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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 $5,313 in credit card debt. If you transferred that amount to a balance transfer card with a 3% fee, you'd pay around $159.
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 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 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 is Select's top picks for the top no-fee balance transfer credit cards:
0% for the first 12 months on purchases and balance transfers
8.15% to 18.00%
Balance transfer fee
Foreign transaction fee
See our methodology, terms apply.
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.
Earn 2X points on groceries, gas, electronics, medical, household goods and telecommunications, 1X points on all other purchases
Earn 20,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 60 days from account opening
0% for the first 12 billing cycles on balance transfers made within the first 90 days of account opening
9.75% - 18.00% variable
Balance transfer fee
Foreign transaction fee
See our methodology, terms apply.
Who's this for? The Choice Rewards World Mastercard® from First Tech Federal Credit Union is a well-rounded card that has no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, a great balance transfer offer and a robust rewards program.
New card members can repay debt with no interest charges for 12 billing cycles on balances transferred within the first 90 days of account opening (then, 9.75% - 18.00% variable) and there's $0 balance transfer fee, saving you the typical 3% to 5% fee other balance transfer cards often charge.
The rewards program is geared toward everyday expenses, such as groceries and gas: earn 2X points on groceries, gas, electronics, medical, household goods and telecommunications, and 1X points on all other purchases. Plus, there's a welcome bonus of 20,000 points when you spend $3,000 in your first 60 days from account opening.
How to join First Tech: The easiest way to become a First Tech member is to join the Community History Museum (CHM) or Financial Fitness Association (FFA). The first year's membership fee for the CHM or FFA is paid by First Tech, and you can cancel the membership after opening an account with no impact on your First Tech membership.
Other ways to become a member include:
- Employee or retiree of partner company or the State of Oregon
- Work or live in Lane County, Oregon
- Student at Cogswell Poly Technical College
- Family or household relationship with a current member
- Member of a partner club or association
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To determine which credit cards offer the best no-fee balance transfer deals, 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 $5,313, the average balance Americans carry on their credit cards in 2020, according to Experian.
If the average consumer with a $5,313 balance on their credit card pays $200 each month, they will spend roughly $1,320 in additional interest, assuming the average 16.28% APR, according to the Fed. And it will take them 34 months — nearly three years — to pay off that debt.
For the cards that offered a rewards program, we also estimated how much cash back you might earn over a five year period. 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.
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.