Balance transfer credit cards offer an enticing way to pay down debt. With no interest for up to 21 months, these 0% cards can take the stress out of the budget.
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There’s just one problem…. the balance transfer fee.
Credit card companies typically charge 3% or 4% of the amount transferred as a fee. This fee is then added to your balance on the new card. While this may still be a good deal, an even better deal would be a no-fee balance transfer. But there’s a catch.
They are really hard to find.
Most no-fee balance transfer credit cards come from lesser known credit card companies. For this reason, we’ve spent hours researching the available offers. We’ve found six options that we think are worth considering.
Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® – The Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® is our favorite fee free balance transfer credit card for a variety of reasons, the lead being it offers the longest 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers at 15 months. The balance transfer must be made within the first 45 days of opening the account. The standard APR after the 0% intro rate has expired is a very modest 13.99% variable.
A few additional perks of the Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® is that it carries no annual fee, does not charge a foreign transaction fee, and offers free access to your monthly FICO® credit score, so you can keep on top of your credit history. You must have excellent credit to qualify for this card. A FICO® score of less than 700 is unlikely to qualify.
Chase Slate® – The Chase Slate® is very similar to the top card on our list as it also offers a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months with no balance transfer fee. To receive the 0% intro offer and transfer balances fee free, you must transfer the balance within the first 60 days of account opening (giving you a little bit more time than the top card above). When the intro APR expires, the ongoing APR becomes 15.74% – 24.49% variable and there is no annual fee to own the Chase Slate®.
You must have excellent credit to qualify for the Chase Slate® card. Approved cardmembers generally begin in the 690 FICO® score range and once approved, the Chase Slate® offers a free credit dashboard and a monthly FICO® score.
Alliant Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card – Lowering the intro period by three months, the Alliant Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card offers new cardmembers a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months with no balance transfer fee. After the introductory rate expires, the standard APR becomes 9.99% – 21.99% variable, based on credit history. The Alliant Credit Union Visa Platinum Card charges no annual fee or foreign transaction fees.
To be approved for this card, you must be a member of the Alliant Credit Union. The easiest way to achieve this is by making a one-time $10 donation to the Foster Care to Success charity group but membership can also be acquired by being a member of a qualifying organization or working within the Chicagoland community.
Edward Jones Mastercard® – This is admittedly the credit card with the best overall offer. The Edward Jones Mastercard® includes a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for the first 12 months. There is no balance transfer fee as long as the balance is transferred within the first 60 days. Also included for first-time cardholders is a $100 bonus after spending $500 in the first 90 days of account ownership. After the intro APR expires, the variable interest rate becomes 13.74%.
The Edward Jones Mastercard® also includes a robust rewards program where up to 2 points per dollar spent are earned on all purchases. There is no annual fee to own this card, no foreign transaction fees but the rub is that you must be an Edward Jones client, which makes this card very exclusive. Excellent credit is required (no FICO score guidance).
Aspire Platinum Rewards MasterCard® – New cardmembers of the Aspire Platinum Rewards MasterCard® will receive a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for six months with no balance transfer fee. Standard purchase and balance transfer APR is 10.99% – 21.99% variable and there is no annual fee. Also included for new applicants is a 5,000 bonus point reward after spending $2,000 in the first three months. The spending requirement includes any balance transfer you make.
You must be an Aspire Credit Union member to apply for this card. Membership is available to employees of participating organizations, their immediate family members, and their household members. Alternatively, you can make a $5 donation to the American Consumer Council.
Navy Federal Platinum – Last on our list is the Navy Federal Platinum (available in both Visa and MasterCard). Unfortunately, this card does not offer a 0% intro APR opportunity. It does include fee-free balance transfers and a standard variable interest rate of 8.74% – 18.0%. By far, that’s the lowest interest rate range on a no fee balance transfer credit card. If you have trouble getting approved for the cards above, you can still save money with this card.
The Navy Federal Platinum card does not charge an annual fee or foreign transaction fees. This card does require good to excellent credit. New applicants can sneak in with a FICO score of 660 or better. However, you must be a member of the Navy Federal Credit Union in order to apply. That requires that you or a family member serve in the military.
The biggest downside to the available no fee balance transfer options above is the length of the 0% introductory offer. A 0% APR for 15 months is good. There is a card on the market, however, that has a longer deal. It offers a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months, and it’s the Citi Simplicity® Card. Other perks include no over-limit fees, no late payment fees, and an equal 0% intro APR on purchases for 21 months.
Should you apply for the Citi Simplicity® Card or our favorite fee free balance transfer credit card, the Barclaycard Ring Mastercard? Well, that decision depends on your financial situation. If you can pay off your balance in 15 months, then the Barclaycard Ring Mastercard is the way to go. If you need longer, then the 3% balance transfer fee may be worth it for the extra six months. In this case, go with the Citi Simplicity® Card.
In either situation, the most important thing you can do if you’re struggling to pay down your credit card debt and have the quality credit score needed for one of the best balance transfer credit cards above is to apply and transfer the credit card balance with the highest interest rate as fast as you can.
As you consider your options, keep the following in mind:
- Balance transfer fees are just part of the equation: While it’s a good feeling to get something for free, the fees are just part the equation. You should also consider the length of the 0% balance transfer offer. That’s why we included the Citi Simplicity® Card on our list of no fee offers.
- You may want multiple balance transfer cards: You may need more than one card. This is particularly true if you have a lot of credit card debt to transfer. A single card may not give you the credit limit you need to transfer all of your debt. In this case, you may select no fee cards as well as longer 0% offers.
- Same issuer transfers are not allowed: Most credit card companies prohibit transfers between two of their own cards. Keep this in mind as you are mapping out your strategy.
- Credit unions have some excellent offers: Included in our list are cards from credit unions. While you may need to jump through some hoops to qualify, it may well be worth the effort.
- Keep balance transfer cards separate: It’s best not to use a balance transfer card for spending. The goal of a balance transfer is to help you get out of debt. Spending more on the cards may derail your efforts.
- Have a plan when the 0% offer expires: If you can’t pay off the debt before the end of the introductory offer, have a plan. This may include transferring the remaining balance to another 0% credit card.