How to choose the best balance transfer card

We generally make money when you get a product (like a credit card or loan) through our platform, but we don’t let that cloud our editorial opinions. Learn more about how we keep this compensation from affecting our editorial views.

How to choose the best balance transfer card

Opening a new balance transfer credit card is a good way to save on your existing credit card debt. It helps consolidate your debts and reduce your monthly credit card payments to a single payment.

The benefit of a balance transfer card is that most have a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers for a period of 6 to 21 months, allowing you to focus on paying down debt without accruing additional interest rate charges. Keep in mind that if you don't pay off your balance before the introductory rate period expires, you may be responsible for paying the interest on the entire original amount. Also, most balance transfer cards come with a balance transfer fee.

So how do you choose the best balance transfer credit card for you? Here's a quick step-by-step guide and a few options from our partners to help you decide on the right card.

1. Choose a card you can qualify for.

Don't get stuck applying for a card you won't be approved for. A good credit score can increase your chances of being approved for a balance transfer card with the best terms. Pay attention to the average approved credit score for a card before deciding to apply. If your credit score is significantly below the average, you may be less likely to get approved for the card.

2. Choose a card with a long introductory rate period.

The best balance transfer cards have a lengthy 0% introductory APR period. For instance, the Citi® Diamond Preferred® card has an introductory period of 21 months. Choose a card that will give you the time you need to pay off your credit card debt in full.

3. Choose a card with a low balance transfer fee.

Most cards charge you a small percentage of the balance you're transferring as a fee, usually three to five percent. Calculate how much you will be charged to make sure you're comfortable paying the additional fee. One card, the Chase Slate® Card (**This card is no longer available on our site), currently has a zero-fee balance transfer as an introductory offer.

4. Choose a card with no annual fee (unless it's a better deal).

Since you'll already be paying down credit card debt on your new card, avoid cards that will charge you additional annual fees unless they come with benefits that will really help you, like a lengthy introductory rate period. The Discover it® is one of many balance transfer cards without an annual fee.

5. Choose a card that resets to a low APR after the introductory rate.

In case you're unable to pay back your full balance during the introductory rate period, get a card that will reset to a low APR. The Capital One® Platinum Prestige Credit Card has a regular APR starting at 10.9%. Your goal, however, should be to pay off your credit cards in full by the time the introductory rate has expired.


Whichever card you apply for, remember to keep a few caveats in mind:

  • If you don't pay off your transferred balance during the introductory period, you could be required to pay the interest on the entire original transferred amount, not just the remaining balance. Schedule out your payments to accomplish this repayment goal before the intro period ends.
  • The balance transfer credit cards with the best rates and benefits are typically only available to consumers with excellent credit scores. Keep this in mind while shopping around.
  • The point of a balance transfer card should be to help you pay down debt, not accrue more. Don't be tempted to spend by the 0% interest rate on purchases that many cards offer.
  • Even a card without an annual fee can come with other fees. Make sure to read all of the fine print of the card you're interested in before applying.

Interested in learning more? Check out the 10 best balance transfer cards - compare reviews and apply online.

Editorial Note: The opinions you read here come from our editorial team. While compensation may affect which companies we write about and products we review, our marketing partners don't review, approve or endorse our editorial content. Our content is accurate (to the best of our knowledge) when we initially post it, but we don't guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. You can visit the company's website to get complete details about a product. See an error in an article? Use this form to report it to our editorial team. For questions about your Credit Karma account, please submit a help request to our support team.

Advertiser Disclosure: We think it's important for you to understand how we make money. It's pretty simple, actually. The offers for financial products you see on our platform come from companies who pay us. The money we make helps us give you access to free credit scores and reports and helps us create our other great tools and educational materials.

Compensation may factor into how and where products appear on our platform (and in what order). But since we generally make money when you find an offer you like and get, we try to show you offers we think are a good match for you. That's why we provide features like your Approval Odds and savings estimates.

Of course, the offers on our platform don't represent all financial products out there, but our goal is to show you as many great options as we can.

All Comments

Results 1-10 of 22Results per page: 5 | 10 | 25Page 1 of 3   Previous | Next
1 Contribution
259 People Helped

Helpful to 259 out of 278 people

Credit karma seems to make you believe you can qualify for a card when in applying you are turned down causing near fatal blows to your credit score because of the hard inquiries.

Reply by
janieb1950

1 Contribution
25 People Helped
Helpful to 25 out of 32 people

Wow...Thanks for the info!  I had no idea!!  Great advice! Maybe I WON'T.... check my score!

Reply by
UneedaBiscuit9

3 Contributions
113 People Helped
Helpful to 65 out of 81 people

so you mean it is not worth trying to transfer balances to any one of the recommended cards that they suggest to try and live comfortably?  Also, the recommended monthly amount, is that accurate because it is less than what I am currently paying toward scattered credit card bills?

Reply by
UneedaBiscuit9

3 Contributions
113 People Helped
Helpful to 34 out of 42 people

was your credit score compliant with the credit card information they stated you could be approved for?

I am concerned because I would love to transfer my balances, but unforturnately there is a percentage that i would have to calculate with the balances.

Reply by
msga920

1 Contribution
1 Person Helped
Helpful to 1 out of 1 people

same thing happen to me it's very unfair...

2 Contributions
100 People Helped

Helpful to 100 out of 103 people

It would be helpful to have more information when considering which balance transfer cards to apply to beyond approval rate - such as the typical credit scores and the typical credit limit if approved, as well as the percentage of the credit limit that the issuer allows to be used for a balance transfer.  A few months ago I applied to a card that had a "high chance of approval".  I wanted to move about $8,000 from a high-interest card to a low interest card.  I was approved - but only for a $3,000 limit.  And the issuer would only allow a balance transfer of about 80% of the limit, so I ended up being able to only move $2,400 - leaving $600 of "available" credit unable to be used.  Very frustrating. 

1 Contribution
73 People Helped

Helpful to 73 out of 74 people

I had the same problem with Credit Karma & Discover. They show me how easy I could do a balance transfer on my 2 cards. When it was done all Discover would do is give me $6000 line of credit which I didn't want or need & you can't cancel the card because it goes against your credit score!!

Top Contributor

Reply by
ernestf01

116 Contributions
1301 People Helped
Helpful to 43 out of 44 people

yes but you only half to use it every once in awhile. Most increase limit longer you have them and it still gives you higher over all credit which lowers your utilization if you didn't cancel the other cards. It can actually help your credit score if done right

1 Contribution
66 People Helped

Helpful to 66 out of 71 people

Hard inquiries have nothing to do with you checking your own credit, it refers to companies checking your score when you are applying for credit. I always check my credit and it hasn't affected anything.

Reply by
kellyturner2225

2 Contributions
4 People Helped
Helpful to 4 out of 5 people

hard inquires does effect your credit score. you need to check to see if someone is pulling yours for a credit check and if not accurate dispute it. they fall off after about 2 yrs. asl long as you pay everything on time your score can increase over a short period of time. i have multiple credit cards. I always pay over the lowest balance due. Just remember. if you cant afford to make the payment later, then dont purchase now. 

Top Contributor
116 Contributions
1301 People Helped

Helpful to 41 out of 44 people

I wouldn't ever transfer balance A lot of cards have fee's for doing so. More practical to pay low payments on your low interest rate cards. High payments on your high interest rate cards and just pay them off first. If they are your oldest credit line do not cancel them out though unless they have a annual fee. You don't want to kill your credit history age. Making double size payments and carrying low utilization on them will help more.

1 Contribution
24 People Helped

Helpful to 24 out of 24 people

i wouldnt listen to the person that talked about Chase being a good card. I had chase in the past and my interest rate was 6.99% fixed. They turned around and changed my interest rate to 12.99%.  When I notice the change,  I called them and said "Hey", why did you guys do that? they said they changed the rate to make it comparable to my other cards. WOW!!! iI cancelled the card and paid it off.

Reply by
mamadont

1 Contribution
19 People Helped
Helpful to 19 out of 19 people

I have dealt with a lot of different credit card companies over the years.  (Yes, I am old.) Chase is a fairly good company but they have been adding in more and more small print and conditions over the time I've had them.  I also have a Chase bank account and find them to be okay to deal witth.  But they are middle-good overall.

Discover is probably the worst card ever.  No matter how good your cedit is or your history with them, they have the highest intterest of anyone I've dealt with.  They start their interest rates at 20% and up so I only would use the card for an absolute necessary purchse.  I canceled my Sears card, like a lot of people, when they raised their interest rates for ALL their credit card holders (even excellent credit holders) to 29.99%!!  That is nothing but a total rip-off too.

Bank of America in the last 10 years just got so crazy, I closed my bank account and canceled my credit cards there.  Way too much small printt, restrictions, exceptions, extra charges, ways to hold your money and a totally non-customer oriented service program.  Won't cooperate with any problems and help customer out.  I had so many weird problems with them.  I had been with them for over 30 years and then it just seem like one problem after another.  So I would never deal with them again.

Now, I do have something good to say, in case you were wondering.  I LOVE Citi Bank.  They have the easiest way to use your card and the easiest way to make your payments.  They seem to be easier to get a decent interest rate and also a better limit than others.  I despise this idea they start you out approved for $500 limit then in a year they raise it to $1000 and, if you keep payments up and all, eventually you might get up to $2,000-$3,000.  If I want to transfer a balance from another card, $500 limit is not going to help me.  Citi gave me a decent limit so I could transfer nearly all the balance on the other card then paid off the little balance left.  With 0% interest, I was able to double the payments on the new card and pay that off much sooner.

Citi seems to REALLY care about their customers satisfaction and try to make things less cumbersome when you have to deal with them.  Three buttons and my monthly payment is made.  Some of the other pay-by-phone systems take 15-20 minutes to complete a payment.  I always feel good whenever I deal with Citi.  This is the ONLY card issuer I could ever say that about.

One final note.  I have a credit union card which has a lower interest rate than the banks by about 5% BUT it also has the biggest monthly payment percentage.  I would be paying the same monthly payment as a card with twice the balance on it.  I don't care about cards with the point system as they never have anything I would want anyway at the point level I am.  I don't want to bother with registering for a different 2% cash back every month either.  I don't fly any more so I don't caree about miles either.  Just give me a FAIR and decent interest rate and reasonable limit without all the extra money making fines and fees and threats.  Lots to consider but as I said, I would recommend Citi to anyone.  No, I don't work for them either.

1 Contribution
29 People Helped

Helpful to 29 out of 32 people

Chase is a good company, but they charge me 29.99% because I was over 30 days late 4 years ago

1 Contribution
25 People Helped

Helpful to 25 out of 30 people

When you check your credit, it's a "soft" hit - doesn't affect your score - when you apply to any lender, it's a hard inquiry. You don't want more than 4-5 in 6 months - will definitely affect your credit. 

I always see suggested offers for balance transfers for me but what they don't see is that I have a BK and a foreclsosure on my credit. My score is 655 but doesn't matter. I already have 4 Capital One cards and thank God they choose to give me credit because I feel having those 4 cards and a car loan with a payment of $230 a month has been a huge factor in increasing my overall score. However, I can't apply for anymore card with them for a balance transfer. All the other major cards - Discover, Am Ex. Citibank were all part of my BK so can't apply for balance transfers through any of them. Anyone know of other cards I may be forgetting about? Really need a card with a lower APR to get my balances paid off this year on my Cap One cards. Thanks for any help!! :-)

Reply by
arielLmariah

1 Contribution
42 People Helped
Helpful to 42 out of 46 people

Chase is a great company that's always offering 0% APR and $0 annual fee .... I have 3 chase cards and had never had one issue .. maybe give them a shot?!

Top Contributor

Reply by
ernestf01

116 Contributions
1301 People Helped
Helpful to 9 out of 9 people

Barclays rewards. Has treated me better than capital ones. That and I agree you need to diversify your credit to much from capital 1

Top Contributor

Reply by
ernestf01

116 Contributions
1301 People Helped
Helpful to 27 out of 28 people

most good transfer offer not going to get until your scores over 712 And bye time you get there you should have your credit rebuilt already. So better to pay off your high interest ones faster than the others and keep utilization 10 to 20 percent afterwards

Reply by
Bryanyyu

2 Contributions
7 People Helped

Checking your own credit is a "soft pull" which doesn't hurt your credit but when a credit card company pulls your credit it is a "hard pull" and it will damage you credit. What's the point of applying for a card you don't intend to use that is stupid IMHO. If you don't obtain the terms you like cancel right away because the more cards you have open the more of a liability you are to a bank because they see that as a potential threat. Especially when applying for mortgages. DO NOT GO OUT AND SPEND HUNDREDS AND THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS BUYING FURNITURE BEFORE YOU GET THE KEYS IN YOUR HAND BECAUSE WE DO SOMETHING CALLED A FINAL CHECK AND IF YOUR DEBT INCREASES THAT CAN BLOW THHE WHOLE DEAL! Just an FYI. 

Reply by
doglover521

1 Contribution
1 Person Helped
Helpful to 1 out of 2 people

I would suggest contacting Capital One and see if they will lower your interest rate. If you've been with them a while and your accounts are in good standing, most credit card companies will grant your request. Good luck!

1 Contribution
21 People Helped

Helpful to 21 out of 25 people

Just a little disappointing to say the least with these banks. Its like come on guys throw us a bone. As I read all the the criterias to gain a decent card to transfer balances from those ugly credit card companies who suckered us in the first place with the great terms and rates (and you know who you are) and then life takes a turn and oops you miss one or two payments and never to be forgiven again. Well it is what it is. Maybe I lesson learn is to pay down each one. Hummm

2 Contributions
14 People Helped

Helpful to 14 out of 16 people

I've applied for a Chase slate card just ask CK asked me to do and they told me to wait. Wait for how long? I've sent them a message, asking them, how long do I need to wait? I'm hope to get an answer right away. I've made hospital bills over 9,000 which my insurance won't pay for so that's why my cards went up so high. Thank you, CK for helping me understand a little more. Reading one of the comments, I just may have to get another card. I have a Discover card, which I've got the doctor's fees on, around 4600. You specifiec on my account about a discover card, I have one, however, they've given me a limit of 6,000, I think.

Reply by
UneedaBiscuit9

3 Contributions
113 People Helped
Helpful to 14 out of 15 people

After some research, perhaps you can look into the equity in your home and try for a second mortgage, if applicable.  The interest is lower than a personal line of credit or balance transfer.  I know LOANS, LOANS, LOANS.

Top Contributor

Reply by
ernestf01

116 Contributions
1301 People Helped
Helpful to 9 out of 9 people

Yeah but second morgage and refinacing home. you aquire others fee's and possible new appraisal expence so what you save in one you could possibly get charged in the other. best to just pick your worse line of credit and pay them off one at a time rather than incurring more new fee's. And figure out a new living budget get off the cards

Top Contributor

Reply by
ernestf01

116 Contributions
1301 People Helped
Helpful to 14 out of 15 people

have you talked to the hospital finace office some times they have other avaible funds. some will even eat some of the out of pocket based on your annual income

1 Contribution
0 People Helped

I recently tried to go through credit counseling to lower my monthly payments because I am maxed out with debt due to unfortunate job layoffs (3 in 2 years) & now that I have found a good, steady job, I'm starting at the bottom in a field I've worked in for 9 years, making way less now ($30k vs $40k). I turned to them because all of the cards Credit Karma stated I had "very good" chances of getting approved, I was denied 100%. During my discussion with the credit counseling agency, they advised to NEVER transfer an unsecured debt (I.E. credit card, signature loan with NO collateral, etc.) to a secured debt (mortgage, lien against vehicle, etc.). They stated that is the worst decision to ever make. So, I would NOT suggest getting a home equity loan or anything of the sort!

Results 1-10 of 22Results per page: 5 | 10 | 25Page 1 of 3   Previous | Next

Your Credit Scores Should Be Free. And Now They Are.

View your scores and reports anytime.

SIGN UP NOW

Comment on this Article

Write your comment:
Enter Your Comments