First things first, here are the “no fee balance transfer credit cards” currently available (last updated January 3rd, 2016):
Chase Slate No Fee Balance Transfer – This is the longest 0% APR no fee balance transfer available right now. For a limited time, you can transfer a balance to Chase Slate for free. That’s right! NO balance transfer fee! And the card offers 0% APR for 15 months on both balance transfers and purchases. Act quickly on this one…
The only “catch,” if you can even call it that, is that you must execute the balance transfer within the first 60 days of account opening for it to be a no fee transfer. After that time, a standard 3% balance transfer fee will apply. But clearly you’d want to execute the balance transfer ASAP to capture the entire 0% APR period.
The average credit score approved for this balance transfer offer is 730, per Credit Karma, while the lowest credit score approved for the card was 566, which is probably an anomaly. So you should expect to need good credit for approval.
Citizens Bank CashBack Platinum MasterCard – This offer was the exact same as the Chase Slate offer, 0% APR for 15 months with a $0 introductory balance transfer fee during the first 60 days, from Citizens Bank. The good thing about Citizens Bank is that your existing credit card debt probably isn’t with Citizens Bank, meaning there won’t be any barriers to transfer the debt to them. They now charge a 3% balance transfer fee!
Wright-Pratt Credit Union Promotional Balance Transfer – The only other no fee balance transfer credit card that offers 0% APR comes from a credit union in Ohio. So you’ve got to be a member to take advantage of this one.
It comes with 0% APR for a full 12 months and has the advantage of being from an obscure bank, meaning there shouldn’t be any issue attempting to transfer balances from within the same bank, which is a no-no.
This credit card not only comes with no balance transfer, but actually earns you a 1% statement credit if you transfer a balance in the first 60 days of account opening. The downside is that the APR is 8%, not 0%, but still a decent deal if you can pay off your balance quickly. Do the math first to see if it makes sense.
PenFed No Fee Balance Transfers
If you happen to be involved with the military, or are willing to make a donation to certain organizations, you can take advantage of six (at last count) no fee balance transfer offers from PenFed. They include PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card, PenFed Premium Travel Rewards Card, PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Card, PenFed Defender Card, PenFed Promise Card, and the PenFed Gold Card.
Each offers 4.99% APR for the life of the balance with no balance transfer fee, as long as the transfer is made during the promotional period. This is a solid deal for those who need more time to pay off a large credit card balance.
Navy Federal No Fee Balance Transfers
Similar to PenFed, Navy Federal offers a number of credit cards with no balance transfer fee, though the APR tends to be a bit higher. The latest I’ve seen is a variable 7.99%, which isn’t necessarily that low if you’re trying to avoid finance charges. Don’t just assume a no fee deal is best. Do the math first to see which option will cost you the least.
What Is a No Fee Balance Transfer Credit Card?
If you don’t know what a balance transfer is, it’s essentially a debt management tool that allows a credit cardholder to transfer their existing credit card debt from one credit card to another, in order to take advantage of a low or promotional rate, such as 0% APR.
Typically, credit card issuers charge a minimum of 3% of the transfer, which is known as the “balance transfer fee,” to ensure they get something back from the deal. Otherwise, they could wind up taking on a new customer’s credit card debt, only to have them pay it off during the 0% APR period, and not make a single dime. Or worse, even lose money via the customer acquisition costs.
The no fee balance transfer goes a step further by allowing cardholders to transfer their debt for free, banking on the fact that you’ll either wind up carrying debt beyond the promotional period, or simply become a long-term customer of the balance transfer issuer. In both cases, the card issuer would make money.
But that’s the risk the credit card issuer takes because you are under no obligation to stay with them once your debt is paid off.
Check the Terms Carefully for Balance Transfer Fees
If you check out the fine print, you’ll likely find a section regarding balance transfers. In that section, read very carefully to ensure there isn’t a fee associated with the balance transfer. If there is, it should note the percentage charged, along with the minimum and maximum charge.
Typically, the minimum balance transfer fee is 3% of the transfer amount or $10, with a maximum fee of $50-$75. However, some credit card issuers no longer have a maximum balance transfer fee, so beware.
While $75 may not sound like a lot, it can add up, and may eventually kill the advantage of executing a balance transfer.
Which Credit Card Issuers Don’t Charge Balance Transfer Fees?
From my experience, Citi credit cards always seem to have an associated balance transfer fee, along with many American Express credit cards, but Discover and Chase credit cards often do not. Capital One seems to be notorious for offering no fee balance transfers with APR well above 0%, usually in the high single-digit range.
As always, double-check the fine print to make sure there isn’t a balance transfer fee associated, as terms can change over time.
Aside from the lack of balance transfer fees, Discover is probably a credit card you don’t have, and therefore a better candidate for a balance transfer, because balances must be transferred from different credit card providers.
For example, if your current credit card balance is with Discover, you wouldn’t be able to move it to a new Discover card. If you current balance is with Chase, American Express, Citi, etc, then you could move it to a Discover card.
Keep in mind that most credit card issuers these days no longer offer no fee balance transfers. The majority now charge 3% of the balance transfer up to $75 (or more). This seems to be a growing trend as card issuers try to discourage balance transfer arbitrage.
But there always tends to be one issuer willing to offer a no fee balance transfer, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled.
Tip: A convenience check might be a good alternative if you can’t find a no fee BT because the fee is sometimes as low as 1%. Look out for those in your mailbox. Recently I’ve been offered a 1% fee via my Barclaycard Arrival Plus.