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How to Compare Balance Transfer Offers
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Balance transfer credit cards can offer a lifeline if you’re carrying a lot of high-interest card debt. However, with so many balance transfer card options available, it can be hard to pick the right one.
Some of the things you need to consider when comparing card offers are the fees, the length of each card’s 0% intro period and the ongoing APR after the no-interest period expires.
We review how to compare balance transfer offers and provide some of the best cards to get out of debt.
How to compare balance transfer offers
Decide if a balance transfer fee is worthwhile
Balance transfers often aren’t free; most cards charge a 3% to 5% fee per balance transfer. The balance transfer fee can be outweighed by the amount you save on interest — but always do the math first!
There are no-fee balance transfer cards out there — just know that the no-fee cards often have shorter intro periods of 15 months or less, compared to cards that charge a balance transfer fee and have intro periods up to 20 months.
If you choose a no-balance-transfer-fee card and realize you won’t have enough time to pay off your balance before the intro period ends, you can opt to apply for yet another balance transfer card from a different issuer until the balance is paid off.
Let’s look at an example where you have $3,000 in debt on a credit card with a 20% APR:
|If you can afford a monthly payment of…||It’ll take you this long to pay off your balance…||Total interest charged would be…||The best balance transfer card would be…|
|Scenario 1||$300||12 months||$309||A card offering an intro 0% APR for at least 12 months and no balance transfer fee. This saves you $309.|
|Scenario 2||$200||18 months||$481||A card offering an intro 0% APR for at least 18 months with a 3% balance transfer fee. This saves you $391 in interest charges.|
Consider how many months you need to pay off debt
The length of intro periods varies by balance transfer card, from cards offering as little as six months to as much as 20 months interest-free. Depending on the size of your balance and how much you can afford to pay each month, the amount of time you need to pay off debt varies.
For example, if you have $3,000 in debt and can only afford to pay $150 a month, it’ll take you 20 months to pay off debt. A balance transfer offer of 12 months won’t provide you with enough time, so you should look for a balance transfer offer with the longest 0% promotional period.
On the other hand, if you can afford $250 monthly payments, then a balance transfer offer of 12 months or more would be OK, since you should be able to have it paid off in a year with all of your payments going toward the debt’s principal.
Know the APR you’ll be charged after the promotional period expires
If you still have a balance after the introductory 0% period ends, you have two options: complete another balance transfer or keep whittling away at what you owe.
If your balance transfer card has a reasonable APR and you only need a month or two remaining to pay off the balance, avoid the hassle of opening a new card and completing another transfer. Your card statement should reveal what your APR will be once your promotional deal is over.
Popular balance transfer cards
When choosing a balance transfer card, remember that you can’t transfer balances between cards from the same issuer. Below are a few cards with intro 0% APR offers worth considering:
Citi Simplicity® Card
Intro balance transfer APR: 0% for 21 months on balance transfers. After, a 17.74% - 28.49% (variable) APR applies.
Balance transfer fee: There is a there is an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer (minimum $5) completed within the first 4 months of account opening. then a balance transfer fee applies with this offer 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
Intro balance transfer APR: 0% for 21 months on balance transfers. After, a 16.74% - 27.49% (variable) APR applies.
Balance transfer fee: A balance transfer fee applies with this offer 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.
Discover it® Cash Back
Intro balance transfer APR: 0% Intro APR for 15 months. After, a 15.74% - 26.74% Variable APR applies.
Balance transfer fee: 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*.
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
Intro balance transfer APR: 0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles on Balance Transfers. After, a 18.24% -28.24% (variable) APR applies.
Balance transfer fee: Either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater.