Save time searching with MoneyGeek's top picks for the best balance transfer credit card offers for 2021 and tips for finding the best card for balance transfers.
The Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards in 2021
Balance transfer cards are a valuable tool for paying off credit card debt. And Americans know a thing or two about credit card debt. They accounted for $756 billion in credit card debt in 2020 -- the average credit card balance during that time was $5,315. And with the average annual percentage rate (APR) being 16.28% in Q4 2020, a credit card with a low balance transfer offer could be a good option for people who carry a credit card balance month to month. Expensive interest charges make it difficult to climb out of debt.
The best balance transfer cards help you pay off existing credit card debt while avoiding costly interest fees. These cards come with 0% APR offers, which means you pay no interest on your balance for a set period of time, typically six to 18 months and up to 20 months in some cases. Most credit card issuers charge a fee to transfer over a balance from another card, but in most cases, the chance to pay no interest while paying off the balance more than makes up for the added cost.
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MoneyGeek Quick Tip: Unlike this time last year, balance transfer cards are starting to make a comeback. Though credit card issuers are still being cautious on how they extend credit, you will definitely have more options to chose from in 2021. If you're still not finding what you're looking for after reviewing our list, we recommend comparing credit cards with 0% APR intro offers.
MoneyGeek’s Take: Credit Cards With The Best Balance Transfer Offers
We analyzed approximately 100+ credit cards to find the very best balance transfer cards on the market for consumers. Factors we considered included balance transfer fees, the length of the 0% APR introductory period, interest paid after the intro period, other card fees, card benefits and perks and the potential drawbacks of each card. Ultimately, the best balance transfer card is the one that’s right for you. Research each card to ensure you find the best option for your specific needs.
0% APR on Balance Transfers for 20 Months
- The U.S. Bank Visa Platinum card offers one of the longest introductory APR periods of any balance transfer card.
Introductory 0% APR for 18 Months
- New Citi Diamond Preferred Cardholders get 18 months interest-free on balance transfers and new purchases.
- The no-fee balance transfer Wells Fargo Platinum card comes with a lengthy intro period, free access to your credit score and several digital budgeting tools.
Best Balance Transfer Cards to Consider in 2021
Below are some of the best balance transfer card offers available currently. Each listing features insights into the offer, including pros and cons and an expert editorial review of the card. Use this information to guide you when choosing the right balance transfer offer for you. Some balance transfer periods extend into 2022, which could help pay down debt easier or future budget planning.
Credit Cards with Longer Balance Transfer Periods
Opting for a balance transfer card with a longer introductory offer allows you time to form a plan for paying off existing credit card debt. It helps with budgeting since you have more time to make payments on the balance.
FEATUREDU.S. Bank Visa PlatinumBest balance transfer credit card for short-term debt repayment
- Good, ExcellentCredit Needed
- 20 monthsBalance Transfer Duration
- $0Annual Fee
- 14.49%–24.49%Regular APR
Balance Transfer Cards with Perks
A few balance transfer cards offer more than a break from interest charges. Some cards come with extra perks and benefits similar to those found with top rewards credit cards. Card perks may include travel benefits, purchase protections, loyalty rewards and more.
FEATUREDCiti Diamond Preferred CardBest balance transfer card for immediate transfers
- ExcellentCredit Needed
- 18 months*Balance Transfer Duration
- $0Annual Fee
- 13.74%-23.74%Regular APR
- Wells Fargo Platinum CardBest balance transfer card for building credit
- Good, ExcellentCredit Needed
- 18 months*Balance Transfer Duration
- $0Annual Fee
- 16.49%–24.49%Regular APR
How We Rank Balance Transfer Credit Cards
We compile and rank our lists of suggested credit cards based on publicly available data from card issuers and other reputable sources like the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. We review each card's fees, interest rates, rewards, benefits, and more to assign a rating for each feature. These ratings are stack ranked and weighted for each card category to determine our top selections for each type of user. Learn more about our credit card ranking methodology.
Top Rating Criteria for Balance Transfer Cards
Comparing Different 0% APR Balance Transfer Offers
While they may offer other benefits, by and large, balance transfer cards are created for one thing — to help people pay off credit card balances. Here are several factors to consider as you think about which card is right for you.
Introductory offer period
The introductory 0% APR offer determines how long you have to pay off your transferred balance before you’re hit with interest charges again. Offer lengths range from six months to 20 months. If you’re transferring a large balance or are working with a tight budget, you’re better off with a longer promotional period. Some cards offer 0% APR on new purchases too. While that seems like an extra perk, adding new purchases increases your balance, possibly making it even more challenging to pay off.
Balance transfer fees
Most credit card companies charge a fee for allowing you to transfer a balance over to your newly approved credit card. Typically you’ll pay either a flat fee or a percentage of the transferred balance, whichever is greater. There may also be a minimum balance transfer fee. Always calculate how much your fee is compared to the interest charges you’re currently paying before transferring over a balance.
Balance transfer limits
In many cases, balance transfer cards have set limits to how much you can transfer over. It’s important to pay attention to the limit so that you can find a card that allows you to transfer over your entire existing balance.
Your promotional APR rate could be affected or ended with a late payment. You could also face a late payment fee or penalty APR on your balance or future purchases. The last thing you want to do is transfer over your balance and then lose out on the purpose for signing up for the card in the first place.
Once the introductory period ends, your remaining balance is subject to interest charges and, possibly, fees. This is known as your regular APR. In many cases, the regular APR is the same for balance transfers and new purchases.
The best balance transfer credit cards come with no annual fees, but there are additional fees to keep in mind when choosing a card. If you plan to use the card when traveling, you might want to find a card with no foreign transaction fees. Other fees to watch for include late fees, returned payment fees and cash advance fees.
A balance transfer card may come with added benefits like travel perks or purchase and fraud protection. Extra perks increase the card’s value, but they shouldn’t take priority over more important factors like the offer length and transfer fees.
Your credit score
For the most part, your credit score will determine which balance cards you qualify for. Most balance transfer cards require good or excellent credit. Only apply for cards when there’s a good chance of approval since each application requires a hard credit inquiry, which can lower your credit score.
Top Balance Transfer Cards at a Glance
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- Card NameBT Offer LengthAPR After OfferCredit Needed
- U.S. Bank Visa Platinum20 months14.49% - 24.49%Good-Excellent
- Citi Diamond Preferred Card18 months13.74% - 23.74%Excellent
- Wells Fargo Platinum card18 months16.49%-24.49%Good-Excellent
MoneyGeek’s Quick Guide to Understanding Balance Transfers
Paying off debt is a great feeling, which is why a balance transfer card is such a powerful tool. It can jump-start your debt payoff plan. Plus, it allows you to consolidate your credit cards into one monthly bill. Not everyone is a good fit for a balance transfer card, though. There are certain nuances to balance transfer cards that you should know before deciding to apply for a card.
How Balance Transfer Credit Cards Work
Balance transfer cards allow you to transfer over existing credit card balances from other credit cards to your new card. Do the math to verify that the offer is worth any fees incurred.
Once you’re approved for your balance transfer card, you are ready to transfer a credit card balance. Here’s how the process works:
Request a transfer
Contact your new credit card issuer to request to transfer over an existing balance from another card. You can do that by calling the customer service number on the back of your card. Your card issuer may allow you to request transfers online or through its mobile app too. You will be asked for specific information about the debt you are transferring, like the account number and balance amount. Depending on card limits, you could get approved for transferring all or a portion of the existing balance.
Continue making payments on the old card
Balance transfers take time to be approved and processed. The process can potentially take weeks to be finalized. Continue to make minimum payments on your old card until the balance has been moved to the new card. Failure to make payments on the old card before that time could result in costly late payments.
Plan your debt payoff
Once the balance is moved over to the new card, make a plan to pay it off within the introductory period. Divide the total transferred balance by the promotional period’s length to determine how much you need to pay each month. If you make purchases on the new card during that time, you’ll need to factor them into your calculations too. You can also make extra payments to pay off the debt even faster.
Depending on the card issuer, you may be able to transfer over other debt balances besides credit cards, like auto loans, student loans and personal loans. Check with the card issuer or read through the card’s terms and conditions to determine what types of debt they allow to be transferred to a credit card. Most card issuers only allow you to move over balances on cards issued by other credit card companies.
Who Should Consider a Balance Transfer
Balance transfers are best for individuals with high-interest debt who have good enough credit to qualify for a 0% interest balance transfer card. They are also great for those who need extended time to pay off their balance.
A balance transfer might not be the best option for individuals with low balances on existing cards or those with poor credit. Avoid balance transfers if you have no intention of paying off your balance.
Credit Card Balance Transfer Best Practices
Transferring a balance can save you money and help you pay off debt quicker. There are steps you can take to ensure a balance transfer accomplishes its intended goal.
- Pay attention to the card details: Always read through the terms and conditions before applying for a new credit card. Pay attention to things like the fee structure, what happens after the introductory period ends and more.
- Create a plan to pay off the balance: Determine how much money you need to pay each month to pay off the entire balance before the end of the promotional period. This may require paying more than the minimum payment.
- Avoid late fees: Do whatever is necessary to keep from making payments late. Try paying your monthly bill early to ensure your payment goes through correctly.
- Avoid new purchases: The goal of the balance transfer card is to pay down debt. Each time you make new purchases, it extends the time and money necessary to pay the total balance.
Alternatives to Balance Transfers
Balance transfers can help you pay down debt quickly, but they aren’t suitable for everyone. If they’re not an option for you, there are other ways to handle debt payoff.
Other Ways to Pay Down Debt
Personal loan: You may qualify for a personal loan with a lower interest rate than your credit card, saving you money in interest charges. Also, personal loans typically offer longer payment terms than an introductory period.
Debt payoff plan: You could keep your balance on the existing card and develop a plan to pay off your debt. One method for paying off debt is called the debt avalanche method. With a debt avalanche, you find the card with the highest interest rate and work like crazy to pay it off, making minimum payments on all other cards. Once it's paid off, move on to the card with the next highest interest.
Expert Advice for Balance Transfer Cardholders
We continue to help your research by gathering advice from financial, credit counselors and other credit card experts and answering common questions related to balance transfer credit cards.
- How can balance transfers impact your credit score in the short and long term?
- What are one or two common mistakes people make when they do a balance transfer, and what can you do to avoid them?
Associate Professor, Marketing at Merrimack College
Sy Syms Professor of Finance, Sy Syms School of Business at Yeshiva University
Associate Dean and Professor, School of Business at Christian Brothers University
Assistant Professor of Business
FAQs About Transferring Credit Card Balances
There are important details you should know if you’re thinking about transferring an existing credit card balance.
Balance transfer credit cards help you pay off existing debt without the burden of monthly interest fees. Research whether it makes sense to transfer the balance or not. If so, take the time to compare the best balance transfer credit cards to determine the right card for you.
Learn More About Credit Cards
About the Author
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- Chase. "Can you pay off student loans with a credit card?." Accessed April 15, 2021.
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- Experian. "How Do Business Credit Card Balance Transfers Work?." Accessed April 15, 2021.
- Chron. "How to Transfer a Personal Balance to a Small Business Credit Card." Accessed April 15, 2021.
- Discover. "How Long Does a Balance Transfer Take? (and other FAQs)." Accessed April 15, 2021.
- Wallethub. "Balance Transfer Calculator." Accessed April 15, 2021.
- Discover. "Credit Card Interest Calculator." Accessed April 15, 2021.
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