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Need to pay down high-interest credit card debt? Get a new credit card. Seriously. A good balance-transfer of 0% interest can help you get out of the red. That’s because a balance transfer card with a promotional 0% APR buys you time that’s interest free.
Balance transfer credit cards let you—you guessed it—transfer a high-interest balance (really any balance) to a new piece of plastic that offers 0% interest for a period of time. The best ones offer a nice long window—think 15 to 18 months—to pay that balance down without interest. And they don’t charge an astronomical fee to make the move. Typically it’s just a 3% to 5% fee. Bonus: The best ones don’t carry an annual fee either.
What cards make the grade? We’ve got you covered with our picks below.
Of course, there are a lot of balance transfer cards to choose from. Adding to the number of options is that most offer introductory 0% periods. So, there’s no one “best” card for everyone. All cards have their perks and quirks. So, you simply need to choose the card that’s “best” for your needs and spending habits. To help you figure out which one is the right card for you, here are a few of the favorite balance transfer credit cards of the Credit.com team.
Cut to the Best Balance Transfer Cards of 2019
Our picks for the best balance transfer cards are:
- Discover it® Balance Transfer: A solid card that offers a nice-long 18-month window to pay down your debts—plus the opportunity to earn cash back on new purchases too.
- Chase Freedom Unlimited®: A good card with 0% APR for 15 months on balance transfers and new purchases—and the chance to earn cash back.
- Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card: Another good card with a generous 0% APR on balance transfer and new purchases—plus the ability to earn cash back.
- Barclaycard Ring® Mastercard®: A great balance transfer card if you can’t resist spending to earn rewards.
For full card details, see the individual card agreements.
Discover it® Balance Transfer
Discover it® Balance Transfer
- 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.
- Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
- No annual fee.
Card Details +
Benefits: Our top pick, the Discover it Balance Transfer card gives you 0% interest on balance transfers for 18 full months, making it the longest promotional financing period available. Plus you get the same 0% interest on all new purchases for six months. There’s no annual fee, no late payment fee for your first late payment and no penalty APR ever. The balance transfer fee is 3% for each transfer. And the post-promotional APR is in the lower variable range of 14.24 to 25.24%.
The Discover it Balance Transfer is also a rewards credit card. It gives you 5% cashback on purchases in different quarterly categories and 1% cashback on every other purchase. Keep in mind, you have to activate quarterly categories to get the 5% cash back. Plus, as a signup bonus, Discover matches all the cash back you earn in first year at the end of the year.
Drawbacks: That signup bonus and rewards program sound sweet, but don’t let them deter you from paying down the balance you’re transferring. In fact, this card could work against you if you rack up more debt trying to score rewards.
Benefits: The big draw for our runner-up card is a generous 15-month 0% APR on balance transfers and new purchases made with the card. On top of that, there’s no annual fee.
Like the Discover it Balance Transfer card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card is a rewards card. It gives you with unlimited 1.5% cash back on anything you buy with the card. Plus, you get a $150 cash back on the first $500 in purchases made in your first three months.
Drawbacks: Like the Discover it Balance Transfer card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card as a rewards card might lull you into overspending. This card also carries a higher variable APR after the 15-month promotional period ends of 16.99% to 25.74%. So, charge carefully if you choose this card.
Benefits: This card is hard to compare with the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. Both offer a generous 15-month 0% APR on balance transfers and new purchases. Both have no annual fee. This card does offer zero foreign transaction fees, making it a better choice if you’re a traveler.
Like the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards card is a rewards card. It offers the same unlimited 1.5% cash back on anything you buy and $150 cash back on the first $500 in purchases made in your first three months.
Its post-promotional APR is lower than the Chase Freedom Unlimited card at 15.24 to 25.24%.
Drawbacks: Like our other picks, the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards card could entice you to spend too much. So, charge ahead only after some consideration.
Benefits: Provided you transfer your balances within 45 days of opening this card, it offers a nice 15-month 0% APR on balance transfers. The APR after that is just a variable 14.24%, giving it the lowest post-promotional APR of any of our picks. It also charges no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.
Because this card doesn’t offer rewards, if you’re a sucker for earning rewards, and really need to pay down credit card debt, it may be your best choice.
Drawbacks: If you really want to earn rewards, this card won’t let you. It will also charge you interest on new purchases, which, even without rewards, could hinder your debt reduction efforts if you don’t charge wisely.
How to Pick a Balance Transfer Credit Card
The two most important factors in a promotional balance transfer credit card offer are:
- The length of the available promotional financing
- The balance transfer fee, if any
The most important factor, the length of the promotional financing offer, by law has to last at least six months. But the best offers featured here currently last as long as 18 months. For that 18 months, you get interest-free financing on your transferred balances. The cards’ standard interest rates apply to any remaining balance only after the promotional period ends. And some cards offer 0% interest on new purchases for six or more months too.
The next most important factor is the balance transfer fee. Most credit cards with 0% APR promotional financing offers impose at least a 3% fee on the amount transferred. Some are as much as 5% of the amount transferred. Others offer a flat dollar amount if that amount is lower than the 3% to 5% of the transferred balance. There are however a few exceptions, so it’s a good idea to read the fine print on any card you’re considering.
Other factors to consider include the card’s standard interest rate or APR. This rate will ultimately be charged on any balance you don’t pay during the promotional period, in addition to any new purchases. Many credit cards offer a range of standard interest rates, with the rate you receive being based on your creditworthiness at the time you apply. You can check your credit scores for free on Credit.com to see where you stand as far as creditworthiness.
You also want to consider any rewards that the credit card offers. Keep in mind that rewards credit cards will usually have higher standard interest rates than similar cards that don’t offer rewards. Plus, it’s best to avoid rewards credit cards with balance-transfer offers if you think the ability to earn points, miles or cash back will ultimately result in your overspending.
Finally, it’s always worth considering the various fees you may be asked to pay. Be aware of a card’s annual fee, any foreign transaction fees and cash-advance fees.
How to Use a Balance Transfer Credit Card
Transferring your credit card balance doesn’t mean your debt will be paid off. What’s important is what you do after the transfer is made. Create a plan to pay your debt off before the promotional financing offer period ends. This way, you won’t end up paying the standard interest rate for that balance down the road. When 100% of your payments goes to the principal, with no interest charges, your balance goes down with each payment. Use this nifty credit card payoff calculator to help create a debt payoff plan and to see how much you can save in interest charges.
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 this article 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.
This article was last updated June 12, 2017, and has been updated by another author.