Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards for 2017

Transfer your balance to a card with 0% interest, and get more time to pay.

Carrying a credit card balance can have a significant impact on your finances. While most consumers focus on APR (annual percentage rate), credit card interest actually accrues daily. Carrying a balance also affects your credit utilization. High credit utilization will damage your credit score, which can mean you’ll have to pay higher interest rates on future loans, adding to your cumulative debt. But don’t get discouraged! With a budget, a payoff plan, and the right tools, you can start working toward becoming debt-free today.

Balance transfer credit cards are one such tool. They offer extended 0% intro APR to cut interest out of your monthly payment and help you pay off your balance sooner. With a balance transfer card, your entire payment will be applied to your balance.

The Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer is our top balance transfer card for 2017. Its 18-month intro APR period is the most generous on our list, giving you the longest time to pay off your balance interest-free. It also offers a strong rewards program, with 5% cash back in rotating categories, 1% on all other purchases, and a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year. As a Discover cardmember, you’ll also get your FICO® Credit Score for free for easy credit monitoring.

Apply Now on Discover's secure website

Card Highlights
Card Highlights Provided by Discover:
  • You could turn $200 into $400 with Cashback Match™. Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, Amazon.com, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Redeem your cash back for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your FICO® Credit Score for free on monthly statements, on mobile and online.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.

Looking to transfer a large balance? We recommend the Chase Slate®. While it doesn’t include a rewards program, it offers $0 balance transfer fees. Most balance transfer cards charge a 3-5% fee per transfer. If you need to transfer a large balance or multiple balances to consolidate your debt, the Chase Slate®’s $0 balance transfer fees could make a big difference.

Any card on our shortlist will give you the 0% intro APR you’re looking for. But your ideal balance transfer card will depend on your unique situation. Ready to find the perfect fit? Explore our top balance transfer cards of 2017 below. When you find one you like, applying online is quick and easy.

The Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards for 2017

The Simple Dollar’s Top Picks

Best Overall:
Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer

Apply Now on Discover's secure website


April – June 2017
Earn 5% Cashback Bonus® at home improvement stores & wholesale clubs on up to $1500 in purchases when you activate.

Looking for a full-featured balance transfer card with few compromises? The Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer is our top balance transfer card of 2017. Its extra-long 0% intro APR is the most generous on our list. In addition to a strong rewards program, this card offers a unique cash back bonus that will double the rewards you earn in your first year, automatically. All with no annual fee.

With this card, earning cash back on purchases is a snap. You’ll earn 5% cash back on purchases in rotating categories (plus 1% back on other purchases). Now through June 2017, the 5% category is home improvement stores and wholesale clubs, so you can earn rewards on spring DIY projects and bulk grocery purchases. And redeeming cash back is as easy as earning it. We recommend redeeming your rewards for a statement credit to pay off your balance even sooner — but you can also redeem for gift cards, eDeposit, or charitable donation. Shop on Amazon often? Discover cardmembers can redeem rewards instantly at Amazon.com checkout for added convenience.

Altogether, the Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer offers the benefit of a balance transfer card — extended intro APR — with the rewards potential of a cash back credit card. This versatility ensures it will have a place in your wallet long after you pay off your transferred balance.

Highlights

Highlights

How To Use It

Best Use

Consider This

Consider This

Our Verdict

Our Verdict

Card Highlights Provided by Discover:
  • You could turn $200 into $400 with Cashback Match™. Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, Amazon.com, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Redeem your cash back for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your FICO® Credit Score for free on monthly statements, on mobile and online.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • Transfer your balance(s) from high-APR cards and pay off as much as possible during the 0% intro APR period.
  • Use this card for all purchases that fall within Discover’s rotating categories to earn 5% cash back.
  • Get your FICO® Credit Score for free on your monthly statement and online via your Discover account.
You’ll pay a 3% balance transfer fee on each transferred balance. Tip: use The Simple Dollar’s Debt Payoff Calculator to estimate how much interest you’ll pay on your current balance. If the number you get for Total Interest is larger than 3% of your current balance, the Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer is a good fit. If your Total Interest is smaller than 3% of your balance, consider the Chase Slate® for $0 balance transfer fees.
With extended 0% intro APR, excellent rewards potential, and first-year rewards matching, the Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer can help you pay off your balance sooner, interest-free — and help you earn cash back while you’re at it.

Best for Large Balances:
Chase Slate®

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

The Chase Slate® is our top pick for anyone who needs to transfer a large balance or multiple balances. That’s because, unlike most balance transfer cards, it doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee.

It’s common for balance transfer cards to charge a small fee (usually 3-5%) per transfer. Since the average APR in 2017 hovers around 16%, a balance transfer can still mean significant savings, even when taking a balance transfer fee into account — but those looking to transfer a large balance should look for a card without balance fees, like the Chase Slate®. While it doesn’t offer a rewards program, the 3-5% savings on balance transfer fees could add up quickly, depending on the size and number of your transferred balance(s).

In addition to $0 balance transfer fees, the Chase Slate® offers 15 months of 0% intro APR. (Note: to lock in the 0% intro APR, you’ll need to transfer your balance within the first 60 days of account opening.) That means no interest payments until 2018 with minimal upfront costs and no annual fee.

Highlights

Highlights

How To Use It

Best Use

Consider This

Consider This

Our Verdict

Our Verdict

  • $0 Introductory balance transfer fee for transfers made during the first 60 days of account opening
  • Chase Slate named "Best Credit Card for Balance Transfers" four years in a row by Money Magazine
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers
  • Monthly FICO® Score and Credit Dashboard for free
  • No Penalty APR – Paying late won't raise your interest rate (APR). All other account pricing and terms apply
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • Transfer your balance(s) during the first 60 days.
  • Budget to pay off as much as possible during the intro APR period.
  • If you have a rewards card, use it to make new purchases. If you don’t, consider transitioning to one after your balance is paid off.
Important note: you won’t be able to transfer a balance from another Chase account to the Chase Slate®. Also, the Chase Slate® doesn’t include access to a rewards program, so if you have a rewards card, we recommend making new purchases on that card (and using the Chase Slate® solely to pay off your existing balance).
With $0 balance transfer fees and 0% intro APR, the Chase Slate® is a powerful tool for paying off debt interest-free. Use it to focus your debt elimination efforts with minimal fees and minimal fuss — and to become debt-free sooner.

Great Signup Bonus:
Chase Freedom®

Apply Now on Chase's secure website


April 1 – June 30, 2017
Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases at grocery stores (not including Walmart® and Target® purchases) and drugstores.

The Chase Freedom® is a popular option among both cash back and balance transfer credit cards. It pairs 0% intro APR with a lucrative rewards program and a $150 bonus. The bonus is easy to earn, too: just spend $500 in your first three months. (We recommend putting your signup bonus — and any cash back you earn with the card — toward your balance to pay off what you owe even faster.)

With the Chase Freedom®, you’ll earn 5% cash back in bonus categories each quarter you activate, plus unlimited 1% on all other purchases. From now through June 2017, the 5% category includes grocery stores (not including Walmart and Target) and drugstores. So in addition to paying down your balance interest-free, you can earn rewards on purchases you’re making already. The Chase Freedom®’s crowd-pleasing cash back program makes it a smart choice for balance transfers and beyond. Use it to tackle your existing debt, then hang onto it after your balance is paid off for long-term rewards potential.

Highlights

Highlights

How To Use It

Best Use

Consider This

Consider This

Our Verdict

Our Verdict

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.74-24.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee
  • Transfer your balances from cards with high APRs. Plan to pay them off within the intro APR period.
  • Keep an eye on the 5% bonus categories to maximize your cash back.
  • Spend $500 in your first three months to earn the $150 bonus.
Balance transfers are subject to a fee of 5% or $5, whichever is greater. This is the most substantial balance transfer fee on our list. Use The Simple Dollar’s Debt Payoff Calculator to estimate how much interest you’ll pay on your current balance. If your Total Interest is smaller than 5% of your balance, consider the Chase Slate® for $0 balance transfer fees.
The Chase Freedom® can help you save big on interest over time. But that’s not all! Its easy-to-earn signup bonus, rewards program, and $0 annual fee make it a good card to have, even after you pay off your transferred balance. Choose this card to enjoy bonuses up front, plus the long-term benefit of interest-free payments.

Best Rewards for Everyday Purchases:
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Apply Now on AmericanExpress.com's secure website

Like our previous pick, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is a strong balance transfer option that doubles as a cash back card. Its rewards structure is perfect for maximizing rewards on everyday purchases. And its $100 signup bonus is easily attainable: just spend $1,000 in your first three months.

With this card, you’ll earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year, then 1%). You’ll also get 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select department stores — and 1% on everything else. That’s impressive rewards potential for a flat-rate cash back card; many offer lower rates or charge an annual fee for the privilege. But not the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. Plus, the rewards you earn with this card are redeemable for a statement credit, so you can apply them toward your balance!

Highlights

Highlights

How To Use It

Best Use

Consider This

Consider This

Our Verdict

Our Verdict

  • $100 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • No annual fee.
  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).
  • 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 13.74% to 24.74%.
  • Expanding merchant acceptance: Over 1 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in the last year.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Transfer balances that are subject to high interest rates; budget to pay them off during the 0% intro APR period.
  • Keep this card after you pay off your balance to earn cash back on groceries and gas.
Balance transfers are subject to a fee of 3% or $5, whichever is greater. Compare this fee to your average monthly interest payment to calculate your savings over the 0% intro APR period. If you need to transfer a high balance or multiple balances, we recommend the Chase Slate® for $0 balance transfer fees.
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is an excellent choice both short- and long-term. There’s no annual fee to contend with and no rotating rewards categories to watch. Use it to pay down your transferred balance with 0% interest — and earn high-rate cash back on everyday purchases like groceries and gas.

Honorable Mention:
Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard®

Apply Now on Barclaycard's secure website

The Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard®, a recent addition to our list, is a solid option for anyone looking to transfer a large balance. What it lacks in a rewards program, it makes up for with $0 balance transfer fees. Since most balance transfer cards charge a 3-5% fee on average per transfer, this can mean significant savings for anyone planning to transfer a high balance (or balances from multiple accounts).

Use the Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® to get a handle on your existing debt. If you have another credit card with a rewards program, we recommend using that card for new purchases. If you don’t have a rewards card, you can consider opening one once you’ve paid off your transferred balance.

Highlights

Highlights

How To Use It

Best Use

Consider This

Consider This

Our Verdict

Our Verdict

  • 0% Introductory APR for the first 15 months on purchases. Plus, you'll get a 0% introductory APR for 15 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 13.74%
  • No balance transfer fees
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Chip technology, so paying for your purchases is more secure at chip-card terminals in the U.S. and abroad
  • Free online access to FICO® Credit Score
  • Transfer your balance within 45 days of opening your account.
  • Pay off as much as possible during the 0% intro APR period.
  • If you own another card with a rewards program, make new purchases on that card to earn cash back or points.
You’ll need to transfer your balance in your first 45 days to lock in the 0% intro APR. Additionally, the Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® doesn’t include a rewards program. If you already have a cash back or other rewards card, this doesn’t matter as much; simply use your rewards card for new purchases. If you don’t have a large balance or multiple balances to transfer, we recommend the Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer for the longer intro APR period and 5% cash back in rotating categories.
The Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® may not have many bells and whistles, but its unique combination of features make it a powerful debt elimination tool. With $0 balance transfer fees, 0% intro APR, and no annual fee, this card offers a pathway to financial freedom with minimal upfront costs.

 

Best Transfer Credit Cards of 2017: Summed Up

The Best Way To Use A Balance Transfer Card

Let’s say you have a high balance to transfer and don’t want to get hung up on the fees charged by most cards. The Chase Slate® is the only card on my list that doesn’t have any fees for transferring a balance for the first 60 days of account opening. If you need as long as possible to pay down your debts, you may want to consider a different balance transfer card with a longer timeline.

Also, balance transfer cards extend the 0% APR offer to balance transfers and purchases. These cards simply offer more flexibility to manage your cash flow and pay down debt without donating your money to high interest payments. So, you can use a balance transfer offer to make a large purchase at 0% APR, then use the promotional period to pay it off over time. The best 0% balance transfer cards will usually offer 0% on new purchases for at least 6 months.

This is obviously to incentivize people to keep spending on the cards, but if you’re not in debt, you can take advantage of it. Maybe you want to buy a couch, pay a medical bill, or tackle a home renovation project.

Other reasons to get a balance transfer card:

  • Consolidate your debts or get rid of cards with fees
  • Upgrade your credit card to earn more rewards
  • Add a card with great service and amenities

If your credit is good and you’re in this camp you should check out my reviews of the best rewards credit cards, best cash back credit cards, or best travel credit cards.

Research More Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Our team also created a directory of the most popular balance transfer credit cards available today. This directory was used as a starting point for my research and analysis. It is updated weekly to reflect any new changes to balance transfer offers, to add new cards, and to remove any expired deals.

The balance transfer credit cards directory is customized to highlight the most important features for balance transfer credit cards. It includes every credit card that has a 0% intro APR on balance transfers and rates each offer based on a number of key factors.

Balance Transfer Credit Card Directory

In order to value each of these cards, certain features were balanced accordingly based on overall importance to the prospective cardholder. The most relevant features for balance transfer credit cards are Balance Transfer Fee, Introductory Balance Transfer APR, Ongoing APR, and Annual Fee.

Obviously the biggest feature is having a 0% intro APR. You can also use the directory to filter by signup bonus or ongoing rewards if those are features that are more important to you.

Sort By Card Name
Rewards Tier Level
Common Filters Great Signup Bonus
Great Ongoing Rewards
Balance Transfer Fee 3% or lower
Intro Balance Transfer APR 0% 12+ Months
Only Fair Credit Score Needed
Search Do you know of a card that is not in our directory? Suggest a Card Here
Credit Card
Annual Fee
Introductory Balance Transfer APR
Introductory Balance Transfer Period
Balance Transfer Fee
Ongoing APR
Apply Online
Credit Card
Annual Fee
Introductory Balance Transfer APR
Introductory Balance Transfer Period
Balance Transfer Fee
Ongoing APR
Apply Online
$0
0%
* (?)
15 months
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
15.74% - 24.49% Variable
$0
0%
* (?)
18 months
3%
11.74% – 23.74% Variable
$0
0%
* (?)
15 Months
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
15.74% - 24.49% Variable
$0
0%
* (?)
N/A
3% of the amount of each transfer that posts to your account through your 09/2016 billing period.
12.9% - 22.9% Variable
$0
0%
* (?)
Until July 2015
3% of the amount transferred until July 2015.
10.9% - 18.9% Variable
$0
0%
* (?)
12 months
Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
11.24% - 18.24% Variable
$0
0%
* (?)
12 months
$10 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater (maximum fee:$250).
13.24% - 20.24% Variable
$0
0%
* (?)
12 months
Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
11.24% - 18.24% Variable
$0
N/A
N/A
3% of the amount of each transfer (maximum fee per transfer $200).
11.65% - 26.65% (Variable)
$0
0%
* (?)
12 months
Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
9.24% - 12.24% Variable

Rating Methodology

To come up with a list of top balance transfer credit cards, I used the information shown in the directory above in addition to other data gathered on each credit card. For a better explanation of what was analyzed, I’ve included additional details below. Sometimes the terminology in the credit card world can be a bit confusing, so take a look if you’re unsure of anything.

Balance Transfer Fee

Credit card companies usually charge a fee of up to 3% when you transfer a balance to a new card. This means that if you transfer a $10,000 balance, you will pay an extra $300 to the credit card company. Even some of the best balance transfer credit cards on this list charge this fee.

The Balance Transfer Fee carries high importance because it can likely cost you a decent amount of money. However, depending on the card you choose, the fee may be worth it to get a few extra months of zero interest.

The Chase Slate® does not have a balance transfer fee for the first 60 days of account opening, making it the top choice on my list. The Discover it® has an industry-leading intro offer of 18 months for a balance transfer, which is six months longer than any other card, including the Chase Slate®. Deciding which of these cards to commit to may come down to knowing how much you’ll transfer, so you can decide between having no fee or the longer introductory period.

Balance Transfer Intro APR

The Balance Transfer Intro APR refers to the promotional interest rate charged for transferring a balance or making new purchases. The Intro APR is 0% for the best balance transfer credit cards. Nothing higher should be considered unless you can’t get approved.

Intro APR holds a high importance level when ranking all the top balance transfer cards simply because the main reason to transfer a balance is to stop paying interest for a period of time by taking advantage of a 0% APR.

Many times, the Intro APR is also extended to new purchases, not just balance transfers. This way, you can take advantage by purchasing items and paying them off over the introductory period without accruing interest.

Balance Transfer Intro Period

The Balance Transfer Intro Period is the time frame for which the Intro APR or other promotion is valid. As I mentioned earlier, the best balance transfer credit cards will run a 0% Intro APR on a combination of balance transfers or new purchases for at least 12 months, with some offering up to 18 months.

The Intro Period is of high importance because it controls the amount of time you can start paying down a high balance without accruing interest.

Ongoing APR

Ongoing APR is the interest rate charged on your balance after the Intro Period. The key determinant of your ongoing APR is your credit score and history. Note that there is no limit on the interest rate that can be charged by credit card companies.

Balance transfer cards have ongoing APRs that range as low as 10.99% and go beyond 20%. If you have good credit, the APR rate for you will be on the lower end. APR differs from Intro APR because it is the permanent rate. Once you get beyond the designated time period for any introductory APR offers, the credit card will default to the ongoing APR rate.

As I mentioned many times, you shouldn’t get a credit card if you plan on carrying a balance. But, if you must carry a balance after the Intro Period, look for the lowest APR possible.

Rewards Rate

Rewards Rate refers to the actual rate at which you can earn rewards on a credit card. Several of the best balance transfer cards do offer rewards on new purchases and some do not. Rewards Rate carries a low importance rating because the main purpose of a balance transfer card is to pay down debt and not earn rewards. Rewards rate is not included as a main feature in the balance transfer credit cards directory, but it does have a slight impact on some of the card ratings and you can filter by Great Ongoing Rewards.

A really good strategy is to completely pay down your balance with Chase Slate® because of its 60-day no balance-transfer fee and solid Intro Rate and Intro Period and then shift to one of the best rewards credit cards when you feel your balance is manageable. I wouldn’t recommend being overly concerned with rewards when your main focus should be on getting rid of your debt.

Top balance transfer cards, like the Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer and Chase Freedom®, will offer rotating categories that enable you to earn 5% cash back on a variety of common purchases each quarter. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is also a solid card for balance transfers, as it offers 6% at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). Again, you should only be concerned with these rewards after you pay off your balance and start to consider using one of these cards long-term.

The Truth About Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Key Takeaways

  1. Look at the most important details to find the right card for your situation.
  2. Transfer a balance if you are facing late payment fees on a high balance.
  3. Consider the long-term features of the card after the balance transfer.
  4. Know your credit score to apply for the right card so your transfer is not delayed.

What To Do Before Getting a Balance Transfer Credit Card

Review the Most Important Details of Each Card

Most cards offer a low introductory APR on balance transfers. However, it’s critical to look at the whole deal first to get an idea if the card fits your unique situation. Again, some of the most important factors to consider are:

  • Introductory Balance Transfer Rate
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Length
  • Balance Transfer Fee

Often, it’s the balance transfer fee that goes undetected until you’re already signed up and about to transfer your balance. You then see there are a few hundred dollars missing. This fee is charged as a percentage of the balance you are transferring over. Rates can vary by company, but they’re generally around 3%. Chase Slate® is the only card on this list that does not charge a balance transfer fee for the first 60 days of account opening.

The introductory balance transfer rate should always be 0% on any balance transfer card you consider. Never transfer a balance to any card that does not have a 0% intro rate on balance transfers.

Depending on the card you get, the 0% intro balance transfer rate will vary. Remember, you want to get a card that has a 0% balance transfer intro period for at least 12 months or longer. This gives you ample time to pay off your balance.

Check Your Credit Score

Getting a 0% balance transfer used to be a piece of cake. Since the financial crisis, the availability of this great offer has tightened up. The best terms are available to those who have good or excellent credit. It can pay to check your credit score ahead of time and make sure it aligns with the new card to qualify. If you don’t check and are denied, this could negatively impact your credit score.

You should also be mindful of credit score changes. Keep an eye on your old accounts and know how many credit cards you have open. I’ve heard stories of people going to buy a house and realizing an old credit card has dinged their credit report. You can check out our review of credit report sites for more info on how to get your score (for free).

There are various schools of thought but, generally speaking, making changes to your credit card accounts will impact your credit score. You do have some control over whether those changes are positive or negative. For some more insight into this topic, check out these tips for cancelling a credit card.

Consolidate Multiple Cards and Other Debt

In many circumstances, you can stay current on payments by taking several of your cards with high balances and consolidating them into one balance. You can avoid keeping up with multiple payments each month by tracking just one card.

Additionally, you may be able to move loans for cars, appliances, furniture, and other monthly installment payments to a low- or zero-interest balance transfer credit card. You can do this because credit card companies often issue paper checks drawn on your new credit card account. You can use these checks to pay off your installment loans (if they’re small enough) when you open a new credit card account.

Come Up with a Plan to Pay Off Your Debt

There’s no use in getting a balance transfer credit card under conditions of complete panic. Gather yourself and come up with a plan to use a balance transfer credit card as a tool to help your financial situation.

The worst thing you can do is repeat the same issue and end up not paying off your balance again on the new card you transferred your balance to. By having a plan in place on how to attack your debt, you’ll be ready to use a balance transfer credit card the right way.

The Plan: How to Gain Control of Your High-Interest Credit Card Debt

Without question, the number-one reason people seek out the best balance transfer credit cards is to help get a handle on their high-interest credit card debt. There are many reasons for accumulating credit card debt, and many of these situations involve some sort of emergency spending. Regardless of the reasons for accumulating credit card debt, getting control over your debt takes the right tools and a plan.

I’d recommend the following to get started:

  1. This guide (to find the best balance transfer card for your situation)
  2. A way to analyze your expenses
  3. Credit score & credit monitoring

Rule #1: Stop Digging

The first rule for getting out of a hole is to stop digging. I first heard that saying as a high-school basketball player and it’s stuck with me ever since. Odds are, if you’re reading this guide you’ve somehow found yourself in the hole of credit card debt.

It doesn’t matter how you got here. All that matters are the next steps you take, and your first step is to stop adding to your credit card debt. Get it under control.

You don’t need to cut up your existing cards or put them in the freezer as some people say. Drastic measures may be needed in extreme cases, but most people who are serious about trimming their debt can continue using a credit card without getting behind. Treat it like cash!

Rule #2: Stop Paying Interest

To stop paying interest on your credit card debt, you need to do two things:

  1. Find a solid balance transfer card.
  2. Consolidate as much as you can onto that card.

Understand Your Credit Score

You want to apply for a card that you can get approved for. While there is no way to know for sure without applying, knowing your credit score will give you a general idea of how likely it is you’ll be approved. If you’re in credit card trouble, is a good idea to sign up for a credit monitoring service so you can keep track of your score and other important changes to your credit report.

For the most part, balance transfer cards are good credit cards for people with decent credit who are trying to avoid damaging their credit and making high interest payments. If you have lower credit, there won’t be many great offers for you because most balance transfer cards won’t want to take on high risk consumers who already have a history of not paying off credit card debt.

Select the Best Balance Transfer Card for You

My recommendation for those who seriously need to pay down debt is to go with the Chase Slate® card. You won’t earn any rewards if you continue to use the card for new purchases, but this card offers the best combination of features to help you have more of your money go toward eliminating your debt.

Chase Slate® offers a 0% intro rate on balance transfers and new purchases for 15 months. While some other cards have introductory-period offers for up to 18 months, Chase Slate® is the only card that does not charge a balance transfer fee, if you transfer your balance within the first 60 days of account opening. This fee is usually 3%, so this feature alone can save you hundreds of dollars.

A good option for balance transfers while earning cash back on new purchases is Discover it® because it has a 0% intro period of 18 months and earns up to 5% cash back in rotating categories. Keep in mind, however, this card does have a balance transfer fee and isn’t as widely accepted as Visa or MasterCard.

A very comparable card to Discover it® is Chase Freedom®. The Chase Freedom® is available as a Visa or MasterCard so it’s widely accepted everywhere.

Consolidate and Transfer Your Credit Card Debt

Once you’ve selected the proper card, gather all of your credit card debt and transfer as much as possible to the new card, starting with the highest-rate balances first. This will help you take advantage of that 0% introductory period.

Then, divide your entire balance by the number of months on your introductory period. This gives you the monthly payment you need to pay off all of your debt by the end of the intro period.

Example: Balance transfer in action

You have three credit cards with a total combined balance of $7,000. You sign up for the Chase Slate® card and transfer all of the $7,000 to the new card. Your new balance is still $7,000 because Chase Slate® does not have a balance transfer fee for the first 60 days of account opening. The 0% intro APR period on Chase Slate® is for 15 months.

In order to have the entire $7,000 paid off in 15 months, you’ll have to come up with an extra $466.67 per month. An insurmountable debt that was going to continue to grow sitting on your other cards is now somewhat manageable. The key is to find a feasible number that makes a huge dent in that debt while taking advantage of the 0% intro APR period.

Rule #3: Create the Payoff Plan

Now that you’ve selected the right tool to knock down your interest rate, it’s time to lock in a solid plan to pay off the balance.

Step 1: Understand your Spending

Your first objective is to free up cash flow you can put toward paying down your debt. To do this you need to understand your spending. Most credit card companies have online monthly statements where you can go back and see every transaction you’ve made. You can begin to see patterns and hone in on areas where you spend more than you should.

Many credit cards also provide a year-end breakdown with your spending by categories. The best cards have great online analytics that help you visualize your spending in near real time.

If your card doesn’t have any of these options, another great option is to use a free web service like Mint.com. Mint helps you expand your spending analysis outside of credit cards by linking in your bank account debit transactions, checks, and other expenditures.

Step 2: Free Up Cash

Once you know how you spend, you can figure out where to pull back. This is, of course, easier said than done. If you’re looking for some creative ways to cut spending, spend some time in the archives of The Simple Dollar. Trent, the founder of this site, shares tons and tons of useful “frugality” tips he used to get himself out of debt and still applies today.

A particularly useful starting point is Rule 9: Do It Yourself. I also recommend Trent’s advice for things to do on a money-free weekend, which will keep you entertained while you save money at the same time.

The key is to be brutally honest about the money you spend and the true value of the services you use. Take cable TV for instance. With cheap streaming services, websites, and devices, cable TV is becoming less relevant. I would save at least $150 per month if I cut it out of my budget.

Younger generations are also getting rid of their cars and moving closer into central city districts. They prefer walking to work and not having to deal with high car payments, gas, and maintenance. Car sharing services like Zipcar make going carless a reality.

Consider a few of these changes to free up cash and pay down your debt more quickly. Some of them may fit your situation while others may not, but there are options out there.

Step 3: Create a Systematic Payment Plan

Once you’ve made some changes to free up cash each month, you need to match the freed-up cash on a monthly basis to the intro period. As I did in the example above, you will take your new balance and divide it over the number of months in your introductory period, which is 15 months for Chase Slate®. This will give you a nice, smooth “payment” that you can make each month to lower your debt.

You will want to systematically siphon off that money for debt payments before it can go anywhere else. Set up automatic payments to your credit card if you can, or set up auto transfers to a different bank account you’ll use to pay your credit card bills each month. You can easily set up a free checking account or online savings account for these purposes.

Exceptions to the Rules

Exception to Rule #1: Stop Digging

This rule is not meant for extreme circumstances. Sometimes, high credit-card spending is simply unavoidable. Job losses, medical bills, and other emergencies are examples of situations where reliance on credit cards may be warranted if all other options have been exhausted.

Exception to Rule #2: Stop Paying Interest

This rule assumes you can take advantage of a 0% balance transfer credit card’s features. There are a few instances where you can’t completely stop paying interest:

  1. Some people may not be able to qualify for a balance transfer card.
  2. You may not qualify for high enough of a limit to consolidate all of your credit card debt.
  3. You cannot pay off all of your debt by the end of the intro period.

If you don’t qualify for a balance transfer card, creating a systematic payoff plan is even more crucial because you won’t have the safety net of 0% interest for a period of time. You will want to tweak the plan to be more aggressive in paying down your balances on the higher-interest rate cards first, then move on to lower-interest cards down the line.

If you can’t consolidate all your debt on a 0% card, you will end up paying some interest. I would transfer the highest-rate balances to the new card, then target your free cash at whatever balance could not be transferred over while maintaining your minimum payment on the new balance transfer card. Once this is paid down, you can shift the free cash to the new balance to get that under control.

If you can’t pay everything down by the end of the intro period, you will also pay some interest on the remaining balance. I recommend reviewing your spending plan at the end of the intro period to see if you can free up more cash to apply to the remaining balance. Continue your systematic payment plan as long as it takes.

Exception to Rule #3: Create the Payoff Plan

There really are NO exceptions to this rule. You will never pay off your debt without a solid plan. The only caveat is in a situation where a person might have have large lump payments instead of creating smooth monthly payments. Salespeople often encounter this situation because their pay is highly variable. Inheritances also create a situation where someone would have a lump payment.

Regardless of how you pay, you must still have a plan and understand the costs and benefits of your approach.

For instance, the key is to make the payments as quickly as possible on interest-bearing debt. If you have interest-bearing credit card debt, you never want to “save” money in a bank account to make later payments unless you have to. This is because your interest rate is higher than anything you will earn in a bank account, so making frequent payments is more effective.

By following these rules, and understanding if any exceptions apply to your situation, you will be well on your way to tackling your credit card debt and liberating your financial future in 2017 and beyond.

Best Balance Transfer Credit Card – Chase Slate®

Apply Now

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

About this resource:

Created on: May 09, 2017

Updated on: May 22, 2017

Edited by: Mike Jelinek, Michael Gardon, Christine Neilson

Research by: Mike Jelinek, Michael Gardon, Montana Thomas

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