If you are looking at a huge chunk of debt, you are so not alone.
At least not in the United States.
Your options are many, but here we’re looking at one excellent solution to debt around mortgages, loans, and credit cards: getting a balance transfer credit card. It’s a win-win because when you move debt from one credit card to take advantage of opening a balance transfer credit card, you can look for lower interest rates and introductory periods that no interest at all is going to be charged to you.
Here’s a list of the best balance transfers credit cards on the market to help you find the one that’s right for you.
Overview: best balance transfer credit cards
|Credit card||Best for||Credit needed||Introductory balance transfer terms|
|Citi Custom Cash℠ Card||Cash back and balance transfers||700+||0% for 15 months on purchases & 0% for 15 months on balance transfers|
|Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card||Long 0% APR period on balance transfers||700+||0% APR for 21 months (then the ongoing rate of 15.99% - 25.99% (Variable)|
In-depth analysis of the best balance transfer cards
The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card is a top choice for those looking to earn high cash back rewards and have no annual fee all the while paying off their balance transfer. To start, you have plenty of time to initiate your credit card balance transfer (four months) and once you do, you’ll have 15 months to pay it off – all the while enjoying 0% APR on purchases also.
Plus, you’ll get a $200 cash bonus for spending $750 within your first three months of account opening and, rather uniquely, 5% cash back in your top spending category each billing cycle.
The balance transfer fee is a little higher than average (5%) but depending on the amount you’re moving, the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card’s welcome bonus and 5% cash back may easily make up for it.
- Introductory APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases & 0% for 15 months on balance transfers (qualifying balance transfers must be made within first four months).
- Introductory term: 15 months.
- Regular APR: 16.24% - 26.24% (Variable).
- Balance transfer fee: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
- Annual fee: $0.
- Credit needed: Good to excellent (670+).
The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card has no annual fee and offers one of the most generous balance transfer deals on the market.
First, its introductory balance transfer term is a whopping 21 months, so you’ll have plenty of time to pay off your old debt.
This card also offers 0% intro APR on new purchases for 12 months, so you won’t have to sink further into debt due to interest in case you have a surprise bill like a car repair.
Second, its balance transfer fee is just $5 or 5% of the total amount of your transfer, whichever is greater. Keep in mind the transfer must be completed within the first 4 months of account opening.
The only “catch” to the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card is that you do need a strong credit score to be accepted, but if you do, you’re in luck.
- Introductory balance transfer APR: 0%.
- Introductory balance transfer term: 21 months.
- Regular APR: 15.99% - 25.99% (Variable).
- Balance transfer fee: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
- Annual fee: $0.
- Credit needed: Good to Excellent.
How much can you save with a balance transfer card?
Practically speaking, the big question on everyone’s mind is how much can you really save at the end of the day with a balance transfer card?
Is it worth the effort of applying, transferring, and reorganizing?
Will a balance transfer really save you money?
Get your individual balance transfer savings estimate with our balance transfer calculator below:
The answer highly depends on the rates and terms of the new credit card you are looking into. With the right APR, repayment terms, and fees, you can save substantially on your monthly payments as well as on your overall debt in the long run.
Here is a clear example of how much you can save with a balance transfer credit card:
Industry-Standard Credit Card Balance Transfer Card
Balance $8,500 $8,755 (principal plus fee)
APR 18% 0% for 18 months and 15% thereafter
Balance transfer fee $0 3% ($255)
Monthly payment $350 $350
Time to pay off 31 months 25 months
Total amount paid $10,670 $8,848
Amount of interest paid $2,170 $93
So, in our example, you’d be saving $1,822 by transferring to a strong balance transfer credit card. However, it’s important to note that balance transfers are not always beneficial to the cardholder. Sometimes, they can actually do more damage than good. For example:
Industry-Standard Credit Card Balance Transfer Card
Balance $2,500 $2625 (principal plus fee)
APR 18% 0% or 15 months and 16% thereafter
Balance transfer fee $0 5% ($125)
Monthly payment $550 $550
Time to pay off 5 months 6 months
Total amount paid $2,610 $2,625
Amount of interest paid $110 $0
By transferring your balance over to a card with a high transfer fee, despite the no-interest introductory period, you end up paying more.
How do you choose the right balance transfer credit card?
With so many options for valuable balance transfer credit cards, it might be hard to pick the right one. Or worse yet, if your credit isn’t great, you might not be able to find a good card to help you out of your tight spot. So, whether you are limited or trying to limit your choices, what are the most important features to look out for in a balance transfer credit card?
Ultimately, the right balance transfer credit card for you will depend on your financial situation. It should offer you the best combination of the most important factors including:
A balance transfer credit card that charges a high annual fee will invariably eat away at any savings you were hoping to glean from the lack of balance transfer fees. Search for a card that offers low or even no annual fees. Many of the cards on the chart above charge no annual fees.
Balance transfer fee
Many credit cards that are great for balance transfers because of their low or 0 introductory APR offer still charge a fee for moving the money over to your new card. So, you have to ask how much will it cost you to transfer your balance over to the other card? Fees can range from 0% – 5% depending on the card.
One thing you need to be careful of with balance transfer credit cards is the misleading calculations. Sometimes, a card will offer you a low balance transfer fee with an astronomical interest rate. At this point, you are likely paying more than you would have by opting for a higher balance transfer fee.
Always use an online calculator like the one we provide to give you a clear idea of how much you will be paying monthly and overall with all factors (including balance transfer fees and interest rates) being taken into consideration.
This is the most intriguing factor for many people drowning in debt. If you are being choked by a suffocating interest rate, an offer that allows you to pay 0% interest for a limited amount of time can be incredibly enticing.
In fact, these balance transfer credit cards are extremely helpful in allowing people to pay off a large chunk of their debt without the overbearing weight of staggering interest payments canceling out their payments. So, a credit card that offers an attractive introductory APR is a good one.
Finally, take a look at the card’s regular APR. Why? Because if you haven’t finished paying off your debt by the time the promotional period ends (and many people will not), then you’ll be left paying the regular interest rates for the remainder of your balance. If the regular APR is astronomical, you had better be prepared to pay off your debt before the introductory promotion ends, or pay for it through the nose.
At the end of the day, the best balance transfer credit card for you is one that has the features that work with your finances best.
Plan on paying your debt off quickly? Then look for a card with no balance transfer offer or annual fees. Need more time to pay it off? Opt for a card that offers low APRs all the time.
Either way, you can take advantage of the great offers made by these reputable balance transfer cards to help you alleviate a lot of the weight of your current debt.
Who needs a balance transfer credit card?
Credit card debt continues to rise each year, with more than $1.02 trillion dollars in revolving balances nationally. The average American household owes approximately $15,654, and that’s just in credit card debt.
Factor in mortgages, auto payments, student loans, and other types of debt, and the figures rise to roughly $131,431 per household. With such crippling figures, it isn’t surprising that Americans are seeking a better way to handle their finances. Many aren’t even aware of the balance transfer option, forcing them to use more desperate means to manage their debt. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to continue this way. Most people can take advantage of the tremendous savings a balance transfer credit card has to offer, including:
People paying excessively high interest rates
Balance transfer credit cards can help you save significantly on your interest payments. See the section below to understand just how much you can save.
People with debt on multiple credit cards
Multiple monthly payments can be difficult to manage, both financially as well as organizationally, especially when the is with more than one credit . Most people lose track of these payments and, subsequently, the . That is the beginning of the slippery slope known as credit card debt that often ends in crippling charges that are too much to handle.
Consolidating debt is one of the smartest ways to get ahead of a mounting pile of bills that might have gotten away from you. After all, it’s much easier to make one payment towards your credit card balance each month than it is to juggle multiple payments simultaneously. Transferring the balance of several credit cards into one lower payment is more financially feasible and simpler to manage.
People with other forms of debt
You can transfer other types of debt in addition to credit card debt. Car payments, personal loans, and other monthly installment payments can be lumped together with the help of a balance transfer credit card.
How does a balance transfer affect your credit score?
Balance transfers themselves don’t inherently affect your credit score. That’s not to say that there is no penalty involved. Whenever you apply or open a new credit card or line of credit, your credit score goes down a little bit. If you are responsible with your payments, this small dip will not adversely affect your credit history or your chances of being approved further down the line.
However, you should be aware that when you open a new credit card to make the balance transfer, your credit score will decrease slightly for a short amount of time. For this reason, it is a good idea to only apply for credit cards that are relevant and beneficial. Focus on the cards that will offer you the most benefits.
At the end of the day, a balance transfer can really help your credit history as long as you’re responsible with your payments.
Use this quick and free credit score estimator tool if you’re not sure what your score is.
Most important things to know about balance transfers
Before you send in those applications, there are a few things about balance transfers you ought to know.
Keep your old card open
After you’ve made your qualifying balance transfer, keep your old card open. This seems counterintuitive, but it is actually a smart move for building your credit history. Short stints with multiple cards don’t give your credit history the longevity and consistency that creditors look for in applicants.
Aim high with your credit limit
Look for a card that has a higher credit limit than the amount you need. This allows you to keep your credit utilization ratio low, building your credit history positively.
Seek 0% balance transfer fees
Also, look for a card that offers 0% balance transfer fees. While not as prevalent as we’d like, there are still several credit cards that make this generous offer. If not, try to find one that has a very low balance transfer fee. Otherwise, these charges can cancel out any savings you hoped to garnish from the transfer.
Beware of the APR on purchases
Even the credit cards that offer an appealing 0% interest rate aren’t always so clear with their terms. This offer might not apply to new purchases and only to qualifying balance transfer amounts or lines of credit. That means that anything new that you purchase with your new card will be charged the full interest amount. Always read the fine print available to make sure that you know what you’re signing up for.
Mind the post-promotional period
Examine the post-promotional offer APR to make an accurate calculation of whether or not this transfer is worthwhile. A company that offers low or no interest when you make the transfer is doing so only for a limited time, a sort of welcome bonus for signing up. After the promotional period, usually six months to a year, the interest rate will increase. How much this new rate is should be an important factor in your calculation.
Understand dual balances
Be aware of dual balances. If your new card offers 0% APR on the balance transfer but not on new purchases, you can wind up in a dual balance situation.
The problem with this is what happens to payments you make beyond the monthly amount? Which balance does it get allocated to?
While the law is on your side according to the Credit Card Act of 2009, there are situations when credit card companies can use their own discretion, applying the excess payment to the balance that is most profitable to them (rather than to the one that will lower your debt fastest). Be aware of these terms when signing a contract with a credit card company.
Pay down your balance!
Finally, if you really want to make the most out of your new balance transfer credit card, pay as much as you can towards the balance each month. By paying off your debt with no or low introductory interest rates, you save yourself a significant amount on interest payments that accrue each month after the promotional period expires.
Read the terms, pay attention to promotional term expiration, and pay off your card consistently, and your balance transfer credit card will help you get out of debt and even improve your credit rating for the future.
Read more: How To Get Out Of Debt On A Low Income
Balance transfer credit cards can be a godsend if you’re drowning in a lot of high-interest debt. These cards will allow you to organize your financial life, and will give you some breathing room to get on top of your monthly payments. Don’t waste the introductory period. Whether it lasts nine months or 18, the day will come when you’ll be back to paying your regular APR. Make sure your balance is as low as possible when that day comes.
The first step is getting the best balance transfer card for you. But don’t forget the second step: pay off your balance!