Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards: Top Picks for 2021

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Are you in the market for a balance transfer credit card?

Credit cards with introductory 0% APRs (Annual Percentage Rates) can help you out of a tough financial bind. But you need to be responsible with how you use one.

In this article, Team Clark will walk you through the best balance transfer cards on the market. We also spoke to money expert Clark Howard to get his advice on using a balance transfer card.



What Is a Balance Transfer Credit Card?

A balance transfer credit card carries a promotional offer that encourages applicants to bring the balance from an existing card to a new card.

These offers usually involve either a period of months with 0% APR on the balance of the debt you move or waiving the fees for a balance transfer.

While card issuers offer this to get new customers and potentially make money off interest charges on the debt they transfer, these cards can actually be a great tool for getting out of debt — if you’re responsible when using them.


Should You Use a Balance Transfer Credit Card?

If you have accrued a significant amount of credit card debt, money expert Clark Howard believes that a balance transfer card can be a good way to reduce the interest charges you owe while working toward eliminating that debt for good.

So, the answer is: YES, there are instances in which you should use a balance transfer card — but with some important caveats.

I spoke with Clark about the topic, and here are some key points he wanted me to share with you BEFORE you apply:

1. Use This Card as a Means To “Start the Clock” on Your Debt

Clark says applying for a balance transfer credit card can save you money on interest and help you get rid of your existing credit card debt more quickly.

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“The advantage provided by a balance transfer card is obviously the lower interest rate, but it also starts a clock ticking,” Clark says.

“So if you have 12, 15 or 18 months at 0%, the limitations of that time period can help create the discipline needed to pay that debt off.”

Not only will you get a fresh start on lower rates, but you also get a motivational challenge from that temporary 0% timeline.

It’s important to note that the balance you transfer will be subject to a new (and sometimes high) interest rate after the promotional period ends.

So use the end date as your deadline for successfully ridding yourself of the debt for good.

“The whole idea is that you set a goal to pay that debt off before the rate is going to rise,” Clark says.

2. Stop Making Purchases With Your Old Credit Cards

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re in need of a balance transfer, that likely means your previous spending has left you with a debt fire you’re not able to easily extinguish.

“Balance transfers are only rearranging the deck chairs of the situation unless you stop using the card that balance came from,” Clark says.

So in order to see the desired benefit of a balance transfer, you’ll need to make the commitment to avoiding the kind of spending (and/or exorbitant interest rates) that got you into debt in the first place.

3. Avoid Making Purchases With Your New Balance Transfer Credit Card As Well

You may notice that some of the cards on our list of best balance transfer cards also have promotions that incentivize new spending.

Clark says that’s the biggest danger of applying for a new card!

“Don’t charge anything new to your balance transfer card!” Clark says.

The main reason to avoid this is how your credit card issuer will likely treat new purchases.

Clark says that every payment you make on the card will apply toward that balance transfer until it’s paid off.

So if you make new purchases on the card, at 18% for example, those purchases will be accruing interest of their own while you’re still trying to get rid of the debt you transferred.

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“What happens over time if you use a card that you did a balance transfer to for new purchases, every time you make a payment it goes against the lower interest debt until that card is paid off in full,” Clark says.

“And meanwhile you’re developing a new pile of high interest rate debt.”


Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards Available Right Now

Credit Card0% APR PeriodBalance Transfer Fee
Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum CardNavy Federal Credit Union Platinum Card12 months (Offer expires 6/30/21.)No fee
Citi(R) Double Cash CardCiti Double Cash18 months3% of the balance
U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card20 months3% of the balance
Citi® Diamond Preferred® CardCiti Diamond Preferred Card21 months$5 or 5% of the balance
Citi Simplicity CardCiti Simplicity Card21 months $5 or 5% of the balance
Wells Fargo Platinum CardWells Fargo Platinum Card18 months3% of the balance
Discover it Cash Back offers 14 months of 0% APR.Discover it Cash Back14 months3% of the balance

Team Clark spent hours reviewing the market for these cards and put them to the test using Clark’s guidelines. We considered factors including annual fees, length of introductory APR periods and the balance transfer fees.

Consumers often seek out 0% APR credit cards to serve as a temporary tool for financial relief, so we decided to eliminate any card with an annual fee from consideration.

It’s worth noting that balance transfer offers change frequently, so cards may move on and off of this list.

You can read more on our methodology for determining the best balance transfer cards here.


Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum Card

Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum Card

Balance Transfer Offer: 0% APR for 12 months with no transfer fee

What to Know About This Card

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • In addition to the lack of balance transfer fees, this card also levies no foreign transaction or cash advance fees.
  • Though rates are subject to change and vary from customer to customer, this credit union card appears to have a lower “top APR” charge than most competitors on the list.
  • Cell phone protection is included as long as you use the card to pay your wireless bill each month.
  • Auto rental damage waiver is included with this card, which will come in handy the next time you rent a car.

Why We Like It: This is the rare card that offers both an introductory 0% APR period and has no balance transfer fee. That creates a rare opportunity to get a fresh start on paying off your credit card debt without adding to it at the get-go.


Citi Double Cash

Citi(R) Double Cash Card

Balance Transfer Offer: 0% APR for 18 months with a 3% transfer fee

What to Know About This Card

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • You can earn unlimited 2% cash back on every purchase regardless of spending category.
  • Cash back is awarded in two different phases: 1% when you make purchases and 1% when you pay your credit card bill.
  • To cash in on the balance transfer offer, you must complete your transfer within the first four months of card membership. There is a 3% fee on the amount transferred (minimum $5).
  • You get special access to event tickets through the Citi Entertainment program.

Why We Like It: This is a great card to keep around after you’ve erased that balance transfer debt. The unlimited 2% cash back is a good rate of return for all purchases. Because of that, you’ll find this card in Clark Howard’s wallet.

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U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card

U.S. Bank Visa Platinum credit card

Balance Transfer Offer: 0% APR for 20 months with a 3% transfer fee

What to Know About This Card

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Cell phone protection plan is included if you pay your wireless bill with the card.
  • You get free access to your TransUnion credit score.
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 3% of the amount transferred, whichever is greatest
  • This card is compatible with Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.

Why We Like It: If you’re in search of a long-term 0% Intro APR, this is one of the best offers on the market. It’s good for 20 full billing cycles, so you should have adequate time to pay off a significant purchase without accruing any interest. You can read Team Clark’s in-depth review of this card here.


Citi Diamond Preferred Card

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

Balance Transfer Offer: 0% APR for 21 months with a $5 or 5% transfer fee, whichever is greatest

What to Know About This Card

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Citi Entertainment gives cardholders access to presales and discounts on entertainment, dining, sports and more.
  • Free access to your FICO score
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 5% of the amount transferred, whichever is greatest
  • $0 liability on unauthorized charges and early fraud detection services

Why We Like It: If you’re looking for a straightforward, no-frills balance transfer card with a good length of time on the offer, this is a solid candidate.


Citi Simplicity Card

Citi Simplicity Card

Balance Transfer Offer: 0% APR for 21 months with a $5 or 5% transfer fee, whichever is greatest

What to Know About This Card

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • The card carries no late fees and no penalty rates for tardy payments.
  • Balance transfer must be complete within the first 120 days of card membership to get the promotional rate.
  • $0 fraud liability on unauthorized purchases
  • Citi Identity Theft Solutions are included

Why We Like It: This is another straightforward balance transfer card with an 21-month term on 0% for balance transfers. And the late fee policy is nice, though it is worth noting that your credit score could still get dinged if you don’t pay on time. You can read Team Clark’s review of this card here.


Wells Fargo Platinum Card

Wells Fargo Platinum Card

Balance Transfer Offer: 0% APR for 18 months with a 3% transfer fee

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What to Know About This Card

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Introductory 18 months of 0% APR applies to both new purchases and balance transfers
  • The 3% fee available on the initial balance transfer jumps to 5% after the first 120 days of card membership.
  • Complimentary cell phone insurance is included if you pay your wireless bill with this card.
  • Monthly access to FICO score, fraud protection and budgeting tools are included.

Why We Like It: This card ranks among the best in terms of length of time allowed on the initial 0% APR period for both balance transfers and new purchases. It also offers cell phone protection, which can help you save money if your phone is stolen or damaged.


Discover it Cash Back

Discover it Cash Back offers 14 months of 0% APR.

Balance Transfer Offer: 0% APR for 14 months with a 3% transfer fee

What to Know About This Card

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Unlimited dollar-for-dollar cash back match on your earnings during the first year of card membership
  • Rotating 5% cash back categories, otherwise 1% cash back on all purchases
  • Cash back rewards do not expire and can be redeemed immediately.
  • You can use cash back rewards as a payment method with Amazon and PayPal.

Why We Like It: This card is rated as one of our favorite cash back credit cards thanks to its generous cash back match and the 5% cash back categories. So it has value beyond the 14 months for 0% APR on balance transfers. You can read Team Clark’s review of this card here.


Methodology for Balance Transfer Credit Cards

For the purposes of determining which cards are “best” in this category, we got input from Clark and sought for cards that best fit his credit card strategy.

Team Clark assessed the balance transfer credit cards on the market, using these key factors:

  • Annual fees (Clark recommends avoiding them)
  • Length of 0% APR offer for a balance transfer
  • Fee for transferring a balance from your old card

We also assigned some weight to these secondary card attributes, although these should be considered only after you have paid your transferred balance in full:

  • Welcome bonuses
  • Length of Introductory APR periods
  • Perks offered to cardholders

We did not factor in non-introductory APR as a part of the evaluation, because interest rates will vary based on personal financial circumstances. Clark recommends that you never carry a balance on credit cards, so the non-introductory interest rate shouldn’t matter for you anyway.

We also did not include offerings from local or regional banks and credit unions, because they’re not available to everyone. Often, local institutions will have some really good cards, so we recommend that you compare your local bank or credit union’s balance transfer credit cards to the ones that made this list.

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