Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards [July 2024]

CREDIT CARDS - BALANCE TRANSFER CREDIT CARDS
Updated July 11, 2024
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A balance transfer is when you transfer a credit card balance from one credit card to another in exchange for a statement credit on the original card. If the new credit card has a low APR, then a balance transfer can be a smart way to accelerate your debt repayment and save money on interest.

The best balance transfer credit cards give cardholders a 0% intro APR for 12 months or more, in which case you'd have plenty of time to pay down your debt without worrying about interest charges. But you should know that interest savings vary depending on account usage and payment behavior.

In this article

Extra Long Intro APR on Purchases & Qualifying Balance Transfers

4.9

Wells Fargo Reflect® Card

Current Offer

Benefit from a long introductory APR period on purchases and qualifying balance transfers

Annual Fee

$0

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

0% introductory APR

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
4.9

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

Current Offer

0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 18 billing cycles. After that, a variable APR currently 18.74% - 29.74%

Annual Fee

$0

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Easy-to-Earn Unlimited Rewards

4.1

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Annual Fee

$0

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Lucrative, Flat-Rate Cash Rewards

5.0

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

Current Offer

$200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Extended 0% Intro APR for Balance Transfers

4.4

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

Current Offer

Long introductory APR period for balance transfers

Annual Fee

$0

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Unlimited 1.5% Cash Back on All Purchases

4.5

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card

Annual Fee

$0

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

No annual fee & 0% Intro APR

4.5

Citi Simplicity® Card

Current Offer

Long introductory APR period on balance transfers

Annual Fee

$0

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

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 from other issuers. You might want to do a balance transfer if the end result means you get a lower interest rate on your debt, which could help save you money over time compared to paying down your original credit card's balance.

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 at a different issuer 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, which would give you some time to pay down the balance while avoiding interest charges.

Keep in mind
Balance transfers aren't free — they have balance transfer fees. These fees typically range from 3% to 5% of the transferred balance. So transferring a $1,000 balance could cost you between $30 and $50.

Because of balance transfer fees, you should always calculate whether a balance transfer really 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 balance transfer fee, then a balance transfer could make sense. But keep in mind that if you don't pay off your balance transfer amount before the intro period ends, then you could still wind up paying quite a lot in interest charges.

How to use a balance transfer card

Balance transfer cards can be a powerful tool for Americans working on managing and pay off debt. If you’re thinking of using one, follow these steps:

  1. Choose the right card: There are many balance transfer cards to choose from. We recommend cards like the Citi Simplicity, Wells Fargo Reflect Card, and Citi Double Cash. Some other popular options include the Chase Slate Edge and Chase Freedom Flex.
  2. Check your credit history: Your credit history plays a role in whether you’re approved for a balance transfer card. Many card issuers, including Wells Fargo, Chase, Discover, American Express, and Capital One, consider your credit score along with various other factors when determining your creditworthiness.
  3. Transfer your balance: Once you’ve been approved for a balance transfer card, you can request to transfer your balance. You can typically do this online or over the phone. In some cases, you can also request a balance transfer check. Be sure to understand the fees associated with the transfer.
  4. Pay off your balance: After the transfer, focus on paying off your transferred balance. Some balance transfer cards offer a low or 0% introductory APR for a certain period, so try to pay off your balance during this time to save on interest.

Perspectives
Allison Weston
Allison Weston
Writer and Editor

Allie is a writer and editor who's spent her career working in finance and publishing. She lives in St. Louis with her husband and their merry band of dogs and cats.

How I used a balance transfer card to manage a large expense

I had an upcoming surgery that cost $8,000 out of pocket. After researching, I decided that using a balance transfer credit card would be the best option to pay for the surgery over time. I applied and qualified for a balance transfer credit card that also offers long introductory APR on new purchases, and I was able to easily break the total into monthly payments over a year.

I also took advantage of my remaining available credit and transferred existing debt from another high-interest credit card. Ultimately, both of these benefits saved me hundreds of dollars in interest charges and allowed me to pay down debt faster.

Remember, while a credit card balance transfer can be a great tool to manage and pay off debt, it’s important to use it responsibly. Balance transfers work best when you avoid running up new debt on the card and try to pay off the balance before the introductory rate expires.

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 you're evaluating balance transfer offers, consider these factors:

  1. Length of promotional balance transfer offer: If you have substantial debt, you may want a card with the longest balance transfer promotional offer to give you more time to pay off your balance without paying interest charges. Ideally, you want to choose a card that offers a 0% intro APR period for 12 to 18 months. That would give you a year or more to pay down your balance.
  2. Regular APR: Once the promotional APR period ends, the APR will revert to the card's regular fixed or variable APR. Credit cards tend to have high interest rates. If you tend to carry a balance, it’s worth shopping around for a low-interest credit card that has a lower regular APR to reduce interest charges.
  3. 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 preferably a credit card with no annual fee at all.
  4. Balance transfer fees: When you transfer high-interest credit card debt to a card that offers a 0% introductory APR period, most credit card companies charge a balance transfer fee. It usually costs between 3% and 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 balance transfer fee for the first few months after opening your credit card account.
  5. Issuers: You usually can’t transfer the balance from a card to another card from the same issuer. For example, if you have the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card, then you can’t transfer your balance to another Chase credit card. Instead, you’d have to transfer the balance to a card from another company.
  6. Rewards programs: First ask, 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 of these cards double as travel cards or cash back credit cards. Review the rewards program and consider if it would work for your lifestyle.

If you want to opt for a balance transfer credit card that also offers rewards, then consider if the card rewards eligible purchases in bonus categories that you spend on often. Travel and dining are common categories, but so are drugstores and gas stations.

And 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 your 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.

Balance transfer cards FAQ

Do balance transfers affect your credit score?

While a balance transfer could help with debt consolidation, it might negatively impact your FICO score temporarily. 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 (particularly in a short period of time,) can cause your score to drop. If you’re approved for the card, the average 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 of your current credit card 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 give you bad credit over time.

While applying for a new balance transfer card can negatively impact your credit score, there could be benefits as well. 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 could improve. That could result in a boost to your credit score in the long run.

How long do balance transfers take?

It varies by issuer, but in general, you should expect your credit card 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. Make sure you keep an eye out for details like that when you decide which balance transfer card to apply for. 

What is the best credit card for balance transfers?

There’s no one best balance transfer credit card for everyone. But to find the best card for you, consider your current credit score, the length of the promotional APR period, the regular APR on the card, balance transfer fees, and other factors like late fees, minimum payments, and if the card has a penalty APR.

In general, the best balance transfer credit cards have introductory APR periods of at least one year.

How much can you transfer on a balance transfer credit card?

How much you can transfer onto a new credit card depends 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, then you won’t be able to transfer over the full balance.

You also need to account for 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 at a different lender — that can be a sign there are bigger issues with your debt. While a balance transfer can make you feel like you’re managing your debt better, doing more than one balance transfer 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?

Balance transfers can be worth it if they save you money on interest. If you transfer a balance from a high-interest credit card to a card with a lower interest rate, then you could be better off in the long run. A lengthy period of time with less interest could help you pay down your credit card debt and manage your finances better. 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, as well as cashback rewards, bonus points on certain spending categories, flexible redemption options, or benefits like lucrative sign-up bonuses, no foreign transaction fees, or extended warranty coverage. These perks can be useful if you want to use your new card to make a large purchase and pay it off over time.

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.

Balance transfer cards: bottom line

If you’re struggling with high-interest debt, then an introductory balance transfer offer could help you save money on interest 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, which makes them an effective personal finance tool for managing debt. 

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 21 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.