Having a balance on a credit card can be a dangerous game. If you don’t have a sound repayment strategy in place, your debt can quickly snowball, leaving you with unaffordable monthly payments.
The best way to get your financial situation back on track is by finding a cheaper way to borrow. With credit cards, the top way to do this is by transferring your balance to a card with low to no interest.
Balance transfers enable you to pay off a balance without paying on high interest rates for a period generally ranging from 12 to 21 months.
Best case, you might snag an extended 0% intro APR on balance transfers and new purchases with certain rewards cards. However, those offers are rare. With a few notable exceptions, the longer the introductory APR, the fewer the card’s rewards.
If you plan to transfer a balance to a card with a balance transfer introductory period APR, you’ve got plenty of credit card offers to choose from.
Take a look at our top balance transfer credit cards available in 2020, offering a range of perks and signup bonuses that help you manage debt easier.
There are few balance transfer cards on the market with an introductory APR period as long as the Citi Simplicity credit card. The card offers 0 percent APR on balance transfers for 21 months.
That means nearly two years of repaying debt with no daily interest charges. This can be a game-changer if you have a snowball of debt to chip away at over the long term.
Keep in mind that balance transfers on the Citi Simplicity card aren’t free. This card comes with a relatively high transfer fee of 5 percent or $5, whichever is greater.
But this fee might be worth it if the alternative is to pay double or triple the amount of your debt in the 21 months you could go interest-free. All balance transfers must be made within 4 months of opening the account.
If you’re looking for a card to help you finance a large purchase, this card isn’t it. There is a 0% APR period for purchases, but it’s much shorter than similar cards at just 12 months.
The Citi Simplicity card helps borrowers focus on whittling down debt, not accumulating new balances. Choose this card if you have little spending to do and need a zero interest option to get rid of old balances.
Best for: People who want a longer-than-usual period to pay off a transferred balance without paying interest.
Other perks: This card’s 21-month intro APR on balance transfers is a few months longer than the more common 18-month 0% intro offers out there. And those three months might provide the extra time you need to zap your balance while avoiding interest. You also can choose a flexible payment date at beginning, middle, or end of month to avoid late fees, and you can access your credit score at no cost.
Annual fee: None
Another great balance transfer card is the Citi Diamond Preferred card. Like the Citi Simplicity card, you get 21 months at 0% APR on all balance transfers.
There is zero liability on any unauthorized purchases through the Citi Identity Theft Solutions. There’s no annual fee and 0% APR on purchases for the first 12 months after opening a new account.
The Wells Fargo Platinum credit card is a straightforward solution to getting your debts paid off quickly. The card offers Wells Fargo’s most extended intro APR period at 18 months for both purchases and qualifying balance transfers.
There is a tight window to get your balances transferred to Wells Fargo for low fees. You have 120 days to transfer qualifying balances to the card at a rate of $5 or 3 percent fee applies to each transferred balance.
The card stands out from competitors by offering account holders $600 in cell phone insurance. This is a significant benefit for anyone who likes to own the latest device.
The insurance covers lost or stolen cell phones as long as you include the $25 deductible. If you’re an existing Wells Fargo customer, it’ll be hard to beat the option of keeping all your accounts in the same place.
Choose this card if you have a combined need to reduce balances while financing new purchases. This card is an excellent option for current Wells Fargo customers with good credit or those who want to build a relationship with the lender for loans in the future.
Best for: Consumers seeking more time to pay off a balance transfer and who don’t want a rewards program.
Rewards: None. However, the 18-month 0% intro APR can offset the no-rewards drawback if you’re eliminating interest by transferring a large balance.
Other perks: Track your finances with the Wells Fargo My Money Map budgeting and money management tools; cellphone protection up to $600 (minus $25 deductible) for damage or theft of a cellphone when you pay your cellphone bill every month with the card; free FICO credit score.
Annual fee: None
Best for: Homeowners, families, and people who want to transfer balances, shop online, and earn 5% cash back on rotating categories.
Rewards: Discover it has a narrower 0% intro APR window but easily makes up for that with an impressive rewards program and a year-end bonus. You earn 5% cash back on purchases in rotating quarterly categories, including grocery stores, gas stations, Amazon.com, and restaurants. Mark your calendar, though: You must activate the card every quarter to gain that higher percentage. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Redeem rewards in any amount, any time.
Other perks: Discover it automatically matches all cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year and credits the amount to your account.
Annual fee: None
Bonus: No welcome bonus. However, this card’s year-end automatic cash back match adds up fast for everyday users who stay on top of the rotating rewards categories.
The U.S. Bank Visa Platinum offers a generous intro APR period for both purchases and balance transfers. The 0% APR period lasts for 20 billing cycles with an option to choose your due date.
U.S. Bank was named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies in 2020 for the way it treats both customers and employees. If you pay your cell phone bill using your credit card, you’ll get up to $600 in cell phone insurance coverage.
There is two claims per year rule, bringing the total coverage to $1,200. Also, keep in mind that this cell phone coverage is secondary, which means it only kicks in after your primary coverage is exhausted.
The downside to applying for the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum is the high foreign transaction fees. Cardholders pay 2 percent on expenses charged abroad. There is also no signup bonus for the card since it isn’t a rewards card.
This card only has a balance transfer fee of 3 percent. The biggest perk of using this card for your balance transfers is the option to pay off your debt at 0% APR for almost two years.
It’s a step above the Citi Simplicity card in that you get the same 0% APR on new purchases as you do on balance transfers. Consider this card if you aren’t looking for rewards, but instead, need a solid option to finance small debts over time.
Best for: Consumers with high credit card balances or several balances to transfer, and consumers wanting a generous amount of time to pay off an expensive purchase with no interest.
Rewards: None. However, Barclay Ring Mastercard imposes a 2% balance transfer fee instead of the 3% fee charged by most other cards. So when you transfer a large balance, this lower fee makes a difference.
For example, if you transfer a $9,000 balance and pay a 3% balance transfer fee, you’ll wind up with a $270 fee. However, the Barclay Ring Mastercard® offers a 2% balance transfer fee that would add up to only $180 for the same $9,000 transfers. Of course, the bigger the balance being transferred, the better the low transfer fee looks.
Other perks: Ability to lock your card, set transaction limits, and block certain purchase categories for yourself and authorized users; free FICO credit score.
Annual fee: None
If you have excellent credit, the HSBC Bank Gold Mastercard is an excellent choice for consolidating your credit card debt. The 0% APR period only lasts 18 months, but with a lower APR, this card won’t hit you too hard if you don’t repay your debt within the promotion period.
There’s no penalty APR or late fees if you make late payments. You aren’t liable for any unauthorized purchases through the HSBC fraud program.
Though there are no foreign transaction fees charged when you make purchases outside the country, there are also no cash-back incentives to make your spending go further when traveling.
Not having a rewards program is the most significant setback of this card. Otherwise, the APR period length and no fees make it an attractive option to get control of your finances over the short term.
The balance transfer fee is also higher than average at 4 percent of your balance or $10, whichever is greater. But one of the advantages of owning a Mastercard is automatic access to travel accident insurance, an auto rental collision waiver, and a discount on any airport meet and greet services you hire.
Best for: Consumers who want to transfer a balance and pay it off over a lengthy no-interest span.
Other perks: For travel purchased with the card, you get access to HSBC MasterAssist for travel planning and help with lost luggage; $1 million in travel accident insurance; roadside assistance for vehicle breakdowns in the U.S.
Annual fee: None
The best balance transfer cards don’t just come with the lowest APR and fees. You also want to feel valued as a customer and know any issues you experience will get resolved right away.
If you need a balance between top quality customer service and great cash-back rewards program, the American Express Cash Magnet is one option. The card isn’t at the top of the American Express food chain, but it’s balance transfer options are perfect for getting your debt in order.
The 0% introductory APR period lasts for 15 months for purchases and balance transfers. After that, there is a variable APR.
There’s no annual fee and a 0% fee to use the Plan It feature, which splits up substantial charges into smaller increments to help you pay down your debt faster.
The 0% on Plan It charges applies for the first 15 months of opening an account, and then a fee of 1.17 percent is charged each time you use it. The biggest perk of the American Express Cash Magnet is it’s cash-back rewards.
If you spend $1,000 or more within the first three months of owning the card, you earn $200 in cash-back. This cash-back comes in the form of a statement credit, or you can redeem for perks in the rewards program once your balance reaches $25.
With the American Express Cash Magnet credit card, you get access to roadside assistance, car rental loss and damage insurance as well as travel accident insurance. The card also has built-in purchase protection with extended warranties automatically offered on individual purchases.
Earn 1.5 percent on your purchases with no category limits. Don’t use the American Express Cash Magnet card abroad, though.
It’s higher than average foreign transaction fees of 2.7 percent make it a better choice for spending money in the U.S. Another downside to owning an American Express is that it isn’t as widely accepted as a Visa or Mastercard.
The Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express is a step up from the Cash Magnet card. You get the same $200 cash-back reward for spending $1,000 within the first three months, but then your rewards options skyrocket from there.
Cardholders get 3 percent back on grocery purchases and 2 percent on gas. That’s 2 to 3 times more than the average rewards offering for similar cards. If you spend money in any other category, the rewards rate is 1 percent cash-back.
The 0% introductory APR for balance transfers is 15 months with a 3 percent or $5 fee, whichever is greater. To own this card, there is no annual fee, even though it has some of the best rewards returns available.
The max penalty APR and late fees are high for cards in this category. Expect to pay as high as 29.24 percent as a penalty APR and up to $40 for each late payment.
The Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express isn’t a good option if you don’t have above average credit. Apply for this balance transfer card if you have a credit score of 700 or above to increase your chances of approval.
Amex EveryDay credit cards offer 0 interest APR and no balance transfer fees. This card is one of the rare credit cards with no balance transfer fee and a 0% introductory APR upon account opening.
You pay 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months of opening the card. Once this promotional period ends, you’ll pay an ongoing variable APR.
To qualify for the $0 balance transfer fee, you have to request the balance transfer within 60 days of opening your account. There’s no annual fee to own this credit card, but where the card really shines is its rewards program.
Few of the best balance transfer cards offer substantial rewards programs. But the Amex EveryDay Card gives you access to a signup bonus along with cash-back on all your purchases.
You get 10,000 membership rewards points after spending $1,000 within the first 3 months. After that, you’ll get 2 membership rewards points on every dollar you spend at supermarkets in the U.S and qualifying travel purchases.
On all other purchases, you get one point per dollar you spend. Use the card at least 20 times during a billing cycle, and you’ll earn a 20 percent rewards bonus.
The Amex EveryDay card won’t win for having the longest intro APR on balance transfers or the highest cash-back rewards percentages.
Best for: People who want a long period to pay off balance transfers without paying interest, and consumers who don’t mind waiting until they pay for purchases to receive all of the rewards.
Rewards: Unlike many other cards with lengthy periods for 0% intro APRs, Citi® Double Cash provides a rewards program that lets you earn up to 2X points on every dollar you spend. You collect 1% when you make a purchase with the Citi® Double Cash card and an additional 1% when you pay for the purchase after it appears on your statement. How’s that for motivation to pay off your balance every month?
Other perks: No caps on cash back rewards. Citi Private Pass for special access to purchase tickets, including presale and VIP packages, to concerts, sporting events, movie screenings, and other events. Citi Concierge services for travel, shopping, dining, and entertainment.
Annual fee: None
When you do the math, the best balance transfer credit cards aren’t the ones with no balance transfer fee. These cards are great to have, but the savings don’t always match up to owning a card with nearly two years of 0 interest.
The main reason to transfer a balance to a new credit card is to escape high-interest rates that caused your balance to skyrocket in the first place. Do your calculations to see whether it makes sense to choose a no balance transfer fee credit card or focus on the 0% APR instead.
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