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Everything You Want to Know About Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

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Debt is a familiar companion for most in the United States. And even though we expect to see collective consumer debt surpass $4 trillion this year, most consumers are able to maintain payments and manage debt effectively. Unfortunately for some consumers, such as the 12.8 million who filed bankruptcy petitions between Oct. 1, 2005 and Sept. 30, 2017, debt can become an unmanageable burden that they can’t imagine themselves escaping. Whether the financial struggle is due to unexpected life circumstances or mismanaged money, declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy might be an option worth considering.

How Chapter 7 bankruptcy works

Bankruptcy is designed as a form of relief to debtors, allowing them to discharge or reorganize their debt. In the case of Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the goal is to liquidate any nonexempt assets and use the proceeds to pay creditors. Which assets are considered nonexempt are defined by your state, but are generally comprised of assets that are not needed in the maintenance of a home or job.

The initial step for most may be to meet with a bankruptcy lawyer to get details on the process along with an overview of the benefits and drawbacks based on your personal situation. After that, if you decide that Chapter 7 seems like the right choice, you need to get credit counseling within the six months before you file.

Assuming that the credit counseling doesn’t find an alternate option, you then file for bankruptcy, submitting the appropriate forms and information (outlined below). After filing, a trustee is appointed to the case. Within 40 days of filing, the trustee will set up a meeting of creditors, during which all the listed creditors and the trustee are able to question the debtor about their financial situation. The trustee handles the administration of the bankruptcy, determines whether there’s a presumption of abuse, liquidates assets, makes payments to creditors and submits asset reports when relevant.

Finally, about 60-90 days after the meeting of creditors, if no creditor files a complaint or objection, the bankruptcy is discharged. Once this is done, the remaining eligible debts are wiped out and the debtor is no longer responsible for maintaining payments. This is also the case in a “no asset” bankruptcy, where there are no assets to liquidate and, as a result, no payments made to creditors before discharge.

It’s understandable why a person might want to file Chapter 7, since it allows borrowers a fresh start without managing ongoing payments, but there are rigid requirements to qualify since the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA) was introduced to help ward off abuse of the bankruptcy system.

Chapter 7 eligibility

Before determining whether you are eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, determine whether you want to use this option at all. Chapter 7 is often referred to as a liquidation, which means that assets you own (such as a recreational or second vehicle, or tools) can be sold by the trustee in order to pay your debtors. For some consumers, that might be enough to encourage them to look at alternatives, such as Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

But if you determine that the positives of Chapter 7 outweigh the negatives for you, see if you qualify to file. There are a few simple deal-breakers that immediately disqualify you from filing Chapter 7:

  • You’ve had a Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharged in the past 8 years
  • You’ve had a Chapter 13 bankruptcy discharged in the past 6 years

A few more situations that could make you ineligible for Chapter 7 include:

  • You’ve had a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy dismissed in the past 6 months for reasons such as violating a court order
  • Your debts were obtained through fraudulent means (which could include making false statements on a loan application)
  • You are filing as a corporation or LLC

Your income may prove yet another obstacle between you and Chapter 7. This is determined by taking a means test. Through this test, your last six months of income is measured against the median income of your state. If your income is the same or more than the median, you must complete a second form that lists your expenses. The total allowable expenses are then compared with your income to determine whether you qualify to file for Chapter 7.

What debts are forgiven or discharged under Chapter 7?

The goal of Chapter 7 bankruptcy is to discharge a debt, but only eligible debts will be discharged. So, what’s not eligible? Some of the most common debts you can’t discharge include:

  • Child support
  • Alimony
  • Certain tax debt
  • Death and personal injury claims due to a DUI
  • Debt obtained through fraud
  • Debts not listed in the bankruptcy
  • Most student loan debts

What does that leave? Dischargeable debts such as:

  • Medical bills
  • Consumer debt, such as credit cards
  • Personal loans and promissory notes
  • Some lawsuit judgments
  • Lease and contract obligations

How to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy

First steps

Get a credit counseling briefing with a state-approved provider

Must be done within the 6 months before your filing

Determine which court will handle your case

Find the right court through tools online for your district

Discover what state-specific requirements are for your filing

Some states will list special forms on their website that are required by your local court

Form B2010

A notice required by 11 U.S.C. § 342(b)

Forms for the initial petition

Form 101

Voluntary petition

Form 121

Statement about Social Security numbers

Form 119

Preparer’s notice

Form 2800

Compensation disclosure for preparer

Form 103A (when relevant)

Request to pay fees in installments

Form 103B (when relevant)

Request to waive filing fees

Form 101A (when relevant)

Initial eviction judgment statement

Form 101B (when relevant)

Payment of eviction judgment

You will also be required to submit the certificate of completion for credit counseling and a list of all creditors

Within 14 days of filing

Form 106Dec

Individual debtor’s schedules

Form 106Sum

Asset and liability schedule

Forms 106A-J

Property, debtors, income, leases, expenses statement

Form 107

Financial affairs statement

Form 2030

Compensation disclosure for attorney

Form 108

Chapter 7 filing intention

Form 122A-1

A statement of current monthly income for Chapter 7

Form 122A-2

The means test calculation for Chapter 7

Form 122A-1Sup (when relevant)

Statement of no presumption of abuse

Finally, you’ll be asked to submit a copy of all income (pay stubs and remittances) received in the 2 months before filing

One of the very first things a bankruptcy filer must do before filling out a single form is to get a credit counseling briefing from a provider that’s approved in the state where the bankruptcy will be filed, a step that must be taken in the six months before your filing.

Melinda Opperman, executive vice president of the nonprofit Credit.org, says that this consultation entails an in-depth review of a debtor’s budget and explores different recommendations and options, but it goes even deeper than that.

“We get to the root problem and probe,” said Opperman. “It might seem like a job loss was the reason for the hardship, but then you realize it’s [just the final straw],” she said.

From there, Opperman said the goal is to provide resources, like a comprehensive budget, to help the consumer achieve their financial goals. If the consumer has settled on declaring bankruptcy, the briefing includes a discussion of the terminology they can expect to hear through the process. The briefing can cost anywhere from $15 per household to $50 per person, depending on the provider you choose.

Another prefiling step is to find out which court you need to file in, based on your local district courts. Then, check with the local court to find out if there are any state-specific forms you need to complete. The last prefiling step is to review Form B2010, a required notice that explains the different types of bankruptcy you can file as well as the costs. For 2018, Chapter 7 had a total fee of $335 — not including lawyer fees.

Completing the initial petition

The initial steps for the initial filing include (when relevant) the following forms as well as any state-specified forms:

  • Form 101: Voluntary Petition for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy
  • Form 121: Your Statement About Your Social Security Numbers
  • Form 119: Bankruptcy Petition Preparer’s Notice, Declaration and Signature
  • Form 2800: Disclosure of Compensation of Bankruptcy Petition Preparer

You may also need to include the following optional forms, when relevant:

  • Form 103A: Application for Individuals to Pay the Filing Fee in Installments
  • Form 103B: Application to Have the Chapter 7 Filing Fee Waived
  • Form 101A: Initial Statement About an Eviction Judgment Against You (individuals)
  • Form 101B: Statement About Payment of an Eviction Judgment Against You (individuals)

Finally, you’ll want to prepare a list or matrix of all your creditors, formatted the way your local court requires. Submit this along with the above forms and your certificate of credit counseling completion.

Within two weeks

The next and final set of forms must be submitted within the 14 days following your initial filing. These forms consist of:

  • Form 106Dec: Declaration About an Individual Debtor’s Schedules
  • Form 106Sum: A Summary of Your Assets and Liabilities and Certain Statistical Information (individuals)
  • Forms 106A-J: Schedules to 106 listing property, debtors, income, leases, income, expenses and more
  • Form 107: Your Statement of Financial Affairs for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy (individuals)
  • Form 2030: Disclosure of Compensation of Attorney For Debtor
  • Form 108: Statement of Intention for Individuals Filing Under Chapter 7
  • Form 122A-1: Chapter 7 Statement of Your Current Monthly Income
  • Form 122A-2: Chapter 7 Means Test Calculation
  • Form 122A-1Sup (when relevant): Statement of Exemption from Presumption of Abuse Under §707(b)(2)

The court will also need a copy of all pay stubs and remittances you receive during the 60 days prior to your bankruptcy. Once again, check with your local court to see how they want these submitted and whether they go to the court of the bankruptcy trustee.

Finally, while not a necessity for filing, a requirement prior to discharge is a second financial education course. “The second course focuses on things like setting financial goals, budgeting, banking, borrowing, credit reports, credit scores, re-establishing credit, homeownership and different consumer laws,” said Opperman.

When filing Chapter 7, there is no requirement to have a lawyer, but because of the length of the forms and the number of them, it could be helpful to have one working with you. Especially since you may be able to offset the expense by getting bankruptcy filing fees waived with Form 103B. Either way, since most bankruptcy lawyers offer a free initial consultation, it’s a good idea to at least meet with one and get a sense of the process.

The means test

Chapter 7 has a reputation for being difficult to qualify for. This is mostly due to the more stringent eligibility standards put in place by BAPCPA in 2005. More directly, it’s because of the means test, a nine-page form that analyzes the filer’s expenses. But it’s not always the filer’s actual out-of-pocket expenses that are measured in this test. Instead, most of the expenses are based on the number of people in the household and the IRS-issued National and Local Standards for expenses like food, clothing, and utilities. In other words, what you actually spend on clothing and food will not be a factor.

Passing or failing the means test

When you pass the means test, it shows the court that your filing for Chapter 7 is not an abuse of the bankruptcy system because you can’t afford to restructure your debt under Chapter 13. But life has a way of throwing curveballs at us, which means that just because you fail the means test today doesn’t mean you will six months from now.

Failing the means test means that you’re a good candidate for Chapter 13, but this is only true if you can maintain payments of the Chapter 13 plan for the full three to five years. If you think this isn’t the case, possibly because an unusual bonus or remittance inflated your income before taking the means test, then you may want to wait and retake the test. Or, if you are willing to deal with a higher level of judicial involvement, you can file Chapter 7 even after failing the means test by listing out what you consider to be your special circumstances.

Pros and cons of declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy

By far, one of the biggest positive aspects of declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the ability to get eligible debts discharged without further payments. Chapter 7 is also much faster than other types of bankruptcy, in some cases taking as little as four months to discharge. (Chapter 13 can take years to get discharged.) Finally, the fact that collections activities stop once a bankruptcy is filed is a positive for many stressed-out debtors.

On the negative side, the impact on your credit score is probably the first thing that comes to mind. But when you’re facing the financial difficulties that make Chapter 7 a viable solution, it’s likely your credit score is already being impacted by late payments, collection notices, and repossessions, and would continue to be if you didn’t file.

One big negative for those who own nonexempt assets is the fact that they will be liquidated to pay creditors. Also, a potential negative is that your next tax refund may be considered part of the bankruptcy estate if it was from prefiling income.

Pros:

Cons:

  • Eligible debts are discharged without further payments
  • Faster than other types of bankruptcy
  • Collections activities stop once a bankruptcy is filed
  • Can be discharged in as little as 4 months
  • Has a negative impact on your credit score
  • Nonexempt assets will be liquidated to pay creditors
  • Tax refunds for income earned before filing are considered part of the bankruptcy estate

Alternatives to Chapter 7

For many, bankruptcy is a last resort to deal with out-of-control debt issues. But it’s not the only choice a consumer can make. They might also consider other debt management options such as:

  • Debt management plan: After getting the credit counseling briefing and financial education course required to file bankruptcy, you may learn financial management skills you didn’t have before. These skills can help you create a more efficient budget and may help you discover the ability to better manage your debt without needing to declare bankruptcy.
  • Debt consolidation loans: You may be able to undergo debt consolidation to take all your debt and transfer it to one payment at a reduced interest rate, making repayment somewhat easier to manage. If you have equity in your home, you might be able to take out an equity loan and create your own debt consolidation with lower interest than your creditors currently charge.
  • Lender negotiations: Some lenders may be willing to negotiate with you to lower interest rates and remove fees if you present them with a repayment plan. If you can make a lump sum payment, you may find that some creditors will even settle the total amount due for less. But note that the amount forgiven can be taxable.

When you decide to try to create your own plan for debt resolution, Opperman suggests still taking advantage of the help that an accredited, nonprofit credit counseling agency offers. “Yes, you can do it on your own, but most of us don’t repair our own cars or cut our own hair, so why try to handle this serious of an issue on your own,” said Opperman. “You can do a self-administered [debt management] plan, but at least start by getting some pro advice,” she said.

In some situations, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy might be a better solution than a Chapter 7 or a debt management plan. Especially when your income is high and you have nonexempt assets you want to protect, but your expenses are too high to manage debt repayment on your own.

After you declare bankruptcy, what comes next?

While you may be free and clear of certain debts after declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you might still have remaining debts to manage like student loans, mortgage payments, and other non-dischargeable debts. It’s going to be vital that you create a plan that enables you to maintain those payments and not take on further debt, especially since you won’t be able to file Chapter 7 again for at least eight years.

As you may already have guessed, there will be some impact on your credit as a Chapter 7 bankruptcy will show on your credit report for up to 10 years. The good news is that the influence of this will lessen over time, so much so that we have research indicating that 75% of filers saw their credit rise to 640 after five years of filing — well before the bankruptcy had disappeared from their report.

Managing your credit is extremely important after filing bankruptcy because according to Opperman, things don’t always go as planned. “Often, after a bankruptcy, your credit report is a mess because creditors stop collections and debts get charged off,” she said. “By the time [filers] look at their credit report two years later, it still looks like they owe debts that were discharged,” said Opperman. To help with this, Credit.org created “The Consumer Guide to Good Credit,” which guides consumers through the process of re-establishing good credit after bankruptcy.

FAQ:

While a bankruptcy filing can stop foreclosure actions, it won’t save your home if you’re behind on payments and it’s only a temporary solution. Instead, struggling homeowners who are facing foreclosure should consider filing Chapter 13, which allows them to catch up on past-due payments.

The main obstacle is the means test, which measures your income and expenses based on IRS-issued National and Local Standards for household expenses, such as utilities and food. If your current monthly income is less than the state median, or your aggregate five-year net income on the means test is less than $12,850, or 25% of your total unsecured debt (of $7,700 or more), then you may qualify.

Yes — assuming you are not behind in payments. A home is generally considered an exempt asset if you have no equity or it is under homestead exemption in your state, which means it’s not liquidated to pay creditors the way that a boat or vacation home might be.

Conclusion

Chapter 7 offers consumers a much-needed solution to the problem of overwhelming debt that can stem from a job loss, medical expense or other unexpected, life- and finance-altering event. While it is more difficult to qualify for Chapter 7 now than it was a decade ago, the hurdles in place are there to prevent abuse of the bankruptcy system, while still ensuring those who legitimately need Chapter 7 can still get access.

Moving forward after bankruptcy, consumers should make sure they extend their financial knowledge and exercise caution when taking on debt, to ensure they don’t end up needing bankruptcy again a few years down the road. The key to this, according to Opperman, is knowledge. “Financial knowledge is power when it comes to your money, and risk occurs when you don’t know what you’re doing with your money,” she said.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Yolander Prinzel
Yolander Prinzel |

Yolander Prinzel is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Yolander here

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Best 0% APR Credit Card Offers – September 2019

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

There are a lot of 0% APR credit card deals in your mailbox and online, but most of them slap you with a 3% to 4% fee just to make a transfer, which can seriously eat into your savings.

At MagnifyMoney we like to find deals no one else is showing, and we’ve searched hundreds of balance transfer credit card offers to find the banks and credit unions that ANYONE CAN JOIN which offer great 0% interest credit card deals AND no balance transfer fees. We’ve hand-picked them here.

If one 0% APR credit card doesn’t give you a big enough credit line you can try another bank or credit union for the rest of your debt. With several no fee options it’s not hard to avoid transfer fees even if you have a large balance to deal with.

1. The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express – Introductory 0% for 15 Months on balance transfers and purchases, $0 balance transfer fee.

This offer edges out competitors with its 0% intro period and standout perks. The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express has increased value with an intro 0% for 15 Months on purchases and balance transfers, then 14.99%-25.99% Variable APR and a $0 balance transfer fee. (For transfers requested within 60 days of account opening.) In addition to the great balance transfer offer, you can earn rewards — 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), 1x points on other purchases.

The information related to The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

2. BankAmericard® credit card0% Introductory APR on purchases for 18 billing cycles, $0 Introductory Balance Transfer Fee

Cardholders can benefit from an 0% Introductory APR on purchases for 18 billing cycles and an introductory $0 balance transfer fee for the first 60 days your account is open. After that, the fee for future balance transfers is either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater. Once the intro period ends, there is a 14.99% - 24.99% Variable APR. You can benefit from a $0 annual fee and access to your free FICO® Score.

The information related to BankAmericard® credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

When to consider a fee

While no-fee balance transfer cards are great, sometimes it may be worthwhile to consider a balance transfer card with a balance transfer fee. The fee will be a percentage — typically 3% or 5% — of the total amount you transfer, but cards that charge balance transfer fees often have longer intro periods. If you can’t afford the high monthly payments required to pay off your balance before the end of a 15-month intro period, a card offering a longer intro period — such as 18 months — can provide lower monthly payments while still allowing you to pay off your balance before the end of the intro period. Below, we provide an example that should help you decide when you should consider a fee.

For this example, we’re assuming $6,354 in credit card debt, which is the average balance Americans have, according to Experian’s 2017 State of Credit report.

By choosing the card offering an intro 0% for 18 months and a 3% transfer fee, you’ll only have to pay $364 a month to pay your debt and the balance transfer fee off in full during the intro period. That’s $60 less than the $424 monthly payment required by the card with an intro 0% for 15 months. Just beware that while you’re saving month to month, overall, you will end up paying about $190 more due to the balance transfer fee.

If you need a longer intro period and lower monthly payment, we recommend the Discover it® Balance Transfer which offers an intro 0% for 18 months on balance transfers (after that, 13.99% - 24.99% Variable APR) and has a 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*.

Discover it® Balance Transfer

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Rates & Fees

Discover it® Balance Transfer

Intro BT APR
0% for 18 months
Regular APR
13.99% - 24.99% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee
3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent/Good

3. Chase Slate® – 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months and 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, $0 Introductory Balance Transfer Fee

This deal is easy to find – Chase is one of the biggest banks and makes this credit card deal well known. The card offers a 0% intro apr on balance transfers for 15 months and an intro $0 on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. after that: either $5 or 5%, whichever is greater. You also get a 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months on purchases and a $0 annual fee. After the intro period, the APR is 16.99% - 25.74% Variable. Plus, you’ll receive monthly updates to your free FICO® Score and the reasons behind your score for free.’

The information related to the Chase Slate® has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

4. Platinum Card from Navy Federal Credit Union – 0% introductory APR for 12 months on balance transfers, NO FEE

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on Navy Federal Credit Union’s secure website

The Platinum Card from Navy Federal Credit Union offers a 0% introductory APR for 12 months on balance transfers (after a 7.99% and 18.00% Variable APR). Note: This offer expires on Jan. 2, 2020. Since Navy Federal is a credit union, membership is required to open this card. You can qualify if you or one of your family or household members has ties to the armed forces, DoD or National Guard. Find out more about membership qualifications on Navy Federal.

5. Edward Jones World MasterCard® – Intro 0% for 12 billing cycles on balance transfers, NO FEE

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on Edward Jones’s secure website

You’ll need to go to an Edward Jones branch to open up an account first if you want this deal. Edward Jones is an investment advisory company, so they’ll want to have a conversation about your retirement needs. But you don’t need to have money in stocks to be a customer of Edward Jones and try to get this card. Just beware that you only have 60 days to complete your transfer to lock in the intro 0% for 12 billing cycles, and after the intro period a 14.99% Variable APR applies.

6. Choice Rewards World MasterCard® from First Tech FCU – Intro 0% for 12 months on balance transfers, NO FEE

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on First Technology Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Anyone can join First Tech Federal Credit Union by becoming a member of the Financial Fitness Association for $8, or the Computer History Museum for $15. You can apply for the card without joining first. The Choice Rewards World MasterCard® from First Tech FCU offers an intro 0% for 12 months on balances transferred within first 90 days of account opening and does not charge balance transfer fees. After the intro period, an APR of 12.24%-18.00% variable applies. You also Earn 20,000 Rewards Points when you spend $3,000 in your first two months.

7. Rewards Visa Card from La Capitol FCU – Intro 0% interest on balance transfers for 12 months*, NO FEE

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on La Capitol Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Anyone can join La Capitol Federal Credit Union by becoming a member of the Louisiana Association for Personal Financial Achievement, which costs $20. Just indicate that that’s how you want to be eligible when you apply for the card – no need to join before you apply. And La Capitol accepts members from all across the country, so you don’t have to live in Louisiana to take advantage of this deal on the Rewards Visa Card from La Capitol FCU. The card offers an introductory 0% interest on balance transfers for 12 months within first 90 days of account opening*. After the intro period, a 12.50%-18.00% variable APR applies.

8. Visa® Signature Credit Card from Purdue FCU – Intro 0% for 12 months on balance transfers and purchases, NO FEE

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on Purdue FCU’s secure website

The card offers an intro of 0% for 12 months. After the intro period ends, 11.50%-17.50% Fixed APR applies. The Purdue Federal Credit Union doesn’t have open membership, but one way to be eligible for credit union membership is to join the Purdue University Alumni Association as a Friend of the University.

Anyone can join the association, but it costs $50. The good news is you can apply and get a decision before you become a member of the Alumni Association.

9. Premier America Credit Union – 0% Intro APR for 6 months on balance transfers and purchases, NO FEE

Premier Privileges Rewards Mastercard® from Premier America CU

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on Premier America Credit Union’s secure website

Premier America is unique because it has the Student Mastercard® from Premier America CU that’s eligible for the intro 0% for 6 months on balance transfers, though credit limits on that card are $500 – $2,000. There is an 11.75% Variable APR after the intro period. There’s also a card for those with no credit history – the Premier First Rewards Privileges® from Premier America CU, with limits of $1,000 – $2,000 and a 19.50% Variable APR. If you’re looking for a bigger line, the Premier Privileges Rewards Mastercard® from Premier America CU is available with limits up to $50,000 and a 8.45% - 17.95% Variable APR.

Anyone can join Premier America by becoming a member of the Alliance for the Arts. You can select that option when you apply.

Other 0% intro APR cards to consider

10. Visa Platinum Card from Money One FCU – as low as 0% intro APR for 6 months on balance transfers and purchases, NO FEE

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on Money One Federal’s secure website

Anyone can join Money One Federal by making a $20 donation to Gifts of Easter Seals. And you can apply without being a member. You’ll see a drop down option during the application process that lets you select Gifts of Easter Seals as the way you plan to become a member of the credit union. Credit lines for the Visa Platinum Card from Money One FCU are as high as $25,000. After the as low as 0% intro apr for 6 months, there’s a 8.75% to 18.00% Variable APR.

11. Andigo Credit Union – Intro 0% for 6 months on balance transfers and purchases, NO FEE

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on Andigo’s secure website

You’ll have a choice to apply for the Visa Platinum Cash Back Card from Andigo, Visa Platinum Rewards Card from Andigo, or Visa Platinum Card from Andigo. The Visa Platinum Card from Andigo has a lower ongoing APR at 11.65% - 20.65% Variable, compared to 12.24% - 21.24% Variable for the Visa Platinum Cash Back Card from Andigo and 13.65% - 22.65% Variable for the Visa Platinum Rewards Card from Andigo. So, if you’re not sure you’ll pay it all off in 6 months, the Visa Platinum Card from Andigo is a better bet.

Anyone can join Andigo by making a donation to Connect Vets for $15, and you can submit an application for the card without being a member yet.

12. ETFCU's Platinum Rewards Credit Card – Intro 0% for 6 first billing cycles on balance transfers, NO FEE

ETFCU's Platinum Rewards Credit Card

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on Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union’s secure website

You don’t need to be a teacher to join this credit union. Just make a $5 donation to Mater Dei Friends & Alumni Association. The ETFCU's Platinum Rewards Credit Card has an ongoing APR of 10.50% to 18.00% Variable, so you can enjoy a decent rate even after the intro deal ends.

13. Elements Financial Platinum Visa® Credit Card – Intro 0% for 6 months on balance transfers and purchases, NO FEE

Elements Financial Platinum Visa® Credit Card

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on ELFCU’s secure website

To become a member and apply, you’ll just need to join TruDirection, a financial literacy organization. It costs just $5 and you can join as part of the application process. The ongoing APR is 11.24% Variable which is lower than typical cards.

14. Justice Federal Credit Union – Intro 0% for 6 months on purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances, NO FEE

Student VISA® Rewards Credit Card from Justice FCU

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on Justice Federal Credit Union’s secure website

If you’re not a Department of Justice, Homeland Security, or U.S. court employee (or a few others), you need to join a law enforcement organization to be a member of Justice Federal. One of the eligible associations for membership is the National Native American Law Enforcement Association. It costs $15 to join.

You can apply as a non-member online to get a decision before joining. And Justice is unique in that the Student VISA® Rewards Credit Card from Justice FCU is also eligible for the intro 0% for 6 months on purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances. So, if your credit history is limited and you’re trying to deal with a balance on your very first card, this could be an option. The APR after the intro period ends is 16.90% fixed.

15. Platinum Visa Card from Michigan State FCU – Intro 0% for 6 months on balance transfers, NO FEE

Platinum Visa Card from Michigan State FCU

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on Michigan State University Federal Credit Union’s secure website

There is the option to apply for the Cash Back Platinum Plus Visa Credit Card from Michigan State FCU or the Platinum Visa Card from Michigan State FCU. The Platinum Visa Card from Michigan State FCU has a lower ongoing APR at 9.90% APR - 17.90% variable, compared to the 13.90% APR - 17.90% variable APR for the Cash Back Platinum Plus Visa Credit Card from Michigan State FCU which can earn 1% cash back on all purchases. Anyone can join the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union by first becoming a member of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. However, this comes at a high fee of $30 for one year.

Are these the best deals for you?

If you can pay off your debt within the 0% period, then yes, a no fee 0% balance transfer credit card is your absolute best bet. And if you can’t, you can hope that other 0% deals will be around to switch again.

But if you’re unsure, you might want to consider…

  • A deal that has a longer period before the rate goes up. In that case, a balance transfer fee could be worth it to lock in a 0% rate for longer.
  • Or, a card with a rate a little above 0% that could lock you into a low rate even longer.

The good news is we can figure it out for you.

Our handy, free balance transfer tool lets you input how much debt you have, and how much of a monthly payment you can afford. It will run the numbers to show you which offers will save you the most for the longest period of time.

promo balancetransfer wide

The savings from just one balance transfer can be substantial.

Let’s say you have $5,000 in credit card debt, you’re paying 18% in interest, and can afford to pay $200 a month on it. Here’s what you can save with a 0% deal:

  • 18%: It will take 32 months to pay off, with $1,312 in interest paid.
  • 0% for 12 months: You’ll pay it off in 28 months, with just $502 in interest, saving you $810 in cash. That even assumes your rate goes back up to 18% after 12 months!

But your rate doesn’t have to go up after 12 months. If you pay everything on time and maintain good credit, there’s a great chance you’ll be able to shop around and find another bank willing to offer you 0% interest again, letting you pay it off even faster.

Before you do any balance transfer though, make sure you follow these 6 golden rules of balance transfer success:

  • Never use the card for spending. You are only ready to do a balance transfer once you’ve gotten your budget in order and are no longer spending more than you earn. This card should never be used for new purchases, as it’s possible you’ll get charged a higher rate on those purchases.
  • Have a plan for the end of the promotional period. Make sure you set a reminder on your phone calendar about a month or so before your promotional period ends so you can shop around for a low rate from another bank.
  • Don’t try to transfer debt between two cards of the same bank. It won’t work. Balance transfer deals are meant to ‘steal’ your balance from a competing bank, not lower your rate from the same bank. So if you have a Chase card with a high rate, don’t apply for another Chase card like a Chase Slate® and expect you can transfer the balance. Apply for one from another bank.
  • Get that transfer done within 60 days. Otherwise your promotional deal may expire unused.
  • Never use a card at an ATM. You should never use the card for spending, and getting cash is incredibly expensive. Just don’t do it with this or any credit card.
  • Always pay on time. If you pay more than 30 days late your credit will be hurt, your rate may go up, and you may find it harder to find good deals in the future. Only do balance transfers if you’re ready to pay at least the minimum due on time, every time.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

Alexandria White is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alexandria at [email protected]

MagnifyMoney

Advertiser Disclosure

Balance Transfer, Best of, Pay Down My Debt

Best 0% APR Credit Card Offers – September 2019

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

There are a lot of 0% APR credit card deals in your mailbox and online, but most of them slap you with a 3 to 4% fee just to make a transfer, and that can seriously eat into your savings.

At MagnifyMoney we like to find deals no one else is showing, and we’ve searched hundreds of balance transfer credit card offers to find the banks and credit unions that ANYONE CAN JOIN which offer great 0% interest credit card deals AND no balance transfer fees. We’ve hand-picked them here.

If one 0% APR credit card doesn’t give you a big enough credit line you can try another bank or credit union for the rest of your debt. With several no fee options it’s not hard to avoid transfer fees even if you have a large balance to deal with.

1. The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express – Introductory 0% for 15 Months on balance transfers and purchases, $0 balance transfer fee.

This offer edges out competitors with the longest 0% intro period and standout perks. The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express has increased value with an intro 0% for 15 Months on purchases and balance transfers, then 14.99%-25.99% Variable APR and a $0 balance transfer fee. (For transfers requested within 60 days of account opening.) In addition to the great balance transfer offer, you can earn rewards — 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), 1x points on other purchases.

The information related to The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

2. BankAmericard® credit card0% Introductory APR on purchases for 18 billing cycles, $0 Introductory Balance Transfer Fee

Cardholders can benefit from an 0% Introductory APR on purchases for 18 billing cycles and an introductory $0 balance transfer fee for the first 60 days your account is open. After that, the fee for future balance transfers is either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater. Once the intro period ends, there is a 14.99% - 24.99% Variable APR. You can benefit from a $0 annual fee and access to your free FICO® Score.

The information related to BankAmericard® credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

When to consider a fee

While no-fee balance transfer cards are great, sometimes it may be worthwhile to consider a balance transfer card with a balance transfer fee. The fee will be a percentage — typically 3% or 5% — of the total amount you transfer, but cards that charge balance transfer fees often have longer intro periods. If you can’t afford the high monthly payments required to pay off your balance before the end of a 15-month intro period, a card offering a longer intro period — such as 18 months — can provide lower monthly payments while still allowing you to pay off your balance before the end of the intro period. Below, we provide an example that should help you decide when you should consider a fee.

For this example, we’re assuming $6,354 in credit card debt, which is the average balance Americans have, according to Experian’s 2017 State of Credit report.

By choosing the card offering an intro 0% for 18 months and a 3% transfer fee, you’ll only have to pay $364 a month to pay your debt and the balance transfer fee off in full during the intro period. That’s $60 less than the $424 monthly payment required by the card with an intro 0% for 15 months. Just beware that while you’re saving month to month, overall, you will end up paying about $190 more due to the balance transfer fee.

If you need a longer intro period and lower monthly payment, we recommend the Discover it® Balance Transfer or the Wells Fargo Platinum card. The Discover it® Balance Transfer offers an intro 0% for 18 months on balance transfers (after, 13.99% - 24.99% Variable APR) and has a 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*

The Wells Fargo Platinum card has an intro 0% for 18 months on qualifying balance transfers and has a 3% for 120 days, then 5% balance transfer fee. After the intro period, it has a 17.49%-26.99% (Variable) APR.

Discover it® Balance Transfer

APPLY NOW Secured

on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

Discover it® Balance Transfer

Intro BT APR
0% for 18 months
Regular APR
13.99% - 24.99% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee
3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent/Good

Wells Fargo Platinum card

The information related to Wells Fargo Platinum card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Wells Fargo Platinum card

Intro Purchase APR
0% for 18 months
Intro BT APR
0% for 18 months on qualifying balance transfers
Regular Purchase APR
17.49%-26.99% (Variable)
Annual fee
$0
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent/Good

3. Chase Slate® – 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months and 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, $0 Introductory Balance Transfer Fee

This deal is easy to find – Chase is one of the biggest banks and makes this credit card deal well known. Save with a 0% intro apr on balance transfers for 15 months and intro $0 on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. after that: either $5 or 5%, whichever is greater. You also get a 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and $0 annual fee. After the intro period, the APR is currently 16.99% - 25.74% Variable. Plus, see monthly updates to your free FICO® Score and the reasons behind your score for free.’

The information related to the Chase Slate® has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

4. Platinum Card from Navy Federal Credit Union – 0% introductory APR for 12 months on balance transfers, NO FEE

Platinum Card from Navy Federal Credit Union

APPLY NOW Secured

on Navy Federal Credit Union’s secure website

The Platinum Card from Navy Federal Credit Union offers a 0% introductory APR for 12 months on balance transfers (after a 7.99% and 18.00% Variable APR). Note: This offer expires on Jan. 2, 2020. Since Navy Federal is a credit union, membership is required to open this card. You can qualify if you or one of your family or household members has ties to the armed forces, DoD or National Guard. Find out more about membership qualifications on Navy Federal.

5. Edward Jones World MasterCard® – Intro 0% for 12 billing cycles on balance transfers, NO FEE

Edward Jones World MasterCard®

APPLY NOW Secured

on Edward Jones’s secure website

You’ll need to go to an Edward Jones branch to open up an account first if you want this deal. Edward Jones is an investment advisory company, so they’ll want to have a conversation about your retirement needs. But you don’t need to have money in stocks to be a customer of Edward Jones and try to get this card. Just beware that you only have 60 days to complete your transfer to lock in the intro 0% for 12 billing cycles, and after the intro period a 14.99% Variable APR applies.

6. Choice Rewards World MasterCard® from First Tech FCU – Intro 0% for 12 months on balance transfers, NO FEE

Choice Rewards World MasterCard® from First Tech FCU

APPLY NOW Secured

on First Technology Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Anyone can join First Tech Federal Credit Union by becoming a member of the Financial Fitness Association for $8, or the Computer History Museum for $15. You can apply for the card without joining first. The intro 0% for 12 months and no transfer fee on balances transferred within first 90 days of account opening is for the Choice Rewards World MasterCard® from First Tech FCU. After the intro period, an APR of 12.24%-18.00% variable applies. You also Earn 20,000 Rewards Points when you spend $3,000 in your first two months.

7. Rewards Visa Card from La Capitol FCU – Intro 0% interest on balance transfers for 12 months on balance transfers, NO FEE

Rewards Visa Card from La Capitol FCU

APPLY NOW Secured

on La Capitol Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Anyone can join La Capitol Federal Credit Union by becoming a member of the Louisiana Association for Personal Financial Achievement, which costs $20. Just indicate that’s how you want to be eligible when you apply for the card – no need to join before you apply. And La Capitol accepts members from all across the country, so you don’t have to live in Louisiana to take advantage of this deal on the Rewards Visa Card from La Capitol FCU. The introductory 0% interest on balance transfers for 12 months on balance transfers applies to balances transferred within first 90 days of account opening. After the intro period, a 12.50%-18.00% variable APR applies.

8. Visa® Signature Credit Card from Purdue FCU – Intro 0% for 12 months on balance transfers and purchases, NO FEE

Visa® Signature Credit Card from Purdue FCU

APPLY NOW Secured

on Purdue FCU’s secure website

The intro 0% for 12 months offer is only for their Visa® Signature Credit Card – other cards have a higher intro rate. After the intro period ends, 11.50%-17.50% Fixed APR applies. The Purdue Federal Credit Union doesn’t have open membership, but one way to be eligible for credit union membership is to join the Purdue University Alumni Association as a Friend of the University.

Anyone can join the association, but it costs $50. The good news is you can apply and get a decision before you become a member of the Alumni Association.

9. Premier America Credit Union – 0% Intro APR for 6 months on balance transfers and purchases, NO FEE

Premier Privileges Rewards Mastercard® from Premier America CU

APPLY NOW Secured

on Premier America Credit Union’s secure website

Premier America is unique because it has the Student Mastercard® from Premier America CU that’s eligible for the intro 0% for 6 months on balance transfers, though credit limits on that card are $500 – $2,000. There is an 11.75% Variable APR after the intro period. There’s also a card for those with no credit history – the Premier First Rewards Privileges® from Premier America CU, with limits of $1,000 – $2,000 and a 19.50% Variable APR. If you’re looking for a bigger line, the Premier Privileges Rewards Mastercard® from Premier America CU is available with limits up to $50,000 and a 8.45% - 17.95% Variable APR.

Anyone can join Premier America by becoming a member of the Alliance for the Arts. You can select that option when you apply.

Other 0% intro APR cards to consider

10. Visa Platinum Card from Money One FCU – as low as 0% intro APR for 6 months on balance transfers and purchases, NO FEE

Visa Platinum Card from Money One FCU

APPLY NOW Secured

on Money One Federal’s secure website

Anyone can join Money One Federal by making a $20 donation to Gifts of Easter Seals. And you can apply without being a member. You’ll see a drop down option during the application process that lets you select Gifts of Easter Seals as the way you plan to become a member of the credit union. Credit lines for the Visa Platinum Card from Money One FCU are as high as $25,000. After the as low as 0% intro apr for 6 months, there’s a 8.75% to 18.00% Variable APR.

11. Andigo Credit Union – Intro 0% for 6 months on balance transfers and purchases, NO FEE

Visa Platinum Card from Andigo

APPLY NOW Secured

on Andigo’s secure website

You’ll have a choice to apply for the Visa Platinum Cash Back Card from Andigo, Visa Platinum Rewards Card from Andigo, or Visa Platinum Card from Andigo. The Visa Platinum Card from Andigo has a lower ongoing APR at 11.65% - 20.65% Variable, compared to 12.24% - 21.24% Variable for the Visa Platinum Cash Back Card from Andigo and 13.65% - 22.65% Variable for the Visa Platinum Rewards Card from Andigo. So, if you’re not sure you’ll pay it all off in 6 months, the Visa Platinum Card from Andigo is a better bet.

Anyone can join Andigo by making a donation to Connect Vets for $15, and you can submit an application for the card without being a member yet.

12. ETFCU's Platinum Rewards Credit Card – Intro 0% for 6 first billing cycles on balance transfers, NO FEE

ETFCU's Platinum Rewards Credit Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union’s secure website

You don’t need to be a teacher to join this credit union. Just make a $5 donation to Mater Dei Friends & Alumni Association. The ETFCU's Platinum Rewards Credit Card has an ongoing APR of 10.50% to 18.00% Variable, so you can enjoy a decent rate even after the intro deal ends.

13. Elements Financial Platinum Visa® Credit Card – Intro 0% for 6 months on balance transfers and purchases, NO FEE

Elements Financial Platinum Visa® Credit Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on ELFCU’s secure website

To become a member and apply, you’ll just need to join TruDirection, a financial literacy organization. It costs just $5 and you can join as part of the application process. The ongoing APR is 11.24% Variable which is lower than typical cards.

14. Justice Federal Credit Union – Intro 0% for 6 months on purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances, NO FEE

Student VISA® Rewards Credit Card from Justice FCU

APPLY NOW Secured

on Justice Federal Credit Union’s secure website

If you’re not a Department of Justice, Homeland Security, or U.S. court employee (or a few others), you need to join a law enforcement organization to be a member of Justice Federal. One of the eligible associations for membership is the National Native American Law Enforcement Association. It costs $15 to join.

You can apply as a non-member online to get a decision before joining. And Justice is unique in that the Student VISA® Rewards Credit Card from Justice FCU is also eligible for the intro 0% for 6 months on purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances. So, if your credit history is limited and you’re trying to deal with a balance on your very first card, this could be an option. The APR after the intro period ends is 16.90% fixed.

15. Platinum Visa Card from Michigan State FCU – Intro 0% for 6 months on balance transfers, NO FEE

Platinum Visa Card from Michigan State FCU

APPLY NOW Secured

on Michigan State University Federal Credit Union’s secure website

There is the option to apply for the Cash Back Platinum Plus Visa Credit Card from Michigan State FCU or the Platinum Visa Card from Michigan State FCU. The Platinum Visa Card from Michigan State FCU has a lower ongoing APR at 9.90% APR - 17.90% variable, compared to the 13.90% APR - 17.90% variable APR for the Cash Back Platinum Plus Visa Credit Card from Michigan State FCU which can earn 1% cash back on all purchases. Anyone can join the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union by first becoming a member of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. However, this comes at a high fee of $30 for one year.

Are these the best deals for you?

If you can pay off your debt within the 0% period, then yes, a no fee 0% balance transfer credit card is your absolute best bet. And if you can’t, you can hope that other 0% deals will be around to switch again.

But if you’re unsure, you might want to consider…

  • A deal that has a longer period before the rate goes up. In that case, a balance transfer fee could be worth it to lock in a 0% rate for longer.
  • Or, a card with a rate a little above 0% that could lock you into a low rate even longer.

The good news is we can figure it out for you.

Our handy, free balance transfer tool lets you input how much debt you have, and how much of a monthly payment you can afford. It will run the numbers to show you which offers will save you the most for the longest period of time.

promo balancetransfer wide

The savings from just one balance transfer can be substantial.

Let’s say you have $5,000 in credit card debt, you’re paying 18% in interest, and can afford to pay $200 a month on it. Here’s what you can save with a 0% deal:

  • 18%: It will take 32 months to pay off, with $1,312 in interest paid.
  • 0% for 12 months: You’ll pay it off in 28 months, with just $502 in interest, saving you $810 in cash. That even assumes your rate goes back up to 18% after 12 months!

But your rate doesn’t have to go up after 12 months. If you pay everything on time and maintain good credit, there’s a great chance you’ll be able to shop around and find another bank willing to offer you 0% interest again, letting you pay it off even faster.

Before you do any balance transfer though, make sure you follow these 6 golden rules of balance transfer success:

  • Never use the card for spending. You are only ready to do a balance transfer once you’ve gotten your budget in order and are no longer spending more than you earn. This card should never be used for new purchases, as it’s possible you’ll get charged a higher rate on those purchases.
  • Have a plan for the end of the promotional period. Make sure you set a reminder on your phone calendar about a month or so before your promotional period ends so you can shop around for a low rate from another bank.
  • Don’t try to transfer debt between two cards of the same bank. It won’t work. Balance transfer deals are meant to ‘steal’ your balance from a competing bank, not lower your rate from the same bank. So if you have a Chase credit card with a high rate, don’t apply for another Chase card like a Chase Slate® and expect you can transfer the balance. Apply for one from another bank.
  • Get that transfer done within 60 days. Otherwise your promotional deal may expire unused.
  • Never use a card at an ATM. You should never use the card for spending, and getting cash is incredibly expensive. Just don’t do it with this or any credit card.
  • Always pay on time. If you pay more than 30 days late your credit will be hurt, your rate may go up, and you may find it harder to find good deals in the future. Only do balance transfers if you’re ready to pay at least the minimum due on time, every time.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

Alexandria White is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alexandria at [email protected]

MagnifyMoney