The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Thursday, December 8, 2022

9 Best Credit Cards for Paying Down Debt

Best Credit Cards For Paying Down Debt

credit card advice

Mike Randall

Written by: Mike Randall

Mike Randall

Mike Randall is an expert in the areas of credit scores and credit cards, having written on those topics for national publications for more than a decade. He graduated from California State University with a degree in English literature, and he has an extensive background in personal finance studies. Aside from credit cards and scores, Mike enjoys writing about changes in the subprime market and how they directly impact financial decisions.

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Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct instructor at the University of Florida. Today, she edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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Advertiser Disclosure

With so many credit cards out there these days, finding the best credit cards for paying down debt may seem like an impossible task. Well, you’ve come to the right place. Ten years ago in this country, a lot of things hit their peak; the stock market, government bond interest rates, and the amount of revolving debt carried by American consumers. The Great Recession led to a wave of contraction by the banks, the government, and by the rest of us.

Since 2008, however, the stock market has recovered and the Federal Reserve has once again begun raising interest rates. Perhaps the biggest round-trip, however, has been the amount of debt Americans are once again carrying. Just last year the Federal Reserve released a report showing that consumers had $1.034 trillion in outstanding revolving credit, beating the previous record set in April of 2008.

For those consumers who are worried about repeating old patterns, we’ve put together a list of the best credit cards and personal installment loans for paying down debt.

0% APR | Low Ongoing APR | Consolidation Loans | Tips for Paying Down Debt

Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards with 0% APR Offers

Balance transfer cards with 0% APR let you shift high-interest balances to a new card, lowering your APR and helping you pay down your debt sooner. If you’re disciplined enough to continue paying the same amount — or, better yet, even more — the lower APR means the balance will be paid off far sooner.

While many of these cards have similar features, several stand out from the rest for their extended offer terms, unique benefits, and purchase rewards. If you believe you can pay off your debt within the 0% introductory period, then one of these cards may be right for you.

Discover it® Balance Transfer Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
  • Every $1 you earn in cash back is $1 you can redeem.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "Apply Now" to see terms and conditions.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
0% Intro APR for 18 months
15.74% - 26.74% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee... Ever
  • 0% Intro APR for 21 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer and 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases from date of account opening. After that the variable APR will be 17.74% - 28.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening.
  • There is an introductory balance transfer fee of $5 or 3% of the amount of the transfer, whichever is greater for balances transfers completed within 4 months of account opening.
  • Stay protected with Citi® Quick Lock and $0 liability on unauthorized charges
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR Period 12 months on Purchases
0% Intro APR Period 21 months on Balance Transfers
17.74% - 28.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good Credit

Additional Disclosure: Citi is a CardRates advertiser.

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • 0% Intro APR for 21 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer and 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases from date of account opening. After that the variable APR will be 16.74% - 27.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening.
  • For a limited time earn a $150 Statement Credit after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • Get free access to your FICO® Score online.
  • With Citi Entertainment®, get special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events, including concerts, sporting events, dining experiences and more.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% 12 months on Purchases
0% 21 months on Balance Transfers
16.74% - 27.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

Additional Disclosure: Citi is a CardRates advertiser.

An important thing to remember about balance transfer credit cards is that the majority of them charge balance transfer fees. These fees typically range from 3% to 5% of the total transferred balance, which can be a significant cost if transferring a large amount.

At the same time, balance transfer fees are typically much less than the regular APR of a credit card. This often makes balance transfer fees well worth paying if you can get a 0% APR offer out of the deal.

Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards with Low Ongoing APRs

If you’re looking for a credit card that will charge you a low APR well beyond the introductory period, you’ll want a card with a low ongoing APR. These cards are also good for someone who wants to transfer a balance, but who doesn’t believe they’ll be able to pay it off during the zero-interest period.

The cards in this category all feature cash-back rewards, and they all combine their low ongoing APR with no annual fee for even more savings.

USAA Rate Advantage Visa® Platinum Credit Card Review

at Usaa Savings'ssecure website

LOW APR RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • Get a 0% intro APR for 15 months on Balance Transfers and Convenience Checks that post to your account within 90 days of account opening. After this time, the Variable Regular APR will apply to your balance.
  • Our lowest-rate card: Pay less in interest if you carry a balance from month to month
  • Travel benefits include Auto Rental Coverage, Travel Accident Insurance, Baggage Delay and Reimbursement, and Trip Cancellation and Interruption Coverage
  • No annual fee or foreign transaction fees
  • This offer is only open to members of military-affiliated groups and their families
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% for 15 Months
9.15% - 26.15% (Variable)
$0
Good to Excellent
Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

LOW APR RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
  • Every $1 you earn in cash back is $1 you can redeem.
  • Get a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 15.74% to 26.74% Standard Variable Purchase APR applies, based on credit worthiness.
  • No annual fee.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 months
0% Intro APR for 15 months
15.74% - 26.74% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good
DCU Visa® Platinum Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

LOW APR RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • DCU’s Visa Platinum Credit Card offers a rate lower than you’ll find on most other bank or store cards. With one of the lowest rates in the nation, this is the perfect starter card for anyone trying to establish credit or save on interest with no-fee balance transfers.
  • Embedded EMV chip - this tiny chip protects your information in a big way.
  • Mobile Wallet Compatible - works with Apple Pay®, Google Pay™, and Samsung® Pay.*
  • Optional overdraft protection - We’ll transfer the balance of any overdrafts from your DCU checking account to your DCU Visa Platinum account up to your available limit.
  • No annual fee, balance transfer fee, or cash advance fees
  • Must meet eligibility criteria to join Digital Federal Credit Union
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
11.50% (Variable)
$0
Average/Good

While selecting a credit card with a low APR range can help improve your chances of receiving a low APR, keep in mind that the exact APR you’re offered can depend on a number of factors, including your overall credit profile.

Also, although many great balance transfer credit cards — including those above — provide competitive purchase rewards, remember that you won’t earn any credit card rewards on a transferred balance. You can only earn purchase rewards on the net new purchases (excluding any returns, etc.).

Similarly, transferred balances won’t count toward the spending requirement for credit card signup bonuses. You’ll have to reach the requirement the old-fashioned way by making new purchases with your card.

Best Personal Installment Loans for Consolidating Debt

A personal installment loan may be worth considering if you’re looking to pay down your debt but don’t want to take on another credit card. They can also be a good solution if you have too much debt to consolidate through a balance transfer or if you need longer to pay down your debt than the typical 0% APR offer provides.

The terms of a personal installment loan can vary widely, from the length of time to repay, to the finances charges, to any initial fees for opening the loan. Using an online lending network, like our expert-rated picks below, can be an easy way to compare terms without filling out multiple applications.

  • Loan amounts range from $500 to $35,000
  • All credit types welcome to apply
  • Lending partners in all 50 states
  • Loans can be used for any purpose
  • Fast online approval
  • Funding in as few as 24 hours
Overall Rating
★★★★
4.4
  • Loan amounts range from $500 to $10,000
  • Compare quotes from a network of lenders
  • Flexible credit requirements
  • Easy online application & 5-minute approval
  • Funding in as few as 24 hours
Overall Rating
★★★★★
4.6
  • Loan amounts range from $1,000 to $35,000
  • Flexible credit requirements
  • Loans can be used for anything
  • Five minute application
  • Funding possible in as few as 24 hours
  • Large lending network with multiple partners
Overall Rating
★★★★★
4.8

Installment loans are structured as the name implies; you agree to pay a fixed monthly amount over the length of the loan term. There are advantages in this type of loan since you know exactly what your payment will be, a structure that allows you to budget without surprises.

Another advantage of using a personal installment loan to consolidate your debt is that this is not a revolving credit line — which was likely the cause of your high debt in the first place.

Instead, this type of loan lets you use the proceeds to pay off your revolving debt of varying interest rates, and have a single payment at a fixed amount that’s usually lower than that charged by revolving credit rates.

Tips on Paying Down Debt Efficiently

Depending upon your debt load and the number of payments you’re making each month, there are a few ways you can choose to tackle paying off your debt. For example, if you have a lot of small debts — say from store credit cards — and a few really big debts, such as credit cards you use all the time, some experts recommend focusing on paying off the small amounts first.

Graphic of Snowball Rolling Down Hill

The snowball method prioritizes your debts by balance, starting with the smallest balance first.

This approach is known as the debt snowball method. There are psychological reasons for why someone might want to take this approach, including the fact that eliminating the number of payments you have to make each month can really just feel good.

However, others warn that this isn’t the most efficient way of paying down your debt since you’ll likely wind up paying more in interest fees overall. Most experts agree that paying down your highest interest debts first, called the avalanche method, is the most cost-effective way to eliminate debt.

Simply doing the math can tell you that you’ll pay less in interest overall if you focus the majority of your financial resources on your high-interest debt, while paying the minimum on your other debts. As you pay one balance off, focus all of the money you were putting toward that debt onto your debt with the next-highest APR.

However, there’s a third camp that says it really doesn’t matter — as long as you begin paying it off. Discipline and sticking to your plan, whichever one you choose to implement, is more important to successfully paying off your debt than the specific plan itself. Finding a plan that you’re comfortable with and that you can stick to is the method that will work.

Reach Debt Freedom with Smart Card Use

Being free from debt is the dream of many American consumers, especially now that we’ve set new highs for revolving debt levels. For those of us who have chosen to see this as a wakeup call, paying down our debt is just the first step. Obtaining debt-freedom is a worthwhile goal, but it doesn’t do much good unless we change the habits that got us here in the first place.

Smart credit card use is what will keep us from repeating our bad habits and ending up right back in debt. Remembering a few simple rules can mean all of our efforts at obtaining debt freedom won’t have been wasted.

First, try to pay off your credit card bill each month if possible. If you do need to carry a balance, don’t just make the minimum payment. Second, pick a primary card with a low interest rate and only the rewards you will use. Never use a high-interest card simply because it offers rewards.

Finally, when you use your credit card try to envision cash coming out of your wallet instead of a piece of plastic. Ultimately it is cash, it’s just temporarily deferred. Don’t think of credit cards as free money — because they most certainly are not free.

Advertiser Disclosure

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