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Hear from our editors: The best balance transfer cards of July 2020
Updated June 17, 2020
This date indicates our editors’ last comprehensive review and may not reflect recent changes in individual terms.
Louis DeNicola is a personal finance writer and has written for American Express and Discover. Editorial Note: Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted. Read our Editorial Guidelines to learn more about our team.
Written by: Louis DeNicola
Do you carry a balance on your credit cards? If you do, how much interest are you paying?
Rather than pay interest on your credit card debt or juggle multiple payments each month, you may be able to transfer high-interest debt to a single credit card by doing a balance transfer.
Here are our choices for the best balance transfer cards.
- Best for long 0% intro APR: Citi Simplicity® Card
- Best for simple cash back: Citi® Double Cash Card
- Best for introductory offer for purchases: U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
- Best for transfers from major card issuers: HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card
Here’s why: If you want plenty of time to pay off your balance, the Citi Simplicity® Card has a lengthy intro offer for balance transfers — one of the longest we see on the market today.
You’ll get an intro 0% APR on balance transfers for 21 months from the date of the first transfer, plus an intro 0% APR for purchases for 12 months from account opening. There are a few things to know before you apply for this card, though.
- Once those two introductory windows are up, you’ll be charged a variable APR of 14.74% - 24.74% on both purchases and balance transfers.
- To qualify for the low balance transfer rate, you must complete your transfers within four months of your account opening.
- You’ll be charged to transfer a balance: The Citi Simplicity® Card has a fee of 5% (minimum $5) per transfer.
You’ll have to weigh the benefit of the lengthy introductory APR period against the fee. If you could pay off your balance in less time, you may be better off with a balance transfer card that has a lower (or no) fee.
Learn more about the Citi Simplicity® Card and how to use the long balance transfer intro APR offer to pay down your debt.
Here’s why: The Citi® Double Cash Card has a good 2% cash back rate for when you want to start using the card for purchases: 1% cash back on every purchase, and another 1% cash back when you pay the bill for those purchases.
It also has an introductory 0% APR for 18 months from the date of the first transfer for balance transfers that are completed within four months of your account opening. But there’s a balance transfer fee of 3% (minimum $5). And once the intro 0% APR window is up, there’s a variable APR of 13.99% – 23.99% on balance transfers.
Also, there’s no promotional rate for purchases, and your purchase balance may start to accrue interest right away if you’re still paying off balance transfers (the card’s variable APR for purchases is 13.99% – 23.99%). We generally recommend not using the card for new purchases until you pay off your balance transfers.
Here’s our complete review of the Citi® Double Cash Card.
Here’s why: The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card comes with a long intro APR offer for balance transfers that’s matched by an equally long intro APR for purchases.
The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card offers an intro 0% APR for the first 20 billing cycles on purchases and on balance transfers completed in the first 60 days of your account opening. Once the 20 billing cycles are up, you’ll be charged a variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99% for both your purchases and transferred balances.
But the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card charges a balance transfer fee of 3% (minimum $5) per transfer.
Find out how you can make the most of a U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card.
Here’s why: You often can’t transfer balances between two cards from the same credit card issuer. If you’re currently carrying credit card balances with major issuers, like Chase, Citi and Capital One, a balance transfer card from a lesser-known issuer could be a good option for you.
This is where the HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card comes in with a competitive intro offer of 18 months. The card comes with an intro 0% APR on purchases and on balance transfers completed within the first 60 days your account is open. After that, you’ll be charged a variable APR of 12.99% - 22.99%.
But given the card’s 4% (minimum $10) balance transfer fee, this could also be an expensive option. It should generally be a last resort for balance transfers if you can’t find a less-expensive option that works for you.
You can read more about the HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card with our review.
How we picked these cards
We looked for cards that could help people who are currently in debt and plan to use a new balance transfer card to help them consolidate and pay down their debt. The length of the balance transfer introductory APR period and the balance transfer fee are two essential components, as a longer intro period and lower fees could help you pay off the balance before it starts to accrue interest.
We also considered other card fees, like annual fees, as these expenses could make it more difficult to pay off your debt. In fact, none of our picks for the best balance transfer cards charge an annual fee.
We didn’t consider sign-up bonuses, which can be more common with rewards cards than balance transfer cards.
How to make the most of balance transfer cards
As with rewards cards and low-interest cards, it’s a good idea to compare balance transfer cards to determine which is best for your particular circumstances. If you don’t think you can pay off the debt quickly, a longer promotional period could be best. Or, you may want to try to save as much money as possible by avoiding balance transfer fees.
The right balance transfer card could help you save money while you pay down your debt, but even then it’s not a magic solution. Here are a few things you’ll want to watch out for, plus some tips for getting the most out of your card.
- Some balance transfer cards give you an introductory 0% interest rate on purchases, too, but this may not be the same length as the balance transfer intro period.
- You usually have to pay a fee to transfer your balance to your new card — typically 3% or 5% of your balance.
- Balance transfer cards may provide temporary relief from high interest rates, but they don’t make your debt disappear. If you’re approved for a transfer, you should make a plan for paying your debt down during the introductory APR period.
- A balance transfer calculator can help you estimate how much a particular balance transfer offer could save you.
- Depending on how much debt you’re carrying, you may not be able to transfer all of your debt, even if you’re approved for the card. How much you can transfer will probably be restricted to the credit limit you’re approved for. The card’s issuer may set a maximum transfer amount, too.
- You may need to have good or even excellent credit scores to qualify for a balance transfer card. If you’re still working on your overall credit, a card that can help you build credit may be a better fit for you.
As long as you’re aware of the potential pitfalls and have a plan, a balance transfer card could be a good option for you to help you consolidate and pay down debt.