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The best no-fee balance transfer credit cards of 2019

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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 $6,028 in credit card debt. If you transferred that amount to a balance transfer card with a 3% fee, you'd pay around $181.

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
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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.
  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

  • Transfer timeline

    Balances must be transferred within 60 days from account opening

  • Variable APR

    14.49% to 25.49%

  • Balance transfer fee

    $0

  • Rewards

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

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Estimated total fees and interest on debt repayment

    $404

  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years

    $1,444

  • See rates and fees and our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • One of the longest intro periods for a no-fee balance transfer card
  • Rewards program and welcome bonus
  • 20% extra point bonus when you make 20 or more purchases in a billing period

Cons

  • 2.7% foreign transaction fee
  • Balances must be transferred within 60 days from account opening

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, 14.49% to 25.49% 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).

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, 14.49% to 25.49% 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.

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.

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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.

BankAmericard® Credit Card

BankAmericard® Credit Card
  • Intro APR

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

  • Transfer timeline

    Balances must be transferred within 60 days from account opening

  • Variable APR

    14.74% to 24.74%

  • Balance transfer fee

    $0 on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that, 3% ($5 minimum).

  • Rewards

    None

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Estimated total fees and interest on debt repayment

    $404

  • 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
  • Balances must be transferred within 60 days from account opening

Who's this for? If you're in debt, the BankAmericard® Credit Card can help you pay off balances interest-free for 15 billing cycles. After, there's a 14.74% to 24.74% variable APR. This card also has no annual fee and you won't incur a fee for completing a balance transfer.

Cardholders must make their transfers within the first 60 days from account opening to qualify for the 0% interest period and $0 balance transfer fee.

Who's this for? If you're in debt, the BankAmericard® Credit Card can help you pay off balances interest-free for 15 billing cycles. After, there's a 14.74% to 24.74% variable APR. This card also has no annual fee and you won't incur a fee for completing a balance transfer.

Cardholders must make their transfers within the first 60 days from account opening to qualify for the 0% interest period and $0 balance transfer fee.

This card doesn't offer rewards on new purchases like the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card, but the lack of rewards can be a good way to avoid the temptation to overspend.

While it's important to always pay bills on time, this card has no penalty APR. So paying late won't automatically raise your interest rate.

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Chase Slate®

Chase Slate®
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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.
  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

  • Transfer timeline

    Balances must be transferred within 60 days from account opening

  • Variable APR

    16.74% to 25.49%

  • Balance transfer fee

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

  • Rewards

    None

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Estimated total fees and interest on debt repayment

    $404

  • 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
  • Balances must be transferred within 60 days from account opening

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, 16.74% to 25.49% 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.

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, 16.74% to 25.49% 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.

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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.

Wings Visa Platinum Card

Wings Visa Platinum Card
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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.
  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 12 months on purchases and balance transfers

  • Transfer timeline

    Balances can be transferred at any time during the first 12 months, but the intro period begins when you open your account

  • Variable APR

    8.90% to 18.00%

  • Balance transfer fee

    $0

  • Rewards

    None

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Estimated total fees and interest on debt repayment

    $594

  • See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Low 8.90% 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

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 8.90% to 18.00% variable APR, which may come in handy if you wind up with a balance post-intro period.

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 8.90% 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.

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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.

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 $6,028, the average balance Americans carry on their credit cards in 2019, according to Experian.

If the average consumer with a $6,028 balance on their credit card pays $200 each month, they will spend $1,884 in additional interest, assuming the average 16.97% APR, according to the Fed. And it will take them 40 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 $450 in interest and cut your repayment time to roughly 31 months. 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 2018 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 $21,852 in retail spending. This budget is comprised of the most common spending categories, including groceries ($5,019), gas ($2,394), dining out ($3,365), travel ($2,154), utilities ($4,959) and general purchases ($3,961). 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.

Best no-fee balance transfer credit cards

Credit Card Balance transfer fee Total interest/fees you’d pay Months to pay it off Estimated rewards return after 5 years
Amex EveryDay® Credit Card$0$40433$1,494
BankAmericard® Credit Card$0$40433None
Chase Slate®$0$40433None
Wings Visa Platinum Card$0$59434None

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.

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.