Do Balance Transfers Count as PurchasesUpdated: Jan. 31, 2018

If you’re in the market for a balance transfer credit card, you may have seen that a couple cards we review also offer intro bonus opportunities to cardholders who spend a certain amount within a set period of time (e.g., spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months and get $150 back) or cash back rewards for purchases made with the cards. One of the most common questions we get from our readers is “do balance transfers count as purchases?” To help you not only get answers for this frequently asked question, but also determine which card is right for you, we’re breaking down everything you need to know.

Do balance transfers count as purchases?

Unfortunately, most credit cards do not count balance transfers as purchases. This means if you’re looking at a card, like Chase Freedom Unlimited, that offers a $150 bonus to cardholders who spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months, your balance transfer will not count as a purchase, and thus, not earn you the intro bonus. That said, if you spend $500 on purchases, you will definitely earn the $150 bonus. The same goes for ongoing rewards that cardholders earn on purchases (e.g., Chase Freedom Unlimited earns an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases) — you will not earn these rewards on balance transfers.

Additionally, we should talk about one card with unique rewards, the Citi Double Cash Card (a NextAdvisor advertiser), which earns an effective 2% back on all purchases — 1% when you make a purchase with the card and an additional 1% when you pay for that purchase. These rewards only extend to purchases, so even though the card has an 18-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers (with a 3% or $5 balance transfer fee, whichever is greater), you will not earn 1% back for paying off any transferred balance.

Is a rewards card with the 0% intro APR worth it?

Yes and no. Those who plan to strictly use the card for a balance transfer wouldn’t really benefit for a card with an intro bonus because they may not be planning to use the card after the balance is paid off. That said, those who want a card that makes sense to use after the 0% intro APR period expires (or plan to make a purchase while paying off the transferred balance) will likely be better off choosing a rewards credit card offering a 0% intro APR on balance transfers.

Which card is right for me?

Finding the right card can be a challenge, which is why we rounded up the best rewards credit cards for balance transfers and the best balance transfer credit cards. Keep reading to find the right card for your balance transfer.

Best rewards credit cards for balance transfers

Discover it – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer

Do Balance Transfers Count as Purchases?Discover it – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer has the perfect combination of cash back rewards and a long 0% intro APR on balance transfers. As you likely guessed from the name, the card offers an 18-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers (with a 3% balance transfer fee) and a 6-month 0% intro APR on purchases. In terms of rewards, cardholders will earn 5% cash back in rotating categories every quarter they activate (up to the quarterly maximum, currently $1,500, then it’s 1% back) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases. What’s more, Discover will match all of the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year as a cardholder. This means if you earn $300 cash back, Discover will match that $300 to give you a total of $600 back! As if that isn’t enough, Discover cardholders get a number of added perks, including free identity theft protection alerts and special deals. The Discover it – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer also has no annual fee or foreign transaction fees, and it’s available to those with average to excellent credit (usually considered a credit score of 670 or higher).

Citi Double Cash Card

Do Balance Transfers Count as Purchases?Another great choice for someone wanting to get cash back rewards and a long 0% intro APR is the Citi Double Cash Card. As noted above, this card has an 18-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers (with a 3% or $5 balance transfer fee, whichever is greater). It does not offer a 0% intro APR on purchases or have an intro bonus, but it does offer unique cash back rewards, making it a solid card to keep in your wallet long after the transferred balance is paid off. The Citi Double Cash Card earns an effective 2% back on all purchases — 1% when you make a purchase with the card and another 1% when you pay off that purchase. This means you’ll get rewarded for paying your credit card bill (note that these rewards don’t apply to balance transfers). Additionally, the card has no annual fee and is available to those with good to excellent credit (usually considered a credit score of 700 or higher).

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Do Balance Transfers Count as Purchases?Prefer a card with an intro bonus opportunity? If so, Chase Freedom Unlimited is for you. That’s because this card not only offers a 15-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers (with a balance transfer fee of $5 or 5%, whichever is greater), but it also has a $150 bonus for cardholders who spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months. In terms of ongoing rewards, Chase Freedom Unlimited earns unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Cardholders will also pay no annual fee, and the card is available to those with good credit. If you’d prefer a card with an equally as long 0% intro APR period and the same intro bonus opportunity with more rewards-earning potential, consider Chase Freedom – $150 Bonus, which earns 5% back in rotating categories every quarter you activate (up to $1,500 in combined purchases, then it’s 1% back) and unlimited 1% back on all other purchases.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

Do Balance Transfers Count as Purchases?Globetrotters who want to earn travel rewards will enjoy the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. This card earns 40,000 bonus miles — worth $400 in travel — after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days and an ongoing 2X miles on all purchases made with the card. What’s more, when you redeem your rewards, you’ll get 5% back to use toward your next redemption. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard’s miles hold an average hotel and flight value of $2.10 for every $100 spent, earning it the No. 1 spot in our Travel Rewards Credit Card Analysis. Although it does not offer a 0% intro APR on purchases, it does have a 12-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers made within the first 45 days of account opening (with a $5 or 3% balance transfer fee, whichever is greater). The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard also has an $89 annual fee that’s waived for the first year, and it’s available to those with excellent credit (usually considered a credit score of 750 or higher).

Best balance transfer credit cards

BankAmericard Credit Card

Do Balance Transfers Count as Purchases?Considering it’s our top-rated balance transfer credit card, the BankAmericard Credit Card is a great choice for those looking for a straightforward balance transfer credit card. Cardholders will get a 15-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers made within the first 60 days of account opening and a $0 intro balance transfer fee for transfers made within the same 60-day period (after that, it’s $10 or 3% balance transfer fee, whichever is greater). The BankAmericard Credit Card also offers a 15-month 0% intro APR on purchases and has no annual fee as well as no penalty APR, which means paying late won’t increase your APR. The card is available to those with good to excellent credit and provides cardholders with monthly updates to their FICO credit score for free.

Chase Slate

Do Balance Transfers Count as Purchases?Another top option for balance transfers is Chase Slate, which offers a 15-month 0% intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers. Similar to the previously mentioned card, Chase Slate also offers a $0 intro balance transfer fee for transfers made within the first 60 days of account opening (after that, it’s $5 or 5% of the transfer, whichever is greater). Cardholders will pay $0 annual fee and get no penalty APR. The card is also available to those with good credit.

Understanding the terms of a credit card is an essential step to choosing the right card for your needs and spending habits. Visit our reviews of the best balance transfer credit cards to learn more about these cards. Also, check out our free Balance Transfer Calculator, which can help you find the best card for your transfer amount, monthly payment and credit rating.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.