The top deals on balance transfer cards
You've got to stop paying 15% or more on your credit card debt.
Using a cash-out refinancing or home equity loan to pay off those bills is one way to save hundreds of dollars a year in interest costs.
But transferring your balance to a new 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.
We checked dozens of cards offering balance transfers. Here are the three we liked best.
Our first choice is:
Bank of America WorldPoints Platinum Plus MasterCard. It offers a 0% interest rate on your balance transfer for 12 months, then your credit will be reviewed.
You will be designated either a "Platinum Plus" cardholder at a 9.99% interest rate on any money that remains on your transfer and on new purchases. Or you will be a "Preferred" customer with a 15.99% APR. That 6 point difference between the Platinum and Preferred APRs should motivate you to pay all your bills on time and raise your credit score.
Unfortunately, it's hard to find cards that aren't charging a 3% transfer fee these days and many of those cards no longer cap that charge at $50 or $75.
WorldPoints Platinum Plus imposes a 3% transfer fee with a $10 minimum and no cap. That means a $3,000 transfer would cost $90. But at least there's no annual fee.
The Bank of America Rewards American Express Card is also a smart option. It offers 0% interest for 12 months on balance transfers and an APR as low as 9.99% on both your transfers and purchases after that.
It charges a 3% transfer fee with no cap and a $10 minimum.
The Discover More card offers 0% interest on balance transfers and on purchases made during the first year.
There's no annual fee and if your credit remains unblemished, when the interest rate kicks in, it could be as low as 10.99%. The rate will be determined by a review of your application and credit history.
Capping the 3% transfer fee at $75 is a plus. But using the "two-cycle" method of computing finance charges is not.
Discover More calculates 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 we hope it will be 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, ever 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.
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