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If you want to pay off a credit card balance while avoiding high-interest fees, you should consider getting a credit card that offers a 0% introductory APR. But how do you choose the right balance transfer credit card for your needs?
The best balance transfer credit cards generally offer no annual fee and an introductory interest rate on balance transfers. These intro deals serve as the main perk for most of these cards—sign-up bonuses and high rewards rates will be hard to come by—so they’re ideal for people focused on paying down debt rather than earning rewards. However, some cards offer both rewards and good balance transfer incentives, so it’s important to compare your options and consider how you’ll use your card.
To help, LendEDU compared and ranked the best balance transfer cards based on the weighted averages of specific data points relevant to cardholders. These are our top picks.
Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards
- Best overall balance transfer card: TD Cash Visa Credit Card
- Best for earning rewards on bonus categories: US Bank Altitude Go
TD Cash Visa Credit Card: Best overall balance transfer card
- LendEDU Rating: 5/5
- Annual fee: $0
- Introductory APR: 0% for the first 6 periods on balance transfers and purchases
- Editor’s thoughts: This card offers a long 0% introductory APR for purchases and balance transfers. There are no limits on when you can transfer your balance to the card to take advantage of the 0% APR offer.
The TD Cash Visa Credit Card is the best balance transfer card for earning cash back on dining and groceries. New cardmembers can earn $150 cash back after spending $500 within 90 days after account opening.
Balances can be transferred anytime within the six-month period to utilize the 0% introductory APR offer. There is a balance transfer fee of $5 or 3% on all transfers made with the card.
Some rewards and benefits include:
- 3% cash back on dining
- 2% cash back at grocery stores
- 1% cash back on all other purchases
- Instant credit card replacement for lost or stolen cards
- Contactless payments for added security
- No foreign transaction fees
To learn more about this card and its benefits, click here.
US Bank Altitude Go: Best for Rewards on Bonus Categories
- LendEDU Rating: 4.75/5
- Annual fee: $0
- Introductory APR: 0% for the first 12 months on balance transfers and purchases
- Editor’s thoughts: This card has a year-long introductory APR for balance transfers. Transfers must be made within 60 days of account opening to take advantage of that promotional period.
The US Bank Altitude Go card is the best balance transfer card for earning dining rewards. New cardmembers can earn 25,000 bonus points ($250 value) after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening.
To take advantage of the 0% promotional APR on balance transfers, cardholders must transfer their balance within the first 60 days of account opening. All transfers will be charged a fee of 3% or $5, whichever is greater.
Some rewards and benefits include:
- 4x points on takeout, food delivery, and dining
- 2x points at grocery stores
- 2x points on streaming
- 2x points at gas stations
- 1x points on all other purchases
- $15 credit for annual streaming service purchases
- Points never expire
- No foreign transaction fees
To learn more about this card and its benefits, click here.
How We Chose the Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards
Our Editorial Team analyzed our partner cards by several categories to find the best balance transfer credit cards. These categories include promotional balance transfer APRs, promotional transfer period, promotional waived balance transfer fees, balance transfer fees, rewards, annual fees, and whether the issuer is nationally recognized.
Learn more about our ratings and methodology here.
Frequently Asked Questions About Balance Transfer Credit Cards
How Do Credit Card Balance Transfers Work?
When someone transfers a balance, they’re moving their debt from one card to another. The primary reason someone might do a balance transfer is to get a better interest rate to pay their balance off faster.
This can also lead to lower payments. With a balance transfer credit card, there might be a period where the interest rate is 0% on those transfers.
That can save the cardholder quite a bit of money. A balance transfer can also make it easier to make payments if multiple card debts are consolidated into one. Sometimes consumers can transfer other debts along with credit card debt. For example, they might transfer car loans or other installment payments onto a card with a lower balance transfer interest rate.
Select an option below to learn more about initiating a balance transfer with a specific credit card company:
- How to do a balance transfer with a Citi credit card
- How to do a balance transfer with a USAA credit card
- How to do a balance transfer with a Wells Fargo credit card
- How to do a balance transfer with a SunTrust credit card
- How to do a balance transfer with a Bank of America credit card
- How to do a balance transfer with a Discover credit card
- How to do a balance transfer with a Citizens Bank credit card
- How to do a balance transfer with an American Express credit card
- How to do a balance transfer with a Chase credit card
- How to do a balance transfer with a PNC credit card
- How to do a balance transfer with a Capital One credit card
Can Balance Transfers Help You Save Money?
The main way balance transfers can help you save money is by reducing interest. If someone has a lot of debt at a high interest rate, they will be paying a significant amount just in interest each year. Borrowers can save hundreds or thousands of dollars through a balance transfer that lowers the interest rate.
If someone has multiple cards or debts, a balance transfer can also help them avoid the costs of late payments and penalties by making it easier to keep track of payments. The consequence of a late or missed payment can get expensive quickly.
Of course, to save money with balance transfers, it’s essential to compare the interest rates on the balance transfer credit cards, so you pay with the card that has the lowest APR. It’s also necessary to look for any potential hidden fees and look beyond the initial introductory APR for balance transfers to determine the long-term APR.
Can Balance Transfers Help to Improve Your Credit Score?
For the most part, a balance transfer will not have a significant impact on your credit score.
First, a balance transfer does not reduce the amount of money owed. The money is moved to another account, but the debt isn’t reduced. Also, your previous account history remains the same as before the transfer. For example, if someone had late or missed payments before doing a balance transfer, that will reflect on their credit history.
However, in the long-term, a balance transfer may help your credit score by making it easier for them to pay off debts and keep their payments organized, so no payments are missed. Also, with a lower interest rate, a cardholder can pay off the total debt more quickly, which will improve their credit by lowering their credit utilization rate. The faster you can reduce the amount of debt you owe, the better for your credit. You should try to keep your credit utilization ratio below 30 percent for the sake of their credit score.
Can You Combine Multiple Balances Into One Transfer?
Many borrowers do combine multiple balances into one transfer. It streamlines their payments and simplifies repayment when several balances are merged into one low-interest credit card.
In some cases, you may add other sources of debt to the balance transfer. Consumers should check the fine print and ensure that the transfers make the most financial sense. Research how much is the balance transfer fee will be and consider if that makes the transfer worthwhile.
What Sort of Fees Are Charged When You Do a Balance Transfer?
Most balance transfer fees range from 3% to 5% of the balance being transferred. If someone wanted to transfer a balance of $3,000, their balance transfer fee might range from $90 to $150. Some companies assign either a flat rate or percentage, for example, either $5 or 5%, whichever is greater. Of course, balance transfer fees can be higher or lower, which is why reading the fine print is so important.
Many credit card issuers that focus on balance transfers will offer a $0 introductory fee if the balance transfers are made within a specific time after opening a new account. For example, new cardholders might have no balance transfer fees if they make all the transfers within the first 30 days of opening a new account.
Can You Do a Balance Transfer When You Have Authorized Users On Your Account?
Whether or not you can do a balance transfer when you have authorized users on your account depends on the card company. You can typically do this kind of transfer. An authorized user can make purchases on the card, but they’re not the primary owner.
The primary owner of the card is the one who is responsible for paying the debt. If you are the primary owner of a card and have authorized users, you may transfer even the authorized user’s debt to a new balance transfer credit card. Legally, an authorized user isn’t responsible for charges or balances, so doing a balance transfer with their accounts is typically permissible.
How Long Does It Take for a Balance Transfer to Complete?
Most balance transfers are completed within seven to 10 days. However, there’s no guarantee of how long it will take for a transfer to be completed. It can take several weeks for a balance transfer to be completed in some cases. One reason it could take longer for a transfer to process is if a creditor needs to be paid by check instead of receiving an electronic payment.
On the other hand, if you already have an account with the financial company and request a balance transfer to that card, it may go through more quickly than if you’re applying for a new card and a balance transfer with a different bank.
When you are waiting for a balance transfer, keep paying your cards as usual. If they accumulate late fees or additional interest, you will be held responsible.
Should You Cancel Your Old Credit Card After a Balance Transfer?
Many cardholders consider canceling their old card after they complete a balance transfer. Whether or not this is a good financial move depends on several factors.
Try to avoid using your old credit card for new purchases as much as possible, but you shouldn’t necessarily close the account. There’s a reason you wanted to transfer the balance of the old card, and that’s likely because it has a high interest rate. If you do a balance transfer and then keep using the high rate card, you’re not doing yourself any financial favors.
However, if you close the old card, then you’re potentially hurting your credit score. This is because the length of your credit history factors into your score, so the longer you’re using a card, the better.
If you close the old card, you’re going to reduce your available credit, causing a problem regarding your credit utilization rate. Credit utilization is one of the most critical factors in how a credit score is calculated. If you have a card with a limit of $8,000 in the form of the card you’re transferring the balance from, that gives you more available credit. The more credit you have, and the less of it you’re using, the better your credit score will be. So it’s best to hold the credit.
What Are the Risks of Doing a Balance Transfer?
A balance transfer can seem like a great idea, but there are some risks. First, it can be expensive to use balance transfer cards for additional purchases. The purchase APR for most balance transfer cards is different from the balance transfer interest rate. In most instances, using a balance transfer card should only be used to pay off existing debts more quickly.
Also, while introductory balance transfer APRs may be 0% on many cards, the APR can be higher than it would be with other cards when the introductory rate expires.
Transferring a balance to a new card may also tempt some cardholders to overspend. Some may revert to old spending habits on the old card and rack up new debt as they’re paying off the old debt on a new card.
Finally, consider all the fees associated with these cards, not just the low balance transfer fee. For example, many cards have annual fees. Do the math and ensure that the balance transfer will pay off.
What Should You Expect After the Promotional Period is Over?
Consumers can be lured by the appeal of 0% introductory APRs on balance transfer credit cards, but keep in mind their perks are limited. First, these offers usually only apply the 0% interest rates to the actual balance transfers. Even during an introductory period, most of these cards will charge regular interest rates for new purchases.
Also, once the introductory period ends, interest rates on a balance transfer credit card can be higher than average. They can be even higher than the rates on the original card.
Can You Do Back-to-Back Balance Transfers With Different Cards?
A lot of consumers wonder if they can conduct multiple balance transfer offers at the same time. While you may take advantage of various offers, you also have to consider the effect these hard credit pulls will have on your score.
Also, applying for several credit cards at once can make you look as if you’re scrambling for access to credit. A better option is to find one good balance transfer offer and transfer multiple balances to that card, rather than using different new cards.
Can You Earn Rewards On a Balance Transfer Credit Card?
There are plenty of cards that allow for earning rewards and are geared toward offering balance transfer options. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will earn rewards on the balance transfer itself. Instead, the terms of the card may only allow for reward earnings on new purchases.
You can essentially choose a card with an appealing introductory balance transfer offer, such as 0% APR for 18 months on transfers. So, you can pay off that debt with the benefit of no accumulating interest. Then, if you make new purchases on the card, those will be applied toward earning rewards.
Can You Get Approved for a Balance Transfer Credit Card With Fair or Bad Credit?
As with other credit cards, some cards are for good, fair, or even bad credit. It can be challenging to get one of the best balance transfer credit cards with fair or bad credit, but not necessarily impossible.
Are There Alternatives to a Balance Transfer?
There are alternatives to a balance transfer that you may need to consider if you don’t qualify for a balance transfer. One option is an unsecured personal loan. Although, make sure the interest rates offered are lower than the rate you’re paying on your current credit card debt. Finally, a secured, consolidated loan may be an option. Then you can try to improve your credit score and reapply for one of the best balance transfer credit cards later on.
LendEDU has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. LendEDU and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
Author: Jeff Gitlen
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