balance transfer cardUpdated: Sept. 28, 2018 

For many of us, math was not our favorite subject. Addition and subtraction, sure, multiplication and division, OK, but then you get to compound interest. That can be hard to wrap one’s head around! If you are finding yourself paying too much in interest, we can help! Simplify the math by doing a balance transfer to one of our top-rated balance transfer credit cards. These cards will remove APR from the equation so you can simplify your math to two numbers: what you owe and what you’ll pay each month. Read on to learn more about balance transfers and how to pick the right balance transfer card for your needs.

What is a balance transfer?

Most of us are familiar with the basics of banking and have transferred money before, whether between checking account and savings account or between different bank accounts. That’s similar to a balance transfer. You take the money you owe on one card, your balance or debt, and move some or all of it to another card. You generally need to pay a balance transfer fee. That fee is a charge on each transfer that usually ranges between 3% and 5% of the transfer.

You may be thinking, “But that’s even more numbers. I thought this is supposed to simplify the math!” That’s why, while you can balance transfer to any credit card, you should choose a card specifically designed with balance transfers in mind — a balance transfer card that offers a long 0% intro APR on balance transfers. When choosing your card, make sure it matches your credit scores, has low intro APR and has nice ongoing benefits, as it makes sense to pick a card that will work for you long after the 0% intro APR is expired.

As a final note on balance transfer fees, make sure you factor the fee in when making your transfer so that you don’t go over your balance limit. Also, be sure that the fee doesn’t push your balance beyond what you can pay off in your intro APR period. Ideally, you’d like to spend $0 on balance transfer fees, but remember that even if you wind up paying a 3% to 5% transfer fee, you’re likely to save overall since that one-time fee is a lot lower than your current card’s ongoing APR.

Does this card match my credit?

The first thing you should look for in any card, not just a balance transfer card, is its credit requirement. It doesn’t matter how great a card is if you won’t qualify for it! First, find out your credit scores. You can do so for a fee through each of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) or through a credit monitoring service — most of which offer free trials, meaning you can check your credit scores without paying a dime. Next, look at what the card issuer lists as the card’s “credit needed” (e.g., average, good, excellent). Finally, check what credit score that “credit needed” usually corresponds to — this guide to credit scores details each range. Don’t apply if your credit scores aren’t within that range, as applying for credit cards and being denied can not only lower your credit scores, but multiple denials can also make you look desperate to lenders.

Low intro APR

Many cards have special deals for new cardholders that only last for a certain amount of time, called the intro period. A good balance transfer card should have an intro period with a 0% balance transfer APR that lasts long enough to transfer and pay off most of your balance. Ideally, you should pay off all of the balance in that period, as failing to do so means you’ll have to pay the go-to interest rate on your remaining debt. That regular interest rate may not be much better than your previous card’s APR! Enter your transfer amount, monthly payment and credit level into our free Balance Transfer Calculator to see which card is right for your situation.

A long 0% intro purchase APR is also a great feature in a balance transfer card. That’s because it’ll help you avoid racking up more debt on new purchases while paying off your existing balance. That said, don’t just look at the intro rates. Make sure your new card’s ongoing purchase APR is lower than your current card’s. That way, you won’t find yourself struggling with interest again after the intro period is over. It should be noted that the interest rate doesn’t really matter if you use the card responsibly, meaning you make purchases that you already budgeted for and pay them off each month.

Best for long 0% Intro APR: Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Card

balance transfer cardFor a long 0% APR on both purchases and balance transfers, we highly recommend the Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Card, which is available to those with good to excellent credit usually considered a credit score of 700 or higher). You’ll have 18 months with 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers. Additionally, you’ll only pay an intro balance transfer fee of 3% for transfers made in the first 18 months (after that, it’s 5%).

In terms of ongoing rewards: enjoy free access to your FICO Credit Score with Wells Fargo Online; free tools for creating and managing your budget through My Money Map and texts; and the peace of mind of knowing that you will receive text and email alerts if there’s suspicious activity. You can even get up to $600 of protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible with a maximum of 2 claims per year) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Card. Rounding this card out is no annual fee.

Ongoing benefits

After transferring your balance, it is best to keep your old credit card open. Part of how your credit score is calculated involves your credit utilization ratio. That is, how much credit you have available versus how much debt you owe. By keeping the available credit of both cards, you can improve your credit scores.

Best for rewards and less-than-perfect credit: Discover it Balance Transfer

balance transfer cardFor a lot of people, the need to change cards doesn’t become clear until their credit has dipped. But most balance transfer cards are only available for those with good to excellent credit. Thankfully, there is still a credit card that requires average credit to excellent credit for approval (usually considered a credit score of 670 or higher): the Discover it Balance Transfer card.

This card offers a generous 18-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers (with a 3% balance transfer fee), along with a brief 0% intro purchase APR period of 6 months. After that, a go-to variable rate applies. If that short intro purchase APR is unappealing to you, keep in mind that the Discover it Balance Transfer card has something many other balance transfer cards do not — great cash back rewards. You’ll earn 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter you activate (up to the quarterly maximum, currently $1,500, then it’s 1%). You’ll also learn 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Additionally, as an exciting intro bonus, Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year as a new cardholder. Say you spend $400 in your first year, Discover will match that $400 and you will earn a total of $800! Discover it Balance Transfer also has no annual fee, and those who enjoy travel will love that the card also has no foreign transaction fees. That’s an unusual perk for a balance transfer card. As if those perks and rewards aren’t enough, Discover also provides a number of added perks to its cardholders, including free FICO Credit Scores, free identity theft protection alerts and more.

Not sure if any of these cards are right for you but still want help with the balance transfer math? Use our free Balance Transfer Calculator to get your personalized balance transfer card results. To learn more about new credit card deals and credit management, follow our credit card blog.

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.