If you have high-interest credit card debt and need some breathing room to pay it down, a card with a lengthy 0 percent balance-transfer offer can be a great strategy (Read: How we unlocked our debt-payoff potential with balance transfers).
To give yourself as much time as possible to knock out your debt, you’ll want to get the longest 0 percent period you qualify for. We surveyed 30 popular balance-transfer credit cards to determine which gives you the most time to pay down debt.
The following table shows the cards we surveyed and the length of their introductory 0 percent balance-transfer periods.
Cards with longest 0 percent balance-transfer periods
|Card||Length of 0% BT offer (# of months)|
|Capital One Quicksilver||9|
|American Express Blue Cash||12|
|American Express EveryDay||12|
|BankAmericard Cash rewards||12|
|Barclaycard Arrival Plus||12|
|HSBC Platinum MasterCard with rewards||12|
|U.S. Bank Cash+||12|
|Wells Fargo Cash Wise||12|
|Wells Fargo Propel||12|
|Discover it (with cash-back match)||14|
|Discover it Miles||14|
|MasterCard Black card||15|
|SunTrust Cash Rewards||15|
|SunTrust Travel Rewards||15|
|U.S. Bank Visa Platinum||15|
|Hawaiian Airlines credit card||15|
|Frontier Airlines cards||15|
|Choice Privileges credit card||15|
|Citi Double Cash||18|
|Wells Fargo Platinum||18|
|Citi Diamond Preferred||21|
So, in sum, cards currently on the market offer between 9 months and 21 months interest-free on balance transfers. But those end points are the outliers. The most common 0 percent period is 15 months, followed by 12 months:
If you’re looking for the absolute longest 0 percent BT period on the market, that’ll be Citi’s Simplicity card and Diamond Preferred (both at 21 months). If you don’t qualify for those cards (or want to use a different issuer), there are plenty of runners-up:
Things to keep in mind
When you get a balance-transfer card, be aware of the following:
- There may be a balance-transfer fee: Most balance-transfer cards charge a fee (generally a percentage of the balance transferred) to move your balance over. This fee will be charged to the card and add to your debt. Only a few cards waive balance-transfer fees.
- You have to transfer within a certain window: 0 percent balance-transfer offers generally require you to transfer your balance within a few months of opening the card. If you miss that window, the regular APR will be applied to your transferred balance.
- Adding purchases may trip you up: You can use a balance-transfer card just as you’d use any other card and use it to make purchases. But that doesn’t mean you should. Having one balance at 0 percent and another at the card’s regular APR can make you lose track of your real goal – deleting your balance.
- You still have a minimum payment: You can’t just transfer a balance and take a break from payments for a few months. Even though interest isn’t being tacked on to what you owe, you still will have a minimum payment every month. Skipping payments will hurt your credit score and – depending on the card’s terms – may lead the issuer to revoke your 0 percent rate.
- You should definitely pay more than the minimum payment: A balance transfer is not an installment loan; if you pay only the minimum amount due, you won’t zero out your balance by the end of the intro period. So, immediately after transferring your balance, calculate the monthly payment you’ll need to make to completely cancel out the balance by the end of the 0 percent period (preferably earlier).
- You might get a better offer in the mail: Banks target customers they want (or want to keep) with offers that are better than what’s advertised. All the balance-transfer numbers above are from general advertised offers. But you may get a targeted offer for a longer 0 percent BT period on a new card — or on one of your existing cards. So check your mail.