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Reviews

Aspire Platinum Mastercard review: A balance transfer credit card for the budget-savvy consumer

Joining a credit union can bring welcome perks, like lower credit card interest rates. Below, CNBC Select breaks down the benefits and fees associated with the Aspire Platinum Mastercard to help you decide if it is the right credit card for you.

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The Discover it® Balance Transfer offer is not currently in market.

Transferring your credit card debt to a card that offers 0% APR on balance transfers can be a huge money saver. Yet the best balance transfer cards usually require good or excellent credit, leaving some in the lurch when it comes to taking advantage of these 0% APR opportunities.

One exception is the Aspire FCU Platinum Mastercard®, as applicants with fair credit may qualify.

With no interest for the first six months on balance transfers and new purchases, as well as a relatively low standard variable APR (9.65% to 18.00%), this federal credit union credit card can help you pay off high-interest debt (with a 2% balance transfer fee) or let you take advantage of promotional financing on an upcoming big purchase.

Aspire Federal Credit Union is a not-for-profit financial cooperative and you have to become a member in order to qualify for a card.  Below, CNBC Select breaks down the rewards, benefits and fees associated with the Aspire Platinum Mastercard to help you decide if it's the right card for you.

Aspire FCU Platinum Mastercard review

  • Benefits
  • Rates and fees
  • Bottom line

Aspire Platinum Mastercard®

Information about the Aspire Platinum Mastercard® has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    None

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 6 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    8.15% to 18.00% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    2%, $5 minimum

  • Foreign transaction fee

    1%

  • Credit needed

    Good/Fair

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Applicants with fair to good credit may qualify, which is more lenient than most balance transfer cards
  • No time limit on when balances can be transferred

Cons

  • Short intro 0% APR period
  • Credit union membership is required, though it’s free
  • 1% foreign transaction fee
  • No rewards program

Aspire FCU Platinum Mastercard benefits

The Aspire FCU Platinum is a balance transfer credit card, and it doesn't currently offer any rewards like cash back, points or miles

What it does offer is no interest on purchases and balance transfers for six billing cycles (after 9.65% to 18.00% variable APR). This gives you breathing room to pay off a large purchase or debt in six monthly payments without incurring any additional interest. While this isn't the longest intro 0% APR on the market, it can help you make a considerable dent in your debt. 

If you have good to excellent credit, you may want to consider the Discover it® Balance Transfer, which also offers an introductory 0% APR period on purchases for your first six months and no interest on balance transfers for 18 months (after 13.49% to 24.49% variable APR). The Discover it delivers even more value by letting you earn 5% cash back in different quarterly spending categories, after you activate, on up to $1,500 in purchases (then 1%) and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Rates and fees

The Aspire FCU Platinum Mastercard comes with no interest on balance transfers and purchases for six months. After your promotional financing period is over, its standard interest rates compare to some of the best low interest credit cards, at 9.65% to 18.00% variable APR. The balance transfer fee is 2% or $5.00, whichever is greater.

While there's no annual fee, there is a 1% foreign transaction fee. This is lower than the typical 3%, but if you anticipate traveling internationally quite a bit, there are several travel credit cards with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, like the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card.

Bottom line

You'll need fair to good credit to apply for the Aspire FCU Platinum Mastercard®, which makes it one of the more accessible balance transfer credit cards. But unlike most other credit cards, you'll need to sign up for a membership with Aspire Federal Credit Union to be eligible. Membership is available to employees of the credit union's Select Employer Group and their family members. You can also join if you first become a member of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center for free.

While joining a federal credit union has benefits, if you are looking for an alternative to credit union membership you may consider one of CNBC Select's best 0% APR credit cards. The Citi Simplicity® Card, for example, offers one of the longest interest-free periods (18 months on purchases and balance transfers, then 14.74% to 24.74% variable APR).

To qualify for the best balance transfer credit cards, you will need good to excellent credit. A federal credit union is often one accessible option that gives you the benefits of lower interest while you work on raising your credit score.

Our methodology

To determine which credit cards offer the best balance transfer deals, CNBC Select analyzed 101 of the most popular credit cards that offer no interest on balance transfers issued by the biggest banks, financial companies and credit unions that allow anyone to join.

We compared each card on a range of features, including: annual fee, balance transfer fee, rewards program, introductory and standard APR, welcome bonuses and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available.

For balance transfer cards, we used a Bankrate calculator to tally the interest rates and fees you could incur if you transferred $6,194, the average balance Americans carry on their credit cards in 2019, according to Experian.

If the average consumer with a $6,194 balance on their credit card pays $200 each month, they will spend $2,012 in additional interest, assuming the average 16.97% APR, according to the Fed. And it will take them 42 months — more than three years — to pay off that debt.

With four of the five cards featured on this list, if you take full advantage of the intro APR period and pay $200 per month, you'll pay less than $500 in interest. That's a significant savings.

For the cards that offered a rewards program, we also estimated how much cash back you might earn over a five year period. CNBC Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company's data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2019 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.

Esri's data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.

CNBC Select used this budget to estimate how much the average consumer would save over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.

It's important to note the value of a point or mile varies from card to card and based on how you redeem them. When we calculated the estimated returns, we assumed that cardholders are redeeming points/miles for a typical maximum value of 1 cent per point or mile. (Extreme optimizers might be able to achieve more value.)

When choosing the best balance transfer card, we focused on the card that provides consumers with the cheapest way to pay off their debt rather than the number of rewards they could potentially earn. When you're in credit card debt, your primary focus should be repayment. Earning rewards should be seen as a bonus, and you don't want to spend beyond your means in order to earn points.

The five-year rewards total and the interest rate and fees estimates are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending and debt. You may earn a higher or lower return depending on your spending habits.

Information about the Citi Simplicity® Card, Aspire FCU Platinum Mastercard®, and Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.