. They specialize in updating information on various pages to keep everything accurate for the readers, and enjoy the time they get to spend researching various topics because of it. Rhys lives with their cat and partner in Seattle. When not working they enjoy working on sewing and other craft projects.

Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

US Credit Card Offers

Important Information*
Deserve® Classic Card
Deserve® Classic Card

APR

24.49
variable

Annual fee

0 For the first year
More info
Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™
Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™

APR

16.74
variable

Annual fee

995 For the first year
More info
First Access Visa Card®
First Access Visa Card®

APR

29.99
variable

Annual fee

75 For the first year
More info
Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card
Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card

APR

23.9
variable

Annual fee

75 For the first year
More info

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Privacy and Cookies Policy and Terms of Use.

US Credit Card Offers

Important Information*
Deserve® Classic Card
Deserve® Classic Card

APR

24.49
variable

Annual fee

0 For the first year
More info
Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™
Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™

APR

16.74
variable

Annual fee

995 For the first year
More info
First Access Visa Card®
First Access Visa Card®

APR

29.99
variable

Annual fee

75 For the first year
More info
Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card
Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card

APR

23.9
variable

Annual fee

75 For the first year
More info
Go to site