Best balance transfer credit cards for 2022

If you’re already in debt, you might be reluctant to apply for another credit card. Still, a balance transfer card is a different beast than other cards. A balance transfer card lets you transfer debt from a high-interest old card to a new card with a low or 0 percent annual percentage rate for a specific period — often between 12 and 20 months. This provides you breathing room to pay down or pay off the transferred balance of existing credit card debt while collecting little or no interest.

Getting debt under control is the first step toward financial security. A balance transfer credit card allows customers a reasonably cost-efficient option to catch up on obligations and reduce credit card debt. It can also assist in consolidating debt into a single payment, allowing someone struggling to keep up with their credit card payments a unique financial aim. Below are the top selections for the best balance transfer cards. We update this list periodically.

Best Balance Transfer Credit Card Overall

US BANK
US BANK
  • Introductory APR: 20 months of 0% APR for balance transfers and purchases
  • Standard APR: 13.99% to 23.99% variable APR
  • Penalty APR: None
  • Introductory balance transfer fee: N/A
  • Standard balance transfer fee: 3% or $5, whichever is greater
  • How long you have to make transfers: 60 days
  • Credit requirement: 680 to 850
  • Annual fee: $0

With an initial APR of 0% for 20 months and a charge of only 3%, the US Bank Visa Platinum is one of the most cost-effective options available.

Longest Balance Transfer Period

  • Introductory APR: 18 months of 0% APR for balance transfers and 12 months for purchases
  • Standard APR: 14.74% to 24.74% variable APR
  • Penalty APR: None
  • Introductory balance transfer fee: N/A
  • Standard balance transfer fee: 3% or $5, whichever is greater
  • How long you have to make transfers: 120 days
  • Credit requirement: 680 to 850
  • Annual fee: $0

Compared to the Citi Diamond Preferred, which has a 1% lower standard APR, the Simplicity card has no late fees or penalty APR. The Simplicity can save you $40 and the promotional 0% APR loss if you’re worried about missing a payment.

Simplicity’s 18-month introductory APR term includes a 3-percent transfer charge, making it equivalent to the US Bank Visa Platinum. The most significant advantage with the Citi card is the length of time you have to make a credit card balance transfer — 120 days compared to US Bank’s 60 days.

Longest balance transfer period (runner-up)

Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo
  • Introductory APR: 18 months from account opening of 0% APR for qualifying balance transfers and purchases
  • Standard APR: 16.49-24.49% variable APR
  • Penalty APR: None
  • Introductory balance transfer fee: 3% or $5 for the first 120 days from account opening
  • Standard balance transfer fee: Up to 5% or $5, whichever is greater
  • How long do you have to make transfers: 120 days
  • Credit requirement: 680 to 850
  • Annual fee: $0

The Wells Fargo Platinum has a 0% APR for 18 months for qualified balance transfers (16.49-24.49 percent variable APR after that). After the first 120 days of card ownership, the Citi Simplicity has a lower balance transfer fee than the Wells Fargo Platinum. Most of the time, you’ll transfer a balance at the start of the period to get the introductory 0% APR. As a result, the higher standard balance transfer fee isn’t as important.

Best card for an extended payoff period

SunTrust
SunTrust
  • Introductory APR: 3.25% for 3 years on balance transfers
  • Standard APR: 11.24-21.24% variable APR
  • Penalty APR: 11.24-21.24% variable APR
  • Introductory balance transfer fee: $0
  • Standard balance transfer fee: 3% or $10, whichever is greater
  • How long you have to make transfers: 60 days
  • Credit requirement: Good to Excellent (680 to 850)
  • Annual fee: $0

Credit cards that let you transfer money from one account to another are all the same. Still, the SunTrust Mastercard Prime Rewards credit card is different. It doesn’t give people who get new cards from SunTrust an introductory 0% APR for the first year. Instead, they get three years of a low APR of 3.25 percent. If you have a credit card, the standard APR is usually between 12 and 25%.

That 3.25 percent APR works the same way as a 3.25 percent transfer fee. You pay it over the year. Because your balance will go down as you pay it off, the effective rate should be lower than 3.25 percent.

If you need a little more time to pay off your debt, the SunTrust Mastercard Prime Rewards may be the best choice for you. Chart: You can see how this card compares to the US Bank Visa Platinum in the one on top.

Another card worth considering

The Discover It Student
Discover
  • Introductory APR: 14 months of 0% APR for balance transfers and purchases
  • Standard APR: 11.99% to 22.99%
  • Penalty APR: None
  • Introductory balance transfer fee: 3% for first three months
  • Standard balance transfer fee: 5%
  • How long you have to make balance transfers: No limit
  • Credit requirement: 680 to 850
  • Annual fee: $0

Another card worth considering

HSBC
HSBC
  • Introductory APR: 18 months of 0% APR for balance transfers and purchases
  • Standard APR: 13.99-23.99% variable APR
  • Penalty APR: None
  • Introductory balance transfer fee: None
  • Standard balance transfer fee: 4% or $10, whichever is greater
  • How long you have to make transfers: 60 days
  • Credit requirement: 680 to 850
  • Annual fee: $0

In the table below, we’ve broken down the key features of each card to help you determine the best balance transfer credit card for your needs.

Best balance transfer credit cards compared

Best card overall for balance transfers Longest balance transfer period Longest balance transfer period (runner-up) Best card for an extended payoff period Another card worth considering Another card worth considering
US Bank Visa Platinum Citi Simplicity Wells Fargo Platinum SunTrust Mastercard Prime Rewards Discover it Cash Back HSBC Gold Mastercard
Balance transfer annual percentage rate (APR) 0% 0% 0% 3.25% 0% 0%
Intro balance transfer APR period (months) 20 18 18 36 14 18
How long you have to make transfers (months) 2 4 4 2 3 2
Standard APR 14.49% – 24.49% variable 14.74% – 24.74% variable 16.49% – 24.49% variable 12.74% – 22.74% variable 11.99% – 22.99% variable 13.99% – 23.99% variable
Balance transfer fee 3% 3% 3% for 120 days from account opening, then up to 5% ($5 minimum) 0% 5% 4%
Annual fee $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0

To choose the best balance transfer credit card, you have to think about how much money you have and how quickly you can pay it all off. Always try to pay off your debt on a balance transfer credit card in time to get or keep good credit. This can have a significant impact on your chances of getting or keeping good credit, in the long run, so be sure to do this.

For example, if you have a $6,000 credit card balance on a high rate card and can afford to pay $309 each month, US Bank Visa Platinum’s 20-month 0% APR period would be perfect to pay off your debt. Compared to $1,221 on your old card, which has a standard 22 percent APR, the new card would charge you only $180 for the transfer. See the table below.

Sample balance transfers, compared

US Bank Visa Platinum Citi Simplicity SunTrust Mastercard Prime Rewards
Starting balance $6,000 $6,000 $6,000
Balance transfer APR 0% 0% 3.25%
Monthly payment to pay off balance during low APR period $309 $343 $175
Months 20 18 36
Total fees and interest paid $180 $180 $305
Monthly payment with standard card (22% APR) $361 $394 $229
Total fees and interest paid $1,221 $1,099 $2,249
Amount saved with balance transfer card $1,041 $919 $1,944

However, if you can only afford to pay $150 a month, you’ll need a card with a more extended low-interest period. For example, using the SunTrust Prime Rewards card, you can get 36 months at 3.25 percent APR and no fees when you use it to pay for things. During three years, it would have cost you $372 in interest. That’s much less than a new card that starts with 0% interest but rises to 20% or more after 18 or 20 months. See the table below.

Sample balance transfer, compared (part 2)

US Bank Visa Platinum Citi Simplicity SunTrust Mastercard Prime Rewards
Starting balance $6,000 $6,000 $6,000
Balance transfer APR 0% 0% 3.25%
Monthly payment $150 $150 $150
Special APR payment periods 48 50 43
Total fees and interest paid $1,178 $1,483 $372
Standard payment periods (22% APR) 73 73 73
Total fees and interest paid $4,913 $4,913 $4,913
Amount saved using balance transfer card vs. standard card $3,735 $3,431 $4,541

Using a balance transfer credit card the right way takes some math, but paying attention to the numbers can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the long run. There are still a lot of good balance transfer options out there, even though some banks have recently cut or eliminated their introductory low-APR periods. This is because there is more uncertainty in the economy. Before you apply for a new credit card, make sure to check out each possible card and card company very carefully. Even if you have good credit, your credit card debt could stop you from moving forward with your plans.

The best balance transfer credit card has a few things you should keep in mind:

  • If you get a new credit card, you might get a sign-on bonus or cashback when you start using it. These things are mostly a distraction from your main goal: paying off your debt.
  • A lot of balance transfer cards have annual fees, but I don’t think they’re worth it for you to use.
  • You can’t move balances between cards from the same company, so you can’t move a balance from one Chase card to another Chase card.
  • There are a lot of things that affect how much you can transfer. For example, your credit utilization ratio, the amount of money you owe, how much money you pay each month, and whether you already have good or even excellent credit. Each credit card and credit card company is different, and each factor is decided by the card issuer after they look at your own credit.

Glossary of terms

Introductory APR: The interest rate that will be charged on your balance transfer amount and any purchases you make during the first few months of owning a credit card (usually 12 to 20 months)

Standard APR: After the introductory period is over, the interest rate will be charged on balances and purchases.

Introductory balance transfer fee: The fee for transferring money from one credit card to another during the first few months of owning it (usually 12 to 20 months).

Standard balance transfer fee: It’s the fee that is charged on a balance after the introductory period is over.

What are the best balance transfer credit cards right now?

The U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card is our current pick for the best balance transfer credit card right now. If you’re looking for a credit card with the longest balance transfer period, the best credit card at the moment is Citi Simplicity, but the Wells Fargo Platinum is the runner-up.

How do balance transfer credit cards work?

It doesn’t make sense to think of balance transfer cards as “credit cards.” They’re more like debt-reduction tools. They should be used to pay off credit card debt, not as a way to pay for things.

Take the money you have in debt on one credit card and move it to another credit card. Usually, this is done to save money by moving debt from a high-interest account to a low- or no-interest account.

Many credit cards allow you to transfer money from one account to another. Still, those specifically designed for this purpose all have one thing in common: an introductory 0% APR period on balances transferred to that account. This is usually only for the first 60 to 120 days of owning the card. The initial APR period lasts between 12 and 21 months most months. This gives you a lot of time to pay off your balance without paying any interest on the money.

There are a few credit cards that don’t charge for balance transfers. Most balance transfer cards charge a fee of between 3% and 5% to move your debt to them. The longer the introductory 0% APR period, the higher the cost, and vice versa. As a result, the best cards that don’t charge you to move your balance have shorter introductory APR periods. The best cards that charge you for moving your balance have a 3 percent to 5 percent fee on balance transfers.

If I still have a balance after the introductory APR period is over, can I just keep transferring my debt to a new balance transfer card?

There is a way to say it. If you transfer your balance two or three times, you may even need to do this a few more times to pay off your debt finally. It’s not going to work unless you have a clear idea of how you got into debt and a plan for getting out of debt.

Because there are so many variables, it’s important to note that multiple balance transfers aren’t a surefire way to get out of debt, even if you transfer all of your debt to a second balance transfer card. A few examples:

  • You might not get a credit card.
  • You might not be able to transfer money from one account to another.
  • Your transfer request might not be approved.

Credit card deals could also change, making it hard to plan. It’s essential to choose a card that lets you pay off the whole balance in one cycle.

What’s the maximum balance I can transfer to a new credit card?

The card company sets the balance transfer limit on a case-by-case basis. The amount that some cards will give you is based on your creditworthiness and how long you’ve had an account.

The same is true when it comes to setting your credit limit. When selecting your credit limit, the card company will look at your credit score, credit utilization, income, and housing costs. Remember that your credit limit may be less than you thought, which means your outstanding balance will be less. To be able to raise your limit, you usually need to change your financial situation, like having more money or a lower housing payment, or paying your bills on time for a long time, which isn’t a good idea if you want to take advantage of a 0% APR period on a balance transfer.

What is an introductory APR? And what is an introductory balance transfer fee?

The Introductory APR is the APR that will be applied to your balance (including balance transfers and purchases in most cases) for the first 12 to 20 months that you own the card, depending on the card. This APR will be lower than the APR applied to your balance after that. The Standard APR is the APR used to pay off your credit after the introductory period is over. If you don’t pay your bill for more than six months, the Penalty APR will be added to your balance. This usually happens if you don’t pay your account for more than one month in a row, but it depends on your card and your card issuer.

In the first 30 to 120 days of owning a credit card, there is the Introductory Balance Transfer fee. When you transfer money from your balance to another account, this fee is charged. After the introductory period, the Standard Balance Transfer fee is charged for transfers made after that period. Make sure you know that some cards don’t allow balance transfers for a certain amount of time.

How long will it take to complete a balance transfer?

After you get your new card and cardholder agreement, it could take anywhere from 10 days to six weeks to transfer your balance to your new card. It’s also important to note that some card issuers, like Citi, make balance transfers available at their own discretion, and they might not be able to accept your request. As a precaution, you should keep paying the minimum on your old card’s balance until you know that the transfer was successful. This way, you won’t have to pay fees or penalties.

What do I do if I have sub-par credit?

The problem is that most of the cards on this list require good to excellent credit scores, like above 660 or so. If your credit score is lower than that and you haven’t been able to get one of the cards above, there are other ways to get rid of your debt. A debt consolidation loan could help you get rid of all of your debt at a lower rate. You can call your current card company and try to get a lower APR.

Can I use a balance transfer credit card to buy things?

While a balance transfer credit card certainly works like a normal credit card, it’s generally not a good idea to use it to make new purchases. If you currently have credit card debt, your primary goal should be to get out of debt and avoid paying interest. When you purchase something and add new charges to your balance transfer account, you’re moving in the wrong direction, especially if you’re only able to make the minimum payment.

A debit card or cash is better for any new purchases while you pay off your debt, thus leaving your balance transfer account only for debt repayment. This will also help you track your progress more clearly. And keep in mind that some balance transfer credit cards still charge interest on new purchases until you pay off the entire balance (the new purchases plus whatever balance you transferred), which will only compound your debt problem.

How I picked the best balance transfer credit cards

The length of the introductory 0% APR period and the fee for transferring a balance were the two main things I looked at when making my recommendations above. The majority of the cost of paying off a balance with a balance transfer card comes from these two factors.

For example, the average credit card debt for a household in the United States is about $6,200. I used a hypothetical balance of $6,000 to figure out which cards make sense in certain situations, based on how much you can pay back each month.

List of cards researched

  • Amex EveryDay® Credit Card
  • Chase Slate
  • Citi Simplicity
  • Citi Double Cash Card
  • US Bank Visa Platinum Card
  • Discover it Balance Transfer
  • Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card
  • BankAmericard Credit Card for Students
  • Citi Rewards Plus Card
  • Chase Freedom
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited
  • Bank Americard
  • Wells Fargo Platinum Card
  • Simmons Visa
  • SunTrust Prime Rewards
  • Indigo Mastercard
  • Milestone Mastercard
  • Applied Bank Secured Visa Gold Preferred
  • Surge Mastercard
  • OpenSky Secured Visa
  • Green Dot Primor Secured
  • Fit Mastercard
  • Reflex Mastercard

More personal finance advice

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