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What is a Balance Transfer Credit Card? 2022’s Top 0% Offers

What Is A Balance Transfer Credit Card

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Marcie Geffner

Written by: Marcie Geffner

Marcie Geffner

Marcie Geffner is an award-winning reporter, editor, and writer. Her stories about banking, credit cards, insurance, economics, small business, and other subjects have been featured by the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Bankrate, Credit Karma, Bookmarks Magazine, FOX Business, CNBC, Yahoo! Finance, and dozens of major U.S. newspapers. Her articles have been cited in seven nonfiction books and two U.S. Congressional hearings. She edits nonfiction, memoir, and fiction, and contributes to Kirkus Reviews. Marcie holds a bachelor’s degree in English from UCLA and MBA from Pepperdine University.

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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

Maybe you’ve heard the term before, but you’re still wondering to yourself, “What is a balance transfer credit card?” We’ll explore this topic in the article that follows.

A balance transfer credit card is a credit card that lets you transfer your existing balance to that card from another card.

The primary purpose of a balance transfer is to take advantage of a low or 0% introductory annual percentage rate (APR) offer on the new card so you can pay off your balance faster and save money while you do it. A balance transfer may also allow you to consolidate balances for multiple cards with multiple rates and payments into one card with one rate and payment.

Your new balance transfer card may also have other benefits that your current card doesn’t offer, such as no annual fee, an introductory APR for purchases or a richer rewards program.

Definition | Balance Transfer Cards | Considerations & FAQs

A Balance Transfer Card Eliminates Interest for a While

The benefit of a balance transfer card is the opportunity to pay less interest or no interest for a card balance you already have. Lowering or eliminating your monthly interest expense should help you pay off your balance faster since you won’t have to pay interest for that debt every month.

The catch is that introductory balance transfer APRs always come with an end date for when the introductory APR expires and the full APR kicks in for any portion of the balance you haven’t paid off. The longer the initial APR period and the lower the APR, the more opportunity you have to save while you pay down your balance.

Chart of Balance Transfer Fees

Balance transfer offers usually involve fees of 3% or 5% of the amount that you transfer to the card. The fee is charged to your card, so it adds to your debt at the time that you make the transfer.

Your balance transfer may also be subject to a limit, or cap, for the amount you can transfer over. If there’s no cap, your transfer limit will be your credit limit for that card, minus your balance fee.

Some balance transfer cards also charge an annual fee, which may be waived for the first year. An annual fee will cost you that amount every year you keep the card. The fee is charged to your card automatically, so that also adds to your debt every year.

While it’s fun to get a new card with new rewards and benefits, you should also consider other factors when selecting a balance transfer card. Read the disclosures and review the details of the balance transfer offer. Look for any fees you may be charged, the card’s current APR for purchases, and the APR you’ll pay for your transferred balance if you don’t pay it off before the introductory rate ends.

Best 0% Balance Transfer Cards

While there is no one best balance transfer card for all people and all purposes, some cards may be better than others for most people and most purposes.

Here are five balance transfer cards with no annual fee that you may want to consider:

Discover it® Balance Transfer Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website




  • 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, 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% 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)
Excellent, Good

Additional Disclosure: Citi is a CardRates advertiser.




  • 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)
Excellent, Good Credit

Additional Disclosure: Citi is a CardRates advertiser.




  • Start off strong with 0% Intro APR for 18 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers. A variable APR of 17.99% - 26.74% on balance transfers and purchases after the introductory period ends.
  • Lower your interest rate by 2% each year. Automatically be considered for an APR reduction when you pay on time, and spend at least $1000 on your card by your next account anniversary.
  • Raise your credit limit. Get an automatic, one-time review for a higher credit limit when you pay on time, and spend $500 in your first six months.
  • All for no annual fee - You won't have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Slate Edge℠ card
  • Keep tabs on your credit health - Chase Credit Journey helps you monitor your credit with free access to your latest score, real-time alerts, and more
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 18 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 18 months
17.99% - 26.74% Variable
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website




  • For a limited time, get a special 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 18 billing cycles. After that, the APR is variable, currently 17.49%-27.49%.
  • Enjoy Cellphone Protection Coverage of up to $600 annually when you pay your monthly cellphone bill with your card
  • View your credit score anytime, anywhere in the mobile app or online banking. It's easy to enroll, easy to use, and free to U.S. Bank customers.
  • Fraud Protection detects and notifies you of any unusual card activity to help prevent fraud
  • Choose your payment due date
  • $0 Annual Fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 18 billing cycles
0% for 20 billing cycles
17.49% - 27.49% Variable
Excellent Credit

You’ll want to consider several factors before choosing the best balance transfer card for you, such as the length of the intro period, balance transfer fee, and the interest rate that kicks in when the intro period is over.

6 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Balance Transfer Card

Think about which card attributes will create the best opportunity to reduce your debt. For example, you might accept a less-enticing rewards program if you can qualify for a card with a longer 0% introductory APR period. Here are five factors you should look for when you shop for a balance transfer card:

1. Length of Introductory APR Offer

Since the primary purpose of a balance transfer card is to lower the interest you’re paying so you can pay off your card debt faster, the introductory APR and its end date are the most important factor you should consider when you compare balance transfer cards. The best APR, of course, is a 0% APR since that zeroes out any interest for a set period.

If a balance transfer card doesn’t have a 0% introductory APR, it could still be a good card to consider if the introductory APR is significantly lower than the APR for your current card.

Six months is the minimum time frame for introductory APR offers. At the long end, you may find offers that last 18 months or longer. If you’re not absolutely sure you’ll be able to pay off your balance before your introductory APR expires, consider the APR you’ll pay after that as well.

2. Balance Transfer Fee

When you’re trying to reduce your card debt, the last thing you need is to tack on a hefty balance transfer fee. However, paying such a fee can make sense if the balance transfer offer will improve your overall card situation.

Transfer fees of 3% or 5% of your transferred balance with a minimum fee of $5 to $15 are common. If you transferred, say, $5,000, a 3% fee would be $150, and a 5% fee would be $250.

A balance transfer fee probably won’t wipe out your savings from the introductory APR, but if you find a card that allows a balance transfer without a fee, you may consider that a plus. One way you may be able to avoid this fee is to shop for a credit union balance transfer card that doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee.

3. Balance Transfer Time Frame to Qualify for Promotional Rate

Balance transfer offers tend to open and close within a short time frame — generally, 60 to 90 days — after your new card account is opened. You’ll need to complete your transfer requests during that time frame to take advantage of the balance transfer offer. A longer time frame may make it easier for you to transfer your balance without running up against a deadline.

4. Annual Fee

Cards that offer a lot of benefits and fabulous rewards generally charge higher annual fees than cards that offer just the basics. Since there are good balance transfer cards that don’t charge an annual fee, there’s little reason to choose one that does, unless another awesome perk captures your fancy, and you don’t mind paying a fee for it.

5. Rewards Program

A balance transfer card rewards program lets you get cash back, gift cards, travel opportunities, or other goodies when you make purchases with your card. Balance transfers aren’t purchases so they almost never count toward your rewards, but if you plan to use your card for purchases as well, you’ll want to look for one with a nice rewards program. Look for rewards you’re likely to use, not just dream about using.

6. Credit Needed to Qualify

You’ll typically need good or excellent credit to qualify for the best balance transfer cards. If your credit’s only mediocre, you may still qualify for some fair-credit balance transfer cards. Although the offers may not be as attractive, they could still improve your overall card situation.

How Do Balance Transfers Work?

Transferring a balance usually isn’t complicated, but the process can differ among card issuers.

Some cards let you request one or more balance transfers when you complete your application. Others want you to wait until you’re approved to set up your transfers.

Credit Card Issuer Customer Service Contact Numbers

You may be able to set up the balance transfer online or you may need to call the card issuer. When you call, mention the balance transfer offer you want to use and provide the account numbers and amounts you want to transfer from each card.

Once your issuer has approved your request, your balance should be transferred automatically to your new card.

Be sure to make your card payment while your transfer request is being processed because some issuers can take several weeks to process a transfer. If you transfer only part of your balance, you’ll have to make payments to both cards going forward. If you’re not sure what you need to do to transfer a balance, call the issuer and ask for instructions.

By the way, if you have multiple cards, you may be able to transfer a balance from a card you already have to another card you already have. To find out if this strategy is an option for you, call your card issuers and ask them what your credit limit and current balance are, whether you can transfer a balance to your card, what your APR would be on the transferred debt, and how much you can transfer.

Your card issuer may offer you a promotional rate as an inducement to transfer all or part of your balance from another card.

Will a Balance Transfer Affect My Credit Score?

The short answer is yes. Any significant change you make in your use of credit can affect your scores. Getting a new card and transferring a balance is considered a significant change.

The more important question is not if your scores may be affected, but how they may be affected. That’s harder to answer because your scores may go up or down or both.

One of the many factors used in credit scores is the percentage of your available credit that you use. This is known as your credit utilization ratio. If you had just one credit card and you maxed it out, your utilization ratio would be 100%.

Example of Balance Transfer Impact to Utilization Rate

If you get a new card and transfer a balance to it, but don’t use more credit overall, you’ll have more unused credit available. That could lower your utilization ratio and improve your scores.

On the other hand, whenever you apply for a new card, the issuer will pull your scores and since you proactively applied, that pull will be considered a hard inquiry. One hard inquiry shouldn’t have much effect on your scores, but multiple hard inquiries can lower your scores.

The best way to improve your scores is to pay all your credit accounts on time every month.

What Happens if I Don’t Pay Off My Balance Transfer?

If your introductory APR expires before you’ve paid off the balance you transferred, you’ll be charged the card’s regular APR for that balance going forward until it’s paid off or transferred to another card.

The risk of that regular — higher — APR is one reason you should think carefully before you transfer a balance. Make sure that you understand the balance transfer offer and that you feel confident it will improve your card situation overall. Below is a chart of the potential savings to be had with a 0% balance transfer offer.

Chart of Potential Balance Transfer Savings

While you may be able to transfer your balance again if you don’t pay it off, serial balance transfers aren’t a healthy financial habit. A better strategy is to pay off your balances and never charge more than you can afford to pay in any one month. When your balance is paid off every month, your card interest expense will be zero, your APR won’t matter, and you’ll never have a balance to transfer.

Can I Transfer a Balance Higher than My Credit Limit?

In a word, no.

A card’s credit limit is the maximum amount you can charge with that card. Since you can’t exceed that limit, you won’t be able to transfer more than that amount. For example, if your new card’s limit is $5,000, you’ll only be able to transfer up to $5,000, minus any balance transfer fee that will be charged to your card.

One way to work around this situation is to request a higher limit for your new card. Your card issuer will set your limit based on its policies and your credit history, among other factors. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for more credit. Your issuer may say yes, no, or not now.

In the last case, you may be able to ask again and get your request approved after you make a few payments on time.

Another option is to transfer as much of your balance as you can, pay off some or all of that amount, and make another transfer of the rest of the balance. You may not get a low or 0% introductory APR for the second balance transfer, but your new APR may still be lower than your current APR, which could help you pay off your debt faster. Be sure to consider the balance transfer fee before you decide whether that second transfer makes sense.

A third option is to apply for a second balance transfer card. This strategy could help to protect your credit scores if you don’t max out either or both cards; however, the additional hard inquiry when you apply for the second card could have a small negative effect on your scores. You may be able to avoid this scenario altogether by shopping for a high-limit credit card.

Pay Off Your High-Interest Debt with a Balance Transfer

A balance transfer card is an opportunity to obtain new credit so you can pay off old debt. In theory, that’s a reasonable strategy if the new debt is cheaper (i.e., has a lower APR) than the old debt.

The risk is that, if you don’t pay off the new debt before the introductory APR expires, you could end up paying an even higher APR and you could run up more debt on your current card as well.

That’s a scenario card companies know and love. In fact, it’s why they offer balance transfer cards. If that risk is appropriate for you, there are some very good balance transfer cards to consider.

Advertiser Disclosure is a free online resource that offers valuable content and comparison services to users. To keep this resource 100% free, we receive compensation for referrals for many of the offers listed on the site. Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear across (including, for example, the order in which they appear). does not include the entire universe of available offers. Editorial opinions expressed on the site are strictly our own and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by advertisers.