Which 0% Balance Transfer Offer is Right For You?

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If you are looking for credit cards with balance transfer offers that last up to 18 months, you’ve come to the right place. Listed below you’ll find credit cards that let you transfer high interest balances while making payments with no interest, so debt can be paid down faster.  Knowing which balance transfer offer is best for you can be a little tricky sometimes.

Years ago, credit card issuers made it simple by offering 0% life of balance transfer offers without charging a balance transfer fee.  Today however, there is usually a fee associated with the balance transfer you make and the amount of time you have to make interest free payments is limited.

In order to help you decide which balance transfer is best for you, I’ve developed a few different scenarios below.  Ultimately, only you will know which offer is best for your financial situation but you should be able to relate to at least one of the three scenarios below.  Depending on the up-front fee and length of each balance transfer opportunity the offers below provide different savings.

Scenario #1

Large amount of debt and can only afford to make the minimum payments – This is probably the most common scenario when looking for a balance transfer and it’s also the most difficult to overcome.  Individuals with large amounts of debt generally won’t qualify for a large credit limit on a new credit card.  Therefore it may be best to apply for the below two offers at the same time, in the hopes that more than one card will garner an approval.  Let’s assume you have $5,000 in credit card debt and can only make $100 payments each month.

Citi Simplicity CardCiti Simplicity® Card – This card offers a 18 months* 0% APR balance transfer* offer with a 3% balance transfer fee ($5 minimum).  With a $150 balance transfer fee, your outstanding debt becomes $5,150.  Interest free payments for 18 months*-months at $100 a piece will bring the debt down to $3,350, at which point the interest rate of 12.99% - 21.99%* (Variable) kicks in.

  • Using the Citi Simplicity Card balance transfer offer in the above scenario, a $5,000 balance would take 61 months to pay off when making $100 payments.  The total amount paid back, including the $150 balance transfer fee is $6041.19.
  • Not taking advantage of this offer and paying off $5,000 with a 16% interest would take a total of 83 months when making $100 payments.  The total amount paid back is $8294.43.
  • Total Savings – $2,253.24

PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card BigPenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card – Oddly enough, this card does not offer a 0% intro APR for an extended period of time, rather a 4.99% balance transfer APR for 24 months.  The balance transfer fee is 3% with a $250 maximum, which will come into play for people looking to transfer more than $8,000.

  • Using the PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card offer in the above scenario, a $5,000 balance would take 59 months to pay off when making $100 monthly payments.  The total amount paid back, including the $150 balance transfer fee is $5807.52.
  • Not taking advantage of this offer and paying off $5,000 with a 16% interest would take a total of 83 months when making $100 payments.  The total amount paid back is $8294.43.
  • Total Savings: $2,486.91

Conclusion – The PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card is a better option  for people who cannot afford to make more than a minimum payment on a large balance. This is the safest option in terms of a balance transfer just in case money becomes tight in the future.  The larger the balance owed, the smarter this option becomes.

Scenario #2

Large amount of debt with flexible income – In this scenario, the debt level is still fairly high, but the ability to pay more than the minimum allows for a consumer to take full advantage of the 0% balance transfer offer.  We can add a couple of additional cards to this scenario, assuming that the entire debt balance can be paid off while receiving an intro 0% interest rate on balance transfers.  No matter your balance, we can assume that once the intro rate expires, your debt amount is $0, no matter which card

Citi Diamond Preferred CardCiti® Diamond Preferred® Card – The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card offers a 18 months* month 0% APR on both purchases and balance transfers* and does not charge consumers an annual fee.  Once the intro rate expires, the APR becomes 11.99%-21.99%* (Variable), dependent on the applicants credit history.  There is no rewards program associated with this card so it’s recommended to use a different card for purchases once your intro rate expires.  The balance transfer fee is 3% ($5 minimum), which is the smallest BT fee available on credit cards today.

Citi Simplicity CardCiti Simplicity® Card – We’ve already discussed the perks of this card but as a refresher, the Citi Simplicity® Card offers a 0% intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers* for 18 months* months.  The balance transfer fee is 3% ($5 minimum) and there is no annual fee. Unfortunately, there is no rewards program included in this offer so this card should only be used to pay off existing debt, not make new purchases.

Slate from Chase Visa BigSlate® from Chase – Slate® from Chase offers a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months for those with excellent credit, with NO balance transfer fee.  Above average credit will only receive a 6 month intro offer, so make sure you only apply with excellent credit, if you apply at all. Once the intro rate expires, the APR becomes 12.99% - 22.99% (Variable), depending on your credit history.

Slate® from Chase has no annual fee and charges 3% for each balance transfer made. Blueprint is also a cool feature included with the Slate® from Chase, something that allows cardmembers to pay down interest on purchases any way they choose.

Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa Card BigCiti® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card – Last but certainly not least, the Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card includes a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months*.  The balance transfer fee is 3% (minimum $5) and once the intro rate is over, the APR becomes 12.99%-22.99%* (Variable), depending on credit history.  Additional value is provided to all cardholders in the form of a $100 statement credit when $500 is spent during the first three months, and the Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card also rewards cardmembers with 1% cash back on all purchases and 5% cash back on select categories each month.  There is no annual fee to own this card.

Conclusion – If you’re confident you can pay off your existing credit card balance within 15 months, you have to choose either the Discover it Card or Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa Card – $100 Cash Back.  The rewards programs and bonus opportunities are better than most credit cards and you can use these cards as your everyday credit card after you’ve paid off your pre-existing balance.  If you aren’t sure that 15 months is long enough to pay down your balance, either of the two 18-month Citi cards are your best bet.  The savings will all cards are identical so any of the above five will do nicely.

For more information on these 0% balance transfer offers, here is a video clip we produced recently:

Published or Updated: February 28, 2013
About Rob Berger

Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.

Comments

  1. Amw says:

    Any update yet Dave? When you received the cards were the terms different from the offer? What kind of credit line did they offer you at the outset? Thanks!

  2. Dave says:

    Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner…

    I received the checks within two weeks of asking for them (about a week ago), and the cover letter did not list the 0% fee. So, I called Citi again and talked to Priti the customer service rep this time. She seemed genuinely surprised that I had no transfer fee — “that is a very good deal, sir”. :-) The important part was that she confirmed that I had no balance transfer fee, the balance transfer rate is 0% until Feb 2010, and I could write the check for any amount up to my credit limit.

    Since I had two verbal confirmations (Aftib in February and Priti just a few days ago), I decided to take the plunge and wrote a check for $14,000. I just put it in the mail a couple days ago, so it hasn’t cleared yet. When it does, I’ll know for sure that the zero fee is real. I’ll try to post again when I see it.

  3. Dave says:

    I found one other confirmation of the zero fee: I set up an online account at citibank.com, clicked the “View your balance transfer offer” link, and it shows “Balance Transfer Fee: NO FEE”. I feel much better seeing that in print. I still think its odd that the paperwork they mail to me doesn’t say it, but I guess since it is a special offer, they just don’t do that.

  4. DR says:

    A lot has happened since March 2009, and I wanted to give you a quick update on cards with 0% balance transfer for 12 months offers. In short, the credit crunch and the Credit Card Act of 2009 have caused many credit card companies to cut back their 12 month balance transfer offers. There are still good offers to be found, but the terms aren’t as rich as they once were. In fact, some balance transfer cards now come with transfer fees as high as 5%! The Citi Platinum Select MasterCard is still one of the top offers, with a 0% balance transfer for 6 months. I’ll keep you posted as new balance transfer offers become available.

  5. SK says:

    I followed the link you provided and noticed in the Term that there is a 3% Balance Transfer fee. Have the terms changed in the last 2 weeks?

    • DR says:

      SK, credit card and balance transfer terms do change frequently. As of today, I am not aware of any no fee balance transfer offers.

  6. John says:

    With the Citi card, will they still allow you to do the Balance Transfer as a check or direct transfer to a checking or savings account? The reason I ask is that I would only need it to pay off a 401(k) loan and a 0% BT offer would be a great way to go, but obviously, there is no direct transfer. I would need the cash and then I would pay off the loan. If Citi does not do this, then I would have not use for getting another Credit Card at all.
    Thanks for any info.
    P.S. – I must pay off the 401(k) loan within 60 days – this seems to be a good way to do it without taking the tax hit and 10% penalty…

  7. Dwayne says:

    Sorry to say, but people reading this kind of website should be very clear on the “BALANCE TRANSFER FEES” which are 3-5%. Not bad, but you pay for the interest on your whole tranfer upfront!! IT goes on top of your principal.

    The Discover offer up there has a 5% balance transfer FEE. Then you have the problem if you do miss a payment, then your APR could go as high as 25%.

    In other words, BEWARE and READ ALL THE FINE PRINT before you take a chance on doing this. you might not get yourself that far ahead (of course , 5 % is much better than 25% like a lot of cards out there, just FYI.()

  8. Dwayne says:

    By the way, some info on offers that do allow you to use a check would be fabulous. Those are easiest to refinance loans of all kinds . . . any info would be great.

    Thanks for the info on this website

  9. John says:

    Dwayne
    Good points. I am well aware of the up front fees. To me 3% is better than a 10% early withdrawal fee for a 401(k) loan becoming a distribution. Not to mention the idea of making my 401(k) whole again. I had previously contacted Discover and they had said that this type of transaction would not be possible – they could ONLY pay off other Credit Cards… however, I cannot find a contact number for the Citi card. “DR” emailed me and is looking into the possibility of this. As a side note, I would be able to pay off the total balance after the first of the year, but the 401(k) loan must be paid off within 60 days or I get hit with the taxes and early distribution penalty – ouch…

  10. Mrs. Money says:

    It’s so hard any more to find a card that has 0% for any length of time. Thanks for sharing this!

    • DR says:

      Balance transfer offers have been harder and harder to find. Fortunately, both Discover and Citi still offer 12-month transfer deals. The question is how long will they last.

  11. Leslie Richardson says:

    Hi Dave,

    I was wondering what the new federal regulations/laws for credit card companies coming up in February will have on the richness of these balance transfer offers if any?
    Thanks!
    Leslie

    • DR says:

      Leslie, I think any effect the new law will have on balance transfer offers has probably already happened. As you may know, the new law does change how credit cards apply payments when part of your balance is at 0% and part of it is at the regular APR. That can happen when you do a balance transfer and make regular purchases on the card. After the law goes into effect, credit card companies must apply any payments above the minimum to the highest rate first.

      This will reduce the money card companies make on balance transfers, which is in part why we saw so many 12-month offers go away. Some have come back now, and are listed on this page. While I don’t think the law going into effect in February will cause any new changes to balance transfer deals, but who knows how long they will last.

  12. Thanks for the info on 0% apr. My formerly o.o% APR Jumped to 7% and they added a $39.99 Annual Fee, so I told them to pound sand, and I am back on the CC market.

  13. Marilyn Edwards says:

    Watch this card – Discover. I applied for a balance transfer of $5700. When my statement was sent it was bill $282.00 transfer fee. When I called the company I was told their guidelines had changed in the time I was approved on line. They would not correct it. I am changing out this card.

    • DR says:

      Marilyn, thanks for sharing your experience. Based on the numbers you’ve provided, it looks like Discover charged you a 5% transfer fee, which is their standard offer. While the Discover More card is a good card (I use one almost every day), it’s not our favorite 0% balance transfer offer because of the fee. The Citi Platinum Select has a 0% offer up to 12 months with a 3% transfer fee, which is the best deal available that we can find.

  14. rob says:

    I bought a new kitchen setup with a Home Depot credit card (23% after 0% for 12 months) and wanted to get a good balance transfer card. Got approved for the Citi Platinum only to find out that when trying to do a transfer they couldn’t do it because Home Depot uses the Citi card services themselves. I then got turned down from Discover for debt to income ratio reasons (which didn’t bother Citi). My credit rating is very good I think. (high 700s) Before trying again do I need to worry about denials for credit cards affecting future applications? Any ideas on who to try next?

    • DR says:

      Rob, first I’m sorry to hear about the difficulties. Discover does some to be a more difficult card to get, but I’m surprised they turned you down given your excellent credit. Anyway, the Slate from Chase card offers 0% for up to 12 months. I’d give them a try.

  15. CC says:

    Hello,
    I want to do a balance transfer from a Capital One card to one of two Citi cards I already have (transfer about $1200). I have two offers: One is 0% for 18 months with a 24% APR after the 18 months. And the other is a 0% for 12 months with a 7.5% APR after 12 months. The 7.5% card has double the balance amount as the 24% card. Please advise on what offer is better if I were to pay the same amount on each. It seems to me the obvious thing would be to apply it to the lower interest rate card, despite the 6 month difference with the 0%.

    Lastly, would those credit card “checks” be worth looking into?

    Thanks for the feedback.

    • DR says:

      CC, as to your first question, it depends on much of the transferred balance you’ll pay off in 12 to 18 months. If you can pay it off in full or almost in full in 18 months, that’s the card I’d go with. If you will still have a substantial balance left at the end of the 0% introductory offer, than I’d stay away from a 24% card. As for checks, you need to closely examine the terms and conditions. Some convenience checks act as a cash advance, with both high fees and high interest rates. You definitely don’t want that. If the checks act as a balance transfer, then it just depends on the terms.

  16. CC says:

    The amount on the 7.5% card is at $4,000 (offer: 12 months at 0%) and the 24% card is at 2,000 (offer: 18 months at 0%). I will be transferring the $1,200 to one of those. And paying $150 monthly on either one. I didn’t know if the new government regulations (applying money to the higher interest rate, etc) should be something I take into sonsideration…

    Should I take advantage of the 12 month offer? or 18? (In your opinion)

    Thanks, DR!

    • DR says:

      CC, the new government law prevents credit cards from applying payments to the 0% balance first, which they use to do to keep you high interest balance as high as possible for as long as possible. Since you are going to be paying $150 a month, you’ll have the $1,200 paid if in under 12 months. So from a balance transfer perspective, it really doesn’t matter whether you pick 12 or 18 months. So I’d stick with the 7.5% card, if it were me. Good luck.

  17. quotation template says:

    It is a tremendous effort. You have made it very easy for those who are in search of a credit card with balance transfer offer. Video is really useful and informative.

  18. david says:

    My Home Depot credit balance (0% 12 mo’s) is due in about 30 days. Is there enough time for me to apply for the Chase Slate card 0% balance transfer? Is there any problem transferring from a Home Depot card? (The Slate card says specifically “Visa, MC, Discover, Amex” but Home Depot card is none of these I don’t think.

    Also, does the 0% balance transfer work on a cash advance with another credit card?
    Thanks.

    • Rob Berger says:

      David, you certainly have enough time. The application and balance transfer process should take less than 30 days. In terms of transferring from a store credit card, I’d suggest calling Chase to be sure. And in terms of cash advance on another card, yes, you can transfer that balance as well. The issuer of the 0% balance transfer card doesn’t care if the balance you are transferring was the result of purchases, a cash advance, of even an earlier balance transfer.

  19. Morgan says:

    I know I don’t have excellent credit; however, I’m guessing that my credit is average/good. I don’t know my credit score. I’m tempted to purchase my credit score before applying for a BT card; however, I think that a score inquiry would lower my credit score. Which of the above cards (or others) that you can recommend for average/good credit? I have a balance of slightly above $8K and can pay off in 24 months (preferably) or less (if I have to) at 0%.

    Thanks.

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