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Understanding Debt Relief Programs

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Nobody seeks out illness, job loss, divorce or any other financial catastrophe, but sometimes things happen. Many people will accumulate overwhelming debt loads as a result of such hardship. If the burden of your debt is too much for you to afford, what can you do? The worst thing to do is jump into a debt relief program without educating yourself.

In this guide, we’ll explain the risks and benefits of the most common types of debt relief programs.

Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 bankruptcy, also known as liquidation bankruptcy, offers comprehensive debt relief. In liquidation bankruptcy, a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee sells certain assets (called unprotected assets), and the proceeds are used by the trustee to repay your creditors. Following the distribution of funds, the court discharges the remaining eligible debts. That means you no longer owe the debt and collectors cannot contact you about the debt. Debts that the court won’t discharge include: income tax debt that’s less than three years old, child support or alimony payments, student loans and fees and penalties owed to the government.

Although Chapter 7 bankruptcy requires selling off your valuables, filing may not leave you penniless. Filers can keep protected assets, such as personal items and money in retirement accounts. Most states allow filers to keep a small amount of cash and some amount of equity in vehicles or homes.

Who is a good candidate for Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is available to anyone earning less than the median monthly income for a family of your size in your state. If you earn more than the median income, you may qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy through “means testing.” The means test shows whether you have enough income to cover a debt repayment plan that Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires.

Being eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for you. Some people have too many unprotected assets to make Chapter 7 bankruptcy a reasonable option. Chapter 7 bankruptcy may force people into selling paid off cars, tools for operating their business or other important assets. In those cases, Chapter 13 bankruptcy or other types of debt relief may be a better option.

— Read our article on when to consider bankruptcy

How much will you pay for Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

The amount you’ll pay for Chapter 7 bankruptcy depends on a variety of factors, including where you live and the complexity of your case.

You can expect to pay $1,100-$1,200* in attorney’s fees when you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, according to Lois R. Lupica’s Consumer Bankruptcy Fee Study. Filers must also pay filing and court fees, which adds several hundred dollars to the cost of bankruptcy. In general, all fees have to be paid before your attorney will file your case.

*Numbers adjusted for inflation.

How does bankruptcy affect your credit score?

Following bankruptcy, your credit score will drop, but it’s not necessarily a death sentence. Bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years after filing, but your credit score can recover. You can take steps to grow your credit score immediately following Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

In some cases, bankruptcy filers choose to reaffirm debts as part of the bankruptcy agreement. That means they agree to continue paying certain loans (such as a car loan or mortgage) as agreed. Making those payments can increase your credit score over time. Making timely payments on a secured credit card can also help you rebuild your score.

Filing for bankruptcy becomes less significant as time passes and you continue to display positive financial management on your credit report.

Risks of bankruptcy

  • Lower credit score: Following bankruptcy, you can expect to see your credit score drop. The lower score may make borrowing inaccessible for several years.
  • Can’t take out a mortgage: Bankruptcy makes you ineligible to take out most mortgages. Following bankruptcy, you’ll have to wait two years to take out an FHA mortgage and four years for a conventional mortgage. — Read how to get a mortgage after bankruptcy here.
  • Loss of property: Chapter 7 bankruptcy means you may have to sell off assets, which could put you in a precarious financial situation. “In Florida, you only get a $1,000 vehicle allowance. The fact that you need a vehicle to get to and from work isn’t factored into the equation,” Shawn Yesner, a bankruptcy and debt relief attorney practicing in the Tampa Bay area, told MagnifyMoney.
  • Problems with professional licensing: Leslie Tayne, a debt management attorney practicing in the New York City and Long Island area, helps clients avoid bankruptcy through debt settlement. Many of her clients are financial professionals who could face trouble renewing their license if they filed bankruptcy. “In cases like that,” Tayne told MagnifyMoney, “the last thing you want is to file bankruptcy. Something happened that caused this person to get in over their head, but they shouldn’t lose their livelihood because of it.”

Benefits of bankruptcy

  • Automatic stay: The courts grant all bankruptcy filers an automatic stay against collections activities. This means that all collections activity against you has to stop right away.
  • Discharge most debts: People with very few assets (or only protected assets), can expect to have eligible debts discharged without paying anything except attorney’s fees and filing fees.
  • Quick resolution: On average, Chapter 7 bankruptcy resolves within 115 days. Within a few months of filing bankruptcy, you can expect to move on with your life.

Other types of bankruptcy

Aside from Chapter 7 bankruptcy, many consumers file Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to keep all of your assets, but it comes with a downside. Chapter 13 bankruptcy involves a debt payment plan that lasts three to five years. On top of that, the fees for Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be much higher than the fees for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

6 things to do before filing for bankruptcy

  1. Talk to a lawyer for free: Before deciding to file bankruptcy, talk with a few bankruptcy attorneys. Many bankruptcy attorneys offer a free consultation to determine your eligibility and give you estimates of the fees.
  2. Explore alternatives: Bankruptcy is one option, but it’s not always the best choice. Before committing to bankruptcy, you may want to talk with a certified credit counselor about other options.
  3. Understand the costs: You’ll need to come up with $1,000 or more to pay for your bankruptcy fees.
  4. Find low-cost help: In some counties, you may be able to find free or low-cost legal help through Legal Aid.
  5. You can’t declare bankruptcy again for eight years: Bankruptcy is a form of last resort for debt relief. If you opt to declare Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you won’t be able to declare bankruptcy again for another eight years.
  6. Discharged debt is taxable: Bankruptcy may relieve you of your debts, but you will have to pay income tax on the amount of debt that is discharged. You may owe the IRS more than usual when you file taxes at the end of the year.

— Read our guide on when to file bankruptcy

Debt management plans

A debt management plan is a new payment schedule for paying off existing debts. These plans are created and administered by nonprofit credit counseling companies. Under the plan, credit counselors will consolidate your credit card debts, unsecured personal loans and bills in collections into a single, monthly payment. You’ll pay the credit counseling agency instead of paying creditors directly.

The credit counseling agency doesn’t just consolidate debt, it works to reduce your monthly payment. The agency may be able to reduce interest charges, get old fees waived and even extend the length of time you have to pay a loan. “Most of the time, people see smaller monthly payments when they go on a debt management plan,” said Robby Dunn, vice president of counseling at the nonprofit company, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo.

What happens to credit cards?

In general, when you agree to a debt management plan, your creditors close down your lines of credit. This means that you cannot use your credit cards during the repayment plan. Dunn told MagnifyMoney that some people keep one credit card with a low balance off the debt management plan. This allows people to keep a source of credit available for emergencies.

Will a debt management plan help my credit score?

When you start a debt management plan, you’ll have to close every credit card account you have, even accounts that are in good standing. This reduces your length of credit history and results in an immediate drop in your credit score; however, most people can regain the lost points in six to twelve months.

What happens if I miss a payment?

It’s imperative that you stick to your repayment plan and don’t miss any payments. Your credit counseling agency won’t be able to pay your creditors if you don’t pay them, which doesn’t leave you with many good options. “It’s important to understand that your creditors aren’t likely to be empathetic toward you. They expect to get paid,” said Dunn.

Creditors that don’t get paid may drop out of the debt management plan and report that you’re no longer paying as agreed. The creditors may also attempt to collect your debts through other means.

Risks of debt management plans

  • Debts not reduced: Unlike other forms of debt relief, debt management plans don’t reduce the amount you owe. Instead, these plans reduce your interest charges and fees.
  • Difficulty getting new credit: Closing your current credit accounts may lead to a short-term drop in your credit score. On top of that, lenders may see that you’re repaying your debts through a credit counseling agency, which may affect their willingness to extend various types of credit.
  • Lower credit score: The goal of a debt management plan is to help you clear debt without declaring bankruptcy. Unfortunately, the plan may yield a lower credit score when you close down so many accounts.

Benefits of debt management plans

  • Lower fees: Compared with bankruptcy or debt settlement, debt management plans are a low-fee option. Traditionally, nonprofit companies charge a small setup fee (less than $100 in general) and a monthly service charge ranging from $25-$50. The CFPB recommends asking credit counseling companies about setup or monthly fees before you work with the company.
  • Avoid bankruptcy: By sticking with your debt management plan and making the agreed-upon monthly payments, you can avoid bankruptcy and pay off the full balance of your debt.
  • Reduce monthly payments: The debt management plan generally comes with lower monthly payments.

Things to know before accepting a debt management plan

  • How long the plan takes: Clearing all your debts through a debt management plan could take as long as five years. A credit counselor can walk you through the specific length of your debt payoff plan.
  • No debt forgiveness: Credit counselors don’t negotiate for loan balance reductions. Even on a debt management plan, you’ll still owe the balance of your debt and interest charges.
  • Work with a nonprofit: For-profit debt management companies generally charge higher fees than nonprofit companies. You can find certified nonprofit financial counselors from the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA) or the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC).
  • Credit counselors help you consider other options: Debt management plans are important tools offered by credit counselors, but they shouldn’t be the only option. “Our main goal is to educate clients on what their options are. We try to help them see the advantages and disadvantages of each option,” explained Dunn.

Debt settlement

Many people confuse nonprofit credit counseling companies with for-profit debt settlement companies. Debt settlement companies do not offer credit counseling services, and instead, work to help you pay off debts that are already in collections.

How does debt settlement work?

When you settle a debt, you agree to pay a creditor a portion of the debt you owe. In exchange, the creditor won’t sue you for the remaining balance. Most of the time debt settlement companies can only help you settle the debt that’s in collections.

Debt settlement companies will negotiate with creditors on your behalf. Although these companies work for you, the amount you ultimately pay depends on the creditor, your income, how long you’ve owed the debt and the type of debt you owe.

For example, credit card lenders may be more willing to settle your debts than business lenders. Additionally, debt settlement attorneys may be able to reduce the amount you owe on private student loans, but that’s not possible with federal student loans. Yesner estimates that most credit card companies settle for an average of 30%-35% of the debt amount owed, but he’s quick to point out that the range varies widely case to case.

It’s a good idea to have a solid understanding of the debt settlement process before you start working with a debt settlement company or attorney. If you don’t have upfront cash savings — a requirement for some companies — they may want you to set up a dedicated savings account to pay fees and funds. Legally you will own the funds in this account and have complete control over the account at all times.

Other companies may be willing to work with you to negotiate new payment plans. Tayne explained that she negotiates installment plans on behalf of her clients. Through her negotiations, she aims to reduce the interest rates to 0% and reduce the principal balance to a manageable amount; however, that’s not always possible to achieve.

Debt settlement companies may also ask you to change how you’re handling your creditors. If you’re paying debts as agreed, a debt settlement company may advise you to stop paying your debts.

How are debt settlement companies paid?

The fee structure of a debt settlement attorney or company will heavily affect your overall costs. “You only want an attorney that works on contingency. They should be compensated based on how much money they save you,” Tayne said. Contingency fees (fees based on a percentage of savings) incentivize your attorney to negotiate the amount you owe as low as they can. If the fee isn’t based on a negotiated savings rate, it will be based on a percentage of your overall debt load prior to negotiations.

Debt settlement companies cannot legally charge you any money unless they have successfully negotiated at least one debt for you. You must pay your creditor before the debt settlement company can collect its fee.

How does debt settlement affect my credit score?

There’s no doubt that settling your debts will affect your credit score; however, exactly how much it affects your score is difficult to estimate. Once an account is in collections, settling the debt will not cause any further damage to your credit score. However, defaulting on an account that’s on a debt settlement plan could cause substantial harm to your credit score.

“In most cases, [your credit score] will go down, but it won’t go down permanently. In some cases, settling debts could actually raise your credit score. If you have a score in the low 600s with all your accounts in default, you might see it go up right away,” said Tayne.

Risks of debt settlement

  • Legal risks: Your creditors may sue you if you default on your debts.
  • Debt load could grow: When you default on your debts, your creditors may charge you late fees or higher interest rates. Even when working toward settling a debt, your total debt balance could still grow.
  • No guarantees: Most of the time, debt settlement companies don’t have prearranged agreements with your creditors. That means that the company cannot tell you how much you’ll ultimately owe, nor can they tell you how long the settlement process will last.
  • Amount forgiven is taxable: When you settle a debt for less than you owe, the IRS considers the forgiven amount income. That means you’ll pay state and federal income tax on the forgiven amount (in most cases).

Benefits of debt settlement

  • Reduce the amount you owe: When you settle a debt in collections, you’ll only pay a percentage of what you originally owed.
  • Avoid bankruptcy: Settling debts can keep you out of bankruptcy courts. Negative information will remain on your credit report for seven years, but your credit score may recover more quickly from debt settlement than bankruptcy.
  • No fees without successful negotiation: It is illegal for debt settlement companies to charge you a fee if they fail to change the terms of your debt. You’ll only pay if the company negotiates your debt.

What are the risks to not paying creditors?

Strategically defaulting on debt may sound reasonable, but it can expose you up to a variety of risks. When you stop paying your bills, your creditor may charge you higher fees and interest. If you can’t successfully settle the debt, you’ll owe more than you did before.

Defaulting on debt will lead to negative marks on your credit report. Negative information will stay on your credit report for seven years. Settling already-defaulted debt won’t harm your credit any further; however, defaulting on a current debt account could cause your credit score to take a big hit.

Finally, your creditors may sue you if you default on a debt. Due to legal risks, Tayne recommends working with a debt settlement attorney rather than a debt settlement company. “You need someone who understands how to handle the legal risks appropriately,” she said. “It’s not enough for a company to say ‘We have an attorney on staff.’ It’s better to know that an attorney will handle legal matters.”

Things to know before settling debt

  • How are fees determined: Debt settlement companies can collect fees using two methods; they can charge you a percentage of your total debt load, or they can charge based on a percentage of savings.
  • You won’t get any guarantees: Debt settlement companies cannot promise you how long the negotiations will take, nor can they guarantee the settlement amount. Representatives offering promises are engaging in illegal activity and you should not work with them.
  • Creditors could sue you: If you fail to make payments as agreed, a creditor could sue you. After a creditor wins a suit against you, they can collect a judgment against you, which could include garnishing your wages or putting a lien on your property.
  • Creditors may offer standard settlements: Some creditors have adopted standard policies about settling debts in collections. You may be able to settle your debts on your own.

Can I settle debt on my own?

Creditors may be more willing to work with individuals than debt settlement companies, but settling debts on your own presents its own risks.

The CFPB sets out a three-step process for negotiating settlements with your creditors. The process recommends understanding your debts, proposing a solution and negotiating a realistic agreement. During the final step, the CFPB recommends enlisting the help of an attorney or credit counselor to help you with the negotiations. “Settling a debt sounds simple; you simply call up a creditor and work out a settlement. In reality, it can be a lot of work. It can take three or four hours just to start talking with the right person,” explained Tayne.

“You’re probably smart enough to do this on your own. The real value that I bring is that I do this day in and day out. Sometimes it’s just more efficient to pay someone else,” added Yesner.

That said, if money is tight, settling debts on your own could be the right option for you. Below we explain how to work through your own debt relief program.

DIY debt relief

Making your own debt relief plan may seem overwhelming, but it is possible to find debt relief without paying for outside help. Use the following tips to be successful with your own debt relief plan.

Put a stop to creditor harassment

A DIY debt relief plan requires executing a well-thought-out plan. This isn’t easy if you’re constantly hounded by calls from debt collectors. Put a stop to creditor harassment instead of sending your money to the most threatening collector.

The CFPB provides sample letters that can help you deal with debt collectors. These letters can stipulate when and how a debt collector can contact you. While collectors can still sue you, they cannot legally contact you.

Know what you owe

Once you have the creditors at bay, the first step in resolving your debt is knowing what you owe. Specifically, you will need to know how much money you owe, who owns the debt, the interest rate on the debt, the minimum monthly payment on the debt and whether the debt is in good standing. You can find most of this information from your credit report (which you can get for free from AnnualCreditReport.com).

You can find the exact amount you owe and the interest rate on current debts from the most recent billing statements from your lenders.

Make a plan for “good standing” debt

Debts in collections may seem like the most pressing matter, but most of the time you’ll want to deal with current accounts first. Once a debt is in collections, it has already damaged your credit score. Only time (and adding good credit information to your report) will fix the damage.

Unless a creditor sues you, you’ll want to put your money toward debt that’s still in good standing before dealing with debts in collections. This guide offers step-by-step guidance on how to eliminate credit card debt as fast as possible.

It’s important to note that dealing with current debts isn’t always a matter of making minimum payments on all your loans. If you have student loans, you may want to consider opting into an income-driven repayment plan. These plans will reduce your monthly payments, so you can put more money toward high-interest credit card debts.

For credit card debts, unpaid medical bills and other related debts, you may want to consider a debt consolidation loan. Debt consolidation loans are unsecured personal loans with fixed interest rates and fixed repayment schedules. They allow you to roll all your payments into a single payment, reduce your interest rate and (in some cases) increase your credit score.

Debt consolidation loans are an effective option for people who have enough income to support the monthly loan payments.

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A Personal Loan can offer funds relatively quickly once you qualify you could have your funds within a few days to a week. A loan can be fixed for a term and rate or variable with fluctuating amount due and rate assessed, be sure to speak with your loan officer about the actual term and rate you may qualify for based on your credit history and ability to repay the loan. A personal loan can assist in paying off high-interest rate balances with one fixed term payment, so it is important that you try to obtain a fixed term and rate if your goal is to reduce your debt. Some lenders may require that you have an account with them already and for a prescribed period of time in order to qualify for better rates on their personal loan products. Lenders may charge an origination fee generally around 1% of the amount sought. Be sure to ask about all fees, costs and terms associated with each loan product. Loan amounts of $1,000 up to $50,000 are available through participating lenders; however, your state, credit history, credit score, personal financial situation, and lender underwriting criteria can impact the amount, fees, terms and rates offered. Ask your loan officer for details.

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Settle debts in collections

Once you’ve paid off your debts that are in good standing (or you’re easily able to make your monthly payments), you may want to work toward paying off bills in collections. Paying off bills in collections won’t improve your credit score, but it can help you avoid lawsuits.

Before you reach out to your creditors, you’ll want to create a budget that shows you how much you can put toward debt that’s in collections each month. A certified credit counselor could help you create a budget if you need help. A credit counselor or a consumer advocacy attorney may also be able to advise you if the statute of limitations on your debt has expired. When the statute of limitations on debt expires, debt collectors can no longer sue you to collect.

If you determine that you still want to pay off your debt in collections, you can propose your payoff plan to your creditor. Do not put any money toward debts in collections unless you get a payoff agreement in writing.

Enlist help as needed

Although a DIY debt relief plan is a low-cost way to get rid of debt, you may need help. If a creditor or debt collector sues you, you’ll want to contact a consumer advocacy attorney. Don’t ignore lawsuits, or your creditor may win a judgment against you.

Additionally, credit counselors that work for nonprofit companies may be able to help you understand your best options, such as through the FCAA or NFCC.

Watch out for debt relief scams

If you choose to work through overwhelming debts on your own, you could run into some scams. The following are red flags that someone or some company might be trying to scam you:

  • Charging advance fees for debt settlement: Debt settlement companies cannot charge you any fees unless they successfully help you settle a debt. Do not work with a debt settlement company that charges upfront fees.
  • For-profit credit counseling: The vast majority of credit counseling companies are not for-profit companies. The nonprofit status allows credit counselors to consider a range of payoff options instead of pushing clients toward solutions that help the company maintain the highest profits. Generally, it’s more beneficial to work with nonprofit credit counseling companies than for-profit credit counseling companies.
  • Companies making guarantees: Do not work with any company that makes guarantees or promises about debt relief. Whether you’re trying to settle debts, declare bankruptcy or reduce your monthly payments, a company cannot promise that your creditors will work with them. The best a company can do is determine whether you’re a good candidate for their services.
  • Pushy companies: No single debt relief plan is perfect for everyone. Don’t work with companies that push one option without helping you understand why that option is best for you, while also providing you with alternatives.

What to avoid when facing overwhelming debt

  • Sending money to the loudest collection agency: A good debt payoff plan deals with current debts before dealing with debts in collections. Do not send money to the debt collectors because they harass you. Instead, use a written request that tells the collector when and how they can contact you.
  • Ignoring lawsuits: Contact a lawyer who can help you understand the best options for your situation if you receive notice of a debt collection lawsuit. Ignoring the lawsuit won’t make it go away, and could make your financial situation worse.
  • Making partial payments: If you don’t have the money to pay all your monthly bills, don’t make matters worse by sending partial payments to all your creditors. Partial payments are considered just as bad as not sending a payment at all. Instead, send full payments to as many creditors as possible to keep more debts out of collections and help you rebuild your credit score.

The bottom line: When should you consider debt relief?

If you’re struggling to make your monthly debt payments, or you’re overwhelmed by calls from collection agents, you’re a good candidate for some sort of debt relief. Seeking advice from a bankruptcy attorney or a certified credit counselor is a good place to start. When you know more about your debt relief options, you can make a plan to get back on track financially.

Even if you’re making on-time payments on most of your debts, you may still benefit from a debt relief plan. Those with debts in good standing may find relief from debt management plans, consolidating your debts or by taking advantage of promotional balance transfers.

Whether you’re struggling to make payments, or you’ve already defaulted on your debts, debt relief could be right for you. The sooner you start your research, the sooner you’ll get yourself back on the right financial foot.

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.

Hannah Rounds
Hannah Rounds |

Hannah Rounds is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Hannah here

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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 card –0% 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)*.

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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.

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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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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 11.99%-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

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 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 12.25%-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 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

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 10.25% to 17.95% 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 10.99% 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 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 card –0% 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 11.99%-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 12.25%-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 10.25% to 17.95% 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 10.99% 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