The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Sunday, December 8, 2019

14 Best Credit Cards to Pay Off Debt

14 Best Credit Cards to Pay Off Debt

credit card advice

Adam West
By: Adam West
Updated: September 30, 2019

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If there were a true national pastime in America, acquiring debt might be it. From car loans to credit cards to student loans and even medical debt, Americans now owe more than at any point in history. In fact, according to the 2018 Planning and Progress Study by Northwestern Mutual, the average American has around $38,000 in personal debt, not including mortgage debt.

If you’re feeling anxious lately about the amount of debt you are carrying, you’re not alone. Short of a huge boost in your income, a life-changing inheritance, or winning the lottery, your financial circumstances will likely be the same tomorrow as they are today. Faced with these bleak facts of life, many indebted consumers are turning to their credit cards as a solution.

But wait, isn’t that the source of all the anxiety to begin with? Actually, when used as part of a comprehensive debt reduction strategy, credit cards can be an effective way to pay off debt. Read on to learn more about which credit cards are best for helping reduce debt.

Credit Card Debt | Other Types of Debt | FAQs

Best Cards to Pay Off Credit Card Debt

If the idea of using a credit card to pay off credit card debt seems counterintuitive, consider this: A credit card with a long 0% introductory interest rate period lets you direct more of your money toward paying down the principal balance instead of interest. That means you may be able to pay off your debt sooner than you otherwise would.

Here are some of the cards we found that offer long intro-rate periods, and some even come with no balance transfer fee.

Discover it® Balance Transfer Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
0% for 18 months
13.49% - 24.49% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

Consumers looking to pay off or even consolidate their debt with a balance transfer will find the Discover it® Balance Transfer card a tempting offer. This card pulls double duty with its 0%-intro APR on balance transfers and new purchases. Of course, it also comes with Discover’s cash back rewards on purchases and bonus rewards of 5% back on up to $1,500 in purchases on rotating categories you activate each quarter. And, Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49 - 25.24%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5
  • No annual fee
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
16.49% - 25.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® card now offers 0% interest for 15 months on both balance transfers and new purchases. New cardholders also earn 3% cash back on all purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent. After that earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

CITI® RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

0.0/5.0
  • No late fees, No penalty rate, and No annual fee... EVER.
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for the first 21 months (transfers must be made in the first 4 months)
  • 0% Intro APR on new purchases for the first 12 months
  • The same great rate for all balances, after the introductory period
  • Save time when you call with fast, personal help, 24 hours a day - just say "representative"
  • Enjoy the convenience of setting up your own bill payment schedule on any available due date throughout the month
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
0% for 21 months
16.99% - 26.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

The Citi® Simplicity® Card is a good choice for someone looking to pay off credit card debt. The 21-month 0% intro rate applies to balance transfers, while purchases get a 0% APR for a shorter duration. The card does have a balance transfer fee, so make sure you consider the extra cost when deciding whether to use this as a balance transfer card. All balance transfers must be completed within the first few months of account opening to qualify for the 0% APR.

CITI® RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

0.0/5.0
  • Earn cash back twice on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% cash back as you pay for those purchases.
  • Receive 0% for 18 months on balance transfers made within 4 months of account opening
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back; transfer fee applies
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month
  • No categories to track and no caps on cash back
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% for 18 months
15.74% - 25.74% (variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

The Citi® Double Cash Card offers a generous 0%-introductory APR for balance transfers, but the regular APR is on the higher side. This intro APR applies to transfers only; purchases will accrue at the regular rate. Also, it does come with a balance transfer fee. Just make sure you’re able to pay off your balance within the intro period to avoid the high regular APR.

5. Chase Slate® Credit Card

If paying a balance transfer fee to consolidate or pay off debt doesn’t suit your financial goals, then Chase has a deal for you. The Chase Slate® card offers a low intro APR on both balance transfers and purchases, plus no balance transfer fee for the first 60 days after the account is opened.

Chase Slate® credit card

  • No annual fee
  • 0% introductory APR on balance transfers for 15 months
  • No balance transfer fee
  • No penalty APR for late payments

This can be a huge money saver for anyone looking to optimize their payoff efforts. However, the regular APR is fairly high, so paying off the balance during the intro rate period is recommended. Chase also offers Credit Journey™, a free credit report weekly update for card members.

6. BankAmericard® Credit Card

The BankAmericard® Credit Card has a lot to like with no annual fee, long introductory APR, and no balance transfer fee during the transfer window. There’s also no automatic penalty APR if you happen to pay late.

BankAmericard® Credit Card

  • 0% intro APR for 15 months
  • No fee for transfers completed within 60 days of account opening
  • Free FICO Score updated monthly
  • No annual fee

This card’s higher-than-average standard APR means you should try to pay off any balance before the intro period expires. You can make up to three balance transfers to this card within the transfer window at the 0% intro rate. To qualify, you should have a credit score in the good to excellent range.

7. The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

You may not expect to find a balance transfer credit card that also does duty as a daily-use card, but that’s exactly what you’ll get with the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express. This card offers a 0% introductory rate on purchases and balance transfers, no balance transfer fee for an initial period, no annual fee, and even rewards.

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

  • 0% interest on balance transfers for 15 months
  • No fee for transfers completed within 60 days of account opening
  • Access to Amex Offers for shopping, dining, and travel discounts
  • No annual fee

Cardholders can earn 2X bonus points on grocery purchases, and 1X points on everything else. That’s a lot to receive from a top balance transfer card.

Best Cards to Pay Off Bills and Other Debts

If you’re looking for a way out from under a pile of bills and other debts, a card with an extended 0% APR period may just be the ticket. Whether we’re talking about student loans, medical bills, a car loan, home equity loan, or any type of personal loan — a chunk of what you pay each month goes toward interest charges.

By using a card with a 0% interest rate on new purchases, you can direct all of the money you pay toward reducing the actual loan balance. Depending on the amount of debt and the strategy you use, you could be debt-free before you know it. Here are some of the cards we found that can help you implement a solid debt-payoff plan.

CITI® RATING

★★★★
4.0

OVERALL RATING

0.0/5.0
  • Get 0% intro APR on new purchases and balance transfers for 18 months. Balance transfers must be made within the first 4 months of account opening
  • Citi® Price Rewind searches for lower prices online for 60 days for your registered purchases
  • $0 liability on unauthorized purchases and Citi® Identity Theft Solutions.
  • Experience great benefits like VIP packages to concerts, sporting events and more with access to Citi® Private Pass®
  • No annual fee
  • Free access to FICO® Scores
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 18 months
0% for 18 months
15.99% - 25.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Credit Card offers a terrific 0% intro-APR period and extends that intro rate to purchases. Not that you should be using your debt-reduction card to make new purchases, but you could. The card has no annual fee, but it does have a balance transfer fee. This fee should be considered when calculating the total cost of a debt transfer. The regular APR after the intro period is also rather steep, and penalties for late payments and a penalty rate may apply. In other words, make all payments on time.

9. Wells Fargo Platinum Card

The Wells Fargo Platinum Card is a solid option for saving on interest thanks to its 18-month 0% APR introductory offer good on both new purchases and balance transfers (balance transfers must be made within 120 days of account opening; transfer fee applies).

Wells Fargo Platinum Visa card

  • Receive 0% APR on new purchases for 18 months
  • Receive up to $600 in cellphone protection
  • Regular APR of 13.74% to 27.24%
  • Pay $0 annual fee

In addition to a competitive introductory offer, this card comes with a number of Wells Fargo and Visa benefits, including up to $600 in cellphone protection when you pay your bill with your card, as well as free FICO credit scores and $0 liability protection.

(The information related to Wells Fargo Platinum Card has been collected by CardRates.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.)

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49 - 25.24%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5
  • No annual fee
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
16.49% - 25.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

Not many balance transfer cards offer cash back rewards, and very few offer more than 1% cash back. That makes the Chase Freedom Unlimited® a true outlier with its high cash back in the first year on up to $20,000 spent. Now add in the intro APR and no annual fee, and you have a card that truly stands out. Keep in mind though, if you’re using this strictly as a balance transfer card, the cash back on purchases won’t do you much good. Also, a balance transfer fee applies.

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49 - 25.24%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
16.49% - 25.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

Similar to the previous Chase card, the Chase Freedom® Card comes with a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers. Other features are also similar, except with this card, you get a cash bonus after spending a minimum amount in the first three months. This card comes with the familiar Chase cash back rewards on rotating bonus categories, as well as unlimited rewards on other purchases.

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.74%-25.74% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 15.74%-25.74% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
15.74% - 25.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

Not to be outdone, the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers its own cash bonus after you spend a minimum amount in the first few months. This hybrid rewards and balance transfer card also has a 0% intro APR and ups the rewards to an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day. Again, this only matters if you are using the card for purposes other than strictly paying off debt or bills. There’s no annual fee for this card and the regular APR will apply when the intro period ends.

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.74% - 25.74% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 15.74% - 25.74% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • No foreign transaction fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
15.74% - 25.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

No one says you can’t pay off debt and enjoy dining and entertainment too. The Capital One® SavorOne™ Cash Rewards Card lets you pay down bills and debt with its intro APR, while earning unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores, and 1% on all other purchases. There’s no limit to the cash back rewards, and they never expire. A regular APR will apply after the promotion period ends.

Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Discover will match ALL the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. That’s $700 towards travel! The more you earn, the more you get.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases - with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates. Simply pay for travel purchases like airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more with your Discover it® Miles card.
  • Miles Pay You Back. Easily redeem Miles as a statement credit for travel purchases. Or get cash.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
10.99% for 14 months
13.49% - 24.49% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

The Discover it® Miles card offers a 0% introductory APR of 14 months on purchases. This card is especially beneficial to the frequent traveler. Discover will match all the miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. After that, earn unlimited 1.5x miles for every dollar spent on all purchases with no annual fee.

Do Balance Transfers Affect Your Credit Score?

A number of factors go into whether and how a balance transfer can affect your credit score. Aside from how credit scores are calculated in general, your personal financial and credit situation will play a role. Consider also your debt repayment strategy and how you implement your balance transfer plan.

If you view a balance transfer as a life preserver or temporary fix, it’s unlikely to help your credit score, since you haven’t addressed the underlying debt problem. On the other hand, if you use the balance transfer as part of a strategy to pay off credit cards and other debt, it can ultimately help improve your score.

Balance transfers actually have two potential effects; the short-term impact on your credit score, and the long-term effect of a well-designed debt repayment plan. Some people experience a short-term hit to their score, followed by an increase as their overall debt amount drops.

Other positive and negative factors that contribute to the impact of a balance transfer on your credit score include:

  • Getting a new card can add a hard inquiry to your credit file. This inquiry can cause a temporary small hit to your credit score (temporary negative).
  • Your credit utilization represents 30% of your FICO score. If you add a new card with a new line of credit, it can raise your available credit and lower your overall credit utilization ratio across all accounts (positive). However, if you get a balance transfer card with a credit limit of $15,000 and then transfer $12,000 to it, your credit utilization for that card is now 80% (negative).
  • As you begin to follow your debt repayment strategy and pay down your balance, this will lower your debt and raise your credit utilization ratio (positive).
  • Age of credit accounts is another factor in determining your FICO score, accounting for 15%. Getting a new account will lower the average age of your accounts (negative).

There are some things to remember that can help offset the negative impacts listed above, and enhance the positive. First, after transferring a balance to your new credit card, don’t close out the old card. That card has an available credit line that counts toward your overall utilization rate and also contributes to a higher average credit age.

Next, keep the utilization of your new account to around 30% or lower. A balance transfer card with a limit of $30,000 should have no more than $9,000 or so transferred to it.

Finally, if your credit score is temporarily impacted to the negative, will a balance transfer put you in a better position down the road? In other words, will a little short-term pain result in a stronger credit score after the effects of a balance transfer (and ultimately lower debt) are realized?

Is Transferring Credit Card Balances a Good Idea?

When used as part of a debt reduction plan, balance transfers to a no-interest credit card can save money, reduce debt, and improve your credit score. If used as a way to buy extra time and extend unhealthy spending habits, a balance transfer can send you into an even deeper debt hole.

The thing to remember is that balance transfers only work if they’re part of an overall strategy to pay off debt. Many of these cards have a regular APR that’s above the industry average after the introductory rate period ends. It can end up costing you more in the long run if you transfer a balance to one of these cards and don’t pay it off before the 0% period ends.

A good balance transfer strategy involves having a debt repayment plan and sticking to it. Here are some things to remember when devising your plan.

  • Stop or greatly reduce new purchases on your credit cards.
  • Choose a balance transfer card with the lowest fees possible — preferably zero.
  • Transfer balances with the highest interest rates to your 0% balance transfer card first.
  • Don’t close credit card accounts after you’ve transferred the balance to a new card.
  • Focus all your financial firepower at paying off this debt before the intro period expires.
  • Pay close attention to the 0% intro period and the transfer window to qualify for the promotional rate.
  • “Flipping” to a new 0% card after one intro-rate period is over seldom works. Make every attempt to pay off your balance the first time around.

If you transfer a large balance to your new 0% card from one or more cards, you may exceed the recommended 30% utilization rate of that card. That’s okay if it’s a temporary situation and you plan to direct all of your payments toward bringing down this balance. Your credit score may take a hit but will recover once you bring the balance down.

What is the Best Debt-Transfer Credit Card?

The best credit card to transfer debt to is the one that works best for your individual debt circumstances. In other words, there’s no single card that will fit everyone’s financial situation. Here are some things to consider when deciding which balance transfer card to get.

Credit Score Types

You’ll generally need a prime or superprime credit score to qualify for 0% interest financing.

Know your current credit score. Most 0% introductory rate balance transfer cards require a good to excellent credit score — technically, a minimum score of 680, although a score in the low 700s is a more practical minimum. If your score doesn’t fall into this range, do what you can to improve your credit score before applying for one of these cards.

If your overall goal is to reduce the amount of debt you have, you probably won’t — and shouldn’t — be using the card for regular purchases. That means you don’t need a card with rewards or bonus points. You also want to avoid fees for balance transfers if possible. Two cards that fit this profile are the Chase Slate® and BankAmericard credit cards with $0 transfer fees.

Chances are you’ll need as long as possible to pay off a large amount of credit card or other debt. Look for a card with the longest introductory-rate period, like the Citi® Simplicity® Card, currently at 21 months.

If you have no choice but to continue using your 0% intro-APR card while paying off your debts, then a card that rewards you with cash back may make sense. A few of these cards will even pay you a substantial cash bonus when you spend just $500 in the first three months. The Chase Freedom® card and the Capital One Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Card are two such cards.

Finally, before choosing a balance transfer card, check to see if it allows you to transfer debt from another card issued by the same bank. Many issuers have this restriction, so it could affect which balances you can transfer to your new card.

What is the Best Way to Pay Off Credit Cards Fast?

The fastest way to pay off credit card debt is to focus more of your payment toward the principal and less toward interest. That’s where a 0% intro rate balance transfer card comes in. Even if you pay the same amount each month, your debt will be reduced quicker with a 0% card since the entire amount goes toward the principal amount owed.

Graphic of Avalanche

The avalanche method prioritizes your debts by interest rate, starting with the highest APR first.

That said, there are two widely accepted techniques for paying off credit cards that you should consider. One is referred to as the debt avalanche method, which focuses on paying off high interest cards first, and the other is the debt snowball method that prioritizes paying off the smallest debts first.

Using a 0% balance transfer card, you can create a hybrid of the debt avalanche method that transfers the balances on high interest credit cards to the new 0% card. This lets you reduce the overall interest you pay and direct more of your money toward principal repayment. Here’s an example of how that might work.

Graphic of Snowball Rolling Down Hill

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

Let’s say you have three credit cards with balances of $3,500, $4,000, and $2,200, respectively. We’ll call them Card 1, Card 2, and Card 3.

The interest rates on the cards are 23% on Card 1, 16% on Card 2, and 21% on Card 3.

If you get a 0% balance transfer card with a credit limit of $8,000, it would make the most sense to transfer the balances of Card 1 and Card 3, since they carry the highest interest rates. In this scenario, you would continue to pay on Card 2, but focus most of your repayment efforts on the new card.

This has the effect of paying down debt at the fastest rate since more of your payment efforts are going toward principal and less toward paying interest.

Pay Off Your Credit Balances to Avoid a Debt Cycle

You may wonder how people can get stuck in a cycle of debt, but it’s actually more common than you think. Borrowing is almost unavoidable in our society, between loans for education, loans for home repairs, loans for a new vehicle… you get the point.

Borrowing money is an advance on our future earnings. Borrow too much, and you won’t earn enough to pay it back in a reasonable period. Soon, the interest becomes overwhelming and consumes the majority of your payment efforts.

The way to avoid this, other than simply being conscientious, is to pay off the credit balances you’re carrying now. And as you’ve seen, one way to do that is to use a balance transfer card with a 0% rate.

Of course, as you’ve also read by now, this needs to be part of a clearly defined debt repayment strategy. Create a budget that prioritizes paying off debt. Put as much as you can toward your credit card debt and make your payments more effective by directing more toward principal and less to interest.

When used wisely, a balance transfer card with a 0% introductory rate can be an effective way to pay off high-interest credit cards or loans and break the debt cycle. Just be sure to also address the habits that caused you to amass too much debt in the first place.