Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Credit card debt is the worst. Even consumers with high FICO scores won’t get an annual percentage rate (APR) under 15% and for less creditworthy cardholders, that APR can hover in the 24-27% range. Debt of this kind is like a boa constrictor – the more you struggle to get free, the tighter its grip can become. If you have more than $10,000 in credit card debt and only pay the minimum, it’ll take over a decade to escape. Credit cards may have gotten you into this mess, but they can also help you get out by providing some much needed breathing room through balance transfers.

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How Do Balance Transfers Work?

With a balance transfer, you’ll take the debt from one card and transfer it to a different one. The benefit? The new card will give you an interest-free grace period. As long as you pay the monthly minimum on a balance transfer card, you won’t be charged interest during the grace period. Of course, card companies don’t let customers move money around for free. You’ll usually pay a fee on the balance you transfer and your APR will jump back into the 15-27% range after the grace period ends.

When dealing with balance transfer cards, we’re concerned with two things: the grace period length and the transfer fee amount. The grace period length usually varies between 6 to 18 months while the fee is 3-5% of the amount transferred. The longer the grace period, the more time you’ll have to pay down your debt without racking up interest charges. And obviously, a lower transfer fee means paying less for the ability to move your balances around.

In this article, we’ll rank the best balance transfer offers based on grace period length and fees. If you need a break from credit card debt and want your minimum payment to actually put a dent in your balance, consider one of these card offers.

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Best Balance Transfer Cards – Longest Grace Period

Citi Simplicity Card

  • No APR on balance transfers for 21 months
  • No APR on purchases for 12 months
  • 5% balance transfer fee
  • No annual fee

No card currently offers a zero APR balance transfer grace period longer than the Citi Simplicity card. You’ll get 21 months of no interest from the date of your transfer, provided you make the transaction within the first 4 months. You’ll get 12 months with no APR on card purchases too and there’s no annual fee. After the grace period ends, your APR will be between 16.99% and 26.99%. The fee here is high – 5% of the transfer amount or $5, whichever is more. But 21 months of no interest is a great deal, especially if there’s no way for you to increase your income at the moment.

Citi Double Cash Card

  • No APR on balance transfers for 18 months
  • 3% balance transfer fee
  • No annual fee

The Citi Double Cash is one of our favorite credit cards. You’ll get 2% cash back on all purchases (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay your monthly bill) and there’s no annual fee. But Citi Double Cash also provides an 18-month grace period for balance transfers. After 18 months, you’ll get a variable APR between 15.74% to 25.74%. A 3% balance transfer fee applies and the intro APR rate does NOT include card purchases.

BankAmeriCard

  • No APR on balance transfers for 15 months
  • No APR on purchases for 15 months
  • 3% balance transfer fee
  • No annual fee

Bank of America provides plenty of quality credit cards and the BankAmeriCard is their best offering for balance transfers. You’ll get 15 months with no APR on either transfers or purchases, as long as you make the balance transfer within 60 days. After 15 months, your APR will be 15.24% to 25.24%. The Bank AmeriCard has a 3% balance transfer fee with a $10 minimum.

Discover IT Cash Back Card

  • No APR on balance transfers for 14 months
  • No APR on purchases for 6 months
  • 3% balance transfer fee
  • No annual fee

The Discover IT Card has made plenty of appearances on our best credit card lists and here’s another showing thanks to the lengthy balance transfer period. With Discover IT, you’ll get an 18-month no APR grace period on balance transfers and 6 months with no interest on purchases. The balance transfer fee is 3% and your APR after the grace period will be 14.24% to 25.24%. Discover IT also offers 5% cash back on certain rotating purchase categories and has an unlimited first year cash back match.

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Best Balance Transfer Cards – Lowest Fees

American Express EveryDay Card

  • 0% balance transfer fee
  • No APR on balance transfers for 15 months

Finding a card with no balance transfer fee is tricky, but we’ve located three cards that can help. American Express’s EveryDay Card tops our list thanks to their 15-month grace period and 0% fee on balance transfers. Additionally, you’ll earn points for shopping, travel, dining, and other activities. No annual fee here and your APR will be between 15.24% and 26.24% when the promotional rate expires.

Chase Slate

  • 0% balance transfer fee
  • No APR on balance transfers for 15 months
  • No APR on purchases for 15 months

Chase Slate is a great starter card for consumers without short credit histories, but they also have a 0% fee on balance transfers. You’ll get 15 months with no interest to pay off the balance; afterward it’s 17.24% to 25.99%. There’s no annual fee either, but Slate is a pretty basic credit card and offers no perks like cash back or travel rewards.

SunTrust Prime Rewards Card

  • 0% balance transfer fee
  • 5.5% APR on balance transfers for 36 months

SunTrust Bank has a unique card available to balance transfer seekers. Important caveat: there is no zero percent APR grace period. With this card, your APR on balance transfers starts at 5.5%. However, you lock in that 5.5% APR for 3 full years, making this offer similar to a low-cost personal loan rather than a credit card. Plus, there’s no fee if you make the transfer within 60 days. If you have a lot of credit card debt and need a few years to whittle down your balances, this might be your best option.

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Final Thoughts on Balance Transfers

It’s important to note that balance transfer cards won’t solve your debt woes, they just kick them further down the line. If you can only pay the minimum each month, you likely won’t erase your full balance before the introductory grace period expires. Plus, many consumers transfer balances to a new card only to fall back on old habits once the debt is out of sight. Transferring a balance from Card A to Card B doesn’t mean you can resume spending like a drunken sailor with Card A. Only use a balance transfer if you’re done with credit card spending and serious about getting a handle on your debt.

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July 5, 2019

Dan is a financial research and analysis expert.  He has been sharing his research on personal finance for years and has previously been published on Benzinga and Loan Gifting. 

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