CNBC Select may receive an affiliate commission when you click on the links for products from our partners. Click here to read our full advertiser disclosure.
CNBC Select

The best no-fee balance transfer credit cards of August 2020

We analyzed popular balance transfer cards with no balance transfer fee using an average American's annual spending budget and credit card debt and digging into each card's perks and drawbacks to find the best of the best based on your consumer habits.

Getty Images

The Amex Everyday® Credit Card is not currently offering balance transfers and the Chase Slate® Credit Card offer is not currently in market.

Most balance transfer credit cards offer no interest for upwards of six months, which can help you save a lot of money on your debt. But many of these cards charge a 3% to 5% balance transfer fee, which can seriously cut into those savings.

The average American has $6,194 in credit card debt. If you transferred that amount to a balance transfer card with a 3% fee, you'd pay around $186.

However, there are some options that don't charge balance transfer fees, allowing you to maximize savings while you work on paying down debt. No-fee balance transfer cards aren't that common, but CNBC Select has rounded up the best options so you can maximize your savings.

These cards may not offer the longest introductory 0% APR periods (see CNBC Select's list of best balance transfer cards if you prefer to maximize the amount of time you have to pay off your debt versus paying it off for cheaper), but you can save more money if you're able to pay off debt within six to 15 months (depending on the offer). You can complete a balance transfer by opening one of these cards and transferring debt with no fees or interest, until the intro period ends. (Click here for more on how to complete a balance transfer.)

Balance transfer cards typically require good to excellent credit (scores above 670). If you don't qualify, there are some simple ways that you can work toward rebuilding your credit, including making on-time payments and keeping spending to a minimum.

Here are CNBC Select's picks for the top no-fee balance transfer credit cards:

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card
Information about the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    2X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1X), 1X Membership Rewards® points per dollar spent on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 15 months on purchases, N/A for balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    12.99% to 23.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees and our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Competitive intro period on purchases
  • 20% extra point bonus when you make 20 or more purchases in a billing period

Cons

  • 2.7% foreign transaction fee

Who's this for? The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card is a best-in-class balance transfer credit card offering rewards, special financing and no balance transfer fees — all for no annual fee.

If you're looking to refinance debt or pay off new purchases over time, there's a generous 0% APR for the first 15 months on both purchases and balance transfers (after, 12.99% to 23.99% variable APR). Balance transfers come at no added cost, but must be transferred within 60 days from account opening to qualify for the no interest period (which is typical).

Cardholders earn 2X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%) and 1X Membership Rewards® points per dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus, make 20 or more purchases in a billing period and receive 20% extra points.

With the welcome bonus you can earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you make $1,000 in purchases in your first three months. When we looked at the average American's annual spending budget, we calculated that you could earn an estimated $1,444 in rewards over five years, making this card a smart choice to use for everyday purchases after you finish paying off debt.

This card also offers a suite of other premium perks including car rental loss and damage insurance, free two-day shipping at select online retailers with ShopRunner and cell phone protection.

Chase Slate®

Chase Slate®
Information about the Chase Slate® 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 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    14.99% to 23.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    $0 on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that, 5% ($5 minimum)

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • One of the longest intro periods for a no-fee balance transfer card

Cons

  • 3% foreign transaction fee
  • No rewards program
  • Transfer timeline: Balances must be transferred within 60 days from account opening
  • Estimated total fees and interest on debt repayment: $441

Who's this for? The Chase Slate® credit card may lack rewards, but it offers a good balance transfer deal: no interest for the first 15 months from account opening (after, 14.99% to 23.74% variable APR), though the variable APR after the intro period is higher than some of the other cards on this list. This intro period also applies to new purchases.

There are no balance transfer fees associated with this card and there's no annual fee. Like many balance transfer cards, you need to complete your transfer within the first 60 days from account opening to qualify for the $0 balance transfer fee.

Just like the BankAmericard®, Chase Slate® is a no-frills card without the added perks the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card offers cardholders. However, if you're simply looking to get out of debt, this card is a good option.

Wings Visa Platinum Card

Wings Visa Platinum Card
Information about the Wings Visa Platinum Card 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 12 months on purchases and balance transfers

  • Variable APR

    8.15% to 18.00%

  • Balance transfer fee

    $0

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    N/A

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Low 8.15% to 18.00% variable APR
  • No deadline for when balances can be transferred, though the intro period starts at account opening

Cons

  • Credit union membership required, which may cost $5
  • No rewards program
  • Transfer timeline: Balances can be transferred at any time during the first 12 months, but the intro period begins when you open your account
  • Estimated total fees and interest on debt repayment: $638

Who's this for? If you don't mind joining a credit union, the Wings Visa Platinum Card can be a good no-fee balance transfer card with fewer fees than other cards on this list. In addition to no annual fee and no balance transfer fee, there are no foreign transaction fees when you use this card overseas.

The intro period is average at 0% APR for the first 12 months from account opening on balance transfers and purchases. Once the intro period ends, there's a competitive 8.15% to 18.00% variable APR, which may come in handy if you wind up with a balance post-intro period.

While balance transfers can be completed at any time, it's important to remember that 12 month intro period begins as soon as you open the account. Transfer balances as soon as possible to get the most value out of the intro period.

You need to join Wings Financial Credit Union to open this card, but anyone can be eligible through select employment or community membership, family relation to a current member or by making a minimum $5 donation to the Wings Financial Foundation.

BankAmericard® for Students

BankAmericard® for Students
  • Rewards

    None

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 15 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    14.49% to 24.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    $0 on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that, 3% ($10 minimum).

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • One of the longest intro periods for a no-fee card

Cons

  • 3% foreign transaction fee
  • No rewards program

Information about the BankAmericard® for Students has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

  • Transfer timeline: Balances must be transferred within 60 days from account opening
  • Estimated total fees and interest on debt repayment: $441

Who's this for? If you're a student in debt, it can be hard to find a balance transfer credit card that has both an intro 0% APR period and an intro $0 balance transfer fee. The BankAmericard® for Students offers both a 0% APR for the first 15 billing cycles on balance transfers (then 14.49% to 24.49% variable APR) and an intro $0 balance transfer fee for the first 60 days your account is open. After that, 3% ($10 minimum).

To qualify for the intro 0% APR period, you must make a transfer within the first 60 days from account opening. This card doesn't offer rewards, but that can be a good thing if you're trying to avoid the temptation to overspend.

There is no penalty APR, which means if you pay late, your APR won't rise. However, we recommend always paying on time and in full to avoid interest charges and fees.

How to use a balance transfer card

Before you take advantage of a balance transfer offer, there are some things you should keep in mind:

  • Transfers can't be made between cards from the same bank. For example, if you have a Chase card, you can't transfer debt to another Chase card.
  • You may incur a fee. Most of these cards charge a balance transfer fee. It's usually 3% to 5% of the amount you transfer. For example, transferring $5,000 to a card with a 3% fee will costs you $150.
  • Most transfers need to be completed within 60 days from account opening. If you wait too long to make a transfer, you may miss out on the 0% APR period.
  • There are limits on how much debt you can transfer. Card issuers typically limit the amount you can transfer to a percentage of your total credit limit or a specific dollar amount. And issuers also factor in the total cost of the balance transfer, which includes any balance transfer fees.
  • Many balance transfer cards require good or excellent credit. If you have less than stellar credit, it can be difficult to qualify for a balance transfer card — though we found one card that may accept fair credit.

Read more on how to get the most out of your balance transfer credit card and if you can transfer more than one balance to a 0% APR card.

How to choose a credit card with no balance transfer fee

While there are many balance transfer credit cards to choose from, there are fewer cards that charge no balance transfer fees. You should consider these tips on how to choose a credit card:

  1. Check your credit score: This is an important first step as it will help you decide which credit card you should apply for since most balance transfer credit cards require good or excellent credit.
  2. Review the time frame for completing a balance transfer: Most balance transfer cards require you to complete transfers within a certain timeframe (typically 45 to 60 days), so you should consider when you plan to transfer your balance compared to the timeframe set by the card issuer.
  3. Consider how much time you need to repay debt: No-fee balance transfer cards provide interest-free periods ranging from six to 15 months. You should consider how much money you have leftover each month to repay debt and how long it will take to reach a zero balance. This can help you decide if a 6-, 12- or 15-month interest-free period is best.

How to compare credit cards with no fee balance transfers

Before you settle on any card, you should compare credit cards to find the one that fits your needs the best. When it comes to no-fee balance transfer cards, there are a few factors to consider, such as the length of the interest-free period and the card issuer.

You should calculate how much time you need to repay debt based on the amount of money you have leftover in your budget each month that you can dedicate to debt repayment, then compare the intro periods of different cards to find the best offer for you. For instance, if you need 10 months to pay off debt, focus on cards with intro periods that are 10 months or longer versus cards with 6 month intro periods.

Another important factor to consider is where you are transferring the debt from. This influences which new card you can open since balance transfers can't be made between cards from the same issuer.

For example, if you have an American Express® Green Card, you can't transfer your balance to the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card. But you can transfer it to the Chase Slate® credit card (if you're approved).

All of the balance transfer cards mentioned in this roundup have no annual fee, so you won't need to compare these cards by annual fee. But if you're comparing other cards that aren't on this list, check if they charge annual fees.

Should you get a credit card with no fee on balance transfers?

No-fee balance transfer cards are designed for people looking to get out of debt and maximize savings. If you want to get a credit card for the purpose of paying off an existing balance, then cards with no balance transfer fees can provide money-saving benefits.

You'll save 3% to 5% on any debt you transfer, compared to traditional balance transfer cards that charge a fee. Plus, you can benefit from no interest for up to 15 months, which allows you to pay off debt quicker and cheaper than keeping it on a high interest card.

Who should apply for this type of card?

If you have good or excellent credit and carry a credit card balance month-to-month, you should consider a no-fee balance transfer card. It's important to keep in mind that while opening a new credit card to get out of debt can be beneficial, you need to be careful how you use the card.

Balance transfer cards should primarily be used to pay off debt — not make new purchases. Therefore, it's important to have a repayment plan set up before you submit a credit card application. That way you'll know how much you need to pay each month to have your balance paid off in full before the intro period ends.

Learn more: 3 steps to take to make the most of your balance transfer

Best no-fee balance transfer credit cards

Credit cardAmex EveryDay® Credit CardAmex EveryDay® Credit CardChase Slate®Chase Slate®Wings Visa Platinum CardWings Visa Platinum CardBankAmericard® for StudentsBankAmericard® for Students
Balance transfer fee$0$0$0$0
Total interest/fees you’d pay$441$441$638$441
Months to pay it off34343534
Estimated rewards return after 5 years$1,494This card doesn't offer rewardsThis card doesn't offer rewardsThis card doesn't offer rewards
See below for our methodologyLearn MoreInformation about the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.Learn MoreInformation about the Chase Slate® has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.Learn MoreInformation about the Wings Visa Platinum Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Our methodology

To determine which credit cards offer the best no-fee balance transfer deals, CNBC Select analyzed the most popular credit cards offered by the biggest banks, financial companies, and credit unions that allow anyone to join.

We considered cards that have both no balance transfer fee and an introductory 0% APR period. If a card did not charge a balance transfer fee but did charge interest on balance transfers, they were excluded.

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 $1,950 in additional interest, assuming the average 16.61% APR, according to the Fed. And it will take them 41 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.

For rates and fees of the Amex Everyday® Credit Card, please click here.

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.