A balance transfer is when you transfer a credit card balance to another credit card in exchange for a statement credit. Transferring your credit card balance to a different card with a low APR is a smart way to accelerate your debt repayment and save money. The best balance transfer credit cards can give cardholders 12 months or more at 0% intro APR, so you’ll have plenty of time to pay down your debt without worrying about interest charges. Do note savings vary depending on account usage and payment behavior.
Our picks for the best balance transfer cards:
- Wells Fargo Reflect® Card
- U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
- Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
- Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
- Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
- Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card
- Citi Simplicity® Card
Extra Long Intro APR on Purchases & Balance Transfers
0% introductory APR
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 18 billing cycles. After that, a variable APR currently 18.74% - 29.74%
Easy-to-Earn Unlimited Rewards
Lucrative, Flat-Rate Cash Rewards
Extended 0% Intro APR for Balance Transfers
Unlimited 1.5% Cash Back on All Purchases
No annual fee & 0% Intro APR
What is a balance transfer card?
A balance transfer card is a credit card that lets you transfer balances onto it from other credit accounts. You might want to do a balance transfer if the end result means getting a lower interest rate on your debt, which could help save you money over time on interest.
For example, let’s say you have debt on a credit card with a 15% APR. You could transfer the balance from that card to a balance transfer credit card that has a 0% introductory rate on balance transfers. That means the transferred balance wouldn’t accrue any interest during the 0% intro APR period, giving you some time to pay down the balance while avoiding interest.
But keep in mind that balance transfers have balance transfer fees. These fees typically range from 3% to 5% of the transferred balance. So transferring a $1,000 balance could cost between $30 to $50.
Because of balance transfer fees, you should always calculate whether a balance transfer makes sense for you financially. You can figure this out by looking at how much interest you’re currently being charged each month and comparing that to how much the balance transfer fee would be.
If you would end up saving more money on interest compared to what you would pay for the fee, a balance transfer would likely make sense.
How to pick the right card for you
Many credit cards are advertised as balance transfer cards, but they vary widely in terms of their promotional periods, fees, and regular APR. When evaluating credit card offers, consider these factors:
- Length of promotional balance transfer offer: If you have a substantial amount of debt, you want the longest promotional APR offer possible to give you more time to pay off your debt without paying interest charges. Ideally, you want to choose a card that offers a 0% intro APR period of 12 to 18 months so you have over a year to pay down your balances.
- Regular APR: Once the promotional APR period ends, the APR will revert to its regular fixed or variable APR. The normal interest rate on credit cards can be quite high. If you tend to carry a balance, it’s worth shopping around for a card that has a lower regular APR to reduce interest charges.
- Annual fee: While some balance transfer cards charge an annual fee, not all do. To keep your costs low, look for a card that has a low annual fee or no fee at all.
- Balance transfer fees: When you transfer debt from a high-interest card to one that offers a 0% introductory APR period, most card issuers charge a balance transfer fee, which is often between 3-5% of the amount of each transfer. To put that in perspective, if you transferred over $3,000 to a card with a 5% balance transfer fee, you'd pay $150. Look for a card that has a lower fee, or that will waive the fee for the first few months after opening your credit card account.
- Issuers: In most cases, you can’t transfer the balance from a card to another card with the same issuer. For example, if you have the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, you can’t transfer your balance to another Chase card. Instead, you’d have to transfer the balance to a card from another company.
Rewards programs: First, does the card offer a rewards program? That may not be the thing that matters to you most in a balance transfer credit card, but many cards double as travel cards or cash back credit cards. You’ll want to review the program and consider what’s best for your lifestyle. Does the rewards credit card offer bonus categories that you spend on often? What about extra perks like, cell phone protection? Are the rewards simple and easy to understand, or will you need to dedicate time and effort to maximize earnings? Review which card offers you the greatest opportunity for rewards — that way, you can earn cash back or travel rewards while saving money on interest.
FAQs about balance transfer cards
Do balance transfers affect your credit score?
While a balance transfer could help with debt consolidation, it might negatively impact your FICO score. When you apply for a new card, even when it’s for the purpose of completing a balance transfer, the issuer will perform a hard credit check. Too many hard credit inquiries on your credit report can cause your score to drop. If you’re approved for the card, the age of your credit accounts will decrease as well, which can damage your credit score slightly (even if you have excellent credit).
You can minimize the effect on your credit score by not closing any current accounts. Also, if your goal is to build good credit, make sure you make your monthly payments by their due date. Your payment history is the single biggest factor used in determining your credit score. Late payments could result in penalty APRs and bad credit over time.
While applying for a new balance transfer card can negatively impact your credit score, if you're able to pay off your balance in full by the end of the 0% introductory APR period, your overall credit utilization ratio may improve, which could result in a boost to your credit score in the long run.
How long do balance transfers take?
The length of time it takes for a qualifying balance transfer to be completed varies by issuer. In general, you should expect your balance to transfer over to the new card within a week. However, it can take as long as 21 days.
Sometimes cards with promotional balance transfer rates also require you to transfer your balance within a certain number of days of account opening.
What is the best credit card for balance transfers?
There’s no one best balance transfer credit card for everyone. When evaluating potential cards, consider your current credit score, the length of the promotional APR periods, the regular APR on each card, balance transfer fees, and other factors like late fees, minimum payments, and if the card has a penalty APR.
How much can you transfer on a balance transfer credit card?
How much you can transfer onto a new credit card is dependent on your credit limit. For example, if you have $10,000 in credit card debt and the new 0% intro APR credit card has a credit limit of $6,000, you won’t be able to transfer over the full balance. You also need to calculate in the balance transfer fee. Your transfer amount plus the balance transfer fee must be less than the total credit line available on your new balance transfer card.
Can you make multiple balance transfers?
While you can complete multiple balance transfers — as long as you transfer to a card from a different financial institution — having to do multiple transfers is a sign there are bigger issues with your debt. While completing a balance transfer can make you feel like you’re better managing your debt, doing it more than once signals that you may have a spending or cash flow problem.
Before doing another balance transfer, take a hard look at your credit card statements and identify areas where you can cut back. It’s also a good idea to create a budget for yourself and find ways to boost your income so you can regain control of your money.
If you have multiple balances you want to transfer, you might also want to consider a personal loan to consolidate your debt.
Are balance transfers worth it?
Transferring a balance from a high-interest credit card to a card with a lower interest rate can make sense. Having a lengthy period of time with no interest could help you pay down your credit card debt. If you're considering a card with an intro balance transfer APR, take a good look at the card details before you apply.
And if you're interested in perks beyond a 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers, many cards also offer limited-time introductory offers on new purchases, cashback rewards, bonus points on certain purchases, flexible rewards programs, or benefits like lucrative sign-up bonuses, no foreign transaction fees, or extended warranty coverage. These can be useful if you want to use your new card to make a large purchase.
What happens if you don’t pay off a balance transfer?
If you don’t pay off the balance on your new credit card by the time the introductory period is over, your remaining balance will become subject to the regular APR. Because you’ll be accruing interest, this will begin to increase the amount you owe. You won’t reduce your debt by completing a balance transfer unless you also budget to put money toward your debt each month to pay it off.
How we chose these cards (methodology)
To select the best balance transfer cards, we looked for cards from our partners that offer no annual fees and lengthy promotional 0% intro APR offers. With the chosen cards, you can get up to 18 months at a 0% intro APR, giving you over a year to repay your entire balance without worrying about costly interest payments.
We also looked for cards from multiple credit card issuers, as you typically can’t transfer your balance to a card from the same issuer. We did not evaluate all available credit cards in the market.
The final word on the best balance transfer cards
If you’re struggling with high-interest debt, an introductory balance transfer offer could help you save money and pay off your balances faster. The best balance transfer cards give you at least the first year to pay down your debt interest-free, making them an effective personal finance tool for managing debt.