Advertiser Disclosure

If you have credit card debt or plan to make a big purchase, a low-interest credit card can be a lifesaver. Many offer more than a year of 0% APR to pay down your debts, or a low ongoing interest rate for a longer-term debt reduction strategy. These cards are the best in the business, from waived fees to rewards and more. Transfer your balance, and you’ll get some room to breathe — and a chance to get out of debt.

Best for balance transfers

Chase Slate®

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • No balance transfer fee
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers
  • Qualify with Good credit

Cons

  • No rewards

Bonus Offer

$0 Introductory balance transfer fee for transfers made during the first 60 days of account opening

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR Promotions

0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

APR

  • APR: 13.24%-23.24% Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • Chase Slate named "Best Credit Card for Balance Transfers" three years in a row by Money Magazine
  • $0 Introductory balance transfer fee for transfers made during the first 60 days
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers
  • Free Monthly FICO® Score and Credit Dashboard
  • No Penalty APR - Paying late won't raise your interest rate (APR). All other account pricing and terms apply
  • $0 Annual Fee

$0 annual fee. No balance-transfer fee for the first 60 days. 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 13.24%-23.24% Variable. 3% foreign-transaction fee

Benefits of the Chase Slate®:

  • Using the $0 introductory balance-transfer fee within the first 60 days makes it a lot easier to reduce debt. Most other balance-transfer cards charge a fee of 3% to 5% when you transfer your balance, making that move very expensive. No other card offers both a fee-free balance transfer and a long 0% APR period.
  • The relatively long 0% APR period on both purchases and balance transfers makes it easier to pay off big expenses or eliminate debt.
  • There’s no penalty APR, so paying late won’t raise your interest rate, but it can hurt your credit score.
  • You can access your FICO score monthly for free.
  • The annual fee is $0.

Drawbacks of the Chase Slate®:

  • The Chase Slate® offers no rewards, so it’s not the best card for everyday purchases.
  • You can’t transfer balances from one Chase card to another, so you’ll only be able to take advantage of Chase Slate®’s great balance transfer offer if you’re carrying debt on a card from another issuer.
  • You can’t transfer balances of more than $15,000.
  • The 3% foreign-transaction fee, while not uncommon, makes this card less than ideal for international travel.

Bottom line:

If you’ve got a significant credit card balance and want to get serious about paying it off, it’s pretty hard to beat the Chase Slate®. The introductory $0 balance transfer fee plus the long 0% APR period make this card a powerful weapon against debt.

Longest 0% APR period

Citi Simplicity® Card

Apply Now on Citibank's secure website

Pros

  • No late fee
  • No annual fee
  • 0% if you qualify for 21 mos on transfers

Cons

  • No rewards
  • Needs excellent credit

Bonus Offer

0% on purchases and balance transfers for 21 months

Annual Fee

$0*

Intro APR Promotions

0% on purchases and balance transfers for 21 months

APR

  • Min APR: 13.24%, Variable
  • Max APR: 23.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 21 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.24% - 23.24% based on your creditworthiness.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • No late fees - EVER
  • No penalty rate - EVER
  • No annual fee - EVER
  • Save time when you call with fast, personal help, 24 hours a day.

$0* annual fee. Balance-transfer fee of 3% (minimum $5). Intro APR of 0% for 21 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 13.24% - 23.24% Variable . No late fees or penalty APR. 3% foreign-transaction fee.

Benefits of the Citi Simplicity® Card:

  • The introductory APR period is the best in the business. For debts that won’t be paid off in just a year, this card is great.
  • The annual fee of $0* means you can put more money toward debt reduction.
  • There are no late fees or penalty APRs, which makes this card more forgiving than many of its competitors. But keep in mind that your credit score may take a hit if you pay late.

Drawbacks of the Citi Simplicity® Card:

  • You’ll pay 3% in balance-transfer fees, so take that into consideration when you’re calculating how much interest you’ll save.
  • There are no rewards. Just because you’re in debt-reduction mode doesn’t mean you don’t want a few perks.
  • There’s a 3% foreign-transaction fee, so take another card with you abroad.

Bottom line:

The long 0% APR period on the Citi Simplicity® Card means you’ll have more time to recoup the 3% balance-transfer fee in savings, so in some situations, this card may be just what you need. It won’t cost you much to keep the card in your wallet, since there’s a $0* annual fee and you won’t get slapped with a lot of fees or a penalty APR if you miss a payment.

Best for sign-up bonus & ongoing rewards

Chase Freedom®

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Pros

  • Bonus 5% cash back categories
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • Qualify with Good credit

Cons

  • If you value simplicity, a flat rate cash back card may be better

Bonus Offer

Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR Promotions

0% for 15 Months on purchases and 0% Intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers

APR

  • APR: 14.24-23.24% Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn a $25 Bonus after you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within this same 3-month period
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After the intro period, a variable APR of 14.24-23.24%
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months like gas stations, restaurants, and select grocery stores
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • Cash Back rewards never expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee

Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. $0 annual fee. Introductory APR: 0% for 15 Months on purchases and 0% Intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 14.24-23.24% Variable. 5% cash back on quarterly bonus categories on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter, and 1% back on everything else.  

Benefits of the Chase Freedom®:

  • The introductory APR isn’t too shabby if you need a breather from interest to pay down your debt faster.
  • The 5% cash back on bonus categories is generous for a balance transfer card; earning 1% on all other purchases isn’t bad either.
  • Few balance-transfer cards offer a sign-up bonus; this one does.
  • The annual fee is $0.

Drawbacks of the Chase Freedom®:

  • You’ll pay 3% or $5, whichever is greater, to transfer a balance from a non-Chase credit card. Carrying a balance on a Chase card? You’ll probably need to find a balance-transfer offer from another issuer.
  • The rotating bonus categories can be hard to keep track of; a flat-rate rewards card is simpler.
  • Foreign transactions will cost you 3%.

Bottom line:

If you have a manageable amount of credit card debt that can be paid off in 15 months or less, the Chase Freedom® is a solid option. You won’t have to give up earning credit card rewards while you’re paying down your debt — not even on new purchases. The Chase Freedom® should definitely be on your short list.

Best for low fees

Discover it®- 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer

Apply Now on Discover's secure website

Pros

  • Bonus cash back categories
  • No annual fee
  • 0% on purchases for 6 months and 0% on balance transfers for 18 months
  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • Slightly less merchant acceptance for Discover in US - acceptance outside of US can be an issue
  • If you value simplicity, a flat rate cash back card may be better

Bonus Offer

We'll DOUBLE all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year. So if you earned $101 cash back, we'll double it to $202—Automatically. Only for new cardmembers.*

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR Promotions

0% on purchases for 6 months and 0% on balance transfers for 18 months

APR

  • APR: 11.24% – 23.24% Variable*
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • We'll DOUBLE all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year. So if you earned $101 cash back, we'll double it to $202—Automatically. Only for new cardmembers.*
  • 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter like gas, restaurants, home improvement stores and more -up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up.* 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • 0% intro APR* on balance transfers for 18 months—then a variable purchase APR applies, currently 11.24% – 23.24%. A 3% fee applies to each transferred balance.
  • Freeze It℠ on/off switch lets you prevent new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app & online.* Plus get 100% U.S.-based service.
  • Track your recent FICO® Credit Scores for free in one easy-to-read chart on monthly statements & online.*
  • No annual fee.* No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. No late fee on first late payment & paying late won't raise your APR.*
  • Each Discover purchase is monitored. If it's unusual, you're alerted by e-mail, phone or text and you're never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover card.
  • Click "Apply Now". *See rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms & other information.

$0 annual fee. Introductory APR of 0% on purchases for 6 months and 0% on balance transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 11.24% – 23.24% Variable. 5% cash back on rotating categories, up to $1,500 spent per quarter, and 1% back on all other spending. No penalty APR or foreign-transaction fees. 3% balance-transfer fee.

Benefits of the Discover it®- 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer:

  • Generous quarterly rewards in bonus categories.
  • You’ll earn a flat 1% cash back on non-bonus categories.
  • The introductory APR is longer than most for balance transfers: 0% on purchases for 6 months and 0% on balance transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 11.24% – 23.24% Variable.
  • There are plenty of extras: free FICO scores, warranty protection, and a Freeze It℠ on/off switch that lets you prevent new transactions on your account if you misplace your card.
  • You’ll pay no foreign-transaction fees, a rarity among low-interest or 0% APR credit cards.

Drawbacks of the Discover it®- 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer:

  • The card comes with a 3% balance-transfer fee, which will take a bite out of your interest savings during the introductory period.
  • The 0% APR period on purchases is relatively short, compared with that for transfers. Once that period is up, you’ll pay interest right away on everything you buy, unless you pay your balance in full.
  • Discover isn’t as widely accepted as MasterCard and Visa, so this is probably not a good bet if you like to carry only one card.

Bottom line:

The Discover it®- 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer has generous rewards. And we like the looks of that lengthy 0% APR period for transfers. But this card requires cardholders to pay attention to the end of the promotional 0% APR period on purchases, as well as the rotating bonus categories. If you don’t mind keeping close tabs on your credit card and spending, this card is a great deal.

Best for ongoing low interest

Lake Michigan Credit Union Prime Platinum Visa

Apply Now on Lake Michigan Credit Union's secure website

Pros

  • No annual fee

Cons

  • No rewards
  • Needs excellent credit

Bonus Offer

None

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR Promotions

None

APR

  • Purchase: 6.25%, Variable

Card Details

  • Credit line of $500 - $25,000

The annual fee is $0. The ongoing APR is 6.25% Variable . Available to anyone who lives in lower Michigan or who makes a $5 one-time donation to the ALS Foundation.

Benefits of the Lake Michigan Credit Union Prime Platinum Visa:

  • For debts that will stretch beyond even the most generous introductory 0% APR, the Lake Michigan Credit Union Prime Platinum Visa’s ongoing low interest rate is an attractive one.
  • The annual fee is $0.

Drawbacks of the Lake Michigan Credit Union Prime Platinum Visa:

  • There is no 0% APR period, which means you’ll pay interest on balance transfers and new purchases from day one.
  • The card offers no rewards and requires excellent credit.
  • You must be a member of the Lake Michigan Credit Union to get the card. Even though membership requirements are very flexible, even for people outside Michigan, that’s an extra hoop to jump through before you can apply for the card.

Bottom line:

The Lake Michigan Credit Union Prime Platinum Visa has an unusually low interest rate, so it’s a real contender if you expect to carry a credit card balance for the foreseeable future and you want to save on interest. You may be able to find a similar deal at a credit union in your area, but this rate is low even by credit union standards. If you expect to pay your balance off in 21 months or less, consider getting a card with a 0% introductory APR.

Methodology

NerdWallet’s credit cards team selects cards in each category based on overall consumer value. Factors in our evaluation include fees, promotional and ongoing APRs, and sign-up bonuses; for rewards cards, we consider earning and redemption rates, redemption options and redemption difficulty. A single card is eligible to win in multiple categories.

Last updated January 14, 2016. 

Virginia C. McGuire is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: virginia@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @vcmcguire.