If you are beginning the new year under a mountain of debt, then it might be time for you to find a balance transfer credit card. The good news is that there are credit offers that will allow you to transfer your balance to a new account with 0% APR for as long as 18 months. In fact, there are dozens of cards that feature these promotional financing offers, and applicants need to closely examine the competing products before choosing one that best meets their needs.
How to Pick a Balance Transfer Credit Card
Credit card users should look at the terms and conditions of these products, starting with the transfer offer itself. The CARD Act of 2009 requires that 0% APR promotional financing offers last for at least six months, however some current offers extend for as long as 18 months. Applicants should also note if the card has a corresponding interest-free financing offer for new purchases as well.
The next thing applicants need to look at is the balance transfer fee. This fee, which is almost always 3% of the amount transferred, is added to the cardholder’s new balance. Applicants should also examine other rates and fees, such as the standard interest rate and the presence of any late fees, annual fees or foreign transaction fees. Thankfully, the most competitive promotional financing offers tend to have no annual fee, and they occasionally have no late fees as well. Finally, applicants can consider any other features and benefits offered by the card.
Finally, before you apply for a balance transfer credit card — or any credit card, for that matter — check the issuer’s guidelines to make sure you meet the criteria for that card. Checking your credit scores beforehand can give you an idea of where you stand and what you may qualify for. You can see two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com. And as you work to pay down your balance, this calculator can show you how long it will take to pay it off.
The Winner: Chase Slate
For several years, Slate has been the only 0% APR balance transfer available offer with no balance transfer fee.
The balance transfer offer: New cardholders receive 15 months of 0% APR financing on both balance transfers and new purchases. To qualify, balance transfers must be made within 60 days of account opening. The standard interest that applies to any remaining balance after the promotional financing expires is 12.99% to 22.99% APR, depending on the cardholder’s creditworthiness when the account was opened. The cash advance APR is 23.99% and the penalty APR is 29.99%.
Other features: Slate also features Chase’s Blueprint program that allows cardholders to avoid interest charges by paying some purchases in full while carrying a balance on others. The Blueprint program also includes budgeting and goal-setting tools.
The costs: There is no annual fee for this card, but there is a 3% foreign transaction fee imposed on all charges processed outside of the U.S.
The balance transfer offer: With this offer for the Discover it card, new cardholders receive 18 months of interest-free financing on balance transfers, with a 3% balance transfer fee, as well as six months of 0% APR financing on new purchases.
Other features: In addition to its competitive balance transfer offer, Discover is also a rewards card that features 1% cash back on all purchases, plus an additional 4% cash back on up to $1,500 spent each quarter at select retailers and categories of merchants. Other features include 100% U.S.-based customer service, a free monthly FICO score and cardholders’ first late fee waived. The standard interest rate is 10.99% – 22.99%, depending on the cardholder’s credit worthiness. There is a 24.99% APR for cash advances and no penalty APR.
The costs: There is no annual fee for this card and no foreign transaction fees.
2nd Runner-Up: Chase Freedom
The balance transfer offer: New cardholders receive 15 months of interest-free financing on both balance transfers and new purchases, with a 3% balance transfer fee, which is slightly less than the best offers available. After the promotional rate expires, cardholders will pay interest at the standard rate of 13.99% to 22.99% APR, depending on their creditworthiness when they applied. The cash advance APR is 23.99% and the penalty APR is 29.99%.
Other features: Freedom includes many of the features of both the Slate and Discover it cards. Like the Discover it, Freedom offers 1% cash back on all purchases or 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases from select categories of merchants that change each quarter. Like Slate, Freedom cardholders can utilize the Blueprint program at no additional cost.
The costs: There is no annual fee for this card, but there is a 3% balance transfer fee and a 3% foreign transaction fee added to all charges processed outside of the U.S.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.
At publishing time, Chase Slate, Discover it and Chase Freedom are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com may be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.