Balance transfer credit cards offer you the opportunity to take a break from interest charges while you pay down your existing balances. How do they do that? These cards offer 0% APR promotional financing for a limited period on balances transferred from other accounts. By law, this financing period must be at least six months long, but the most competitive offers will last at least 15 months to as long as 20.
The largest drawback to these offers is the balance transfer fee that’s added to your new account, typically 3% of the amount transferred. Most of the major credit card issuers offer at least one card with 0% APR promotional financing on balance transfer, but they aren’t all created equal. Not only does the length of the promotional financing period vary, but some of these cards also include interest-free promotional financing for new purchases as well.
SPONSORED: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor
1. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn't have to be hard. SmartAsset's free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes.
2. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you're ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals get started now.
How we chose the top balance transfer credit cards
To find the top balance transfer credit cards, we first divided the market into the following six subcategories.
- The longest duration balance transfer offers
- Competitive balance transfer cards with strong cash back offers
- Balance transfer offers on cards that also feature travel rewards
- Balance transfer cards that also offer 0% APR on new purchases
- Balance transfer cards with very low standard interest rates
- Balance transfer cards for small business owners
We then looked at more than a dozen major credit card issuers and credit unions to find the cards that best fit each of these subcategories. We included only cards that are offered to all applicants, which excludes any products offered by credit unions that not everyone can join. For each subcategory, we looked at the factors that were likely to be most important to someone choosing a card from that group. For example, when looking for a card with the longest duration balance transfer offer, the number of months of 0% APR financing was the most important factor, while any rewards offered weren’t considered. But when looking for the top competitive balance transfer cards with strong cash back offers, we had to balance both the length of the promotional financing and the value of the cash back offered. Naturally, credit card terms may change from time to time, but the following rankings reflect information that was accurate in August 2021.
The longest duration balance transfer offers
Having as much time as possible to pay down credit card debt without accruing additional interest can save you a lot of money. That is why having the card that offers the longest duration for balance transfers can be such a huge value. When we were looking at cards with the longest duration balance transfer offers, the most important factor was the number of months of 0% APR financing. We also looked for cards with no annual fee.
If you want the longest duration balance transfer offer available: US Bank Visa® Platinum Card
The U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card offers the longest duration for balance transfers available from a major card issuer. With this card, an applicant can get 20 months of 0% APR financing on both balance transfers and new purchases. Note that the 0% APR for balance transfers applies only to balances transferred within 30 days of opening the account. There’s also a 3% balance transfer fee, with a five dollar minimum balance transfer. Taking advantage of the 20 months of 0% APR promotional financing offer could help buy enough time to pay off most or all of your existing balances. After the introductory APR offer ends, the variable APR rate between 14.49% and 24.49% will apply, depending on your creditworthiness when you applied. There is no annual fee for this card, but it also doesn’t offer a new account bonus or rewards for spending.
Competitive balance transfer cards with strong cash back offers
Credit card applicants shouldn’t have to choose between a card that includes a great balance transfer offer and a card that earns good cash back rewards. When looking at competitive balance transfer cards with strong cash back offers, we balanced the length of the promotional financing with the value of the cash back offered. We also looked for cards with no annual fee and valuable benefits.
If you want a competitive balance transfer card with a strong
cash back offer: Chase Freedom Unlimited
The Chase Freedom Unlimited not only features a competitive balance transfer and strong cash back options, but it also features added benefits like purchase protection and trip insurance. The card offers new applicants 15 months of 0% APR financing on both balance transfers and new purchases, while also earning cash back on those new purchases. There is a transfer fee of the greater of $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer made within 60 days of account opening. After that, the transfer fee will be $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
The total amount of the transfer balance, including interest and fees, cannot exceed the available credit limit or $15,000, whichever is lower. Transferring balances from another Chase account is not allowed. After the introductory APR offer ends, the variable APR rate between 14.99% and 23.74% will apply, depending on your creditworthiness. As for the cash back component of the card, it offers 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining (including takeout), 3% on drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
In addition, for the first year, cardholders get 5% cash back on grocery store purchases, on up to $12,000 spent. As an added bonus, new applicants can also receive a $200 bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months after opening the account. This card even comes with purchase protection, extended warranty protection, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, and an auto rental collision damage waiver benefit. The cash back rewards don’t expire as long as the account is open, and there is no minimum for redeeming cash back. Award travel enthusiasts will appreciate the fact that this card’s cash back rewards come in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points. When these points are combined with those from cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred, they can offer even more value when redeemed for travel reservations or transferred to airline and hotel programs. There is no annual fee for this card.
Balance transfer offers on cards that also feature travel rewards
Although they’re rare, some cards do offer both 0% APR balance transfers and competitive travel rewards for spending. For people who love to travel, saving money on interest while earning travel rewards might sound like a dream combination, so those are the two factors that carried the most weight with us as we evaluated cards in this subcategory.
If you want a top balance transfer offer on a card that also features travel rewards: Frontier Airlines Mastercard
The Frontier Airlines Mastercard from Barclays is a great card for earning travel rewards and elite status through spending, while still receiving a zero balance transfer offer. This card offers new applicants 0% APR for 15 months on balance transfers, though to be eligible the transfers must be completed within the first 45 days after the account opening. There’s a fee for balance transfers, which is $5 or 3% of each transfer, whichever is greater. After the introductory APR offer ends, the variable APR rate of between 15.99% and 24.99% will apply.
New applicants can also earn 50,000 bonus Frontier Airlines miles after spending just $500 on new purchases within 90 days of opening the account. The card earns 5x miles on Frontier Airlines purchases and 3x miles at restaurants. Furthermore, cardholders can earn one qualifying mile towards elite status for every dollar spent on all purchases. Frontier has three levels of elite status, and they come with perks like free seat assignments and free bag carry-ons, both of which usually cost extra on Frontier. You can also earn a $100 flight voucher each cardmember year after spending $2,500 on any purchases within one year. That may more than make up for this card’s $79 annual fee, which is waived the first year.
Balance transfer cards that also Offer 0% APR on New Purchases
Incurring interest charges on new purchases while trying to pay off a balance transfer just doesn’t make sense. For someone who has a lot of upcoming purchases but also wants to pay down existing debt, a card that offers 0% APR on both new purchases and balance transfers may be the way to go. In this subcategory, we looked for cards that provided both options.
If you want a top balance transfer card that also offers 0% APR on new purchases: US Bank Visa® Platinum Card
Not only does the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card offer the longest duration for balance transfers from a major card issuer, it also offers an equally long promotional financing offer for new purchases. New applicants can get 20 months of 0% APR financing on both balance transfers and new purchases. Just remember that the 0% APR for balance transfers only applies to balances transferred within 30 days from account opening, and that there’s also a 3% balance transfer fee. If anything, the biggest drawback of this offer is that it could encourage cardholders to incur more debt than they can pay off within 20 months. Don’t forget that after the introductory APR offer ends, a variable APR rate of between 14.49% and 24.49% will apply to any remaining balances. There is no annual fee for this card. And unsurprisingly, this card doesn’t offer a new account bonus or rewards for spending.
Balance transfer cards with very low standard interest rates
Zero interest rate financing periods don’t last forever. After the introductory period ends, many cards go back to charging high interest rates. A balance transfer card that has a very low standard interest rate may be appealing for those who are looking to pay off existing debt and incur interest charges at a lower rate if they need to carry a balance in the future. So that was our primary consideration as we evaluated balance transfer cards in this subcategory.
If you want a balance transfer card with a very low standard interest rate: PenFed Gold Visa
Although offered by PenFed Credit Union, the PenFed Gold Visa card is open to anyone within or outside the armed forces. The card offers a 0% promotional rate for 12 months on transfers made between now and September 30, 2021. While most cards charge interest rates up to 25% after the introductory period, this card offers a standard interest rate of 7.49% to 17.99% APR for new purchases, depending on your creditworthiness.
For applicants with excellent credit, that’s likely to be well below the national average of about 15% APR. Note that this standard interest rate applies only to new purchases. Any remaining balance transferred will incur interest at 17.99% APR after the promotional financing period ends. There’s also a 3% balance transfer fee for each transaction. PenFed is the nation’s second largest credit union. While it was created to provide financial services to members of the military and their families, you can join with no military service required. And while this card isn’t a rewards card, it currently offers a $100 statement credit after you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days of account opening. There is no annual fee for this card.
Balance transfer cards for small business owners
Individuals are not the only ones who could benefit from balance transfer cards. Small business owners may want to take advantage of these offers as well. There are a few balance transfer cards for small businesses owners, and we looked for the one with the longest promotional financing period.
If you want a balance transfer card for small business owners: US Bank Business Platinum
The U.S. Bank Business Platinum card is a relatively simple small business credit card that offers zero balance transfer for small business owners. The card offers 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 18 months. This includes 0% APR for the first 18 months for new purchases, as well as 0% APR for the first 18 months for balances transferred within 30 days of account opening. This is one of the shorter transfer windows of the cards on this list, so make sure to transfer balances right away. There is a balance transfer fee of 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater. After the introductory APR offer ends, the variable APR rate of 11.99% to 20.99% will apply. There is no annual fee for this card, but there are also no rewards currently available.
When you have outstanding debt on one or more of your credit card accounts, the interest charges can add up very quickly. But by opening a new account and taking advantage of one of the top balance transfer offers, you could obtain relief from accruing interest. And when you have 0% APR interest financing, 100% of your credit card payments will go to paying down your balance, and you may be able to get out of debt sooner than you might have imagined. If you’re shopping for a credit card but your credit isn’t great or you just haven’t had time to build up a credit history yet, there may still be options.
Lantern by SoFi:
This Lantern website is owned by SoFi Lending Corp., a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license number 6054612; NMLS number 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)
All rates, fees, and terms are presented without guarantee and are subject to change pursuant to each provider’s discretion. There is no guarantee you will be approved or qualify for the advertised rates, fees, or terms presented. The actual terms you may receive depends on the things like benefits requested, your credit score, usage, history and other factors.
*Check your rate: To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Lantern conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender(s) you choose will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
All loan terms, including interest rate, and Annual Percentage Rate (APR), and monthly payments shown on this website are from lenders and are estimates based upon the limited information you provided and are for information purposes only. Estimated APR includes all applicable fees as required under the Truth in Lending Act. The actual loan terms you receive, including APR, will depend on the lender you select, their underwriting criteria, and your personal financial factors. The loan terms and rates presented are provided by the lenders and not by SoFi Lending Corp. or Lantern. Please review each lender’s Terms and Conditions for additional details.
Student Loan Refinance:
Student loan refinance loans offered through Lantern are private loans and do not have the debt forgiveness or repayment options that the federal loan program offers, or that may become available, including Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or Pay as you Earn (PAYE).
Notice: Recent legislative changes have suspended all federal student loan payments and waived interest charges on federally held loans until 01/31/22. Please carefully consider these changes before refinancing federally held loans, as in doing so you will no longer qualify for these changes or other future benefits applicable to federally held loans.
Auto Loan Refinance:
Automobile refinancing loan information presented on this Lantern website is from Caribou. Auto loan refinance information presented on this Lantern site is indicative and subject to you fulfilling the lender’s requirements, including: you must meet the lender’s credit standards, the loan amount must be at least $10,000, and the vehicle is no more than 10 years old with odometer reading of no more than 125,000 miles. Loan rates and terms as presented on this Lantern site are subject to change when you reach the lender and may depend on your creditworthiness. Additional terms and conditions may apply and all terms may vary by your state of residence.
Secured Lending Disclosure:
Terms, conditions, state restrictions, and minimum loan amounts apply. Before you apply for a secured loan, we encourage you to carefully consider whether this loan type is the right choice for you. If you can’t make your payments on a secured personal loan, you could end up losing the assets you provided for collateral. Not all applicants will qualify for larger loan amounts or most favorable loan terms. Loan approval and actual loan terms depend on the ability to meet underwriting requirements (including, but not limited to, a responsible credit history, sufficient income after monthly expenses, and availability of collateral) that will vary by lender.
Information about insurance is provided on Lantern by SoFi Life Insurance Agency, LLC.
More from MediaFeed:
6 strategies for becoming debt free
Featured Image Credit: BrianAJackson / istockphoto.