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A balance transfer credit card can help you save on interest payments while you pay down debt, but these cards typically come at a cost. Most charge balance transfer fees of around 3%-5% of the transferred balance. Put another way, every $1,000 in debt you transfer can cost you between $30 and $50.
When you’re paying down debt, every cent counts. So the ideal balance transfer credit card would feature no such balance transfer fee, as well as a $0 annual fee and a long 0% interest period to boot. Unfortunately, these “triple-zero” cards are hard to find. And many of these products require excellent credit (typically FICO scores of 720 or higher) to qualify at all.
Still, it’s possible to pay down debt for less using a balance transfer credit card. Here are some options that can help.
Most credit card companies don't allow same-issuer transfers. If your debt is with American Express, for example, you can't move it to another American Express card.
Credit cards with no balance transfer fees
Frankly, the number of cards that offer balance transfers without a balance transfer fee has always been small, and it's even smaller now.
Some regional banks and credit unions offer balance transfer cards at a lower cost, but these products come with their own limitations. Credit unions require membership, and regional banks don’t operate in every state. Check with local banks in your area to see what they offer. Here are some examples of what’s available:
The Navy Federal Credit Union® Platinum Credit Card charges 0.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 12 months, and then the ongoing APR of 8.99%-18.00%, Variable APR. It has no balance transfer fees, but you must be eligible for Navy Federal Credit Union membership, which is generally available to military members and veterans, their families and Department of Defense civilian personnel. See our review of this card for more information.
The Union Bank® Platinum™ Visa® Credit Card offers 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months after account opening. If you transfer your balance within the first 60 days, you’ll pay no balance transfer fee (after that point, a 3% fee will apply). The annual fee is $0.
Cards to consider despite their balance transfer fees
Sometimes, the best feature of a credit card is that it actually exists. You may find more card options if you’re open to the idea of a balance transfer fee. Look for a 3% fee, which is on the low end of the typical range. A $0 annual fee and a long no-interest period make these cards even more valuable. Here are some examples of what’s available:
The Wells Fargo Reflect® Card offers one of the longest 0% intro APR promotional periods around. You get a 0% intro APR on Purchases for up to 21 months and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers up to 21 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 16.74%-28.74% Variable APR Balance transfer fee: For transfer requests made 120 days from account opening, a balance transfer fee of $5 or 3% intro applies, whichever is greater. After that, the card charges up to 5% of each transfer amount, with a minimum of $5.
The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card is also an ideal pick if you need a lot of time to pay down debt. The card features a 0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 18.24%-28.24% Variable APR. Balance transfer fee: 3% or $5 minimum, whichever is greater.
The Discover it® Cash Back is known for its rotating quarterly cash-back categories, but it also offers 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 15.74%-26.74% Variable APR. Balance transfer fee: 3% introductory fee and up to 5% on future balance transfers. Terms apply.
The Citi® Double Cash Card is known for its no-fuss rewards program that earns 2% cash back on every purchase (1% as you spend, 1% as you pay). But it also offers an intro 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 17.74%-27.74% Variable APR. Balance transfer fee: 3% introductory fee (or a minimum of $5, whichever is greater) for each balance transfer completed within the first 4 months of account opening.
How important is it to pay no balance transfer fee?
If you intend to pay down your balance in three months or less, the balance transfer fee could exceed what you’d save on interest. If that’s the case, you may be better off sticking with the card you already have.
But the longer you need to get out of debt, and the higher your current interest rate, the more beneficial a balance transfer becomes.