Details on the Best Balance Transfer Cards
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card–Editor’s Pick
The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card earns the top spot for one reason and one reason only–it offers the longest 0% APR on balance transfers available today. At 20 billing cycles, this card’s 0% APR would last into 2023. It comes with no annual fee, but little in the way of cash back or other rewards.
Wells Fargo Platinum Visa–Editor’s Pick
The Wells Fargo Platinum Visa also earns an editor’s pick for its 0% balance transfer that lasts for 18 months. It too offers little in the way of additional rewards, but doesn’t charge an annual fee either. It does offer free access to your FICO score.
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card–Best for Cash Back
For those who want cash back rewards in addition to a solid balance transfer offer, the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card fits the bill. It offers an impressive 0% APR balance transfer for 15 months + up to 1.8% cash back + a signup bonus. And it does all of this without charging an annual fee. Read our full review.
Citi Double Cash Credit Card–Best for Cash Back
I’ve carried the Citi Double Cash Credit Card for years. In addition to an excellent balance transfer offer, it also pays up to 2% cash back and doesn’t charge an annual fee. It’s one of the best all-around credit cards available today. Read our full review.
U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card–Best for Dining Rewards
The U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card combines a good transfer feature with rewards geared for those who eat out. And yes, the rewards apply to food delivery as well. There is no annual fee.
There are some other balance transfer cards from other issuers, which you can check out here.
How to Choose the Best Balance Transfer Offer
Finding 0% balance transfer cards is the easy part. Choosing the best option for your specific circumstances, however, requires a lot more than just comparing transfer fees and length of the 0% introductory rate. In fact, there are several questions you should consider before making a choice. What might be the best option for one person many not be the wisest choice for another.
Here are 6 things to consider.
1. How much debt you have
The amount of credit card debt you have is an important consideration for at least two reasons. First, you may or may not qualify for enough credit on a balance transfer card to cover all of your existing credit card debt. This may mean you need to apply for multiple offers if you want to move all of the debt to a 0% card.
Second, your monthly minimum payment may be higher than what you are paying now. While two percent of the outstanding balance is a common minimum payment formula, not all issuers follow this standard. You’ll want to make sure you understand what the minimum payment will be and that your budget can handle it.
2. Which cards hold your debt now
Credit card issuers do not allow you to transfer debt from one of their cards to another. If you have debt on a Citibank card, for example, you can’t transfer it to another Citibank card. This is particularly important to remember when searching for balance transfer cards. You may find a great offer, but it won’t do you much good if it’s with the same issuer that currently holds your debt.
3. Your credit score
Credit card issuers don’t publish their underwriting standards, including the credit score needed to qualify for one of their cards. The best card offers, however, require a good credit score. While there is no minimum score required, in my experience you want to aim for a FICO score of at least 700. Keep in mind that other factors are important, too, such as your income, debt levels, and history with the credit card issuer.
If you don’t know your credit score, there are several free tools available to get access to your score. One of the free options is credit card issuers. Most major issuers today provide free access to your credit score. You’ll find a list of those issuers here.
4. Time to pay off the debt
Most of the top balance transfer cards today offer 0% for 12 to 20 months. Before transferring a balance, assess whether you’ll be able to pay off the debt before the 0% introductory rate ends. If you can pay off the debt in 15 months, for example, you’ll then want to look for offers of 15 months or longer.
5. Life After the 0% Offer
Make a plan for when the 0% offer expires. In our case, we continued to transfer the balances until we paid off our credit card debt in full. While this is a reasonable option, there are at least two potential hurdles.
First, there is no guarantee that 0% offers will be available a year or two from now. While balance transfer cards have been part of the credit card landscape for many years, all good things eventually come to an end. In fact, many major issuers left the balance transfer space last year because of Covid, including Chase, American Express and Capital One.
Second, even if these offers are available down the road, there is no guarantee that you’ll qualify for them. As noted above, these offers require a good to excellent credit score.
One way to prepare is to understand what the interest rates will be at the end of the 0% offer. As the CFPB has noted, it’s important to understand the interest rate over the life of the new card, not just the introductory rate. All credit card issuers make this information available to you. During the application process, the regular APR is typically stated as a range based on your creditworthiness. If your application is approved, however, you’ll know then what the regular APR is. While this can of course change, you’ll at least have some idea of the consequences should you be unable to pay off the debt before the zero percent rate expires.
6. Other credit card perks
Finally, it’s worth considering the perks beyond the 0% offer. Some of the best balance transfer cards come with no rewards, as noted above. There are, however, several good balance transfer cards that offer cash back rewards.
For additional balance transfer offers, check out this resource.