Every year, millions of Americans learn a hard lesson in holiday overspending. Then they look to balance transfer credit cards for immediate relief. For years, credit card issuers have been counting on consumers in need of a balance transfer just after the new year. It's at this time of year that they tend to release their best offers.
Let's look at some of the best balance transfer cards on the market today and then take a little dive into which one is likely the best for your debt situation.
Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever - The Citi Simplicity currently offers the longest intro APR of any online balance transfer offer today. New cardmembers will receive a 0% intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers for 21 months. There is a 3% balance transfer fee on the Citi Simplicity and once the intro APR expires, it becomes 13.49% - 23.49% variable. This card has no annual fee but it also does not carry a rewards program, so keep that in mind when deciding which card in your wallet should be used for new purchases.
Chase Slate® - The Chase Slate is the only card on our list that doesn't carry a balance transfer fee. New cardholders will receive an intro 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. All balances transfers made in the first 60 days of account opening will not have a balance transfer fee (otherwise, the fee is 5%). Once the intro APR expires, the standard APR becomes 13.24% - 23.24% variable and the Chase Slate card does not have an annual fee. Like it's Citi Simplicity counterpart, this card also does not carry a rewards program.
Discover it® - 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer - Discover's best balance transfer offer comes from the Discover it, offering new customers a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months (and 0% intro APR on purchases for six months). There is a 3% BT fee when making a balance transfer and the Discover it does not carry an annual fee. Perhaps the greatest feature of this card is its cash back rewards program, dishing out 5% cashback on rotating categories throughout the year and 1% cashback on all other purchases.
Barclaycard Ring™ MasterCard® - The Barclaycard Ring MasterCard is a card you likely won't find on anyone else's balance transfer list, but I feel it's very important option. This card does not include any intro APR offer, but does have two very valuable features for cardholders who don't think two years is long enough to pay down debt. The Barclaycard Ring MasterCard offers a standard APR on purchases and balance transfers of just 8.25% and includes no annual fee or balance transfer fee. This means you can transfer your high-interest balance to a card that has a much lower APR, and pay that rate forever, not worrying about it ballooning up after the intro APR expires.
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card- The Citi Diamond Preferred card is very similar to the Citi Simplicity in that it offers a 0% intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers for a full 21 months (BT fee is 3%). When the intro rate expires, the ongoing APR becomes 12.49% - 22.49% variable (so a little better than the Simplicity). However, the Citi Diamond Preferred card does not include the no late fee, no over limit fee guarantees and also does not include a rewards program. There is no annual fee to own the Citi Diamond Preferred.
BankAmericard® Credit Card - The BankAmericard Credit Card cracks our list with a very strong 0% intro offer on balance transfers for the first 18 billing cycles. The balance transfer fee is 3% and when the intro APR expires, the ongoing APR is one of the lowest on this list, 11.24% - 21.24% variable. The BankAmericard Credit Card has no annual fee and no ongoing rewards program.
U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card - Cardholders of the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card will earn a $100 bonus after spending $500 in purchases during the first three months. The intro APR on balance transfers is 12 months and includes the standard 3% balance transfer fee. After the intro rate expires, the ongoing APR becomes 13.49% - 23.49% variable. There is no annual fee to own the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card and it includes a robust rewards program that allows you to pick your 5% cash back and 2% cash back categories each quarter.
Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Credit Card - A 0% intro APR on balance transfers for the first 15 months is provided to all Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Credit Cardmembers (3% BT fee). Once the intro rate expires the ongoing APR becomes 15.65% - 25.49% variable (the highest on our list) so consumers should be wise to get this balance paid off ASAP. There is no annual fee to own the Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Credit Card and it does not have a rewards program.
I must be honest in telling you this market is dominated by two cards, the Chase Slate and the Citi Simplicty. These two balance transfer credit cards each have a unique feature that makes them both extremely attractive and popular. Assume a consumer has a $5,000 balance at a 21.24% interest rate and is looking to make a balance transfer (and can make a $200 per month monthly payment).
With the Chase Slate, the $5,000 balance can be transferred without a BT fee. Making $200 monthly payments during the 15-month 0% APR intro offer will reduce the balance by $3,000. The new $2,000 balance will have an APR attached (let's say it stays at 21.24%). Continuing the monthly payment of $200, a total of $2,219.39 will be paid ($2,000 principle + $219.39 interest). The total amount paid will be $5,219.39 and it will have taken a total of 27 months to do it (the last payment being only $20).
Now let's look at the Citi Simplicity card. Again, we'll assume a $5,000 balance that, when transferred will become $5,150 after a 3% BT fee. This card offers 21 months of interest-free payments, so at a $200 payment, the balance is knocked all the way down to $950. Once the BT intro offer expires, the APR will again become 21.24%. Continuing the monthly payment of $200, a total of $1,000.90 will be paid ($950 principle + $50.09 interest). The total amount paid will be $5,200.00 and it will have taken a total of 27 months to do it (the last payment being only $1)
Well, there you go. In this example, the Citi Simplicity would include a savings of about ~$20.
What this example points out are two important realizations:
1. If a consumer has a balance to transfer and doesn't expect to be able to pay it all off in the 0% BT period, the longer duration is a money saver
2. If a consumer has a balance to transfer and expects to be able to pay it off entirely during the 0% BT period, then the 0 BT Fee is a money save.
Essentially, consumers are buying a little security in signing up for the Citi Simplicity. They'll pay more up front in the 3% balance transfer fee, but will receive 6 additional months of 0% interest, which can be crucial if a high balance still exists after 15 months. But no matter a consumer's credit card debt situation, all the top balance transfer cards on this list can provide a little bit of holiday spending relief.
Keep in mind that interest rates and balance transfer terms can and do change frequently. You can see an updated list of balance transfer offers here.
Note: Some of the credit card offers listed in this article are from credit card issuers from which we receive financial compensation. The opinions expressed here, however, are mine alone, not those of the credit card issuers and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card companies.