balance transfer feeWe’ve detailed the benefits of balance transfer credit cards time and time again because these cards can truly be lifesaving when you need to save money or pay off debt. That’s because these cards offer long 0% intro APRs, allowing you to transfer your credit card balance so you can avoid interest for an extended period of time as you pay down or off the balance. That said, many credit cards come with balance transfer fees, which could make you wonder if these costs outweigh the cards’ benefits. In this post, we’ll be explaining what a balance transfer fee is and digging into whether or not it’s worth getting a card that has one. We’ll then wrap things up by providing a list of the best balance transfer credit cards to help you pay off your debt.

What is a balance transfer fee?

When you stumble across the term “balance transfer fee,” it’s natural to wonder what a balance transfer fee is and why there is one. The short answer is it’s a cost that the credit card issuer charges when you complete a balance transfer. These fees usually cost 3% to 5% of the amount transferred and come with a minimum (e.g., $5). If you transfer a balance to a card with a balance transfer fee, the fee will be added to your total balance — you are not asked to pay it up front. For example, if you’re transferring a $4,000 balance to a card with a 3% balance transfer fee, the balance on the new card will be $4,120.

Is it worth paying a balance transfer fee?

We often see reader comments about how they’re deterred from applying for a card because of its balance transfer. However, the truth is that a balance transfer fee won’t break the bank and usually makes sense to pay, and as such, shouldn’t deter you from getting a card with a balance transfer fee. That said, not all balance transfer fees are created equal, and you’ll want to make sure your new card’s fee is worth paying before you apply and complete the transfer.

Before you do that, you’ll want to make sure the new card is right for you and your balance transfer. Here’s how: look at the length of the card’s 0% intro APR, and then determine if you would have enough time to pay off your balance. For example, if you’re looking to transfer $4,000 to a card like the Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Card, which offers an 18-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers made in the first 120 days (with an intro 3% balance transfer fee for 120 days, then it’s 5%), you’ll want to make sure you’re comfortable with making at least $223 in payments each month, as that’s how much you’ll need to pay to rid yourself of the debt before the APR runs out. After you find the card with the right 0% intro APR length, you’d want to make sure the balance transfer fee is lower than your current credit card interest rate — spoiler: it likely is. As a general rule of thumb, if a particular card provides an intro APR that’s longer than a year and if the balance transfer fee is lower than your current interest rate, then you will save money by getting and using it. Keep in mind that once you decide a card is right for you, you’ll want to recalculate how much you should pay each month to include the balance transfer fee. In our example above, you’ll need to pay at least $229 to pay off a $4,120 balance (the amount due including the balance transfer fee) in 18 months.

Finding these calculations to be too time-consuming or confusing? Lucky for you, our Balance Transfer Calculator can do all the heavy lifting. Simply input your transfer amount, desired monthly payment and credit rating, and our Balance Transfer Calculator will show you the cards that are best for you.

Balance transfer credit cards for paying off debt

Now that you know more about balance transfer fees, here are some of the top balance transfer credit cards that could help get you out of debt and save a few bucks.

Best balance transfer card: Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Card

balance transfer feeIf you’re looking to get a straightforward balance transfer card, the Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Card is a solid option that you should be eyeing. That’s because it offers a whopping 18-month 0% intro APR for purchases and for balance transfers made in the first 120 days, accompanied by an intro balance transfer fee of 3% for 120 days (after that, it’s 5%), giving you plenty of time to pay off your balance. To top things off, this card, which requires good to excellent credit for approval (usually considered to be a credit score 700 or higher), has no annual fee and offers cardholders up to $600 in mobile phone protection (subject to a $25 deductible and a maximum of 2 claims per year) against covered damage or theft. All you have to do to earn this coverage is pay your monthly cell phone bill with your Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Card — it’s as easy as that.

Longest 0% intro APR: Citi Simplicity Card – No Late Fees Ever

balance transfer feeAnother credit card that’s known for its generous intro APR on balance transfers is the Citi Simplicity Card – No Late Fees Ever (a NextAdvisor advertiser). This credit card offers the longest 0% intro APR of any cards we review: a jaw-dropping 21-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers, which comes with a balance transfer fee of 5% or $5 — whichever is greater. While this balance transfer fee is a bit higher than some other cards, this card’s lengthy intro APR on balance transfers evens things out and allows you to save money, turning the card into something worth your consideration. On top of having a stellar intro APR period, this card also comes with a 12-month 0% intro APR on purchases, along with no annual fee, no late fees and no penalty APR. The Citi Simplicity Card is available to those with good to excellent credit (usually considered a credit score of 700 or higher).

Best for ongoing rewards: Chase Freedom Unlimited

balance transfer feeSeeking a balance transfer card that also earns great rewards? Then Chase Freedom Unlimited could be the credit card that you’ll want to add to your wallet. On top of the 15-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers (with a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3%, whichever is greater) that it offers, it gives you the chance to earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. But the perks of this credit card (a card that’s available to those with good to excellent credit — usually considered to be a credit score of 700 or better), don’t stop there, as Chase Freedom Unlimited earns an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase and charges no annual fee.

Best for average to excellent credit: Discover it Balance Transfer

balance transfer feeIf you have less-than-perfect credit and if you are looking for a solid balance transfer credit card, the Discover it Balance Transfer could be just the card you’re looking for. That’s because this card requires average to excellent credit (usually considered to be a score of 670 or higher) for approval. On top of that, it offers a generous 18-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers, which is accompanied by a balance transfer fee of 3%, and a 6-month 0% intro APR on purchases (after the 0% intro APRs expire, a go-to variable rate applies). The perks of this card aren’t limited to intro APRs, though, as Discover it Balance Transfer cardholders earn 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter you activate (up to the quarterly maximum, currently $1,500, then it’s 1% back) and 1% on all other purchases. As an additional bonus, Discover matches all the cash back you earn in the first year — with no limit to how much is matched!

Now that you know more about balance transfer fees and some of our favorite balance transfer credit cards, visit our credit cards reviews to learn more about these cards and apply online. Also, don’t forget to check out our free Balance Transfer Calculator to see which card is best for your balance transfer.

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.