Transferring a credit card balance can be a great tool for getting credit card debt under control, and therefore taking charge of your personal finances, including your credit score. But to reap the most benefits, you need to make sure you are choosing the right card for you and your debt obligations. We reviewed several of the best balance transfer credit cards for 2023.
What Is a Balance Transfer and Why Is It Useful®?
Balance transfers are what they sound like – they involve transferring a balance from one credit card to another one. This can be a useful tool if you have a credit card with a high balance – either close to maxed out, or not enough space to spend with it like you want to. Most cards will allow you to transfer more than one as well, so they can be a great way to consolidate debt. Lastly, you could end up saving hundreds of dollars in interest if you transfer your balance from a high-interest card to one with low interest or a period of 0% interest.
In any case, just like anything having to do with personal finance, transferring a balance can be a risky move, so it’s important to do your research and have a plan for your transfer before you apply for any credit card. Below we will discuss what you should be looking for in a balance transfer credit card and some of the best options on the market right now.
What to Look for
Balance Transfer Fee
Many balance transfer cards take the higher of a set dollar amount or a percentage of the amount you are transferring as a fee for the transfer. A typical balance transfer fee looks something like $10 or 5% respectively, or sometimes $5 or 3%. The fee usually comes in the form of an addition to your balance on the new card. Make sure you take this into consideration when deciding if a balance transfer is worth it or not. The higher the balance, the higher the fee, but if you are transferring to save money in interest on another card, the fee may be negligible for you. Say, for instance, you are transferring a $7,000 balance from a card with a 22.99% interest rate. If you leave that balance, you are paying close to $150 per month, which is a lot, especially compared to the one-time $350 you would pay for a 5% transfer fee. Of course, this is assuming you are transferring to a card with a lower interest rate or, ideally, one with a 0% introductory interest rate.
Low or No-Intro APR: Check Specifically for Balance Transfers
Another thing to look for is a 0% introductory interest charge rate, the longer the period the better. This will give you time to pay down the balance without paying interest and can potentially save you hundreds of dollars, especially if the balance is large. We already illustrated just how much you might save in interest above, and it’s worth emphasizing again. There really is not a point in a balance transfer if there’s no interest-free period or at least a low-interest rate.
One thing to keep in mind is to check for differences between purchase APR and balance transfer APR – some cards will give you different rates, which can be good or bad for you. In any case, you want to make sure you know exactly the numbers you are going to be facing with your balance transfer.
Low or No Annual Fee
Since cards with good balance transfer benefits don’t usually have the best long-term rewards, you will want to make sure that you prioritize cards that are inexpensive to maintain. For credit cards that means a low, or no annual fee. Usually, with annual fees, you get access to rewards that incentivize you to spend money on your card. If you are earning 5x – 10x airline miles or 5% cash back on purchases, annual fees c
an be worth it. However, this is the opposite of what you want in a balance transfer card. You do not want to incentivize spending (more on this later), and the last thing you need is an extra fee hitting your account at the worst time. There are plenty of options with low or no annual fees.
Skip the Rewards
Intro rewards can be very enticing, but you may want to skip anything that incentivizes you to make new purchases on a card you will be transferring a balance to. When you are trying to pay down a high debt, you should avoid spending on that card, at least until the balance has been paid off. You don’t want any of your introductory rewards to go to waste because you aren’t spending or don’t have the credit space to spend enough.
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Best Balance Transfer Cards of 2023
Chase Slate Edge℠ Credit Card: Unique APR
One of the reasons it’s so hard to pay down a lot of debt is because of interest, and the new Slate Card from Chase, like many others, understands that. This is Chase’s newest credit card, and one of their best for balance transfers. It offers a 18-month 0% interest introductory period on purchases and balance transfers from account opening (after that an ongoing APR of 19.49% - 28.24% Variable applies), and a $0 annual fee. The fee for balance transfers is the greater of $5 or 3%, which, as we discussed above, may be negligible compared to the money you save in interest. A unique feature of this card is the annual APR reduction offer. If you make $1,000 of qualifying purchases per calendar year and make all your payments on time, you will be automatically reviewed for an up to 2% APR reduction per year. This applies to purchases and balance transfers and can be done until your APR reaches the Prime Rate plus 9.74%. This is a great way to help you chip away at your debt, especially when combined with the 0% interest intro period. You can work on paying chunks down within the first year and not worry about crazy interest afterward.
You are also eligible for a limit increase review after you spend $500 after six months from opening your account and have made all your payments on time. Being automatically reviewed for this is a nice feature since you don’t have to go through the trouble of putting in a request. And any increase in your limit can only help you, as it can help improve your debt usage percentage, which can be an important component of your credit score.
If you spend $500 on your card within the first six months of your account opening, you will receive a $100 bonus credit to your account. It’s easy to get enticed by an introductory offer or statement credit; however, this one is not worth it, especially if you are trying to pay down debt with a balance transfer. Adding $500 to your balance is not worth the $100 you’ll receive. It’s best to skip over this feature.
The biggest drawback of this card is the high APR after the introductory period. Based on your creditworthiness as assessed by Chase, this can range from 19.49% - 28.24% Variable, which is on the higher end. But keep in mind you may be up for a reduction after the first year, so over time, the APR offer may end up getting it lowered quite a bit. Another drawback is the fact that there aren’t really any ongoing rewards beyond the introductory period. If you pay off your entire balance, either from a transfer or from the introductory spending bonus, you will not be rewarded for spending on your card after that. This does not necessarily mean it’s not a good card to keep, especially considering the $0 annual fee. Having a free card for emergencies and adding value to your credit usage ratio is a good strategy for your financial health.
Because the card is new, there aren’t a lot of reviews about it yet, but Chase cards generally have pretty good reputations. Their payment process is easy and well-protected, and their mobile app is one of the best on the market for viewing your balance, making and setting up automatic payments, and viewing any rewards. One of the biggest drawbacks to Chase is its customer service. There is no direct line to speak with a customer service representative, and phone wait times can be upwards of three hours, especially with recent staffing shortages. However, they do have an in-app message feature that is normally pretty good about responding, even if it takes a few days.
Pros and Cons
0% Introductory APR period is great for balance transfers:
APR reduction can contribute to long term financial health
Not a lot of long-term value
Wells Fargo Active Cash Card: Longer-term rewards
This is a cashback card with 0% APR for the first 15 months from when you first open your account. This introductory APR applies to both balance transfers and purchases. However, to qualify, a balance transfer must be made within the first four months of your account opening. There is no annual fee.
The introductory cashback bonus consists of $200 in cash rewards when you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months. Balance transfers do not qualify for this bonus, which means you will have to spend the money on top of the balance you are already transferring. As mentioned before, that’s not something you want to do if you want to lessen your credit card debt. While you can ignore this bonus if you go into it with firm intentions, $200 cash can sound enticing, so be wary of the temptation. If you do choose to receive the cashback bonus, it is worth noting you can only redeem it in $25 increments. You have to initiate a redemption for each $25 you want to use for your bonus.
Beyond the introductory bonus, you earn 2% cash back for every $1 you spend on the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card. This may be preferable to the lack of long-term rewards available from the Chase Slate Card. If you do a balance transfer to this card and pay it off within a year or two, this would make a good everyday cash card. There are no category limitations and no limits on how much cash back you can earn either. Plus unlimited 2% cashback is relatively high for a card with no category limitations.
Pros and Cons
Long introductory APR period
Citi Simplicity Card: Length of $0 Intro period
Citi has a reputation for longer introductory APR periods, and the Simplicity Card is no exception. Make a balance transfer within the first four months from your account opening, and you get 21 months to pay it off with no interest. After that, your APR varies from 14.74% – 24.74% based on your creditworthiness. There is no annual fee to this either, and no penalty rate, which is comforting to know in the off chance that you get in over your head. There is a balance transfer fee of the greater of $5 or 3%, which is on the lower end for balance transfers and again, negligible in comparison to what you could be paying in interest. This card screams balance transfer – nearly two years is just about the longest you will get to pay off anything without interest, especially credit card debt. At 12 months the intro APR is even shorter for purchases, and there are no rewards on purchases beyond that, so there is a real focus on balance transfers.
As mentioned above, one of the drawbacks is the lack of rewards beyond any introductory period. Essentially what it means is that you won’t get rewarded at all for spending any of your hard-earned dollars. For that reason, this card is best kept with a low balance once you have used it for a transfer. Since it is inexpensive to maintain, it can’t hurt you sitting in your wallet, and that makes it a great companion for another, heftier rewards card.
CitiBank has a great reputation for credit cards and general banking as well as its customer service. Their mobile app is easily navigable, and their customer service generally takes care of any account issues promptly through in-app chat features. One concern maybe if you want to bank with CitiBank, which is not a requirement to open a credit card. Their brick-and-mortar locations are not as prevalent as banks like Chase and Wells Fargo, so if that’s something you look for, consider where you are located first.
All in all, the Citi Simplicity Card is a great option, especially if you are already a CitiBank customer. You can’t beat the long interest-free period or the $0 annual fee. Even if you don’t end up transferring a balance to this card, it’s not going to hurt to have it in your wallet.
Pros and Cons
Long interest-free period
Low balance transfer fee
Not much in the way of long-term rewards
Wells Fargo Reflect Card: Good interest-free period
Another Wells Fargo Card makes the list due to the long intro period and the relatively low APR range. The Wells Fargo Reflect Card offers 0% APR for the first 18 months from your account opening, and you may be eligible for a three-month extension of that offer if you make on-time payments throughout the entire first 18 months. After that, your APR will depend on your creditworthiness. There is no annual fee for this card, and the balance transfer fee is the greater of $5 or 3% of the amount being transferred.
There are no other introductory rewards and not a lot of long-term rewards, so some may want to go with another reward credit card; however, there are other low-key benefits to this card such as cell phone protection, categorized cash back rewards, and roadside dispatch. With cell phone protection, you can get up to $600 worth of protection for your cell phone when you simply pay your bill with your Wells Fargo Reflect Card. This includes damage repairs for your existing cell phone and does not cover lost cell phones (i.e., phones that disappear without explanation). This is also something that does not apply unless all other insurance sources are exhausted. You can read more about the policy here.
While there are no regular long-term rewards, you can still get rewarded for some of your spending on this credit card with revolving rewards categories. You may have seen something similar on another credit card, or even with your debit card. Basically, there are different categories or vendors each month, and you have to activate that offer before spending money in order to receive the reward. For instance, you may get 3% cashback on Uber Eats in one month. You have to activate the reward in your account (most companies send you emailed reminders), and then you can earn cash for spending with Uber Eats.
Related: Best Credit Cards for Online Shopping
You also receive roadside assistance as a cardholder providing 24-7 emergency dispatch for towing or locksmith assistance. Are these benefits enough to entice you ordinarily? No. But this is a great card for balance transfers, where the primary objective is to pay down debt. You don’t want more enticing spending rewards, and these are great perks to have for no additional cost to you.
Pros and Cons
Long 0% introductory APR
No long-term rewards
Citi Diamond Preferred Card: Great interest-free period
The Citi Diamond Preferred Card is another card from CitiBank that is very similar to the Citi Simplicity Card, but better if you want a few more perks. The 0% introductory APR period is 21 months like the Simplicity Card, and purchase APR kicks in after 12 months. After the intro period, the APR will be based on creditworthiness. Like the others on this list, there is no annual fee, so it does not cost you anything to maintain it. The fee for a balance transfer is the greater of $5 or 5% of the amount transferred, which is one of the higher ones on the list, though it could still save you hundreds in interest.
Long-term benefits of this card are limited to purchase protection for purchases made with your Citi Diamond Preferred Cards, and cardmember access to certain experiences, such as sporting events and other entertainment. Purchase protection helps with damage or theft of items purchased with your Citi card within 90 days of purchase or delivery (whichever is first). It can also extend a warranty for certain products, which doesn’t seem all that useful until you need it.
Similar to all the other cards on this list, the benefit of this lack of rewards is that it keeps the focus on paying down debt rather than accumulating more of it. A credit card balance transfer is about getting out of debt, and most cards that are really about helping you do that are not going to have a lot of flashy rewards.
Pros and Cons
Long introductory APR
Higher balance transfer fee
Discover it Card: Long-term rewards
If you are looking for a card that gives you the best of long-term rewards and one that’s conducive to balance transfers, look no further than the Discover it card. Discover it has managed to retain all of its great rewards while still offering a great balance transfer offer. The card also offers cashback matching. At the end of your first calendar year as a cardmember, Discover matches the cash you earned from spending on your Discover it Card. That means if you earn $200, you get $200 from Discover for a total of $400.
As far as balance transfers go, you will pay a 3% fee if you apply and transfer by March 10, 2022, and 5% if you transfer after that. Discover it offers 18 months of interest-free time to pay down your balance once transferred, the regular APR will apply after that. For purchases, the 0% APR ends after 6 months.
The long-term rewards for this card are much better than any other on this list. You earn 5% cash back on purchases in a rotating category such as grocery stores, Amazon, restaurants, gas stations, etc. These categories change quarterly and there is a limit of rewards you can earn each quarter; however, 5% is pretty high for rewards, and they aren’t obscure categories or restricted to a specific airline or hotel for instance. You also earn 1% cashback on all other purchases, which isn’t bad – it means you will earn something without even thinking about it.
As we have learned from all the other cards on this list, one of the drawbacks of hefty rewards is that they can hinder your ability, or rather motivation, to pay down debt rather than add to it. If you are transferring a balance to save money and going to be tempted to spend for the rewards, this card may not be right for you. Rather, it may be a card you want to get just to shop, or to make a bigger one-time purchase.
How to Do a Balance Transfer with Discover
Discover it® CashBack Match™ Credit Card Review (now with free FICO score)
Pros and Cons
Great long-term rewards
Long-term introductory APR
Enticing rewards for accruing debt
In summary, balance transfers are a great financial tool for consolidating debt, saving money on interest, and ultimately, getting your finances under control. There are plenty of great options out there that make a lot of sense and can potentially save you hundreds of dollars. With the right amount of research and taking inventory of what your individual needs are, you can capitalize on what a balance transfer has to offer.