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What's the best way to pay down a credit card balance as quickly as possible, while paying the least in interest, and without hurting your credit? What follows is a powerful method recommended by the most astute personal finance experts* to achieve exactly those objectives. It's extremely effective, completely legal, and leverages programs created by credit card issuers to your advantage. Follow these steps and start to become credit card debt-free.
Think of someone carrying a credit card balance like a patient who enters an emergency room bleeding badly. The first thing a doctor will do is stop the bleeding. It's no different when attacking a credit card balance; the first thing you do is stop the interest charges.
There's a simple way to do this, and it's brilliance is that it actually uses the banks' marketing offers to your advantage: find a card offering a long "0% intro APR balance transfer" promotional offer, and transfer your balance to it. These are cards which offer new customers a long period of time (often as much as 18 months) during which the card charges no interest on all balances transferred to it. We constantly track all the cards in the marketplace in order to find the ones currently offering the longest 0% intro periods.
If you need more motivation, just think of this: on a $10,000 balance, $150 of a $200 monthly payment would get vacuumed up by interest charges.** That leaves only $50 of your $200 that actually reduces your balance, the rest vanishing into bank pockets. That's just brutal. Use our reviews to find a card which offers the longest possible no-interest period while charging low, or even no fees. Moving your balances to the card you choose will stop the bleeding, allowing you to move on to step two.
Once you've transferred your balances and put a stop to the interest charges, it's time to capitalize on the interest-free period to really break free of the debt. The best part of this is how simple it is: just keep making the payments you used to make when you had to pay big interest payments, except now 100% of your payment will go to reduce your balance.
Going back to the $10,000 example above. (just be aware that we're using the $10,000 number as an example to demonstrate how the process works. You may be approved to transfer an amount greater or less than $10,000). If you transferred that balance onto a card which offers 15 months of 0% intro APR with no transfer fee, and maintained the same $200 monthly payment, you can see how much faster you'll be reducing your balance in the chart below.
As you can see, without using the 0% card, the same $200 monthly payments barely make any headway. It's like swimming upstream, or walking while taking a step back for every two steps forward. That's no way to swim or walk, and attempting to pay off your cards while paying high card interest rates is no way to manage your finances. Move your balances onto one of the cards below, stop getting crushed by interest, and start making real progress toward getting rid of your card debt.
0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers*. No annual fees.
This credit card comes with an intro APR of 0%* for 21 months on Purchases* and 0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers*. With this extra-long 0% Intro APR you can pay off your balance all the way into 2018. You’ll also gain access to Citi Private Pass for exclusive presale tickets and a Personal Concierge Service available to assist you 24/7. You’ll also earn City Easy Deal points with each card purchase redeemable for discounts on online merchandise, travel tickets, gift cards, and more. This card is perfect for people looking to get out of debt or making a large purchase who want over a year to pay it off.
The Verdict: Getting a loan this cheaply for this long is pretty amazing. If you’re interested in transferring a balance to a 0% card, this is the one that offers a great 0% term. Period.
Most Appropriate For: Because the Diamond Preferred® card has the an impressive 0% balance transfer term, it’s our highest rated card for anyone carrying a large balance. The extra interest-free time will allow folks to make significantly more headway paying down their debt, even factoring in the transfer fee.
Least Appropriate For: Someone looking to earn rewards on new purchases. Unlike a few of the cards mentioned here, the Citi® Diamond Preferred® has no rewards program built in.
Credit Required: Good to Excellent
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for balance transfers made in the first 60 days. No annual fee.
This card was designed to tame the beast of high interest debt. Wondering how this card could help you? The BankAmericard® Credit Card offers a low-cost way to get you out of debt. Let us explain. Most credit cards charge a 3-5% balance transfer fee. Not here. With the BankAmericard® Credit Card there is a $0 Intro balance transfer fee for the first 60 days your account is open. After that, the fee for future balance transfers is 3% (min. $10). That’s right, no fee. On a $10,000 balance, a typical 3% balance transfer fee could cost you $300. With this card, you can pile those dollars back into paying off your balance. You will get 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for balance transfers made in the first 60 days – that's well over a year to power through your debt with no interest. All this, plus no annual fee makes this card stand out from the crowd.
Verdict: This is one of the best get-out-of-debt credit cards available. Instead of paying interest, use this balance transfer card to pay down your debt faster with no interest for duration of the intro period. It is easier than ever to stray from our weekly and monthly budgets. We get it. It also means your credit card bill can quickly grow out of control. Getting out of debt could help improve your credit score. Track your progress with access to your FICO® Score for free with this card. Other benefits include no penalty APR. APR is Annual Percentage Rate, also know as the interest rate you pay. That means paying late, won't raise your APR.
Most Appropriate For: Anyone looking looking to get out of debt and avoid a balance transfer fee. Get a clean slate and become debt-free faster with the triple whammy of savings on interest, no intro balance transfer fee within the first 60 days your account is open and no annual fee with this card.
Least Appropriate For: If you need a longer intro period to pay down your balance consider the balance transfer offers from Citibank. But, you may have to pay a balance transfer fee with those cards.
This card has a sign-up bonus loaded with potential: you can turn $200 into $400 with Cashback Match. If you’re a new card member, you can automatically double your rewards within the first year of having the card. You also earn 5% cash back from rotating categories like gas stations, department stores, Amazon.com or restaurants for up to $1,500 every quarter. You’ll also get 1% cash back on everything else.
With 5% cash back from everyday spending categories and 1% cash back on everything else you can easily earn $200 cash back and turn it into $400 with Discover’s Cashback Match.
There is also no annual fee, and you will get 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months and 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months.
While the Discover It - 18 month balance transfer offer has some rewarding cash back benefits, it lacks the 0% intro APR length of other cards on this list and it has a balance transfer fee of 3%. You also need to remember to opt into the categories every quarter or you will not receive the 5% cash back rewards.
Most Appropriate For: People who enjoy both cash rewards and lengthy balance transfer offers.
Least Appropriate For: People looking for a simple balance transfer card. This card will reward you the more you use it, however if you're looking to just transfer your current balances there are other cards out there with similar offers.
Verdict: If you looking for a balance transfer credit card that teams up with a cash back rewards system, this card is right up your alley. It has a unique sign-up bonus system that doubles your cash back at the end of your first year. So if you’re in the market for a rewards card and would like to transfer your current balance, this card is perfect for you.
Recommended Credit: Good to Excellent
0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 9 months, unlimited 1.5% Cash Back on every purchase, every day, One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. No annual fee.
Turbo charge your plans to ditch debt with this easy-to-use card that will pay you unlimited 1.5% Cash Back on every purchase, every day. Use the cash-back rewards to pay down your debt even faster! You earn cash in two ways when you use this card. First, earn a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. Second, you'll take home an unlimited 1.5% Cash Back on every purchase, every day. No headaches remembering rotating bonus categories, you will earn cash on everything you buy. Pile those unlimited cash rewards back onto your balance and say goodbye to your debt even faster! This card offers a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers and purchases for 9 months. Music lovers get an extra bonus: Use your Quicksilver card and get 50% back as a statement credit on your monthly Spotify Premium subscription, now through April 2018. There is a 3% balance transfer fee, but the cash rewards could easily offset that over the long run for you.
The Verdict: Many credit cards with introductory 0% interest don't offer rewards. You win in four ways if you use this card to pay down debt. 1) Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. 2) Get unlimited 1.5% Cash Back on every purchase, every day that can also be used to speed your way to being debt-free. 3) 9 months of 0% introductory APR to pay off your balance transfer. 4) No annual fee makes it a cost-effective choice for ditching debt.
Most Appropriate For: If you want to earn cash back rewards, while you pay down your debt, this card gives you a straight-forward deal. Earn unlimited 1.5% Cash Back on every purchase, every day. If your credit has a few blemishes, don't worry. This card is a fantastic option if you have good credit.
Least Appropriate For: If you need a longer period to pay off your debt, consider the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card – 21 Month Intro Offer on BT and Purchases. That card will give you an intro APR of 0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers* to chip away at your debt.
Credit Required: Good to Excellent.
Intro APR of 0% for 12 Months on purchases and balance transfers. Cash back rates of 3% at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in spend per year, 2% at U.S. gas stations & select U.S. dept stores, 1% on other purchases. $0 annual fee.
Big grocery spenders and commuters take notice! If you spend a lot on groceries and gas, this card offers you a smart way to tackle your high-interest debt, while scoring exceptionally high cash-back rewards. Take advantage of the intro APR of 0% for 12 Months on balance transfers and purchases with this $0 annual fee card. You'll get a solid year to chip away at your high-interest debt when you transfer your balance to this card, while earning serious cash-back along the way. Many cards with long 0% intro periods don't offer sign-up bonuses or rewards. With this card, you will get a welcome offer of a $100 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. Fashionistas also get a cash-back boost from this card that offers 2% cash back at select U.S. department stores.
The Verdict: This is an outstanding choice if you are looking to hit the brakes on high-interest debt, while earning a big rewards rate on your grocery and gas spending. It's hassle-free earning, no rotating bonus categories. The $0 annual fee means you won't pay more to tackle your high-interest debt.
Most Appropriate For: This card is a winner for big grocery and gas spenders, with one of the highest rewards rates for those categories with no annual fee. Use the generous 0% introductory interest APR period to power through your debt.
Least Appropriate For: If you don't want to pay a balance transfer fee and are willing to give up cash rewards, consider the BankAmericard® Credit Card which offers a $0 Intro balance transfer fee for the first 60 days your account is open. After that, the fee for future balance transfers is 3% (min. $10). With the BankAmericard® Credit Card, you'll get an even longer 0% Introductory APR on purchases for 15 billing cycles and $0 annual fee.
Credit Required: Good, Excellent
Longest 0% APR Offer Available
Imagine getting almost two years with 0% interest on purchases or a balance transfer. Reshape your financial picture with this industry-leading low-interest card from Citi. If you have major expenses on the horizon, like a wedding, a big trip, new furniture or appliances, this card delivers you an incredible intro APR of 0%* for 21 months on Purchases* to pay down that purchase with no interest. That’s right. Almost two years with no interest. For people who want to kick high-interest credit card debt to the curb once and for all, this is one of the best get-out-debt cards available. Transfer your high-interest debt to the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever and receive an intro APR of 0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers*. During the intro period your entire payment will go directly to paying down your balance. That could save you hundreds of dollars in interest. Take the time you need to put your financial house in order. This card is a great match if you occasionally pay a bill late. True to its name, this simple card has no late fees, no penalty APR if you miss a payment and no annual fee. The Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever is best in class beating other 0% intro offers by six to nine months.
The Verdict: This card offers an industry-leading 0% introductory period, which is an amazing offer. There is a balance transfer fee, but you could save hundreds of dollars in interest over the intro period, which makes the fee worth it.
Most Appropriate For: If you want to pay down credit card debt interest-free over a long period of time, this card is a near perfect match.
Least Appropriate For: If you don’t want to pay a balance transfer fee consider the BankAmericard® Credit Card, which has a $0 Intro balance transfer fee for the first 60 days your account is open. After that, the fee for future balance transfers is 3% (min. $10). But, you won’t have as long 0% introductory interest period with that card.
Credit Required: Excellent/Good
* Savings calculation: Credit Card Balance * (1+Average Card Rate/365)^639 days – Balance Transfer Fee - Average Household Credit Card Balance Balance transfer fee is minimum of 3% or $10
** Monthly interest calculated on $10k balance at 18% as: 10000*(1+(0.18/360))^365-10000)/12
*Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.