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Can I Find a Balance Transfer Card With Bad or Fair Credit?

*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated February 28, 2022 . Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

If you’re struggling to repay a large amount of high interest credit card debt, transferring your balance to a card that offers a low or 0% intro APR on balance transfers can give you a reprieve from high interest charges. For a period of time, this would allow most or all of your payments to go toward the principal of your balances.

While there are balance transfer cards available with 0% intro APRs for up to 21 months, those offers are typically designated for individuals with good or excellent credit. But even if you have fair credit (a credit score ranging from 580-669) or bad credit (a score below 580), it is still possible to be approved for a card that allows balance transfers — just know, those cards do not offer interest-free periods.

We take a closer look at which balance transfer cards are available to those with fair or bad credit, alternatives to balance transfers and ways to improve your credit score.

Balance transfer credit cards for fair credit

If you have a credit score between 580 and 669, you’re considered to have fair credit. There are a broad range of credit cards designed for individuals with fair credit, but none of them currently offer 0% intro APRs on balance transfers.

That said, some fair credit cards, like the Discover it® Student Cash Back, offer lower interest rates during an introductory promotional period — which can still help you save on interest charges over a brief period of time.

Discover it<sup>®</sup> Student Cash Back

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Apply Now
on Discover's secure site
Introductory APR 0% Intro APR for 6 months on purchases
Annual Fee $0
Regular Purchase APR 16.74% - 25.74% Variable APR
Credit Score Needed
600 660
Fair/Limited

The Discover it® Student Cash Back offers a 10.99% Intro APR for 6 months on balance transfers. After that, a 16.74% - 25.74% Variable APR applies.

This card charges a 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*.

The Discover it® Student Cash Back is designed for students with fair/limited credit. Along with an intro APR on balance transfers, the card offers a 0% Intro APR for 6 months on purchases, then a 16.74% - 25.74% Variable APR applies.

The $0 annual fee card also lets cardholders earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, 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.. In addition, cardholders get the following sign-up bonus: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.

Just know this — to help avoid falling deeper into debt, it’s best to focus on paying your transferred balance in full before earning rewards.

To apply for the Discover it® Student Cash Back, you need to be at least 18 years old, have a U.S. address, have a Social Security number and show proof of education.

  • Free Social Security number alerts
  • Ability to freeze card
  • $0 fraud liability
  • 100% U.S.-based, 24/7 customer service

The Discover it® Student Cash Back offers a 10.99% Intro APR for 6 months on balance transfers. After that, a 16.74% - 25.74% Variable APR applies.

This card charges a 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*.

The Discover it® Student Cash Back is designed for students with fair/limited credit. Along with an intro APR on balance transfers, the card offers a 0% Intro APR for 6 months on purchases, then a 16.74% - 25.74% Variable APR applies.

The $0 annual fee card also lets cardholders earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, 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.. In addition, cardholders get the following sign-up bonus: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.

Just know this — to help avoid falling deeper into debt, it’s best to focus on paying your transferred balance in full before earning rewards.

To apply for the Discover it® Student Cash Back, you need to be at least 18 years old, have a U.S. address, have a Social Security number and show proof of education.

  • Free Social Security number alerts
  • Ability to freeze card
  • $0 fraud liability
  • 100% U.S.-based, 24/7 customer service
Discover it<sup>®</sup> Student chrome

Discover it® Student chrome

Apply Now
on Discover's secure site
Introductory APR 0% Intro APR for 6 months
Annual Fee $0
Regular Purchase APR 16.74% - 25.74% Variable APR
Credit Score Needed
600 660
Fair/Limited

The Discover it® Student chrome offers an intro APR on balance transfers of 10.99% Intro APR for 6 months. Then, a 16.74% - 25.74% Variable APR applies.

The Discover it® Student chrome charges a 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*.

If you’re a student with fair/limited who wants to receive a lower interest rate on balance transfers for half a year, the Discover it® Student chrome could be a good fit.

Along with its balance transfer offer, the card also comes with a 0% Intro APR for 6 months on purchases, then 16.74% - 25.74% Variable APR, as well as 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

Similar to the Discover it® Student Cash Back, the Discover it® Student chrome has a $0 annual fee and offers the following sign-up bonus: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.

  • Free Social Security number alerts
  • Ability to freeze card
  • $0 fraud liability
  • 100% U.S.-based, 24/7 customer service

The Discover it® Student chrome offers an intro APR on balance transfers of 10.99% Intro APR for 6 months. Then, a 16.74% - 25.74% Variable APR applies.

The Discover it® Student chrome charges a 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*.

If you’re a student with fair/limited who wants to receive a lower interest rate on balance transfers for half a year, the Discover it® Student chrome could be a good fit.

Along with its balance transfer offer, the card also comes with a 0% Intro APR for 6 months on purchases, then 16.74% - 25.74% Variable APR, as well as 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

Similar to the Discover it® Student Cash Back, the Discover it® Student chrome has a $0 annual fee and offers the following sign-up bonus: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.

  • Free Social Security number alerts
  • Ability to freeze card
  • $0 fraud liability
  • 100% U.S.-based, 24/7 customer service

There are other balance transfer cards for fair credit that come with high ongoing interest rates on balance transfers, but waive the balance transfer fees — which typically range from 3% and 5% of the amount of each transfer.

But the only time these cards make sense is if the balance transfer APR is significantly lower and has less fees than your existing card. For example, the Capital One Platinum Credit Card is such a card.

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

Apply Now
on Capital One's secure site
Introductory APR N/A
Annual Fee $0
Regular Purchase APR 28.49% (Variable)
Credit Score Needed
600 660
Fair/Limited

The Capital One Platinum Credit Card is a $0 annual fee card designed for those with fair/limited credit. It comes with an ongoing balance transfer APR of 28.49% (variable), as well as a balance transfer fee of $0 at this Transfer APR.

But while the card doesn’t earn rewards, after demonstrating responsible usage, you may be able to request a product change to a Capital One card that does — like the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card or the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card.

If you currently have a large amount of debt on a credit card that’s laden with fees and an even higher ongoing APR than the Capital One Platinum Credit Card, it could be worthwhile to transfer your balance to this card.

Plus — along with reporting your card usage to the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) — Capital One will automatically begin reviewing your account as early as six months to see if you qualify for a higher credit line.

  • Check your credit score with CreditWise
  • Foreign transaction fee of none
  • Lock your card in the Capital One app if it’s misplaced, lost or stolen

The Capital One Platinum Credit Card is a $0 annual fee card designed for those with fair/limited credit. It comes with an ongoing balance transfer APR of 28.49% (variable), as well as a balance transfer fee of $0 at this Transfer APR.

But while the card doesn’t earn rewards, after demonstrating responsible usage, you may be able to request a product change to a Capital One card that does — like the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card or the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card.

If you currently have a large amount of debt on a credit card that’s laden with fees and an even higher ongoing APR than the Capital One Platinum Credit Card, it could be worthwhile to transfer your balance to this card.

Plus — along with reporting your card usage to the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) — Capital One will automatically begin reviewing your account as early as six months to see if you qualify for a higher credit line.

  • Check your credit score with CreditWise
  • Foreign transaction fee of none
  • Lock your card in the Capital One app if it’s misplaced, lost or stolen

Balance transfer credit cards for bad credit

A credit score below 580 is considered bad. With this level of credit, it’s possible to get a credit card that allows balance transfers, but the card won’t offer a 0% intro APR or waive balance transfer fees. For example, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card is a secured card, meaning applicants are required to submit a security deposit that will serve as their line of credit. That deposit protects the issuer in case you don’t repay what you borrow. However, secured cards are ideal for those looking to build or rebuild a low or non-existent credit score as long as they are handed responsibly.

Discover it<sup>®</sup> Secured Credit Card

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Apply Now
on Discover's secure site
Introductory APR N/A
Annual Fee $0
Regular Purchase APR 26.74% Variable APR
Credit Score Needed
300 600
Poor/Limited

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is available to those with poor/limited credit. The card has a 10.99% Intro APR for 6 months on balance transfers, then a 26.74% Variable APR applies. The card charges a 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*.

In addition to offering a $0 annual fee, the card doesn’t charge a fee the first time you pay late; after that, the late fee will be up to $41. But beware — it’s important to pay your bill on time when trying to establish a good credit history.

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is a secured card — meaning that it requires a security deposit (ranging from $200 to $2,500) that serves as your credit line.

After you’ve had the card for seven months, Discover will begin conducting monthly account reviews to see if you’re eligible to graduate to an unsecured card and get your deposit refunded. (Note that your behavior across your credit cards and loans from Discover, as well as those from other issuers or lenders, will be evaluated.) You can also get your deposit back if you choose to close your account and pay any remaining balance.

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card also offers 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

Further, this card comes with the following sign-up bonus: Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

  • Free FICO Score access
  • Discover Identity Alerts
  • Ability to freeze and unfreeze your card
  • U.S.-based 24/7 customer support

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is available to those with poor/limited credit. The card has a 10.99% Intro APR for 6 months on balance transfers, then a 26.74% Variable APR applies. The card charges a 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*.

In addition to offering a $0 annual fee, the card doesn’t charge a fee the first time you pay late; after that, the late fee will be up to $41. But beware — it’s important to pay your bill on time when trying to establish a good credit history.

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is a secured card — meaning that it requires a security deposit (ranging from $200 to $2,500) that serves as your credit line.

After you’ve had the card for seven months, Discover will begin conducting monthly account reviews to see if you’re eligible to graduate to an unsecured card and get your deposit refunded. (Note that your behavior across your credit cards and loans from Discover, as well as those from other issuers or lenders, will be evaluated.) You can also get your deposit back if you choose to close your account and pay any remaining balance.

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card also offers 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

Further, this card comes with the following sign-up bonus: Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

  • Free FICO Score access
  • Discover Identity Alerts
  • Ability to freeze and unfreeze your card
  • U.S.-based 24/7 customer support

Alternatives to a balance transfer card

If your credit score is below 670, odds are you won’t qualify for an interest-free balance transfer offer. Here are some alternatives that may suit you better:

Improve your credit and apply later

An important first step is simply to improve your credit until your score is high enough to qualify for a balance transfer card with a 0% intro APR offer. A great way to do this is to continue to knock down your debt by keeping up with your existing payments and consider applying for a secured card.

It may sound counterintuitive to get more credit, but if managed properly, it’s another tool to raise your score. Coupled with proper credit behavior (such as on-time payments and keeping balances low), you can raise your credit score from bad or fair to good.

Secured cards require a security deposit, which then serves as your credit line. These cards are marketed to applicants with less than perfect credit looking to build or rebuild their credit profiles. When used effectively (such as paying on time and keeping a low balance), a secured card can help give your credit score a boost. Just don’t max out the card — this is a risk, since the credit limit of a secured card is often equal to the security deposit. You can receive your deposit back after you’ve paid off the balance in full and closed your account or transitioned to an unsecured card.

Take out a personal loan

You can take out a personal loan and use the proceeds to pay off other high-interest debts. Unlike credit cards with variable interest rates and numerous fees, personal loans are fairly simple — a bank lends you money, most often at a fixed interest rate, with a fixed payment over a fixed period of time.

Before you decide to take out a personal loan, be aware of the risks. The major downside is the high interest rates you will likely face if you get a personal loan with poor credit. Again, see if you prequalify for a personal loan before you apply and see what rates you are offered.

LendingTree has a personal loan tool, which allows you to fill out a short online form — with this form, you can potentially receive up to five offers from lenders all at once, based on your creditworthiness. Because LendingTree’s personal loan tool only performs a soft pull, you won’t hurt your credit score in the process. Simply select “Credit Card Consolidation” and fill out the form to get your personalized rates.

Whether you decide to move forward with a personal loan will depend on how the math shakes out. Be sure to ask yourself that once you account for all the personal loan fees and interest charges, are you saving money by swapping credit card debt for a personal loan?

How to improve your credit score

These tried and true ways to boost your credit score can help increase your chances of being approved for a balance transfer card with a 0% intro APR for a year or longer:

1. Pay your bills on time and in full each month

Since payment history is the most important factor of your credit score (making up 35%), you should always pay your bills on time each month. It’s also a good habit to pay in full so you can avoid incurring interest charges on any unpaid balance.

2. Pay down high balances

It is generally recommended that you keep your credit utilization ratio — the amount of credit you use divided by the total amount of available credit you have — below 30%. For example, if you have a credit card limit of $1,000, you should not let your card balance exceed $300.

3. Minimize the amount of new accounts you open

Each time you apply for a major loan, such as a new credit card, a hard inquiry appears on your credit — this lowers your credit score by a few points each time one occurs, and it stays on your credit report for two years.

If you have too many hard inquiries in a short period of time, it may signal to lenders that you’re a high-risk consumer. Therefore, it’s best to only apply for credit when it’s truly needed.

4. Have an active account reporting positive behavior to the credit bureaus

The only way to build credit is to show that you can manage credit responsibly. That means having a loan or credit card reporting to the big three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. If you can’t qualify for a regular credit card, you may to get a secured card for a year or so to boost your score up to a level where you can upgrade to an unsecured card.

Balance transfer cards for fair or bad credit FAQs

A balance transfer is a transaction that involves moving debt from one or more credit cards to another credit card. Because balance transfer credit cards offer introductory APRs that typically are much lower than standard interest rates, they provide a means to pay down your credit card debt more quickly, since they allow more of your payments to go toward the debt principal rather than the principal plus interest.

Notably, balance transfer cards often charge balance transfer fees — which typically range from 3% to 5% of the amount of each transfer.

The biggest factor impacting your credit score is payment history, which makes up 35% of your score. Payment history helps lenders determine how likely you are to repay your debt — it includes whether you’ve made past credit card or loan payments on time, as well as the specifics around any late payments, such as the length of time the payment has been past due and the number of times you’ve been late.

The second most important factor of your credit score is your credit utilization, making up 30% of your score. Your credit utilization ratio measures the amount of debt you’re carrying relative to your credit limits, so keeping balances low or paid off every month will help boost your credit score. Know that only revolving credit accounts, such as credit cards, factor into your credit utilization ratio, while loans, such as auto or student loans and mortgages do not.

Credit ratings of poor to exceptional vary depending on the credit-scoring model. A FICO Score ranging from 670 to 739 and a VantageScore ranging from 661 to 780 are considered good credit scores.

According to Discover, the “good credit” category generally includes dependable borrowers who may have been slightly late on a payment in the past or who may not have a long credit history.

Capital One, on the other hand, states that a good credit candidate has not declared bankruptcy on a loan in the past five years. In addition, the individual has a credit card or loan and has not been more than 30 days late on any payment in the past five years.

You can check your credit score in a variety of ways without negatively affecting your credit score. For example, you can request a free copy of your FICO Score every 30 days through Experian, or sign up for a free credit score through the LendingTree app.

In addition, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the three major credit bureaus to provide individuals with free credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com — in particular, you’ll receive one any time that a company takes adverse action against you, such as rejecting you for a credit card or loan.

Tracy Brackman

  • Expertise: Credit cards, credit scoring, personal finance
  • Education: Ohio State University, Florida International University

 


Tracy Brackman is a senior editor and credit card expert at LendingTree, where she writes and edits educational pieces on credit card-related topics and personal finance using her 12+ years of experience in the field.

Before joining LendingTree in 2019, Tracy worked as a products editor for CreditCards.com, where she developed the credit card products section and created content focused on breaking credit card news.

Prior to that, she worked as a product information manager for Bankrate, where she managed the financial and credit card product details and maintained compliance for two affiliate networks, as well as Bankrate-owned and operated sites.

She began working in the credit card space in 2009 as the editorial department manager for FlexOffers, an affiliate marketing company.

Tracy studied marketing at the Ohio State University and Florida International University.

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The above offers and/or promotions may have since changed, expired, or is no longer available. Check the Issuers’ website for more details.