Best balance transfer credit cards March 2017
Cut your credit card costs with a 0% balance transfer credit card with a low annual fee.
Do you want to get your credit card debts in control while avoiding interest and fees? A 0% balance transfer credit card can be a smart way to consolidate and repay your debts without clocking up interest for the length of the promotional period. However, many banks jack up the annual fee on interest-free balance transfer credit cards to compensate for the losses they make from the 0% offer. While you can potentially save hundreds or thousands of dollars on a balance transfer credit card with a promotional 0% interest offer, there’s no point applying for it if the annual fee outweighs the interest savings.
Of course, there is no one best balance transfer credit card and the right option will always depend on your individual finances and debt consolidation goals. This month’s balance transfer roundup looks at the cards with the most competitive interest-free offers and annual fees on the Australian market to help you keep your card costs to a minimum.
American Express Essential Credit Card
The American Express Essential credit card comes equipped with a number of money-saving features. The card offers a 0% balance transfer for the first 12 months with a one-off 1% balance transfer fee. This reverts to a relatively low balance transfer rate of 14.99% p.a. thereafter. Plus, this card comes with no annual fee for the life of the card. This means that no matter how much you save on interest costs, you won’t have to worry about offsetting the cost of an annual fee with your repayments.
Virgin No Annual Fee Credit Card
If you need longer than 12 months to clear your debt, the Virgin No Annual Fee credit card could come in handy. With 0% for 18 months on balance transfers with a 2% balance transfer fee, this card gives you a little more breathing room to repay your debts. The card also offers no annual fee for the life of the card, giving you another way to dodge standard credit card costs. However, this card has a higher revert rate of 20.99% p.a. So while you have longer to consolidate your debts, it’s still important to try to clear the entire balance before the promotion ends to avoid attracting higher interest rates.
Citi Rewards Platinum Visa Credit Card
The Citi Rewards Credit Card boasts the title of the longest balance transfer offer on the market right now. If you’re approved for this card, you can repay your debt without collecting interest for the first 24 months. The card has a 1.5% balance transfer fee and the 0% offer reverts to a higher 20.99% p.a. once the promotion ends. The card also comes with a reduced annual fee of $49 for the first year, allowing you to limit your card costs while you concentrate on repaying your debt. However, this annual fee will revert to the standard annual fee of $149 thereafter. This is especially important to note if you plan on taking advantage of 0% offer for the length of the promotional period.
HSBC Low Rate Credit Card
The HSBC Low Rate credit card offers 0% for 15 months on balance transfers, giving you just over a year to clear your debts. The card charges a 2% balance transfer fee, though and reverts to 21.99% at the end of the promotional period. However, the card comes with a low ongoing annual fee of $55 for the life of the card. If you’re looking for a card with a lower revert rate but a similar annual fee, the St.George Vertigo Visa and Bank of Melbourne Vertigo Visa also both offer a $55 annual fee and a 0% balance transfer offer for 12 months that reverts to 13.24% p.a. While these cards have shorter promotional periods, the lower revert rate could help you save in the long run if you’re unable to repay the balance in 15 months.
How do these balance transfer credit cards compare?
|Card||Offer rate and length||Revert rate||Annual fee|
|American Express Essential Credit Card||0% for 12 months||14.99% p.a.||$0|
|Virgin No Annual Fee Credit Card||0% for 18 months||20.99% p.a.||$0|
|Citi Rewards Credit Card||0% for 24 months||20.99% p.a.||$49 for the first year ($149 thereafter)|
|HSBC Low Rate Credit Card||0% for 15 months||21.99%||$55|
While each of these cards offers competitive balance transfer promotions and annual fees, the right one will depend on your debt consolidation goals and financial situation.
For example, if you have a large debt and need more time to repay it, you would benefit from looking at the Citi Rewards Credit Card and its 24 months interest-free offer even though it only has a reduced annual fee for the first year. Depending on the size of the debt and how much you could repay before the promotion ends, the interest costs you could collect could potentially outweigh the value of having no annual fee if you go with a card with a shorter 0% promotion. However, if you don’t need quite two years to repay your debt, the Virgin No Annual Fee offers the perk of both 0% for 18 months and no annual fee for the life of the card.
If you have a small debt, or can afford to repay the entire balance within a year to 15 months, the American Express Essentials card or HSBC Low Rate credit card could come in handy. Before you apply, consider the size of your debt and calculate how much you’d need to repay each month to clear the entire amount before the promotion ends. You can then base your decision on this and whether or not the annual fee offsets the savings you’d make from the interest-free period.
So, while the four cards above all have beneficial interest-free balance transfers and low annual fees that could help you save on credit card costs, it’s still important to compare your options. These are some of the most competitive balance transfer offers with a low annual fee, but you can make a more comprehensive comparison of 0% balance transfer cards using our balance transfer guide.
Our best balance transfer credit cards roundup is a monthly regular that lists and compares current balance transfer promotions on the market. Check back in the first week of every month for the latest deals and the most competitive ways to consolidate your debts. The rates, fees and features mentioned are correct at the time of writing.
Pictures: Shutterstock, American Express, Virgin Money, Citi, HSBC