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This article was last updated Nov 07, 2018. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.
Many credit cards come with a balance transfer option you can use to consolidating credit card debt, which can allow you to take advantage of a lower interest rate, keep bill collectors off your back or free up money for large purchases.
“Avoiding interest on a balance for a year or more can significantly reduce how much it costs and how long it takes to pay down your card debt, and that’s a really good thing,” said Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst at CompareCards. “However, if you’re just shifting balances around to make room for more spending, that’s just asking for trouble.”
How much can you transfer?
How much you can transfer depends on the issuer. Some card issuers allow you to transfer any balance amount to it as long as that amount is smaller than your available credit limit.
But you may not necessarily be able to transfer an amount exactly equal to your card limit if your card charges a balance transfer fee or the card Issuer sets percentage limits on the amount you can transfer. For example, let’s say your card has $10,000 in available credit. If the card charges a typical balance transfer fee of 3% to 5%, you couldn’t transfer exactly $10,000 — it that would throw you over the limit by $300 or $500. If your card issuer has a percentage limit of 75% of your available balance, you will only be able to transfer $7,500 — not the entire $10,000 balance — from the other card. Two of the three cards reviewed below allow you to transfer your entire credit limit, while the third allows you to transfer 95%, all minus the balance transfer fees.
Consider the number of balance transfers you can do in a month. Some credit card providers set limits to this as a security measure for protection against identity theft. They don’t want someone else transferring all their debts to your account. You will need to contact your credit card company to find out how many transfers you can do and how much of your credit limit you can transfer.
Another thing to consider is the current status of your credit. You’re much more likely to qualify for a balance transfer card if you have good to excellent credit. Card companies tend to avoid approving intro balance transfer offers to those with poor or bad credit, seeing them as too risky.
We’ll outline the benefits and pitfalls that come with executing a balance transfer. We’ll also share three cards that offer generous intro balance transfer APR rates for your consideration.
The best balance transfer cards
Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever
0% for 12 months on Purchases
0% for 21 months on Balance Transfers
16.24% - 26.24% (Variable)
- No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and 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 16.24% - 26.24%, based on your creditworthiness.
- 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 16.24% - 26.24%, 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
- The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 16.24% - 26.24%, 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
See additional details for Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever
This $0 annual fee card is as simple as its name because it doesn’t come with a sign-up bonus or rewards. But it’s the one to have if you’re looking for one with a long balance transfer intro rate. The introductory APR is 0% for 21 months on Balance Transfers, then 16.24% - 26.24% (Variable) APR. The balance transfer fee for the card is 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.
It offers a purchase intro APR of 0% for 12 months on Purchases. If you don’t pay off your card balance by the time the intro rate ends, you’ll start paying the 16.24% - 26.24% (Variable) APR. It comes with Citi® Price Rewind and exclusive entertainment access with Citi® Private Pass®.
Check out our review of the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever.
Discover it® Balance Transfer
0% for 18 months on balance transfers & 0% for 6 months on purchases*
Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter up to the quarterly maximum, when you activate*
13.49% - 24.49% Variable*
- 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.
- No annual fee.
- See Rates & Fees
See additional details for Discover it® Balance Transfer
This $0 annual fee card has a balance transfer intro rate of 0% for 18 months APR and a 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*. The purchase intro rate is 0% for 6 months APR.
After the intro APR expires, the balance transfer rate goes to 13.49% - 24.49% Variable APR, while the purchase rate goes to 13.49% - 24.49% Variable APR. Discover allows up to 95% of a card’s credit line for a balance transfer, minus the balance transfer fee. Excellent/Good credit is needed to get this card.
What this card has that the other two on this list don’t is a sign-up bonus and a way to earn rewards on purchases. Note, transfering a balance does not earn rewards. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.* 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, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically. And this card also comes with free access to your FICO® Score.
Check out our review of the Discover it® Balance Transfer.
BankAmericard® credit card
0% Intro APR for 18 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days
0% Introductory APR on purchases for 18 billing cycles
14.74% - 24.74% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
- 0% Introductory APR for 18 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 14.74% - 24.74% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers
- No annual fee
- No penalty APR. Paying late won't automatically raise your interest rate (APR). Other account pricing and terms apply
- Access your FICO® Score for free within Online Banking or your Mobile Banking app
See additional details for BankAmericard® credit card
Let’s keep it real — this is a basic $0 annual fee bank credit card with no real perks or benefits except for free FICO® Score access. But what makes this card shine is its good intro balance transfer rate, at 0% Intro APR for 18 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, then 14.74% - 24.74% Variable APR. It also comes with an intro purchase rate of 0% Introductory APR on purchases for 18 billing cycles, then 14.74% - 24.74% Variable APR. You’ll pay a balance transfer fee of Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater. It’s waived if you make a transfer within the first 60 days of opening your card account.
When it comes to the BankAmericard® credit card, the balance transfer amount could go up to the available credit on the account, according to a company spokesperson.
Excellent/Good credit is needed to apply for this card. But the good news with it is you won’t pay a penalty APR if your monthly payment is late. Terms apply.
Check out our review of the BankAmericard® credit card.
The bottom line
It’s important to understand all of the fees and deadlines that come with a balance transfer before getting the card.
The ideal card gives you at least 12 months — or even more — for a 0% intro APR for a balance transfer. It also allows you to transfer the maximum amount, right up to your credit limit minus fees, on the card.
Make sure you know what the card’s balance transfer APR is after the intro period. “We all think that we’re going to pay off that transferred balance before the introductory period ends, but life happens and it’s not always possible,” said Schulz. “Knowing ahead of time what rate you’ll pay once the introductory period is over can save you an unpleasant surprise later on.”
Check out our roundup of the best balance transfer cards.