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9 Best Balance Transfer and 0% APR Credit Cards of April 2020

Claire TsosieMarch 26, 2020

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

NerdWallet's Best Balance Transfer and 0% APR Credit Cards of April 2020

Our pick for

Long-term value: 0% periods for transfers and purchases + rewards

Discover it® Balance Transfer

on Discover's website, or call (800) 347-0264

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.49% - 24.49% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% on Purchases for 6 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months

Recommended Credit Score
Most balance-transfer cards don't give you much of a reason to hold on to them after the 0% period ends. The Discover it® Balance Transfer is a noteworthy exception. Get it for the lengthy 0% period for transfers, keep it for the cash-back rewards.

Pros

In addition to its lengthy 0% APR period, this card pays 5% cash back in rotating categories that you activate, on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter, and 1% on everything else. Discover matches the cash back you earn in your first year — although ideally in that first year you'll be focused more on paying down debt than adding to it.

Cons

The 0% period on purchases is considerably shorter than that for balance transfers, so it's best to avoid putting purchases on the card until you've paid off the transferred debt. There's a 3% transfer fee. When it comes to rewards, the activation requirement for bonus categories can be a hassle.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • No annual fee.
  • View Rates and Fees

Our picks for

Long 0% period for transfers and purchases

Wells Fargo Visa Platinum Card Credit Card

on Wells Fargo's website

Rates & Fees

on Wells Fargo's website

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

15.49% - 24.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% intro APR for 18 months on purchases and qualifying balance transfers

Recommended Credit Score
The Wells Fargo Platinum card isn't flashy, nor does it aim to be. It just gives you a nice, long 0% introductory period for a $0 annual fee.

Pros

There's a 0% APR for 18 months on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 15.49% - 24.99% Variable APR. The fee for balance transfers in the first 120 days is only 3% ($5 minimum), before rising to 5%. This card also offers cellphone insurance if you use it to pay your wireless bill.

Cons

As with many cards with a long 0% intro APR period, there isn't a lot of incentive to keep using it after the introductory rate expires.
  • Pay down balances instead of interest with Wells Fargo's longest intro APR
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Platinum card
  • Easy access to your FICO® Credit Score with Wells Fargo Online®
  • Zero Liability protection for promptly reported unauthorized transactions
  • Convenient tools to help create a budget and manage your spending with My Money Map
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms and conditions
  • View Rates and Fees
US Bank Visa Platinum Credit Card

on US Bank's website

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$0*

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99%* Variable APR

Intro APR

0%* on purchases and balance transfers for 20 billing cycles*

Recommended Credit Score
The lengthy introductory 0% APR periods for both purchases and balance transfers on the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card give you plenty of time to pay down new and old debts interest-free.

Pros

The card comes with a generous introductory 0% APR periods. You can choose your own due date with this card, which allows you to schedule debt payment for when its easiest on your wallet. It also offers cell phone protection if you use it to pay your cell phone bill.

Cons

Once the 0% period ends, so does the chief benefit of this card. Still, the cell phone coverage is a good reason to hold onto it. There's a balance transfer fee, but it's only 3%.
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 20 billing cycles. After that, a variable APR currently 13.99% - 23.99%.
  • Great offer from U.S. Bank, a 2020 World's Most Ethical Company® - Ethisphere Institute, February 2020.
  • No Annual Fee*
  • Flexibility to choose a payment due date that fits your schedule.
  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your U.S.Bank Visa® Platinum Credit Card. Certain terms, conditions, and exclusions apply.
  • View Rates and Fees

Our picks for

Longest 0% period for transfers only

Citibank Simplicity Credit Card

on Citibank's application

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

14.74% - 24.74% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% on Purchases for 12 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 21 months

Recommended Credit Score
The 0% intro APR period this card offers on balance transfers might be the longest you'll find anywhere. And as its promotional name makes pretty clear, you'll never pay late fees on the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever.

Pros

The long 0% period is this card's primary selling point. The absence of late fees is a benefit for the absent-minded, although you don't want to get in the habit of paying bills late. Other lenders aren't as forgiving, and chronic lateness can kill your credit score.

Cons

The balance transfer fee is one of the highest you'll pay: 5% (minimum $5). The 0% period for purchases is considerably shorter than for transfers.
  • No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, No Annual Fee… Ever.
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from date of first transfer. All transfers must be completed in first 4 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • If you transfer a balance with this offer, after your 0% Intro purchase APR expires, both new purchases and unpaid purchase balances will automatically accrue interest until all balances, including your transferred balances, are paid in full
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
  • Stay protected with Citi® Quick Lock and $0 liability on unauthorized charges.
Citibank Diamond Preferred Credit Card

on Citibank's application

on Citibank's application

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.74% - 23.74% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% on Purchases for 12 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 21 months

Recommended Credit Score
The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card is all about the long 0% intro APR period. It's about as much breathing room as you'll find anywhere for transferring debt.

Pros

The long 0% period for transfers is this card's defining feature, giving you nearly two years to whittle down debt.

Cons

There's a high transfer fee of 5% (minimum $5). The 0% period for purchases is a lot shorter than for transfers. And there't not a lot of ongoing value to the card once that 0% period runs out.
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from date of first transfer. After that, the variable APR will be 13.74% – 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness. All transfers must be completed in first 4 months.
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 13.74% – 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • If you transfer a balance with this offer, after your 0% Intro purchase APR expires, both new purchases and unpaid purchase balances will automatically accrue interest until all balances, including your transferred balance, are paid in full.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • Get free access to your FICO® score online.
  • With Citi Entertainment℠; get special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events, including concerts, sporting events, dining experiences and more.
  • Shop with confidence knowing that you have dependable protection benefits, including $0 Liability on Unauthorized Purchases and Citi® Identity Theft Solutions.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.74% - 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.

Our pick for

Long 0% period for transfers and purchases + late fee waiver

HSBC Gold Mastercard

on HSBC's website

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

14.49% - 24.49%, Variable

Intro APR

0% Introductory APR on credit card purchases and balance transfers for the first 18 months from account opening.

Recommended Credit Score
A long 0% introductory period on purchases and balance transfers and a little forgiveness for late payments make the HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card worth a look.

Pros

The long, matching 0% intro APR periods make this card a fine option for both purchases and transfers. If you're the occasionally absent-minded type, the issuer offers a break: The fee is waived on your first late payment and on any late payment that occurs more than 12 billing periods since your last waiver. Even so, it's best to pay on time.

Cons

There's a balance transfer fee of 4% (minimum $10), which is higher than what you'll find on some other cards. With no rewards or major ongoing benefits, you might get limited use out of it after the 0% period ends.
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 18 months from account opening. Then a variable APR of 14.49% - 24.49% will apply.
  • No Penalty APR.
  • Late Fee Waiver.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $0 Annual Fee.
  • $0 liability for unauthorized purchases.
  • Terms Apply.
  • View Rates and Fees

Our pick for

Long-term value: 0% period for transfers + rewards

Citi® Double Cash Card

on Citibank's application

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months

Recommended Credit Score
The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer gets 5 stars for its best-in-class cash-back rewards, but it comes with a great balance-transfer offer, too.

Pros

As a balance-transfer card, there's a lot to like: a lengthy introductory interest-free period for transfers, plus a transfer fee of 3% — lower than the 5% charged by many cards specifically designed for balance transfers. And the card has tremendous ongoing value: 2% cash back on all purchases — 1% when you buy something and 1% when you pay it off.

Cons

There's no 0% period for purchases. That means if you transfer a balance onto this card, you'll get no grace period, and you'll be paying interest on purchases right away. Your best move is to pay off the transferred debt first, then start using this card for the rewards.
  • Earn cash back twice. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.

Our pick for

$0 introductory transfer fee

American Express Amex EveryDay Credit Card
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

14.49% - 25.49% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% Intro on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months

Recommended Credit Score
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card offers the rare "triple zero" of balance-transfer benefits: a $0 introductory balance transfer fee (transfers must be requested within 60 days of account opening), a $0 annual fee and and a 0% intro APR period. Terms apply.

Pros

The triple-zero benefits allow you to pay down debt without a penny in fees or interest. And unlike many balance-transfer cards, this one offers rewards. There's a bonus offer for new cardholders, too.

Cons

You can get a longer 0% introductory APR period with other several balance-transfer cards. The ongoing rewards aren't anything too special, if long-term value is a factor in your decision.
  • Earn 20% Extra Points - Use your Card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period and get 20% more points on those purchases less returns and credits.
  • 2X Points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1X).
  • Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $1,000 in qualifying purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • $0 Balance Transfer Fee.¤ Balance transfers must be requested within 60 days of account opening.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then a variable APR, 14.49% to 25.49%.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • Information about the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet and has not been provided or reviewed by the issuer of this card.
  • View Rates and Fees

Our pick for

Low rate for an extended period

SunTrust Rewards Card Credit Card
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

12.74% - 22.74% Variable

Intro APR

4.75% for the first 36 months for all Balances transferred within 60 days of account opening

Recommended Credit Score
You won't get a 0% period with the SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card, but you'll get an astonishing three years at a super-low rate, and you can avoid paying a transfer fee. The big catch? Not everyone can apply.

Pros

This card doesn't charge a fee on transfers in the first 60 days (after that, it's 3% with a $10 minimum). Interest-wise, you'll pay 4.75% for the first 36 months for all Balances transferred within 60 days of account opening, and then the ongoing APR of 12.74% - 22.74% Variable. The card also offers modest rewards, so there's some use to it after the promo period runs out.

Cons

As low as the rate is, it's not 0%. The money you'll save with an 18-month 0% period might be more than three years at this card's rate, even after paying a transfer fee. Also, this card has geographic eligibility restrictions. If you're not already a Suntrust customer, you can't apply for it unless you live in a state where the issuer has branches. (See them here.)
  • 3 year introductory offer at Prime Rate (currently 4.75% variable APR) on balance transfers made in the first 60 days after account opening. Variable 12.74%-22.74% APR thereafter.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • Pay no balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open. After the first 60 days of account opening, the fee for future balance transfers is $10 or 3% of the amount of the transfer, whichever is greater.
  • 1% Unlimited Cash Back on all qualifying purchases
  • $100 in statement credit after you spend $500 on qualifying purchases, in the first 3 months after account opening
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Summary of Best Balance Transfer and 0% APR Credit Cards of April 2020

Credit CardBest ForIntro APRRegular APRAnnual FeeLearn More
Discover it® Balance Transfer

Discover it® Balance Transfer

on Discover's website, or call (800) 347-0264

Long-term value: 0% periods for transfers and purchases + rewards

0% on Purchases for 6 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months

13.49% - 24.49% Variable APR

$0

on Discover's website, or call (800) 347-0264

Wells Fargo Visa Platinum Card Credit Card

Wells Fargo Platinum card

on Wells Fargo's website

Long 0% period for transfers and purchases

0% intro APR for 18 months on purchases and qualifying balance transfers

15.49% - 24.99% Variable APR

$0

on Wells Fargo's website

US Bank Visa Platinum Credit Card

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

on US Bank's website

Long 0% period for transfers and purchases

0%* on purchases and balance transfers for 20 billing cycles*

13.99% - 23.99%* Variable APR

$0*

on US Bank's website

Citibank Simplicity Credit Card

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

on Citibank's application

Longest 0% period for transfers only

0% on Purchases for 12 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 21 months

14.74% - 24.74% Variable APR

$0

on Citibank's application

Citibank Diamond Preferred Credit Card

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

on Citibank's application

Longest 0% period for transfers only

0% on Purchases for 12 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 21 months

13.74% - 23.74% Variable APR

$0

on Citibank's application

HSBC Gold Mastercard

HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card

on HSBC's website

Long 0% period for transfers and purchases + late fee waiver

0% Introductory APR on credit card purchases and balance transfers for the first 18 months from account opening.

14.49% - 24.49%, Variable

$0

on HSBC's website

Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

on Citibank's application

Long-term value: 0% period for transfers + rewards

0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months

13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

$0

on Citibank's application

American Express Amex EveryDay Credit Card

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

$0 introductory transfer fee

0% Intro on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months

14.49% - 25.49% Variable APR

$0

Read review
SunTrust Rewards Card Credit Card

SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card

Low rate for an extended period

4.75% for the first 36 months for all Balances transferred within 60 days of account opening

12.74% - 22.74% Variable

$0

Read review
Personalized_recc

Not sure which card saves you the most?

Take a quick quiz and we'll find out.

What is a balance transfer?

A balance transfer involves moving debt from a high-interest credit card to a new card with a lower interest rate, ideally one with an introductory 0% period. Essentially, you're using one card to pay off another, but because you aren't paying as much in interest, you have more money available to pay down your debt more quickly.

» MORE: What is a balance transfer, and should I do one?

How much can I save with a balance transfer?

A balance transfer makes financial sense only if the money you save on interest is more than any fee you'll pay to carry out the transfer.

Interest savings

Moving debt to a card with an introductory 0% APR period for balance transfers will obviously save you money in interest. Those savings can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars depending on how much you owe.

According to NerdWallet's American Household Credit Card Debt Study, the average household with revolving credit card debt — that is, debt that was carried from one month to the next — had a total of $6,741 in such debt in March 2019. Let's say you had that much debt on a card with an APR of 17%, and you wanted to pay off the debt in equal amounts over 18 months:

  • If you left the debt on the 17% card, you'd pay more than $900 in interest over the course of those 18 months.
  • If you transferred the debt to a card with a 0% intro APR for 18 months, you'd pay no interest at all. Further, if you used the money you would have paid in interest and applied it to paying down the balance, you'd be out of debt a couple of months earlier.

Mind the balance transfer fee

A balance transfer isn't always a slam-dunk solution to high-interest debt. Most cards with promotional 0% APR periods charge balance transfer fees, which typically range from 3% to 5% of the amount being transferred. Some cards don't charge these fees, or waive them for a period of time when you first open your account.

Before pulling the trigger on a transfer, consider whether the amount you’ll save on interest will be enough to make up for any transfer fee. In the above example, a 3% fee on a $6,741 transfer comes out to a little over $200, while a 5% fee would be about $340. If you're saving $900 in interest, then the fee is worth paying.

However, if you'd been planning to pay off the debt in six months rather than 18, then the transfer would have saved you only about $330 in interest — so a 3% fee would have eaten up most of your savings while a 5% fee would have ended up costing you money.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best credit cards with no balance transfer fee

Estimate your savings with our calculator

Whether a balance transfer will save you money depends mostly on four factors:

  • How much you owe.
  • The current interest rate on that debt.
  • The balance transfer fee.
  • How long the 0% period on the new card lasts.

Enter this information into NerdWallet's balance transfer calculator to get a sense of how much you could save by doing a balance transfer.

How to do a balance transfer

If the math on a balance transfer works in your favor, here’s what to do next.

1. Apply for a balance transfer card

In many cases, cards with an introductory 0% APR offer for transfers give you only a short period of time after opening your account to take advantage of the offer — say, 60 days. So even if you already have a card with a 0% period in effect, it might be too late to use it for a transfer.

In general, you'll need good credit to qualify for a balance transfer card.

Most issuers won’t let you transfer debt from one of their cards to another. For example, you can’t transfer a balance from one Chase card to another. So make sure you aren’t applying for a card from the same bank that holds the debt you need to transfer.

2. Tell the new card’s issuer you want to do a transfer

With some cards, you can do this from your online account dashboard or even the issuer’s mobile app. With others, you’ll need to call the customer service number on the back of the card.

3. Provide information requested by your issuer

You’ll need to know the account number of the debt you want to transfer and how much you want to move. Depending on the credit limit on your new card and the card issuer’s policies (which may limit the amount of a transfer), you may get approved to transfer the entire amount or just a part of it.

4. Continue making payments on the old card

This is critical. The transfer doesn't happen as soon as you ask for it. It can take days or even a couple of weeks. Pay at least the minimum until your old card account shows that the debt has been moved. The last thing you want is to incur an expensive late fee (and possibly damage your credit scores).

5. Watch your accounts

You’ll see the debt paid off on the old card and show up on the new one. Now it’s time to pay it down.

6. Stash the old card, but keep it open

It may be tempting to cut up the old card and cancel the account for the sake of catharsis, but closing a paid-off credit card account can damage your credit scores. If the card doesn't charge an annual fee, keep it open.

Should you get a balance transfer card? Pros and cons

Pros: Why it’s worth getting a balance transfer card

  • You can pay off your debt faster. This should be the point of the balance transfer. Apply the money you save in interest to your balance to get you out of debt faster. Don’t just move debt from one card to another to avoid paying it off.
  • It simplifies your finances. If you’re juggling multiple payments and due dates, you may find it easier to consolidate into one monthly lower-interest payment.

Cons: Why a balance transfer card might not be for you

  • If you don’t pay off your debt within the 0% period, you could be worse off. Without a solid plan in place to pay off the balance you’ve transferred, you could end up paying interest at even higher rate than on your previous card when the 0% period expires.
  • There’s typically a fee involved. Most cards have a balance transfer fee, and depending on how much you owe and the terms you’re looking for, it may not be worth it to shift your debt.
  • You need good to excellent credit to qualify. If your credit standing is just OK, you may not get approved for another card. And every time you apply for a new card, your score takes a hit, so it’s best not to apply if you think approval is a long shot.
  • You may get approved for an amount less than you want to transfer. The new card's issuer might let you transfer only a portion of what you owe. For example, it might set a limit of $5,000 on balance transfers. You can try asking for a higher amount. If that fails, consider other steps to pay down your debt.

» MORE: Compare 0% interest credit cards for good credit

How to compare balance transfer cards

1. Determine whether you qualify

In most cases, balance transfer credit cards require good or excellent credit. Generally, that means a credit score of about 690 or better. (You can get your credit score for free on NerdWallet.)

2. Look at the issuer that holds your current debt

In most cases, you can't transfer balances among cards from the same bank — from one Chase card to another Chase card, for example. This is important to know because it will save you from getting a card you can’t use. Be especially careful with store-branded credit cards, which often do not clearly identify the issuing bank. (Stores don't typically issue and manage their own credit cards; they partner with a bank to do it.)

3. Compare 0% APR periods for balance transfers

The longer the 0% period, the better, since you’ll have more time to pay down your debt without interest. But know that longer periods might mean higher transfer fees

4. Compare balance transfer fees

Transfer fees on most credit cards range from 3% to 5%. That’s equivalent to $30 to $50 for each $1,000 you transfer. A handful of cards do not charge transfer fees or waive them for an introductory period. But those cards are few and far between, and most of them require excellent credit. Also, cards that don’t charge a transfer fee generally have shorter 0% APR periods than balance transfer cards that do.

5. Say no to annual fees

A good balance transfer card will not charge an annual fee. Some rewards cards with annual fees do offer 0% introductory periods, but they're a bad choice for getting out of debt. (The rewards and sign-up bonuses on such cards encourage spending, and the annual fee eats up money that could be going to pay down debt.)

» MORE: Our guide to choosing a balance transfer card.

Making the most of your balance transfer credit card

  • Use your balance transfer credit card only for debt. The cards that save you the most while paying off debt generally don’t offer the best rewards. That's why it's better to use two cards: One for paying off debt over time, and one for making (and immediately paying off) new purchases.
  • Know when promotional periods end. Your card’s introductory 0% APR period doesn't last forever, and in most cases a $0 transfer fee is available only for a limited time. Transfer debt and pay it off within those time periods to avoid interest and fees. Read your credit card statements carefully — or just call your issuer and ask if you're not sure when the clock will run out.
  • Pay on time. If you’re late with a payment, your card’s 0% balance transfer APR will probably disappear. That’s because promotional terms often get voided if your account isn’t in good standing. Aside from losing the card’s most valuable feature, you might also have to pay a late fee (close to $40, typically) and a penalty interest rate (often about 30%). Avoid this basket of bad news by setting up automatic payments, if you’re confident you’ll have enough money in your account to cover at least the minimum. Make extra payments throughout the month, as your budget allows.
  • Make a plan. Take stock of your debt and figure out what you’ll have to do to become debt-free. Calculate how much extra money you can put toward your credit card debt each month, and track your progress as you chip away at the balance .

» MORE: Should I do a balance transfer?

Alternatives to a balance transfer

Maybe a balance transfer card isn’t right for you. There are other ways to get a handle on your debt.

1. Pay more than the minimum due

Your minimum monthly payment due is the absolute least you can pay without incurring a penalty. It won't get you very far toward paying off your debt. To see real interest savings, you need to pay interest on less money, and that means reducing the principal by paying more than the minimum.

2. Use a debt payment calculator

Debt payment calculators show you how much you could save in interest by paying down your credit card balance without a transfer. Enter your balance and choose an interest rate, then see your savings if you reduced the balance by 5% to 50%. See the calculator here.

3. Ask if you qualify for a lower rate

If your credit score has improved since you opened the account, it could pay off to ask your issuer to lower your interest rate. You might get some points knocked off your rate, or possibly get your account moved to a card with a lower rate. You may also be told it’s not possible, but it’s worth a phone call to ask.

» MORE: How to get a lower APR on your credit card

5. Consider a personal loan

A personal loan can be a solid option to get a handle on your high-interest debt. Personal loans can be issued by banks, credit unions and online lenders. Some loans designed for debt consolidation can even be paid directly to your creditors, streamlining the process.

» MORE: Where can I get a personal loan?

Keep in mind that a personal loan makes sense only if the interest rate on the loan is the less than the interest rate you were paying on your credit card debt. Shop around to find the most favorable terms and know that credit unions typically offer some of the best rates but you typically have to become a member to apply. Some online lenders charge origination fees, similar to when a balance transfer card charges a balance transfer fee. Be sure to do the math before committing to a card's terms.

» MORE: Compare personal loan rates from multiple lenders.

How our best balance transfer cards compare

Card Our pick for... 0% intro period for transfers Transfer fee
Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever Long intro 0% APR period 21 months 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card Purchases and transfers (excellent credit) 20 months 3%
Discover it® Balance Transfer Long-term value 18 months 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*
Wells Fargo Platinum card Purchases and transfers (good credit) 18 months 3% for 120 days, then 5%
BankAmericard® credit card Purchases and transfers (good credit) 18 billing cycles Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
Amex EveryDay® Credit Card $0 introductory transfer fee 15 months $0 (transfers must be requested within 60 days of account opening)

Information about The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been provided or reviewed by the issuer of this card.


 

Last updated on March 26, 2020

Methodology

NerdWallet's Credit Cards team selects the best balance transfer and 0% credit cards based on overall consumer value, as evidenced by star ratings, as well as their suitability for specific kinds of consumers. Factors in our evaluation include annual fees, balance transfer fees, the length of each card's 0% introductory APR period, ongoing APRs, credit-profile requirements, cardholders' access to credit scores, and other noteworthy features such as rewards or perks that give the card ongoing value beyond the promotional APR period.

Frequently asked questions

A balance transfer involves moving debt from a high-interest credit card to a new card with a lower interest rate, ideally one with an introductory 0% period. Essentially, you're using one card to pay off another, but because you aren't paying as much in interest, you have more money available to pay down your debt more quickly.

When evaluating balance transfer credit cards, you'll want to pay attention to:

  • The balance transfer fee. Most cards charge a fee of 3% to 5% of the amount transferred. That translates to $30 to $50 for each $1,000 transferred. Some cards charge no transfer fee, although such offers are getting harder to find.
  • The introductory interest rate. Credit cards designed for balance transfers offer a lower interest rate, often 0%, when you first open the account.
  • The length of the intro APR period. The longer the intro period, the better. Look for 15 months or more at 0%. When the promotional period ends, the interest rate shoots up, so you'll want to have your debt paid off by the end of that time.
  • The annual fee. The point of a balance transfer is to save money, so you shouldn't be paying an annual fee.
  • The issuer. You typically can't transfer debt between cards from the same issuer. For example, if you have debt on a Citi credit card, you can't move it to another Citi card.

You'll need good to excellent credit to qualify for a card with an introductory 0% period. That generally means a credit score of 690 or better.

The first step in executing a balance transfer is applying for a balance-transfer credit card. Once you're approved for the new card, tell that card's issuer that you want to do a transfer. (You can sometimes do this through your credit card's online portal or mobile app; in other cases, you'll have to call the number on the back of the card.)

The new card's issuer will ask for information about the balance you want to transfer, including the financial institution, the account number and the amount of the debt. Depending on your credit limit and the issuer's rules, you may be approved for the full amount of the transfer or only a portion.

The transfer can take a while, so keep an eye on both accounts until the debt disappears from the old one and shows up in the new one. Make at least the minimum payments on the old account until the debt is transferred.

A balance transfer by itself isn't going to have much of an effect on your credit score. The transfer doesn't make the debt go away; it simply moves it to a new place. In fact, applying for the balance transfer card could knock a few points off your score in the short term.

What matters is what you do after you transfer your balance. If you take advantage of the breathing room and significantly reduce your debt, your credit can benefit, since the amounts you owe are a significant factor in your scores.