Balance transfers can be a big help in managing credit card debt. You can transfer your high-interest debt from an older credit card to a credit card with a 0% intro APR for balance transfers. Then you make payments during the introductory period to reduce or pay off the debt, potentially saving thousands of dollars in interest over many years of payments. Even if you can’t pay off the whole balance in the allotted 0% intro APR timeframe, your savings can still be huge.
Here is how balance transfers work and five of the longest balance transfer credit cards with a 0% introductory APR period.
Longest balance transfer credit cards
- Wells Fargo Reflect® Card
- Citi Simplicity® Card
- BankAmericard® credit card
- Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
- Citi® Double Cash Card
|Card name||Intro APR on balance transfers||Balance transfer fee|
|Wells Fargo Reflect® Card||0% for up to 21 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers, then 17.49% - 29.49% variable||3% for 120 days from account opening, then up to 5%; min: $5|
|Citi Simplicity® Card||0% for 21 months, then 18.49% - 29.24% (variable)||3% of each transfer ($5 minimum) within 4 months of account opening; then 5% of each transfer ($5 minimum) after the 4 month intro period ends|
|BankAmericard® credit card||0% for 21 billing cycles for any qualifying balance transfers made in the first 60 days, then 15.49% - 25.49% Variable||3% of the amount of each transaction|
|Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card||0% for 18 months, then 17.49% - 28.24% (variable)||5% of each transfer ($5 minimum)|
|Citi® Double Cash Card||0% for 18 months, then 18.49% - 28.49% (variable)||3% of each transfer ($5 minimum) within 4 months of account opening; then 5% of each transfer ($5 minimum) after the 4 month intro period ends|
Wells Fargo Reflect® Card
The Wells Fargo Reflect® Card has a very long intro APR period of up to 21 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers with an 0% introductory APR (then 17.49% - 29.49% variable). The balance transfer fee is 3% for 120 days from account opening, then up to 5%; min: $5.
This card comes with a $0 annual fee, cell phone protection and roadside dispatch benefits.
For more information, read our full Wells Fargo Reflect Card review.
Citi Simplicity® Card
At a whopping 21 months, the Citi Simplicity® Card has a very long 0% introductory APR (then 18.49% - 29.24% (variable)). The balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer ($5 minimum) within 4 months of account opening; then 5% of each transfer ($5 minimum) after the 4 month intro period ends, is within the norm of what credit cards typically charge. Transfers need to be completed within the first 4 months of opening the account for the introductory APR to apply.
This card comes with a $0 annual fee, no late payment fees, and no penalty APR rates. You can also choose your payment due date, which makes monthly budgeting easier. Overall, this is a solid card to investigate.
For more information, read our full Citi Simplicity Card review.
BankAmericard® credit card
The BankAmericard® credit card has an impressive transfer period of 21 billing cycles for any qualifying balance transfers made in the first 60 days with a 0% intro APR on transfers (then 15.49% - 25.49% Variable). The balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount of each transaction.
This card has an annual fee of $0 and offers free admission to selelct U.S. museums on certain dates.
For more details, check out our BankAmericard review.
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card is similar to the Citi Simplicity in that it has a lengthy balance transfer 0% intro APR period of 21 months (then 18.49% - 28.49% (variable)). The balance transfer fee is 5% of each transfer ($5 minimum).
What sets this card apart is its access to Citi Entertainment with access to tickets, VIP packages and events along with access to Citi Concierge service.
For more details, check out our Citi Diamond Preferred review.
Citi® Double Cash Card
The Citi® Double Cash Card has a lot going for it if you’re looking for a balance transfer option. Not only do you get 18 months of a 0% intro APR on transfers made within the first 4 months of opening the account (then 18.49% - 28.49% (variable)), you also get cash back on your day-to-day transactions and a $0 annual fee. The balance transfer fee is 3% of each transfer ($5 minimum) within 4 months of account opening; then 5% of each transfer ($5 minimum) after the 4 month intro period ends.
Generally, we don’t recommend making additional purchases on a card you transfer balances to. However, if you charge items you would normally pay for in cash to this card, then pay that balance off right away, you can take advantage of Citi’s cash back feature. You will earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases, which can lower your transfer balance.
For more details, check out our Citi Double Cash review.
How do balance transfers work?
With a balance transfer, you open a credit card account that offers a long introductory period at 0% intro APR. Then, you work with the issuer to use your available credit to pay off other high-interest debts you may have.
Once the debts are paid with your new card, you make monthly payments aimed at reducing that total amount by the time the introductory period is over. If there is still a balance, you can do the same thing all over again with a new 0% intro APR balance transfer card if you qualify for one.
What this does is buy you some time to ensure every monthly payment you make is applied to the balance of the card, rather than interest. When you have a balance on a credit card that charges you any amount of interest, as little as 1% of your monthly minimum payment could be applied to your balance, and the rest pays for the interest accrued for that month. Depending on your interest rate, that can make it difficult to make progress on your credit card debt.
By taking the interest out of the equation, you’re able to continue to make the same payments — or higher ones if you can swing it — and see a much greater and faster reduction of your debt. This can save you many years of paying interest charges that are more than the amount you originally charged.
Common mistakes to avoid
While using a 0% intro APR balance transfer strategy can be very powerful for reducing debt, there are a few things to watch out for.
The first is avoiding adding new purchase charges to your balance transfer card. If you read the terms and conditions that come with your balance transfer card, you may find that your monthly payments get applied first to purchases you make before being applied to the balance you’re trying to pay off. This can undermine your intentions of paying off the balance before the introductory period ends.
You should also consider balance transfer fees. Credit card issuers typically charge between 3% and 5% of the amount you transfer as a fee. This amount is added to the total amount you will owe and lowers the total amount you can transfer. Most credit cards will not allow you to transfer more than your credit limit, and they will apply the balance transfer fee first.
For example, if your limit is $5,000 and you have a 5% balance transfer fee, you wouldn’t be able to pay off a full $5,000 worth of other debts as a $250 fee would be added to your balance, putting you over the limit.
You also don’t want to fall into the trap of making charges on the cards you’ve just paid off. Your goal is to lower your overall debt and usage of revolving credit. When you transfer a balance from an existing card to a new card, you increase the amount of credit available to you and reduce the ratio of how much is being used.
Both of these are substantial factors in calculating your credit score. If you add charges to the cards you’ve just cleared, you increase your credit utilization ratio and overall debt, which will reduce the positive impact you’re trying to make.
Finally, be aware of how long you have to pay off your balance without accruing interest. It’s easy to let the months go by without realizing you’re not as far along paying off your balance as you want to be.
Keep on top of where you are in the repayment process and figure out how much you need to pay monthly to get down to a $0 balance. Even if you can’t, the amount of interest you pay on the new amount will still be less than you were paying before the transfer. But the goal should be a complete balance payoff.
Choosing the best balance transfer credit card
As you consider balance transfer offers, there are several factors to consider:
- Fees: Does the card offer no annual fee? Does it have foreign transaction fees or late fees?
- Perks: Does the card offer any perks such as cash back rewards or points for certain bonus categories?
- Credit needed: Do you have the FICO score to qualify? You typically need good credit, and often excellent credit, to qualify.
- Promotional period: How long does the promotional period last? Could you realistically pay off the card balance in that time?
Once you choose a credit card offer, apply, and are approved, be sure to pay attention to how long you have to transfer the balance. You may need to transfer the balance within 60 days of account opening, for example. From there, you can take advantage of the lower interest rate and make progress on your credit card debt.
Alternatives to balance transfer cards
If you're tired of dealing with a variable APR, you could look into an alternative such as a personal loan or home equity loan. These options typically have a fixed interest rate, and you can consolidate debt from multiple credit cards. You can find these loans with online lenders as well as local ones such as credit unions.
If you own a home and don't mind a variable rate, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) could also be a good way to consolidate debt. Keep in mind that a home equity loan or line of credit is secured by your home, so if you stop paying, you could lose your home.
FAQs about balance transfers
Do balance transfers affect your credit score?
Though your credit score may take a hit when you’re applying for a balance transfer card as a result of one or more hard inquiries to your reports, overall, transferring a balance from one card to another could be a good thing for your score.
First, the new credit card increases the amount of revolving credit you can access while keeping your total debt owed the same. This is a powerful factor in boosting your score.
Second, as long as you make on-time payments in amounts aimed at reducing the balance on your new 0% introductory APR card, you are making good progress in lowering your total debt. This, too, will have a positive effect on your credit score.
It’s important to remember not to increase your debt during this period, even though it may be tempting when you have a $0 balance on one or more cards. This will hamper the efforts you’re making by paying down your balance transfers.
How long does it take to transfer a balance from one credit card to another?
Generally, the period of time you can expect to have some or all of your balance transfers completed is between 3 to 21 business days after initiating the request. This is because you’re not so much actually transferring a balance from one card to another as you are paying off the debt from one card with your new one.
How long this can take depends on how your lender is making the payment(s). They may send the funds electronically to the accounts you’re paying off, by physical check, direct deposit to your checking account, or even sending you checks to use to pay your creditors. Electronic transactions usually take place sooner than those that are paper-based.
How much does a balance transfer cost?
Balance transfer fees usually range between 3% and 5% of the amount you’re paying off.
Can I transfer a credit card balance twice?
If you reach the end of the introductory period on your 0% intro APR credit card and you haven’t paid off the amount you transferred, you can search for a new card to transfer the balance to before the regular APR starts.
Generally, you won’t be able to do this if you open a new card account with the same bank that issues the card with the balance you want to transfer. You’ll need to look for a different bank. You'll also need the creditworthiness to qualify for a new 0% intro APR offer.
Bottom line on balance transfer cards
Now that you know how to use balance transfer credit cards for debt consolidation and to boost your credit score, it’s time to go shopping. We’ve given you our choices for the best balance transfer cards to help get you started.
As you continue your research, make sure to look at the longest balance transfer credit card you can find, intro balance transfer fees, how long you have to make transfers at 0% intro APR, and the terms and conditions for paying on the new balance transfer card. Consider whether the card has a rewards program or other perks for new cardholders.
Once you transfer debt and take the balance transfer plunge, watch out for the pitfalls discussed earlier, such as making charges on cards that have been paid off and not paying off the balance before the introductory period is over. Keep all of this in mind, and you’ll be on a strong path to making some major improvements to your overall personal finance picture.
Extra Long Intro APR on Purchases & Balance Transfers
Benefit from a long introductory APR period that could be extended by making the minimum payments on time each month
- 0% intro APR on qualifying balance transfers and purchases for up to 21 months from account opening, then 17.49% - 29.49% variable APR
- Cell phone protection
- $0 annual fee
- No rewards for spending
- 0% intro APR for 18 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers. Intro APR extension for 3 months with on-time minimum payments during the intro period. 17.49% to 29.49% variable APR thereafter; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee of 3% then a BT fee of up to 5%, min $5.
- $0 Annual Fee
- Get up to $600 of cell phone protection against damage or theft when you pay your monthly cell phone bill with your eligible Wells Fargo card (subject to a $25 deductible).
- Through My Wells Fargo Deals, you can get access to personalized deals from a variety of merchants. It's an easy way to earn cash back as an account credit when you shop, dine, or enjoy an experience simply by using an eligible Wells Fargo credit card.
- Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms and conditions