Credit cards boost benefits on balance transfer deals

Array of credit cards

If one of your financial resolutions is to pay down high-interest credit cards, you're in luck. There are more good balance transfer deals out there than we've seen in quite some time.

Such a deal will let you avoid finance charges and whittle down that balance at no interest in 2012.

Slate from Chase has dropped its transfer fees for a limited time. Transfer your higher-rate balances during the first 30 days that your account is open, and you pay no transfer fee (afterward, it’s 3% of the amount transferred).

If you have excellent credit, you'll enjoy no interest for a year; then your interest rate goes up to 11.99% to 16.99%. For those with average credit, the no-interest period is six months, and then the annual percentage rate (APR) charged goes to 21.99%. You can also use Chase’s Blueprint budgeting tool to help you pay down that balance faster.

Citi Platinum Select MasterCard charges a balance transfer fee of 3%, but you pay no finance charges for 21 months. (After that, the APR increases to 11.99% to 21.99%, based on your credit score.)

A deal-finding, cost-cutting tool associated with this card is Extra Cash from Citi, a “daily deal” promotion similar to Groupon or Living Social that offers you special deals from merchants. You earn 10% of your Citi card purchases as Extra Cash dollars that you can put toward those deals.

If you simply want to pay down your balance, Citi Simplicity offers no balance transfer fee and a 0% APR on balance transfers for 21 months -- great for transferring big balances from high-rate cards. There are also no late fees or rate hikes when you miss a payment due date or go over your credit limit. These perks are geared to cardholders with an excellent credit history.

The Discover More card offers an introductory transfer deal of 18 months with no interest charges and a balance transfer fee of 3% (after July 10, it rises to 5%).

You can also take advantage of Discover’s good 5% Cashback Bonus program that offers rewards of up to 5% on qualifying transactions, which change quarterly. Between now and March, the bonus program is specifically for gas and entertainment.

Pentagon Federal Credit Union has a promotional APR of 2% for 24 months on balance transfers made between now and March 31 on all of its cards except the Promise card. The fee is just 1%, up to a maximum of $150.

The credit union is geared toward active and retired military personnel, but if you’re not in that category, you can still easily join by registering with one of two military-focused charities and paying a membership fee of up to $20.

And if you’re of a certain age, the AARP Visa Card from Chase offers 0% on all purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months (it then goes up to 16.24%) and a balance transfer fee of 3%.

The card also offers a good rewards program. You’ll get $100 cash back after the first time you use the card, then 3% back on travel purchases and 1% on all other purchases.