get out of credit card debtUpdated: November 19, 2019

It’s all too easy to generate a significant amount of credit card debt if you aren’t careful. Carrying a large balance and paying a hefty APR can really cut into your future wealth, but there are ways to repair the damage no matter your circumstances.

If you’ve overdone it on a credit card and are looking to fix your debt situation as quickly as possible, a balance transfer may be your best bet. Continue reading to learn the steps you can take with a balance transfer credit card to help you get out of credit card debt.

How to tackle your debt with a balance transfer card:

  1. Assess your financial situation
  2. Understand balance transfer credit cards
  3. Choose a balance transfer credit card
  4. Our favorite balance transfer credit cards
  5. Make a budget

Assessing your financial situation

Your first step toward debt relief is taking a look at your finances. You won’t magically make your debt disappear with a balance transfer card, but with some budgeting and attention to detail, it can slowly start to dwindle.

First, get organized and make a list of everything you owe. From monthly bills to credit card debt, knowing the details of your outstanding payments will help you more efficiently attack the situation. If you have credit card debt in more than one account, take note of the APRs you’re being charged with each — prioritizing more costly debt may save you more money in the long run.

When listing out debts, assess your spending and consider anything that puts a dent in your income; this may mean paying off other outstanding balances. Prior to remediating your credit card debt, be sure to pay the minimum amount required on any secured debts you may have to avoid losing your collateral. Additionally, in the time before applying for a balance transfer card, paying with cash or a debit card could help make your situation more manageable.

Understand balance transfer cards

If you’ve found yourself fighting off a pile of debt, getting familiar with the methods available to pay it off will serve you well. Balance transfers allow you to move your credit card debt to a new card, conveniently consolidating and organizing your unwanted balances. If the card offers a long 0% intro APR period, it’ll give you the opportunity to pay off your debt without accumulating extra fees in interest. While balance transfer cards aren’t a one-size-fits-all answer to any debt amount, they can be extremely useful tools in many cases.

We’ve gone more in depth about how balance transfers credit cards work before, so here’s the shortened version:

  1. Apply for the balance transfer credit card of your choice.
  2. Initiate the transfer either during the application process or after you’ve been approved.
  3. Follow up in a week or two to confirm that the transfer is complete. If the transfer isn’t complete by that time, you’ll want to call your issuer to ensure there are no problems.

Make sure to keep making the minimum payment on your original card as long as you still have a balance on it. It may even be worth holding onto for its benefits or to maintain a low credit utilization ratio, so don’t be too hasty to cancel it once the transfer has been processed.

Choose a balance transfer card

Not sure which balance transfer credit card to choose? You’re in the right place. We’ve compiled some of our favorite cards, but first, let’s go through what to look for when evaluating your options.

  • Find a card from a different credit card issuer or bank than your current accounts, as issuers and banks rarely allow balance transfers between two of their own cards.
  • Choose a card with a long 0% intro APR on balance transfers. You’ll also want to make sure you’re aware of the balance transfer fee, as this is something you’ll need to add to your calculations when determining how much you can transfer.
  • Look into the additional details of the cards you evaluate. Consider things like associated fees, post-intro APR, potential limits on your transfers, other welcome offers and penalties. Different providers may have unique features, so weigh your options when comparing.
  • Last but not least, you should always be sure that your credit scores match the credit card’s requirements. You don’t want to go through the trouble of researching cards and applying only to be denied, as that can put you in an even worse financial situation than you were in before.

Once you’ve been approved for a balance transfer credit card, you’ll have a credit limit to work with. If the credit limit isn’t high enough to transfer your entire balance, there are a few steps you can take — credit card issuers are often more open to negotiation than people think.

That said, even if you can only transfer part of your existing debt to a new card, doing so will benefit you in the long run by reducing how much interest you’ll have to pay. As noted earlier, you’ll normally need to pay a balance transfer fee (usually 3% to 5% of the amount of each transfer) to complete the process, but the money you’ll save with the intro balance transfer APR more than makes up for the fee in most cases.

Top balance transfer cards

Citi Simplicity® Card – No Late Fees Ever

If you’re looking for a card with an exceptionally long 0% intro APR balance transfer period, look no further than the Citi Simplicity Card (a NextAdvisor advertiser) — you won’t pay anything in interest for 21 months (16.24% — 26.24% variable APR thereafter). The card does come with a 5% balance transfer fee ($5 minimum), but if you’re looking to buy yourself a lot of time to pay off your debt, the fee is money well spent.

You’ll also benefit from the card’s 12-month 0% intro APR on purchases. On top of all that, with the Citi Simplicity, there’s no late fees, penalty rate or annual fee. These perks can add peace of mind as you pay down your balance. To qualify for this card, you’ll need to have good to excellent credit (generally considered to be a credit score of 700 or higher).

Discover it® Balance Transfer

For those who want a cash back rewards card that helps them work toward paying down a hefty card balance, the Discover it Balance Transfer card is the perfect choice. The card is available to those with average to excellent credit (usually considered a score of 670 or above) and offers an 18-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers (13.49% — 24.49% variable APR thereafter). There’s a introductory 3% balance transfer fee (up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)), but as you’ve already read, this fee is pretty standard.

What makes this card one you will want to keep in your wallet long after your transfer is paid off is its rewards. You’ll earn 5% cash back on quarterly rotating categories (up to $1,500 per quarter, then 1%) and 1% cash back on all other purchases. You’ll need to activate each quarter in order to get the 5% cash back, but Discover makes that easy with email reminders and a simple online interface.

As a special intro bonus, Discover will match all of the cash back that you’ve earned at the end of your first year. If you earn $300 cash back, for example, Discover will match that with another $300. Plus, you won’t pay an annual fee, and there aren’t any foreign transaction fees for purchases made abroad (an unusual perk for a balance transfer card). On top of that, Discover offers a plethora of handy security features to help keep your account secure.

Citi® Double Cash Card

Rounding out our list is the Citi Double Cash Card (a NextAdvisor advertiser), a great option for those looking to both earn rewards and pay off a balance. On top of the card’s 18-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers (15.49% — 25.49% variable APR thereafter), you’ll earn a high cash back rate on all of your purchases. What’s even better about the card’s cash back rewards program is that it reinforces good credit habits.

Here’s how it works: earn 1% cash back when you charge a purchase to your credit card and another 1% when you pay it off. That’s effectively 2% cash back and an awesome reward for paying off your purchases. Although you’ll pay a 3% balance transfer fee ($5 minimum), cardholders will have access to their monthly Equifax FICO score and late payment forgiveness. This card requires good to excellent credit (generally considered a credit score of 700 or above).

Make a budget

Discipline is important when dealing with debt and spending under your pre-budgeted amount each month will allow you to chip away at the money you owe. Be realistic and honest with yourself, set up a plan and stick to it.

It’s crucial that you take advantage of the 0% intro APR period after acquiring your balance transfer card. By paying off your balance in the card’s given 0% window, you can avoid any interest charges on your debt  — a luxury not offered with most traditional cards.

Want more options?

Visit our balance transfer credit card reviews to compare the cards detailed in this post to others on the market.

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.