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Shortcuts for Comparing Balance Transfer Offers

Shortcuts for Comparing Balance Transfer Offers

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This article was last updated Jul 01, 2020. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

Balance transfer credit cards can offer a lifeline if you’re carrying a lot of high-interest card debt. However, with so many balance transfer card options available, it can be hard to pick the right one. Some of the things you need to consider when comparing card offers are the fees, the length of each card’s 0% intro period and the ongoing APR after the no-interest period expires.

We’ll review how to compare balance transfer offers and provide some of the best cards to get out of debt.

How to compare balance transfer offers

Decide if a balance transfer fee is worthwhile

Balance transfers often aren’t free; most cards charge a 3% to 5% fee per balance transfer. The balance transfer fee can be outweighed by the amount you save on interest — but always do the math first!

There are no-fee balance transfer cards out there — just know that the no-fee cards often have shorter intro periods of 15 months or less, compared to cards that charge a balance transfer fee and have intro periods up to 21 months. If you choose a no-balance-transfer-fee card and realize you won’t have enough time to pay off your balance before the intro period ends, you can opt to apply for yet another balance transfer card from a different issuer until the balance is paid off.

Let’s look at an example where you have $3,000 in debt on a credit card with a 20% APR:

  If you can afford a monthly payment of… It’ll take you this long to pay off your balance… Total interest charged would be… The best balance transfer card would be…
Scenario 1 $300 12 months $309 A card offering an intro 0% APR for at least 12 months and no balance transfer fee. This saves you $309.
Scenario 2 $200 18 months $481 A card offering an intro 0% APR for at least 18 months with a balance transfer fee. This saves you $391 in interest charges (assuming a 3% balance transfer fee).

Consider how many months you need to pay off debt

The length of intro periods varies by balance transfer card, from cards offering as little as six months to as much as 21 months interest-free. Depending on the size of your balance and how much you can afford to pay each month, the amount of time you need to pay off debt varies.

For example, if you have $3,000 in debt and can only afford to pay $150 a month, it’ll take you 20 months to pay off debt. A balance transfer offer of 12 months won’t provide you with enough time, so you should look for a balance transfer offer with the longest 0% promotional period. On the other hand, if you can afford $250 monthly payments, then a balance transfer offer of 12 months or more would be OK, since you should be able to have it paid off in a year with all of your payments going toward the debt’s principal.

Try our Balance Transfer Calculator.

Know the APR you’ll be charged after the promotional period expires

If you still have a balance after the introductory 0% period ends, you have two options: complete another balance transfer or keep whittling away at what you owe. If your balance transfer card has a reasonable APR and you only need a month or two remaining to pay off the balance, avoid the hassle of opening a new card and completing another transfer. Your card statement should reveal what your APR will be once your promotional deal is over.

Popular balance transfer card

Read our guide on the best balance transfer cards.

The information related to the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever has been independently collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

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March 5, 2019