The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Saturday, November 28, 2020

11 Best Credit Cards to Pay Off Debt

Best Credit Cards To Pay Off Debt

credit card advice

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

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:

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee... Ever
  • 0% intro APR offers on both purchases and balance transfers (balance transfer fee applies)
  • Choose a payment due date that works best for you — beginning, middle, or end of the month
  • Stay protected against identity theft with Citi® Identity Theft Solutions
  • $0 liability on unauthorized charges
  • 24/7 access to customer service representatives - save time, just say "representative" when you call, to enjoy fast, personal help
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 18 months
0% for 18 months
14.74% - 24.74% Variable
$0
Excellent/Good

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • 0% Intro APR for 18 months on purchases and balance transfers (balance transfer fee applies)
  • Get free access to your FICO® score online
  • With Citi Entertainment℠, get special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events, including presale tickets and exclusive experiences for the year's most anticipated concerts, sporting events, dining experiences, and more
  • Shop with confidence knowing that you have dependable protection benefits, including $0 Liability on Unauthorized Purchases and Citi® Identity Theft Solutions.
  • 24/7 access to customer service representatives
  • Enjoy the flexibility to choose the payment due date that works best for you - the beginning, middle or end of the month
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 18 months
0% for 18 months
14.74% - 24.74% Variable
$0
Excellent/Good

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn cash back twice! Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance Transfers do not earn cash back and will have a fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • 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.
  • 24/7 access to customer service representatives
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% for 18 months
13.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Excellent/Good
Wells Fargo Platinum Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Introductory 0% APR offers for 18 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers (balance transfer fee applies)
  • Account protection features such as Zero Liability protection for promptly reported unauthorized transactions, alerts, and cell phone protection
  • My Money Map – tools to help you manage spending and create a budget with ease
  • Access to your FICO® Credit Score with Wells Fargo Online®
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 18 months
0% for 18 months
16.49% - 24.49% Variable
$0
Good
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn a $150 cash rewards bonus when you spend $500 in purchases in the first 3 months
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on purchases, and cash rewards do not expire as long as the account is open
  • Introductory 0% APR offer on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months from account opening (balance transfer fee applies)
  • Account protections such as 24/7 Fraud Monitoring, Alerts, and Zero Liability protection for promptly reported unauthorized transactions
  • Cell Phone Protection helps protect your cell phone from damage or theft when you pay your monthly cell phone bill with your eligible Wells Fargo consumer credit card
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
14.49% - 24.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
When researching balance transfer cards to pay off credit card debt, it’s important to consider more than just how long the intro period will last. You’ll also want to look at the regular APR that will kick in once the period is over as well as any balance transfer fees that will apply to the transferred balance.

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:

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn a one-time $200 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; 15.49% - 25.49% variable APR after that
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
N/A
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • One-time $200 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; 15.49%-25.49% variable APR after that
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
N/A
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good
Wells Fargo Platinum Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Introductory 0% APR offers for 18 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers (balance transfer fee applies)
  • Account protection features such as Zero Liability protection for promptly reported unauthorized transactions, alerts, and cell phone protection
  • My Money Map – tools to help you manage spending and create a budget with ease
  • Access to your FICO® Credit Score with Wells Fargo Online®
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 18 months
0% for 18 months
16.49% - 24.49% Variable
$0
Good
Cash Magnet® Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • Earn $200 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months. You will receive the $200 back in the form of a statement credit.
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months from the date of account opening, then a variable APR
  • Rental car loss and damage insurance when you use your eligible card to reserve and pay for the entire rental and decline the collision waiver at the rental company counter
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
N/A
13.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
Chase Freedom FlexSM Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • 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!
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

Make sure the card you choose doesn’t charge deffered interest on any outstanding balance once the intro period expires.

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 cancel 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 Flex℠ card and the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit 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.

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