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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 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’ll have it paid off in a year.
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 cards
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*
14.24% - 25.24% 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
0% for 18 months
0% for 18 months
No annual fee, no foreign transaction fee, and no penalty APR
- 0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 18 months from account opening. Then a variable APR of 13.24%, 17.24% or 21.24% will apply.
- No Penalty APR.
- Late Fee Waiver.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $0 Annual Fee.
- $0 liability for unauthorized purchases.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees
See additional details for HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card
0%* for 12 months on Purchases*
0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers*
16.74% - 26.74%* (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 16.74% - 26.74%, based on your creditworthiness
- 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 16.74% - 26.74%, 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
- There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
- The same great rate for all balances, after the introductory period
- Save time when you call with fast, personal help, 24 hours a day – just say "representative"
- Enjoy the convenience of setting up your own bill payment schedule on any available due date throughout the month
See additional details for Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever
Read our guide on the best balance transfer cards.