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Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card: Best for balance transfers
This card’s very long balance transfer offer and relatively low ongoing APR earn it a top spot on our list of the best balance transfer cards: 0% introductory APR on balance transfers and purchases for 18 months (the APR is 14.74%-24.74% variable after that). One pitfall is that it comes with no rewards program, so its long-term value will be limited. It also charges a balance transfer fee of 3% (or $5, whichever is higher), which could end up costing you more than a few extra months’ worth of interest.
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card: Best for everyday spending
The Bank of America Cash Rewards card offers a solid 3% cash back on a category of your choice and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%). The 0% introductory APR period for balance transfers is good, but you’ll have to act fast. Only balance transfers made within the first 60 days of opening an account qualify for 0% intro APR for the first 12 billing cycles (then 13.99%-23.99% variable).
Alliant Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card: Best for rewards
Cardholders earn 2X points on all purchases, a rarity for flat-rate cash back credit cards, especially those with no annual fee. Also, earn 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, then it’s 13.24%-23.24% variable. The balance transfer fee is 2% of the amount transferred, with a minimum of $5. Although the ongoing rewards are strong, the sign-up bonus could be better, just 5,000 points after a $500 spend within the first 90 days of card membership. consolidate your debt with a personal loan.
Does a balance transfer hurt your credit score?
While a balance transfer can negatively impact your credit score in the short term, in the long run you will be better off if you use it correctly. Here is how your credit score can be impacted:
- When you apply for the balance transfer card, your score takes a temporary hit of about 5-10 points, but it will recover within a couple of months.
- Don’t cancel your old card, because that will lower your overall ratio, thereby impacting your score. Also, if it’s an older card, you lose that card’s length of history, another factor in your score.
- Your score factors in cards’ ratios of what you owe to your available credit; this is called your credit utilization ratio. Say you have a $10,000 credit limit on your new balance transfer card, and you transfer $5,000. That means the ratio for that card is 50%, which is considered quite high and could negatively impact your score. That’s one reason why you want to pay down the debt as soon as possible.
- Finally, and this is less of an issue if you have older cards, but when you take out a new card, that can impact your score somewhat because it lowers your overall length of history.
If you take out a balance transfer card, work to pay off the balance before the intro offer ends and keep the old card without incurring more debt, your score will get a boost in the long run.
Who can qualify for a balance transfer credit card?
Most cards that feature introductory APR offers require you to have good or excellent credit in order to qualify. While it’s possible to do a balance transfer with bad credit, whether it’s wise will depend on which cards you can qualify for and what your new APR will be. A balance transfer could also hurt your credit score, as it could both increase your single-card credit utilization and lower your length of credit history. You may be better off taking out a debt consolidation loan or focusing on paying down your balances as much as possible before you apply to improve your credit score.
How to perform a balance transfer
If you’re considering a balance transfer card, you may be wondering how much work goes into moving the balance from one card to another. Overall, the process is relatively simple on the end of the cardholder. Here are the steps you should follow:
- Apply for a balance transfer card – Before choosing a card, check out our balance transfer calculator, which factors in fees and interest rates to determine how much you’ll save by transferring your existing balance to a different card. Once you find the balance transfer card that best suits you, complete the card application.
- Get approved – Typically balance transfer and 0% intro APR cards require good or excellent credit. Only apply for a card if you have the requisite credit, and don’t apply for multiple cards at once, because it can make you look desperate.
- Check the rules – Pay attention to the rules, because some cards require the transfer to be made within 60 days of approval.
- Collect your information – Next, gather the account details for the card that has the debt – referred to as the “transfer from” card – including the account number and card balance.
- Contact customer service – After receiving your balance transfer card, call customer service and inform them that you want to transfer a balance onto your new card. Once you provide them with the necessary information, they will reach out to the old card company and move the requested amount onto your new card. Many cards also allow you to make balance transfers through your online account, but we advise that you wait until you receive the physical card to initiate a balance transfer. That way, once you receive the card, you can ask for a higher line of credit if the approved amount is below the old balance.
- Keep paying the minimum – We recommend that you pay the minimum amount on your old card until the transfer closes to avoid late fees and other penalties.
- Avoid new, unplanned charges – While you might have a card that offers 0% APR on new purchases for a limited time, make sure you have a plan before you use it. That way, you don’t go into further debt.
How long does a credit card balance transfer take?
A balance transfer can take a few days or several weeks, depending on the card issuer. And yes, the transfer itself can vary by issuer, too. So, we’ve scooped up some links and details that should help you through the process: