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With their introductory 0% APR offers, the best balance transfer credit cards can be a lifesaver if you’re struggling with high-interest debt and can’t seem to make any headway in paying it off.
That’s because the best balance transfer cards offer you a window of time – often 12 months or more – where interest doesn’t accrue on your balance, allowing you to make faster progress even as you pay off the debt at your leisure. (Just don’t be too leisurely: Once the window closes, the regular interest rate on the remaining debt returns.)
Also note that many of the top balance transfer cards don’t charge an annual fee, and that many even offer rewards programs. If you’re tired of dealing with debt and think a balance transfer card could help, check out our list of the top balance transfer cards available in 2019.
The Simple Dollar’s Best Balance Transfer Cards of 2019
Balance Transfer Fee3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*
5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
Current OfferGet a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
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 at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time 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.
Rewards Details: 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
Balance Transfer Fee:3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*
The Discover it® Balance Transfer card is perfect for anyone looking for a long window of introductory 0% interest on transferred balances and then the ongoing APR of 14.24% - 25.24% Variable APR. With this card, you’ll get a year-and-a-half to pay off any transferred balances without getting hit with interest. On top of that, there’s no annual fee to complicate things.
When it comes to the Discover it® Balance Transfer card, the name really says it all. With this card, you’ll have over a year to pay off a transferred balance without dealing with interest. However, you will need to pay it off within that window or else you could end up incurring interest.
Why you'll love it
Who doesn’t love 18 months of 0% interest for balance transfers (after that ongoing APR is 14.24% - 25.24% Variable)? The Discover it® Balance Transfer card offers this in addition to a substantial rewards program. You could earn 5% cash back up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate at gas pumps, grocery stores, and more. In addition to that, you could earn 1% unlimited cash back automatically on all other purchases.
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is the perfect blend of everyday rewards and great intro APR (See Rates & Fees). You could earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) and 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions. And that’s not even covering the 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit. All while enjoying a year-long window of interest-free bliss on balance transfers (See Rates & Fees).
While the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express may not have the longest introductory APR, it makes up for that with high-rate rewards. Use a budget, and you could save money on interest on both your balance transfers and your cash-back earning purchases.
The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card has the lowest signup bonus requirements. If you’re looking to pay down your debt and earn some fast rewards, then this is the card for you. If your purchases for the first three months add up to $500, you’ll earn a $150 cash back bonus.
Transfers from existing Capital One® accounts are not allowed. So, if you have balances on other Capital One® cards (includes branded cards, such as Kohl’s, Sony, GM, BuyPower Card, Union Plus, and Teamster Privilege), you won’t be able to do a balance transfer to this card.
The term “zero-interest balance transfer credit card” refers to a credit card with a 0% introductory APR. That means you can transfer or consolidate one or more high-interest balances from other credit cards onto a single card, and you won’t have to pay interest on the debt during that introductory period. That way, every dollar you pay will go toward your debt, and not toward interest, allowing you to pay off the balance faster.
How Do Balance Transfer Credit Cards Work?
Balance transfer cards can help you pay down debt if you are able to qualify for a lower interest rate than you’re paying now. Most even offer 0% APR for 15 months or longer, making them a no-brainer if you have high interest debt you want to consolidate and pay off quickly. Here’s a basic rundown of the steps required for a balance transfer to work:
Determine your level of debt and how high the interest
Shop around for balance transfer credit cards, preferably with a 0% intro APR period
When you select a card with agreeable terms, transfer that outstanding debt
Pay off that transferred debt, taking advantage of your balance transfer credit card’s interest-free window
Are Balance Transfer Cards a Good Idea?
Balance transfer credit cards can be a handy tool for dealing with debt before it takes over your life. However, we would be remiss if we didn’t also point out the importance of responsible card use. In general, you should never charge something to a credit card you can’t afford. This can be easier said than done.
Sometimes, you do need to pull the trigger on a big purchase you might not have the cash for. In these situations, a good balance transfer credit card with 0% intro APR can help you tackle that balance before interest takes effect. But read the fine print. Sometimes, for instance, you’ll find that a balance transfer credit card allows you to transfer old debt without carrying interest – but new purchases (new debt, in other words) will have interest attached.
What Is a Balance Transfer Fee?
A balance transfer fee is usually a percentage you need to pay when you transfer a balance. This percentage is applied to the transferred credit card balance although some cards will also require a flat rate. For example, the Chase Freedom® card has a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer (whichever is greater).
How Do You Transfer a Balance?
Once you’ve done your research and been approved, gather account information for each card, call the customer service center for your balance transfer credit card and request a transfer. They’ll contact your other credit card company and handle the logistics.
How Long Do Balance Transfers Take?
This can vary, but the general estimate is a week or more. In the case of dealing with a creditor who needs to be paid by check, this can take even longer.
Can I Transfer Another Person’s Debt to My Balance Transfer Card?
This is doable, but also risky. If you have a strong enough credit score to be able to accept someone else’s balance, it could help relieve them of debt. But keep in mind that you’d be taking on additional fees and interest until you pay off the new balance. And if the person whose debt you’ve taken on doesn’t pay you back, creditors will hold you responsible.
Your overall credit history will be affected as well if you miss payments. So, if you’re willing to take on someone else’s debt, make sure you either trust that person or you’re on solid enough financial ground to be able to handle it. But use common sense. If this is your kid’s debt or your parent’s, and you have a great relationship, then maybe – even if they don’t pay you back – this is worth the risk. If it’s somebody you don’t know very well, perhaps someone with a sob story who promises to pay you back… give the person a handkerchief and not your credit card.
Do I Cancel My Old Credit Cards After a Balance Transfer?
No. In fact, it’s recommended that those who get a balance transfer card keep their old credit cards after the balance has been transferred — mainly to hold on to credit longevity. A longer credit history helps your overall credit score, and you could get dinged for canceling your older cards. You could also lose any unused rewards points you’ve earned with that card – though if a card has an annual fee, you’ll have to decide whether it’s still worth paying. There are also some additional steps you should take after completing a balance transfer
However, the main goal of getting a balance transfer card is to alleviate debt. So, if you got overextended with your old cards, you may want to remove the temptation by cutting ties — or at least cutting up the card so you don’t run up any new debts.
Is a Balance Transfer Worth It?
If you’re carrying a large amount of debt on a high-interest credit card, or have multiple debts that you want to pay with a single bill without consolidating debt, it may well be worth it. Transferring a balance to a 0% intro card may even save you money! For instance, on a high-interest 18% APR credit card, paying $350 a month for 15 months on a $5,000 balance would cost you $664 in interest.
Do Balance Transfers Affect Your Credit?
Yes. When you open a new credit card, you’ll probably see a short-term minimal drop in your score for a new hard inquiry on your credit report. Where a balance transfer credit card can help your score is credit utilization, which accounts for about one-third of your credit score. The more you can reduce your credit utilization rate, or how much of your available credit limit you’ve used up, the better the outcome for your credit score.
Keep in mind, a balance transfer credit card can vastly improve your credit score and financial life – if you transfer old debt and pay it off. It also could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in interest, depending how much money you’re transferring and how much longer it would have taken to pay off with the interest collecting. But the same card can ruin your credit score and financial life if you’re not careful. If you transfer old debt but don’t pay it off, and then end up maxing out both your new and old credit cards, you’re going to be worse off than you were before.
What Is a Low Interest Credit Card?
There’s a lot of overlap between the best balance transfer credit cards and the best low-interest credit cards, but, in general, it comes down to whether or not the introductory 0% APR is also extended to purchases. Typically, balance transfer credit cards are going to extend their best introductory rates to transfers specifically for up to 18 months. They may offer super-low or 0% introductory APR on purchases, but usually for a shortened period of time, such as six to 12 months. The best low-interest credit cards extend introductory 0% APR to both transfers and purchases, giving you a year or more in some cases, to enjoy interest-free payments. This makes them a great option for large purchases, such as a new refrigerator, not just transfers.
The Bottom Line
Balance transfers are a great way to enjoy a nice, long window of introductory 0% APR. With the right balance transfer credit card and an understanding of what is a balance transfer, you could save on interest! The best cards will offer extremely low or 0% interest rates, no balance transfer fees, and an extra-long period to pay off debt.
The best balance transfer credit card is the Discover It® Balance Transfer. After all, why choose between a balance transfer and rewards? The Discover it® Balance Transfer offers both, with 18 months of 0% APR on balance transfers (after that ongoing APR is 14.24% - 25.24% Variable) and high-rate rewards. Use this card to pay off your balance interest-free.
We designed our directory to highlight only the most important features. Those are the ones that would best help the cardholder get out from under credit card debt. There are other key factors we consider, as well, including rates, introductory APR, and more.
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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
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please click here.
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