The Best 0% Balance Transfer Credit Cards


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Those who live under a mountain of credit card debt quickly realize that their suffering has two components. First there is the principle, the actual amount of goods and services that was charged to their credit card. Secondly, there are the financing charges imposed each month on their balance. With each statement cycle, their average daily balance is multiplied by one twelfth of the card’s Annual Percentage Rate (APR). Therefore, if you owe $10,000 on a card with an APR of 12%, you are incurring $100 in interest each month. Due to the effect of compounding interest, the finance charges incurred each month add to your balance, resulting in more interest being accrued with each passing month. (See also: What You Must Know Before Transferring Credit Card Balances)

How a Balance Transfer Works

To help relieve the burden of debt and acquire new customers, banks have long offered credit cards with a 0% promotional APR, for a limited time, on balance transfers. Applicants who qualify for a new card with these promotional rates can have their existing balance paid off by their new card. During the time that the 0% promotional rate applies, interest is not being accrued on the balance transferred; however, the amount transferred is almost always subject to a one-time balance transfer fee. This fee, typically 3%-5%, is added to the new balance. Also, cardholders are still responsible for making minimum payments on their account. New transactions may incur interest at the standard rate, although in some instances, the 0% promotional rate also applies to new purchases as well. Finally, no matter how much you are struggling with your debt, it is critical that you continue to make all of your payments on time, as only applicants with the excellent credit will qualify for most of these excellent promotional credit card offers.

How to Save Money With a Balance Transfer

First, it is crucial that those seeking a balance transfer do so as part of a comprehensive plan to eliminate their credit card debt. Such a plan should focus on maximizing their income, minimizing their expenses, and regularly paying down their entire credit card before the promotional rate expires.

As part of an overall plan to eliminate debt, the benefits of a balance transfer are clear. For example, if a cardholder has an existing credit balance of $10,000 on a card with a 15% APR, that cardholder is currently accruing $125 in interest each month. If the cardholder continues to pay interest while reducing the balance by $500 each month, that person will still have accrued $1,250 of interest over the 20 months it took him or her to pay off the balance (15% interest applied to an average daily balance of $5,000 over 12 months). Alternatively, that person could begin by accepting a balance transfer offer of 21 months at 0% interest with a 3% balance transfer fee. In this case, that person’s old balance of $10,000 will be paid off, while they will incur a new balance of $10,000 plus $300 in balance transfer fees. If all goes according to plan, at the end of the 21 months, the new balance will be paid off and the cardholder will have saved nearly $1,000 in interest.

Top Five 0% Balance Transfer Cards on the Market

Like every aspect of the credit card industry, we are fortunate to enjoy an extremely competitive market for 0% balance transfer credit cards. Here are the top five offers currently available.

1. Discover it® Card

credit card This card is offering a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers for 18 months (but only 6 months for purchases). After that, the APR will be 10.99%-22.99% (variable), depending on your credit. Balance transfers are subject to a 3% fee. In addition to a great 18 month balance transfer rate, the Discover it card is a great cash rewards card, offering 5% cash back in rotating quarterly categories, as well as an online shopping portal that boasts 5-20% cash back with their over 200+ retail partners. There is no penalty interest rates, and there is no late fee for your first late payment. Although the Discover card is not as widely accepted as some others, customers rave about their excellent service. There are no foreign transaction fees on any of Discover’s products. Plus, you get a free FICO® Credit Score online and on your monthly statement to help you stay on top of your credit. There is no annual fee.

Click here to apply for the Discover it® Card

2. Chase Slate

The Chase Slate card is catered specifically for balance transfers. There are no rewards for purchases or travel benefits. You get 0% Intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers. What makes this card uniquely suited for balance transfers is the zero balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open. After that, the fee for future transactions is 3% of the amount transferred, with a minimum of $5. This is a great deal if all you need is a card to transfer a balance to and get a 15 month relief from interest.

3. Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

This card currently offers a 0% promotional APR on both purchases and balance transfers for 18 months. After that, the regular balance transfer APR will be 11.99%-21.99% (variable), based on your creditworthiness. There is a $5 or 3% balance transfer fee (whichever is greater). This card has additional benefits like Citi Easy Deals (get great online deals on brands like Gap, CVS, and Footlocker), Citi Private Pass (get access to exclusive events), and travel benefits like Auto Rental Insurance, Travel Insurance, and Lost Luggage Coverage. There is no annual fee.

Click here to apply for the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

4. Citi Simplicity® Card

credit card This is another card from Citi that offers a 0% APR for 18 months on both balance transfers and new purchases. After that, the regular balance transfer APR will be 12.99%-21.99% (variable), depending on your credit. There is a $5 or 3% balance transfer fee (whichever is greater). Instead of granting the travel benefits of the Diamond Preferred, this card offers no late fees or penalty interest rates, as well as services like Citi Price Rewind. There is no annual fee. 

Click here to apply for the Citi Simplicity® Card

5. Capital One® Platinum Prestige Credit Card

credit card This card offers a 0% introductory APR until December 2015 on balance transfers and purchases. After that the APR will be 10.9%-18.9% (variable), depending on your credit. There is a 3% balance transfer fee, and there are no foreign transaction fees on any Capital One products. There is no annual fee.

Click here to apply for the Capital One® Platinum Prestige Credit Card

A 0% balance transfer is not an instant solution to the problem of credit card debt. You should think of these offers as a significant push up a big mountain, but you will still have to do most of the work yourself. (See also: 6 Hidden Dangers of Credit Card Balance Transfers)

To the Credit Card Guide

 

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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Guest's picture
BradB

I know most people who decide to attempt the balance transfer as a strategy for debt reduction have the best intentions. But statistically it seems human nature takes over and those best intentions fall by the wayside and the uncontrollable urge to spend more overtakes them, or the money they would put toward the payoff now goes to some other cost of living expenses. It takes a strong will, and solid strategy for this to be successful.

Guest's picture
Paul

I agree.

I have worked at a bank for the last 6 years, and it is very common for those balance transfers to end up working against the customer after a while. People transfer the balance, then feel the urge to spend again.

If they stick to the initial plan, and use the transfer to lower the rate and get the card paid off, then its a benefit.

Guest's picture
Guest

I looked at the Chase Slate card because you mentioned it had no transfer fee. That is incorrect. It has a 3% transfer fee.

Alex Lam's picture

There is no fee for transfers made in the first 30 days, and a 3% fee for those made after.

Guest's picture
Jeff

Discover's new no fee balance transfer card that came out January 1st is defintely a good contentender for this list

Guest's picture
Guest

How about the bank of america secure card or reward card? they sound pretty good.

Guest's picture
jcole2001

I've used 0% promos for years. I call it free money (of course, its only free after you exclude the typical 3% transaction fee). Still $5k at 3% is better than 5k at 7% or 19%.
Here's some advice: If you have a large, high-rate balance pick a portion of it that you feel you can reasonably pay off month-by-month in 12-18 months (the term of the 0% offer).
Say you owe $9,000 at 12%. You feel you are disciplined enough to pay $300 a month for 12 months. Take advantage of a 0% 12-month balance transfer offer and transfer $3600 to that card.
Stick to your guns and make those $300 payments (plus the $108 3% transaction fee/12=$309 total monthly payment). In those 12 months you'll save around $300 in interest payments on the $3600 you transferred.
You're not going to get rich, but these free money offers are a great way to chip away at your debts.
Bottomline: anytime you can reduce your interest rate, do it. You help yourself and you beat the banks.
jcole2001

Guest's picture
Michael

I used this strategy to payoff my credit cards completely. You must be diligent, and throw everything at your balances to pay them off as quickly as possible.

Also, make sure you don't close out the account after you've paid it off....I explain why here: http://go2mortgageguy.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/leave-your-credit-card-ac...

Guest's picture
Aram Durphy

If you use a 0% transfer, make sure you have a plan to pay it off by the time regular rates kick in. Banks are counting on you to miss the opportunity. That means, until the card is paid off, keep to your budget and wait to put money into investments (it's nearly impossible for the average investor to beat the 15% your credit card will charge you).

Guest's picture
Alberta Debt Help

Great review on these cards. You are right that most of the work is on the part of the one owing the money. Still, if you stick to a budget, at least the payments are will go farther.

Guest's picture
Kathy Yarbrough

I have a Orchard bank card and I pay 59.00 every year to keep it. I have had it for a little over 2 years with no problems whatsoever. Never late....Capital One has bought this company. Is there anyway that I can go with capital one and not have to pay the 59.00 fee every year. If I can't I will probably just start with a new card that doesn't have the fee. I would like to keep this one because I origianlly started it to rebuild credit. Please respond back to me concerning this matter. thanks, Kathy Yarbrough

Guest's picture
AJ

I attempted to apply for the Chase Slate card this morning and got an error message that the offer is no longer available.

Guest's picture
Guest

I got the same message,so i went right into there web site through google search

Guest's picture

I just recently opened a Discover card and although it may not have fees overseas, it is known as Diners Club over in Europe and when I was there for ten days between three different cities I only found ONE ATM the entire time that took it!!!

Guest's picture
Finance

Discover it and City would my on my list for sure.

That said, Aram makes a great point that the buyer needs to be cautions while falling for any scheme coming across their way. Most such offers are indeed attractive, but having a plan B (know your budget limits) might be more than helpful.

http://www.bestpersonalfinancenews.com/credit-cards/the-various-advantag...

Guest's picture
Guest

I use 0% no fee balance transfers to make money even though i have no debt. Just do the maximum balance transfer to a card with a $0 bal. and you will get a credit balance on that card. Then ask for a credit balance refund check. Then put that check in a money market account and earn interest on it while making the minimum monthly payment. Then at the end of the term pay the balance off in full before the interest kicks in. I use Ally demand notes for this at 1.35% apy. I have been doing this for 20 years.

Guest's picture
Jonathan

Great overview. Balance transfers can really make a difference to your finances if used wisely. Whilst most offer 0% on the balance you are transferring across you will be charged the full interest rate on any new purchases on that card, so if the rate on your old card is cheaper, then transfer the balance to the new card but continue to use your old card for additional purchases.

Guest's picture
Guest

I've had a Discover card for twenty years. Sometimes I keep the balance very low but it varies due to my employment situation, etc. My interest rate has always been the highest they charge - something like 23%. And everytime I have worked it down to pay off the balance they tell me I am one of their best customers. And I always ask - so why the 23%? - and they never have an answer.

Do any of you know how I could transfer my balance to a lower rate and stay with Discover? I do like their online payment system and they have great customer service. But, come on, 23%????? And since I lost my job three years ago, I'm carrying a bigger balance than I ever have in the past - greater than $10K. It keeps me from sleeping at night.

Guest's picture
Margaret L

If you have a good credit score (check out Credit Karma and/or Credit Sesame), you will LOVE following the advice in this article and applying for a good balance transfer card. I myself got dunned $31 on my Discover Card and more to come this month as previous promotional rates expire. With a credit score of 765, I applied for both the Citi Diamond Preferred Card and the DiscoverIt card and was able to place in just a few days $4,800 at 0% for 18 months. One card is giving me an excellent apr thereafter of 11.99%, while the other card wants 22.99% (dream on...). The main point to remember is you are to "use them" ... don't let them use you! But in a year and half from now, things will be different. Your balances will be lower, and you might find it won't be so much. But I'll be on the lookout at that time for a new deal! You must be pro-active and learn how to handle your credit. I also recommend the books of Unity Church Worldwide founder Catherine Ponder, who teaches how to create your prosperity through spiritual principles. Do as she says, even if you don't buy it. Soon, you will... Definitely helps sleep better at night, and actually, it's what's happening in our world right now... (Moving from the material to spiritually created reality, in my opinion...). Good luck!

Guest's picture
Mel

Rates, fees, and terms may change: We have the right to change the account terms (including the APRs) in accordance with your Cardmember Agreement.

CHASE WRITES THIS IN ALL THEIR AGREEMENTS, THINK ABOUT THAT BEFORE YOU SIGN WITH THEM. THEY EVENTUALLY WILL CHANGE THE APR AND FEES ON YOU AND YOUR CANT DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT BECAUSE YOU AGREED TO THE ABOVE CLAUSE.

Guest's picture
Margaret L

AND, having been through that in the past, I do know that Chase Bank had to offer people a way to continue to pay their accounts according to past rates, which they did. Someone who is paying $30 a month in interest on an account will do well to take their charge of their credit situation and change.

Guest's picture

I really like the Discover card for its 0% apr on balance transfers for 18 months. The free FICO score is a great bonus as well.

Guest's picture
ryan

Can I transfer a unsecured personal loan to a credit card? The loan is with Wells Fargo.

Guest's picture
Margaret L

Many banks and credit card companies make balance transfer offers in the mail, offering checks that have different rules. For example, one check might apply to your card with 0% apr for 18 months, with a 3% or a 5% fee. Another might have 0% fee with a different apr per month, etc.

If you have a credit card that has balance transfer capability, call the customer service number and talk to someone about receiving checks by mail. Or sometimes, they have electronically deposited funds directly into my checking account.

You need to understand that there is a fee most companies charge for balance transfers. Usually around 3%. This is how they make their money. They collect their interest in advance, so to speak, but they also hope you'll hang around and give them more interest money later on, too.

I believe in talking to customer service representatives. They can be really helpful in advising you what you can and cannot do, what you should do, how they can help you, etc.

I once used what I called a "credit card check," when I was much younger, to pay for a medical procedure for $400, which I had to pay in advance. I felt so blessed to have that available to me to help me pay for the procedure.

You can use a check to pay off your loan, to pay for car repairs, a remodeling project, etc.

It's important to know how much you can spend this way and how much it's going to cost you. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Take notes. Then say thank you, I want to think about it, and hang up. You can call someone else for advice, then call them back later. Make sure you understand all about it.

But it's a very helpful thing the credit card companies do, in my opinion.

Guest's picture
Guest

Almost every credit card company is going to charge 3% fees or $5 for balance tranfer fee except slate from chase. None of the other credit cards offer is good. if you are tinkging about balance transfer, be careful just apply only for slate card. Read the fine print and then apply for crdit card.

Guest's picture
Margaret L

When one is being charged $35 a month in interest, it seems in that person's best interest to seek a better deal -- where for the period of a year or 15 or 18 months, all of one's payment applies to the actual balance and none (or only a little or much less...) is going to interest. THAT is what seems wise for me.

Now, how far do you want to go with that? Is $15 a month in interest too much? Is $5 a month in interest too much?

Each one has to decide for himself. But simply to state that everyone will eventually go back to spending too much fails to take into consideration each person's circumstances.

For all you know, a person accrued such a debt in paying for a repair to an older model car. Or accrued debt in spending money in an attempt to sell an older restored pickup truck. Or spent money in payment for a medical procedure not covered by insurance (if that person has insurance...). A person may have accrued debt in driving 120 miles a day round trip to visit one's mate in a rehab facility 60 miles away, where one is responsible for that person's clean clothing. OR a combination of all of these factors. There are lots of reasons for a person's indebtedness, and frankly, having been there myself, I am not going to judge.

Guest's picture
elsa

I have used this strategy a few times in my life always vowing to never put myself in that position again. The real key is to make sure you pay off your balance before the interest free period is over. If not, you can easily find yourself in the same position as before.

Guest's picture

Looking through the post and comments, unless I missed it somewhere, there is no mention of the fact that when you pay off the transfer by the end of the offer the transfer fee must be doubled (if it for 12 months and adjusted for more or less) to see the true rate. You only owe the full balance for 30 days.

Only when you calculate using the true interest rate comparison can you correctly determine the advantage if any of making the transfer.