Our Picks: Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards
Citi Simplicity® Card
Why this is one of the best balance transfer credit cards: The Citi Simplicity Card has a 0% Intro APR for 21 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer and 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases from date of account opening. After that the APR will be 18.24% to 28.99% (variable), based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening.The balance transfer fee is $5 or 5%, whichever is greater. Plus, the card charges no annual fee, no penalty APR and no late fees. See our full review.
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
Why this is one of the best balance transfer credit cards: The Citi Diamond Preferred Card offers a 0% Intro APR for 21 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer and 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases from date of account opening. After that the variable APR will be 17.24% to 27.99% variable, based on your creditworthiness. Cardholders do not pay an annual fee. See our full review.
Wells Fargo Reflect® Card
Why this is one of the best balance transfer credit cards: The Wells Fargo Reflect® Card offers cardholders a 0% intro APR for up to 21 months from account opening on purchases and eligible balance transfers. You will be eligible for the promotional APR as long as you make balance transfers within the first 120 days and complete minimum payments on time. There is no annual fee. See our full review.
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
Why this is one of the best balance transfer credit cards: The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card offers a 0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 18 billing cycles. After that, a variable APR currently 18.74% – 28.74%.. You will pay a balance transfer fee of either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater. Although this card doesn’t offer a rewards program, it does provide up to $600 in cellphone protection if you pay your bill with the card. It also doesn’t charge an annual fee. See our full review.
Discover it® Balance Transfer
Why this is one of the best balance transfer credit cards: The Discover it Balance Transfer card offers a 0% introductory annual percentage rate on balance transfers for 18 months and purchases for six months, after which a 15.74% – 26.74% Variable APR *Rates as of December 15, 2022 applies. This card earns 5% cash back on rotating categories you activate, such as grocery stores, and gas stations, up to a quarterly limit, plus 1% back on all other purchases. Discover charges no annual fee and matches all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year as a cardholder. See our full review.
Citi Rewards+® Card
Why this is one of the best balance transfer credit cards: Citi Rewards+ Card offers a 15-month 0% annual percentage rate on purchases and balance transfers (then there is a 17.74% to 27.74% (variable) APR). Earn 20,000 bonus points after you spend $1,500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $200 in gift cards at thankyou.com, and you’ll pay no annual fee. See our full review.
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Why this is one of the best balance transfer credit cards: The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card offers a 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening and a $200 sign-up bonus. It also offers 2% cash rewards on every purchase and doesn’t charge an annual fee. Cardholders also have access to Visa Signature privileges, including concierge services and benefits at select luxury hotels. See our full review.
Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer
Why this is one of the best balance transfer credit cards: The Citi Double Cash Card does not charge an annual fee. All balances transferred to the card within four months of opening it will have a 0% APR for the first 18 months. After that, there is a 18.24% to 28.24% (variable) APR. See our full review.
Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card
Why this is one of the best balance transfer credit cards: With the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card, you earn 1.5% cash back on all spending. There is no maximum rewards amount, your rewards never expire and there’s no annual fee. You’ll also receive a 0% intro APR on purchases for 18 billing cycles and 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days and on balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening. Plus, you can earn a $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. See our full review.
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card
Why this is one of the best balance transfer credit cards: This card offers None of acount opening and earns you 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs on up to $2,500 each quarter. Also, gas purchases count as one of the six category choices that allow you to receive 3% back on purchases. See our full review.
U.S. News Survey
U.S. News Survey: 37% of Couples Don’t Agree on How to Spend, Save and Invest Their Money
According to a new U.S. News survey, more than one-third of couples – 37% – don’t see eye to eye on how to manage their finances, saying that when it comes to spending, saving and investing their money, they only agree on some things, disagree on most things or disagree on everything. The other 63% of respondents say they agree on everything or agree on most things.
Additional Survey Findings
Almost three-quarters of respondents (73.6%) have carried a balance on a credit card in the past year, including 11.7% of respondents with balances on four or more cards.
One-third of respondents say they and their partners are in significant debt. Of those in debt, three-quarters say their relationship problems with their partners are mostly or partly tied to money, and getting out of debt would improve their relationships.
The debt solution the most people have tried in the past year is setting a budget, followed by opening a balance transfer credit card and taking out a debt consolidation loan.
U.S. News Survey Methodology
- U.S. News ran a nationwide survey of 1,231 respondents through PureSpectrum between Jan. 14 and Jan. 17, 2022. Only people who were in a relationship for some time of the past year answered questions.
- The survey sample drew from the general American population, and the survey was configured to be representative of this sample.
- The survey asked five questions relating to debt and spending habits.
What Is a Balance Transfer?
A credit card balance transfer is when you take the balance of one credit card and transfer it to a new card with a lower interest rate. Not only will you then pay less interest on that balance, but it will also help you pay off the balance more quickly.
Is a 0% Balance Transfer Different?
Some cards offer an introductory 0% balance transfer for a limited time, so after the transfer you pay 0% interest and ideally pay off your balance during that promotional window.
How Do Balance Transfer Credit Cards Work?
Learning the details of the balance transfer process is essential so you can avoid common pitfalls and make the most of a balance transfer offer.
- Strong credit score. Typically, balance transfer credit cards require a FICO score of 670 or better. A score of at least 700 improves your chances of getting approved for the best balance transfer credit cards.
- Low debt-to-income ratio. Your debt-to-income ratio is another important factor, which is your monthly debt obligations divided by your monthly income. A DTI of 36% or less is considered a good ratio, but this varies among lenders. Of course, the lower, the better.
- Clean credit history. Credit card issuers might not approve your application if you have a delinquent credit card account or have declared bankruptcy in the last seven to 10 years. Ask lenders about their policies.
2. RESTRICTIONS ON BALANCE TRANSFERS
- Balances must come from another creditor. Generally, you can only transfer balances from debts you owe to different financial institutions. You may be able to transfer a balance from someone else’s account, but keep in mind that it legally becomes your debt once you do so.
- Types of debt transferred. Issuers may restrict the type of account you can transfer balances from. Here are a few common options:
- Credit card balances. You can transfer a balance from one credit card to another.
- Loan balances. You may be able to transfer balances from personal or auto loans.
- Limits on how much you can transfer. Most balance transfer credit cards have a credit limit that applies to purchases and transfers. If you reach the limit, the issuer might decline your balance transfer or only accept part of the balance you want to transfer.
Initiating balance transfers. The steps you take to start a transfer vary by issuer, but once you’re approved for the card, you can make the request by phone or online.
Sometimes, you can request a transfer when you submit your application, but the issuer might not process the request until the card is in the mail.
- Qualifying for the introductory rate. The balance transfer must be initiated or completed within a specified period to receive the introductory rate, usually 45 to 60 days from when you open your account.
- Plan for the balance transfer to take a few weeks. Ideally, a balance transfer will go through within a few business days, but it could take several weeks.
- Introductory periods vary. Your card’s 0% APR introductory offer may vary from less than a year to almost two years. A longer promotional period gives you more time to pay off the balance. But a card with a shorter period that waives the transfer fee or offers more features could be a good option, too.
4. BALANCE TRANSFER FEE
Most cards charge a fee for each balance transfer. Issuers charge balance transfer fees based on how much debt you transfer to the card. Generally, this fee is 3% to 5% of the amount you transfer, or a minimum of $5 to $10. The balance transfer fee applies to each transfer, and you should remember that this fee is added to the total you have to pay back.
Say you transfer $5,000, and the fee is 3%. You will pay $150 for a transfer fee (5,000 x .03 = 150). The amount you’ll be paying back is now $5,150.
- Some cards temporarily waive balance transfer fees. Some cards don’t have balance transfer fees, or they might waive fees for a certain period of time after you open the account.
Should You Do a Balance Transfer on a Credit Card?
As with most things in life, balance transfer credit cards come with positives and negatives. If you use a balance transfer credit card responsibly, it’s all good news. But you need to know about the pitfalls, too, so you can avoid them.
- Pay less interest. By moving high-interest debt to a balance transfer credit card with a 0% APR introductory offer, you save money by paying no interest for awhile. Make the most of the offer by paying off as much of the balance as possible before the introductory period ends.
- Save time. With a balance transfer offer, you can consolidate balances from other cards onto one card and pay a single monthly payment. You can let go of the stress that comes with juggling multiple accounts.
- Become debt-free sooner. When you don’t have interest charges, you’re paying down only the principal on your debt each month. Financial freedom gets closer every single month.
Increase your credit score as you pay down debt. A whopping 30% of your FICO score depends on your credit utilization ratio. This is the amount of credit you’ve used compared with the amount of credit you have available.
The lower your utilization rate, the better. When you transfer a balance from a credit card and keep the account open, your utilization rate on that account will drop. But keep in mind that your new balance transfer card might initially have a high credit utilization ratio, especially if you’ve transferred several balances. Your score might even decrease at first because of the high ratio.
However, your credit utilization ratio will drop as you pay down your debt, and your FICO score should improve as long as you don’t make additional card purchases.
Balance transfer fees. Most balance transfer credit cards require you to pay a balance transfer fee of 3% to 5% of the transfer amount. For example, a $10,000 balance onto a card with a 5% balance transfer fee means you will repay $10,500.
Run the numbers and make sure the balance transfer fee doesn’t offset your interest savings, or look for a balance transfer card with a lower fee.
- Introductory offer limits. Some 0% APR offers only apply to balance transfers, but certain cards offer 0% APR introductory rates on both balance transfers and purchases. Most balance transfer credit cards require you to complete your transfers within a specified period to get the introductory rate, usually 45 to 60 days after opening your account. Read the card’s terms and conditions so you know the deadline for transfers.
- Credit limits. You won’t know your credit limit until you’re approved for a balance transfer credit card, and the total of your balance transfers, fees, interest charges and purchases can’t exceed that credit limit. Therefore, you might not be able to transfer and consolidate as much debt as you planned if your credit limit isn’t high enough.
- Transfers from the same lender aren’t allowed. You can’t transfer a balance to a new credit card if the balance is owed to the same credit card issuer, lender or one of its affiliates.
- Promotional rate terms. You could lose your promotional rate if you pay your bill late, go over your card’s credit limit or your payment doesn’t clear. If you don’t make at least a minimum payment within 60 days of the due date, a penalty APR may apply to your balance and future purchases.
- Other fees may apply. As with other types of credit cards, a balance transfer card may charge additional fees, such as foreign transaction, late payment or annual fees. These can all eat into your potential savings.
How Can You Save With a Balance Transfer Credit Card?
A balance transfer credit card can offer significant savings, especially if you’re carrying high-interest credit card debt. But you need to know if you have enough cash flow to make the monthly payments on your combined debt. You don’t want a situation where you can’t make the payments, and you end up in more debt and trashing your credit score.
Check costs and savings before going through with a balance transfer. If you can afford to make large payments and quickly pay off your credit card debt, a balance transfer fee might cost you more than you would save on interest payments.
Once you decide to do a balance transfer, you need a plan. Without a plan, you run the risk of not paying down your balance before the promotional period ends or increasing your debt.
Create a budget.
If you don’t already have a budget, try software like Mint or You Need a Budget that can help categorize your purchases, set goals and eliminate unnecessary expenses. But be sure to keep a few small treats for yourself, like buying an occasional latte. If you make your budget too tight, you’re unlikely to succeed.
Organize balance transfer information.
Gather the following information for your balance transfer:
- Account number, name and address of each credit card issuer and/or lender.
- Credit card and/or loan balances.
- Your checking account number and routing number, if you want balance transfer funds put into a checking account.
The combined amount from balance transfers, fees, interest charges and purchases can’t exceed your card limit, so be sure the accounts with the highest interest rates are included first so you save the most on interest.
Be careful to confirm the terms of the offer, including the length of the promotional rate on balance transfers and purchases.
Make your request.
You might be able to request a balance transfer online or by phone while applying for your balance transfer card. Otherwise, you may need to wait until your account is set up and then submit your request with account information and transfer amounts.
Depending on the issuer, you may also request a balance transfer check mailed directly to you or a creditor.
Continue making payments until your balance transfers.
It may take several weeks for a balance transfer request to be finalized, so continue to make minimum payments on the credit card accounts until you receive confirmation that the transfers were successful.
If you know the amount of your new monthly payment on your balance transfer card, set up at least the minimum payment in autopay. Accidental late payments can result in a late fee or loss of the promotional rate.
Keep old accounts open.
After completing balance transfers from credit cards, some people close old accounts to avoid building a balance again. However, this may hurt your credit by lowering your total available credit and increasing your credit utilization ratio. Instead, keep cards open but cut them up or store them in a drawer while paying down your balances.
Also, choose a balance transfer card that will be useful after you pay off the balance. For instance, a no-frills credit card can be used for emergencies if the go-to rate isn’t too high.
How Can You Choose the Best Balance Transfer Card?
Your main goal should be to pick a card that gives you a long enough promotional period and low fees. As with most financial products, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but taking these five steps can help you determine which card is best for you.
- Compare promotional period. Choosing the card with the longest promotional period is often recommended, especially if you have a lot of debt and need more time to pay it off. But one with a shorter promotional period might offer no balance transfer fee, so weigh the cost.
- Review other balance transfer terms. Several features may make one balance transfer card more appealing than another.
- Zero percent APR promotion for new purchases. If you plan to use the card to make purchases while you’re still paying down debt, a card that has a 0% APR offer on both purchases and balance transfers might be best.
- Balance transfer fee. You’ll usually have to pay 3% to 5% of each balance transfer.
- Regular APR. After the promotional period, any remaining balance will be subject to interest charges.
- Balance transfer limit. You won’t know your new balance transfer card’s credit limit until you apply, but you can review the terms to see if there’s a maximum.
- Types of debt you can transfer. Balance transfer credit cards let you transfer balances from other card issuers.
- Look for other types of fees. You may be able to avoid these by choosing a card that either doesn’t have them or by not incurring them.
- Annual fee. Annual fees can range from about $25 to more than $550.
- Late fee. Late payments could end your promotional rate and result in a fee of up to $39.
- Foreign transaction fee. Some cards charge 2% to 3% of the purchase price for foreign transactions.
- Cash advance fee. Depending on the method you use, the fee will be up to 8% of the amount withdrawn, with a $5 to $10 minimum.
- Calculate the benefit of a rewards program. Some rewards credit cards have balance transfer offers, although you likely won’t earn rewards for those transfers. Although non-rewards cards tend to have the longest promotional periods, some rewards cards are competitive. It pays to research if a particular card is one you can use once you’re out of debt.
- Understand cardholder benefits. Balance transfer cards may come with additional perks, such as extended warranty coverage, travel accident insurance, theft and fraud protection, concierge service or access to your credit score.
Alternatives to Balance Transfers
If you’re paying high interest on a significant amount of credit card debt, there are other options:
- Consider a debt consolidation loan. This type of loan combines high-interest debts and allows for one low-interest monthly payment, which typically stays the same for the life of the loan.
- Home equity loan. A home equity loan, also known as a second mortgage, allows you to borrow against the equity in your home and uses your property to secure the loan. The loan typically has a fixed interest rate and a repayment term of five to 30 years.
- Debt relief services. This type of service will provide a certified nonprofit credit counselor who can help you develop a strategy and negotiate with creditors to lower your interest rates and fees. However, the plan may charge a setup fee and a monthly fee, among others.
- Debt settlement company. These companies negotiate with creditors to settle your debt, but they usually charge high fees and penalties and even higher interest rates, and can damage your credit history if you stop paying your bills.
U.S. News has been helping consumers make money decisions for decades. The Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards are selected based on annual fees, annual percentage rates, balance transfer offers, introductory APRs and issuer satisfaction ratings from U.S. News.
Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards must have a 0% APR of at least 14 months for balance transfers. A long introductory APR provides more time to pay off a card balance with no interest, and a 0% APR could apply to purchases during the same period. You can choose the best card for you by comparing 0% APR promotions, balance transfer terms and fees, and card rewards programs and cardholder benefits.