Tips for Choosing a Balance Transfer Credit Card

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Last updated on September 1st, 2023

Finding your ideal credit card is never easy. When existing debt is added to the equation, however, the task becomes even harder. Here are some helpful questions to consider when choosing your next balance transfer credit card:

What Should You Consider When Choosing a Balance Transfer Credit Card?

Before choosing your next balance transfer credit card, it is essential to ponder several questions to determine if a new credit card is right for you:

Do You Really Need a Balance Transfer?

The most important thing to decide before applying for a balance transfer is knowing if you really need to conduct a balance transfer. While a balance transfer sounds like a great idea to save money, these transactions typically are not free.

The average charge for a balance transfer is 3% of the total transfer amount. In some cases, the balance transfer fee may rise to 5%. That 5% amounts to a $150 charge if you’re moving a balance of $3,000, for example.

Before selecting a balance transfer credit card, always read the terms and conditions carefully. The fine print will inform you of the fees for balance transfers, cash advances, and anything else you may want to know regarding these types of transactions.  

When possible, opt for a credit card that charges no fees for balance transfers. However, keep in mind that these no-fee cards usually offer a shorter 0% intro APR on balance transfers than cards that charge a fee of 3% or more.

Is Your Credit Utilization Too High?

Credit utilization is one of the biggest impactors on your credit score. Your credit utilization – or the amount of available credit you actually use – accounts for 30% of a person’s FICO Score and 23% of what makes up a VantageScore. Too much credit usage can mean you are spending more than you can handle servicing the debts every month.

Use the below credit utilization calculator to determine how much of your credit you use:

How Long Do You Need to Pay Off Your Balance?

Deciding how long you’ll need to pay off any balance you plan to transfer is also critical. This consideration should include:

  • Your total balance
  • How much you can afford to pay towards the balance (excluding the minimum balance due)
  • The APR of your current credit card

Weighing this information against the introductory APR period of the cards you consider will better help you better decide the best option.

The same $3,000 balance example from above will take approximately 20 months to repay for someone who can afford a $150 payment on a 0% intro APR card with no balance transfer fees. Should they pay $250 per month, and that repayment window drops to 12 months?

What Happens After the 0% Intro APR Ends?

While no-interest introductory rates are great, they can’t last forever. What happens if you can’t repay your entire balance during that window?

Always be aware of the regular APR once any introductory offers end. According to the BestCards Average Credit Card APR Guide, the current average interest rate for a balance transfer card is 16.99%. However, keep in mind that this is an average – meaning many cardholders can expect an interest rate higher than 16.99%.

Summing It Up

Choosing a balance transfer card can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Take your time and carefully consider each option before applying – that way you know you’ve made the right decision for your needs. 

Sometimes a low rate isn’t as tempting as a lengthy 0% intro APR period, for example. Or, maybe you want to pay down a balance but also want rewards – with so many options available, there is likely a balance transfer or low rate credit card to suit you. 

Related Article: The Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Featured image by Jose Silva / Burst

About: Cory
Cory Santos

Cory is's "Jack of all trades" and resident credit expert, covering all facets of the credit card space. Cory holds academic degrees in both the U.S. and U.K. In addition to credit cards, Cory finds that jogging, cats, and memes are essential parts of a balanced day.

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