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Best balance transfer cards for 2019 from our partners

Updated, October 11, 2018

Best balance transfer credit cards of 2019When you're staring down a credit card bill that you can't pay off in one month, that can be enough to make your blood pressure rise a little bit. But then when you factor in the interest charges you'll be accruing, the full on racing heart and sweaty palms might just set in.

But it doesn't have to be like that!

If that's the situation you find yourself in, then you are also potentially in a prime situation for a balance transfer credit card. The best balance transfer credit cards offer opportunities to pay lower or no interest over a period of time, which allows you to pay off your debt more quickly and for less.

Not all balance transfer credit card offers are alike. Our editors have reviewed currently available offers and selected the best balance transfer credit card options available. Review our choices below and locate a card that best meets your needs.

Here are the best balance transfer credit cards for a variety of needs.

Best balance transfer credit card with rewards

Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer

Zero-interest details: Take advantage of 18 months with a 0 percent APR on balance transfers. After the intro periods, your rate goes to 15.49% - 25.49%* Variable. Plus, there's a nice cash-back rewards opportunity with this card – in fact, this card routinely lands on both our "Best Cash-Back Rewards" list in addition to this "Best balance transfer credit cards" list. (Citi is a CardRatings advertiser)

Balance transfer fees: 3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.

Rewards: Earn 1 percent back on every purchase and then earn another 1 percent back when you pay off your purchase. That effectively means that you can earn 2 percent cash back on every purchase and this rewards-earning format encourages responsible credit card use as well, which we definitely like. Read our full Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer review.

Annual fee: $0*

Credit needed: Excellent, Good


Discover it® Balance Transfer

Zero-interest details: Take advantage of 18 months with a 0 percent APR on balance transfers as well as six months of no interest on your purchases. After the intro periods, your rate jumps to 13.99% - 24.99% Variable.

Balance transfer fees: 3%

Rewards: Earn 5 percent back (on up to $1,500 spent) when you activate in categories that rotate quarterly. Earn 1 percent on all your other purchases and on purchases over that $1,500 cap in the bonus categories. At the end of your first year as a cardholder, Discover will MATCH all the cash back you've earned. Read our full review of Discover it® Balance Transfer.

Annual fee: $0

Credit needed: Excellent, Good


Best cards for a LONG intro period

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

Zero interest details: Spend 21 months--from date of first transfer--paying off your balance transfers interest-free. All transfers must be completed in the first four months. (After the intro period, 15.99% - 25.99%* variable, based on creditworthiness). That's close to two years to pay down a balance and do it without paying a dime in interest. This card also offers a 12 month 0% intro APR on new purchases from the date of account opening, (after the intro period, 15.99% - 25.99%* variable, based on creditworthiness). If you transfer a balance with this offer after your 0% intro purchase APR expires, both new purchases and unpaid purchase balances will automatically accrue interest until all balances, including your transferred balance, are paid in full.

Curious how much money you could save? Check out our "How much can I save?" calculator to find out. Read our full review of the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever.

Balance transfer fees: 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.

Rewards: None

Annual fee: $0*

Credit needed: Excellent, Good


Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card

Zero-interest details: With this card you'll have a full 18 months of no interest on balance transfers made within the first 120 days of account opening. You can also take advantage of 18 months with no interest on purchases. After the intro periods your APR goes to 17.49%-26.99% Variable.

Balance transfer fees: 3% for 18 months

Rewards: This isn't a rewards card, BUT it does offer users the up to $600 protection for your cell phone against covered damage or theft when you pay your cellular bill on the card. That could actually end up saving you a pretty penny each year if you traditionally pay extra for cell phone insurance. Read our full Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card review.

Annual fee: $0

Credit needed: Excellent, Good


Best ongoing rates

Barclaycard Ring® Mastercard®

Low interest details: This card offers you 15 months of no interest on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening (then, 13.99% Variable). With an APR like that, you'll likely still be saving yourself a significant amount of money if you transferred a balance to this card AFTER the 45 days. Plus, notice the balance transfer fee goes away after that first 45 days.

Balance transfer fees: Balance Transfers that post to the account within 45 days of account opening: Either $5 or 2% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater. Balance Transfers that post to the account after 45 days of account opening: $0. Read our full review of the Barclaycard Ring® Mastercard®.

Rewards: None

Annual fee: $0

Credit needed: Good/Excellent


Simmons Visa®

Low interest details: This card doesn't offer a 0 percent period for balance transfers, but it does offer a consistently low ongoing APR of 10.00% variable. With an APR like that, you would likely still be saving yourself a significant amount of money if you transferred a balance to this card. Plus, there are never balance transfer fees to worry about.

Balance transfer fees: None. Read our full Simmons Visa® review.

Rewards: None

Annual fee: None

Credit needed: Excellent


PenFed Promise Visa® Card

Low interest details: This card doesn't offer a 0 percent balance transfer period, but you can take advantage of a 4.99% rate for 12 months with no balance transfer fee now through December 31, 2018 on balance transfers. After that, 11.49% to 17.99% Subject to credit approval.* Your APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.. That means, depending on your credit score and history, your APR may still settle in at an ongoing rate well below the average. Read our full PenFed Promise Visa® Card review.

Balance transfer fees: None

Rewards: None

Annual fee: $0

Credit needed: Excellent, Good


Tips for choosing the right balance transfer credit cards

In our opinion, the best credit cards for balance transfers often include:

- Low introductory rates. Many cards offer a 0 percent intro APR on balance transfers, sometimes for a year or more, enabling the cardholder to make a serious dent in his/her balance without accruing additional interest.
- Fixed interest rates or discounted APR ranges. Although fixed APRs are almost impossible to find on general purpose credit cards these days, a few credit unions and regional banks promise to lock an interest rate for the life of your balance transfer. Most other lenders offer no-frills cards that trade bonus features and perks for variable APRs a few percentage points lower than the market average.
- Introductory or lowered balance transfer fees. While many banks charge processing fees that often range between 3 and 5 percent, certain offers can reduce or eliminate those fees, also cutting down the finance charges you'd pay over the life of your balance.

The cards on our list of the market's best balance-transfer deals possess some, if not all, of the aforementioned attributes. Let us know what you think about these selections by leaving a comment below.

When should you consider a balance transfer?

Balance transfer credit cards can be a great tool for someone who is burdened by high-interest credit card debt and is having difficulty getting ahead on payments so that the balance is paid off.

While it may be difficult to qualify for a balance transfer credit card that features a $0 transfer fee, depending upon how high your current balance is, it might be worth paying a transfer fee to get a zero or low introductory APR for a long period of time.

For example, if your current APR is 17 percent, you pay more than $1,800 in interest on a $10,000 balance over the course of one year. It may be worth paying between $100 and $300 as a balance transfer fee if you can be disciplined and apply as much as possible to reducing your $10,000 balance during a 15-month or longer zero-interest period.

Before you make any of those decisions though, you need to be sure you understand the ins and outs of balance transfer credit cards and the deals they offer. For a full description (which we recommend you peruse before applying), check out our Balance Transfer Credit Cards 101 page. If you want just the basics, read below.

WHAT IS A BALANCE TRANSFER FEE?

In addition to interest, balance transfer credit cards often include balance transfer fees. These fees are generally a percentage of the balance being transferred and commonly range from 3-5 percent of the amount transferred, although there are some zero-fee balance transfer cards available for people with excellent credit.

Review each balance transfer credit card offer carefully to determine what, if any, balance transfer fee applies and whether paying that fee will save you money in the long run.

CardRatings.com has developed several calculators so you can see what your monthly payment would be if you want to pay off your existing credit card debt within a specified time frame or how much you could save in interest by taking advantage of a balance transfer credit card offer.

Enter your existing credit card balance (the amount you want to pay off in full), you current interest rate, the interest rate on the card to which you want to transfer the balance and then take a look at how much you could save. There are a number of variables you can play with available within the calculators, so take some time to crunch the numbers and determine the best debt-payoff option for you.

HOW DO BALANCE TRANSFERS WORK?

When you successfully obtain a balance transfer credit card, you are approved to pay off existing credit card debt using your new card, up to an approved limit.

There may or may not be a balance transfer fee (commonly between 3 and 5 percent of the balance transferred), and there is often an introductory period where low- or 0 percent interest is charged on the balance you have transferred.

After the introductory period expires, a higher interest rate applies to your balance. Using a balance transfer credit card successfully requires paying off as much debt as possible during the low introductory APR period.

HOW TO COMPLETE A BALANCE TRANSFER ONLINE

Card issuers provide options for completing balance transfers. In some cases, you may be able to complete a transfer over the phone or online, following your bank’s instructions. In many cases you can start the process of a balance transfer as soon as you are approved for the card online and before you even receive your physical card in the mail. Alternatively, your balance transfer credit card may also come with "checks" that you can use to pay off your existing credit card debt.

It is crucial to continue making the minimum payments on your original credit card(s) until your bank(s) report that your account(s) are paid off.

Best practices

When credit card debt has built up, it can be difficult to dig out from under it, but it is definitely possible. In this section, we have prepared advice on how to successfully manage paying down debt by taking advantage of a balance transfer credit card.

Depending upon your credit score and the balance you are currently carrying, eliminating your existing credit card debt may vary in difficulty from "That barely stung!" to "That really hurt!" No matter where you begin, you should be able to achieve your objective with hard work and perseverance.

Research balance transfer credit card offers and locate one that appears to best fit your needs. We've summarized some of the best cards by category, but if you don't see what you're looking for, keep looking.

Set a timeframe for eliminating your balance, determine the monthly payment required to achieve your goal and get started.

PITFALLS TO AVOID

When you are working to pay off existing credit card debt, be careful to avoid making the following three mistakes:

- Taking on more credit card debt. Except for dire emergencies, try not to make any new charges to your credit card.
- Letting the low introductory APR period slide. During the low or zero-introductory APR period, pay down as much debt as you possibly can so your balance is as low as possible when the higher interest rate period begins.
- Missing a payment. Do not add to your credit difficulties by missing a payment, as you may become ineligible to continue your low introductory APR and your credit rating may suffer, making it increasingly difficult to obtain reasonable credit terms.

BALANCE TRANSFER OFFER VS. PERSONAL LOAN

When people are serious about eliminating debt, they may consider a balance transfer credit card or may apply for a personal loan. Which is better?

As with all other personal finance questions, it depends upon individual circumstances. Talk with a trusted financial adviser if you have questions about which option is better for you.

How we rate cards

Choosing the best credit card to suit your lifestyle and spending habits can equate to significant savings and benefits. On the other hand, select the wrong card and you just might find yourself with skimpy rewards, high rates and fees or – possibly the saddest of all – points that go unused. Once you’ve decided which type of card is right for you, it’s time to start comparing the top card offers.

Our editorial team consistently reviews the latest credit card deals from across the country. We highlight a handful of offers from each category that we think provide the best value for your money. The best credit cards of 2019 are sorted into a number of categories to help you find the right card to suit a specific need. Unlike many credit card-comparison sites, we evaluate both advertiser and non-advertiser cards, including regional banks and credit unions. Only our editor’s favorite cards make the cut – no exceptions.

3 Comments

  1. Tim Dinsmore November 30, 2015 at 6:47 am
    Paying off each credit card totally each month. Use them ONLY for record keeping purposes. NEVER put anything on a credit card you are not positive you will be able to pay off when the bill comes. Setting up automatic credit card payments the day they are due to be sure I never have a missed, or late payment. Resisting "instant gradification" and SAVING AND WAITING until I can afford something, rather than buying what I cannot pay for. Started saving 10% of gross take home pay when I was 16. NEVER missed paying myself and my 10% to the Lord FIRST. Learn to live on 60% of your take home pay, and you will always have plenty for yourself and helping others. Spend all your take home pay and you will never have anything! Anyone with a credit score of less than 800 needs to change their spending habits.
      Reply »  
  2. Patsy November 06, 2015 at 6:40 am
    How about giving us some credit cards that accept bad or so, so credit with a good payment record over the past 2 or 3 or 5 years. Or make some practicle suggestions that may help us pay off our debts. Most people in heavy debt with excellen credit only have good credit (assets) on paper. But people trying to pay off their debts, have lost all their assets, and live off of little to nothing to make their payments every month can't get a credit card with no interest. Instead interest is added to their debt each day, week or month so that it takes them longer and longer to to pay it off. If I could get one of these
    "excellent credit rating" cards, I could have the debt I'm workng on now paid off in less than 2 years instead of the 3 to 4 years it's going to take me. In the mean time, I'm not sure how I'm going to put gas in my car because my outlay takes my complete income. How about trying to find ways to help people that are working at paying off their debts other than going to debt resolving agencies. I've got a better record paying on my own than I'd have if I had used one of the reputable services. Those services are needed by some people, but others are capable of setting up a tight budget and appling all available cash to payments.
      Reply »  
    1. Amber Stubbs December 07, 2015 at 7:26 pm
      Have you tried peer to peer lending?
        Reply »