Find top deals on balance transfer credit cards

Stack of credit cards fanned out

You've got to stop paying 15% or more on your credit card debt.

Using a home equity loan to pay off those bills is one way to save hundreds of dollars a year in interest costs.

But opening a balance transfer credit card that charges 0% interest for at least a year is an even better alternative.

Every dollar you pay reduces the balance, making this the surest, quickest route to wiping out your credit card debt once and for all.

Our balance transfer calculator shows exactly how fast you can pay down your balances and how much you can save in interest charges.

We checked dozens of cards offering balance transfers. Our favorites include:

Citi Platinum Select MasterCard, which offers a 0% interest rate for 21 months on balance transfers and purchases.

There's no annual fee, and when the Annual Percentage Rate kicks in, it will be a variable 11.99% to 20.99% (the prime rate of 3.25% plus 8.74% to 17.74%) depending on your credit history.

Citi Platinum charges a transfer fee of 3% of the transfer amount, with a $5 minimum.

Unfortunately, it's hard to find cards that aren't charging a 3% transfer fee these days, and many of them no longer cap that charge at $50 or $75. So if you transfer, say, $3,000, the transfer fee charge would be $90.

Other cardholder benefits for this card include fraud protection, travel-accident and car rental insurance. It does not provide extra benefits or card services, such as a rewards program that is often tied to other
"platinum" credit cards on the market.

This is a solid, no-nonsense credit card for those looking for good balance-transfer benefits.

Slate from Chase, which has no annual fee and is best for those with excellent or good credit.

If Chase likes your credit score, it offers a 0% interest rate for the first 15 months on balance transfers and new purchases.

After that, those with excellent credit get a variable APR of 11.99% and those with good credit get a rate of 16.99% respectively. (Those who have an average credit score only get the 0% rate for the first six months, then the APR jumps to 21.99%.)

The balance transfer fee is 3%, with a minimum charge of $5.

What’s notable about this card is a built-in program called Blueprint, which gives cardholders the option to pay down specific purchases.

Those items are then designated as "pay in full" and are not assessed finance charges, and Blueprint lets you still enjoy a grace period on those items even if you carry a balance.

This is different from traditional cards, which still puts finance charges on the entire balance if it is not paid in full.

The Discover More card, which offers new customers 0% interest on balance transfers and purchases made during the first 12 months.

After that, you'll pay a variable 11.99% to 19.99% APR, based on your credit score. It charges a 3% transfer fee, with a $10 minimum.

All these cards calculate how much you owe based on the average daily balance over the last two months, not the last 30 days. That allows it to keep charging interest on debt you paid off the previous month.

We usually tell consumers to avoid cards that use two-cycle billing. But in this case, let’s consider it a little extra incentive to get that transfer paid off before the finance charges kick in.

You may have noticed that we haven't mentioned the elaborate reward programs that come with all of these cards.

That's because they don't enhance the card's value for balance transfers and can tempt you into making new purchases -- something you should never do.

Virtually every credit card assigns all payments to that portion of your bill being charged the lowest interest rate until that part of your debt is paid off.

So let's say you transfer $10,000 and then added $1,000 in new purchases. You'll immediately begin paying interest on the $1,000 and will continue to pay interest on that $1,000 until you've covered the entire $11,000.

The more you charge, the more interest you pay. Before you know it, the first $30 or $40 of every check is going to the bank and your transfer balance isn’t shrinking as quickly as it would have. Then your year is up and you're paying interest on the entire debt.

Credit cards count on you making this mistake. That's why they offer such great deals on balance transfers.

You're too smart to do that.

Whether you choose one of these three cards or another type to transfer your current card balance to, you should start your search by asking these questions:

Also consider the amount you want to transfer onto a new card.

If you have six figures worth of debt spread across multiple cards, it’s highly unlikely you can move all of it onto a single 0% APR credit card. If you can only transfer part of the amount, that’s still better than nothing, as it lowers the overall interest costs you’re paying.

And keep in mind that balance transfer credit card offers are most suitable for individuals with good to excellent credit. Not everyone will qualify for the low "teaser" rate.

Be sure to know what introductory rate will apply before you make the initial transfer, and thoroughly read the terms and conditions of each specific card offer that you consider.

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