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Best No-Fee Balance Transfer Credit Cards

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Balance transfer credit cards can be a valuable tool for families who hope to pay down debt. True to their name, these cards typically let consumers pay zero percent APR on balances they transfer over from another credit card with a much higher APR. Some even extend a lower interest rate or interest-free period to purchases made during the introductory offer.

The benefits of balance transfer cards are obvious if you’ve ever been in debt. With zero money going toward paying interest each month, it’s considerably easier to pay off debt at a much faster pace. And with the average credit card interest rate well over 17 percent right now, the savings can be astronomical.

Keep in mind, however, that a handful of balance transfer credit cards don’t let you avoid interest payments. Instead, they offer no-fee balance transfers with a typical variable APR. While these cards can be less than ideal, they can still help you save money on interest if the rate you’re being offered is lower than the rate you’re paying now, and saving on a 3 to 5 percent transfer fee helps, too. (See also: How to do a balance transfer in 5 easy steps)

What to look for in a balance transfer card

As you compare balance transfer credit cards on our list and elsewhere, make sure to check for the following features and benefits:

  • Length of interest-free introductory offer: Balance transfer cards usually offer zero percent APR for anywhere from six to 21 months. Make sure to compare offers to find one that is long enough for your debt repayment needs. The more debt you have, the more time you might need. 
  • Ongoing APR: Even if you qualify for a card with an interest-free introductory period, make sure to compare interest rates and how they stack up, since your rate will eventually reset once your zero percent APR offer is over. 
  • Balance transfer fee: Many balance transfer cards charge a balance transfer fee that is typically equal to 3 or 5 percent of your balance. Paying this fee may be well worth it in terms of interest savings, but you should try to avoid it if you can. 
  • Time limits: Some zero percent APR credit cards only extend zero interest offers to balances transferred within a short amount of time, usually 60 days. Make sure to check for these limits before you apply. 
  • Other limitations: Many cards in this category let you avoid interest on balance transfers and purchases, but not all do. Make sure you know your personal preference before you pick a card and apply.
  • Additional fees: Balance transfer credit cards rarely charge an annual fee, but you should still check. Also look up additional fees you may need to pay, such as late fees and over-the-limit fees. 

Best balance transfer cards with no annual fee

  • Amex EveryDay® Credit Card — Best for rewards
  • Chase Slate® — Best for balance transfers and purchases
  • SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card — Best for low interest rate
  • Platinum Credit Card from Capital One® — Best for bad credit

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card — Best for rewards

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card starts you off with zero percent APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.49 to 25.49 percent. You’ll also pay no balance transfer fee on balance transfer requests made within 60 days of account opening.

This card doesn’t charge an annual fee, and you’ll even earn rewards on purchases. Currently, you’ll earn 10,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $1,000 within three months of account opening. You’ll also earn 2x points on up to $6,000 per year spent at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1x) and 1x points on all other purchases. To top things off, you’ll earn 20 percent extra points when you use your card for at least 20 transactions per billing period.

Pros: No balance transfer fee if you transfer balance within 60 days, generous introductory zero percent APR period (14.49 to 25.49 percent variable thereafter), and ability to earn rewards

Cons: Only balances transferred within the first 60 days qualify for introductory APR period

The information about the Amex EveryDay Credit Card from American Express has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Chase Slate® — Best for balance transfers and purchases

The Chase Slate® is another balance transfer card that can help you save on interest without an annual fee. This card gives you 15 months with zero percent APR on purchases and balance transfers, followed by a variable APR of 16.49 to 25.24 percent. Note that balance transfers must be initiated within 60 days of account opening to qualify.

There’s no annual fee, nor is there a penalty fee if you pay your bill late. You’ll also get a free credit score on your monthly statement each month.

Pros: No balance transfer fee on balances transferred within the first 60 days

Cons: No rewards

The information about the Chase Slate credit card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card — Best for low interest rate

The SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card is set up differently than the other cards on this list since there is no introductory zero percent APR period. Instead, this card gives you a full three years at the Prime Rate for balances transferred within the first 60 days of account opening. The current Prime Rate is 4.75 percent, and you could qualify for this rate for a full 36 months (12.99 to 22.99 percent variable APR thereafter) .

This card doesn’t have an annual fee or foreign transaction fees, and you’ll earn a $100 statement credit when you spend $500 on your card within three months. You’ll also earn 1 percent in rewards for each dollar you spend on your card.

Pros: Earn rewards, plus enjoy a low APR for three full years when you transfer balances within 60 days

Cons: There is no introductory interest-free period

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card  — Best for limited credit

The Capital One Platinum Credit Card isn’t the best credit card out there today, but it can help you get out of a bind if you’re carrying debt at an exorbitantly high interest rate. This card lets you transfer balances over at the variable APR, which is currently 26.99 percent. There is no time limit on how long you can repay your balances at this rate provided you’re paying the minimum monthly payment each month.

The Platinum Credit Card from Capital One doesn’t charge an annual fee, and you may be able to qualify with fair or limited credit. And even if your credit line is low at first, Capital One states that you may be able to qualify for a higher credit limit after five consecutive months of on-time payments.

Pros: No balance transfer fees, qualify with fair credit

Cons: High ongoing APR

How to calculate a balance transfer fee

While the credit cards we’ve profiled above don’t charge a balance transfer fee, many cards in this category do. Most balance transfer fees work out to 3 or 5 percent of balances you transfer over, although individual offers vary.

Keep in mind that when you transfer balances to a balance transfer card, this fee is charged to your balance upfront. If you were to transfer $10,000 in high interest credit card debt to a balance transfer card, for example, your fee could work out to 3 percent of your balance ($300) or 5 percent of your balance ($500) upfront depending on the credit card you sign up for.

Is paying a balance transfer fee worth it?

You may be wondering why anyone would pay a balance transfer fee when a handful of cards don’t charge this fee at all. The reality is, paying a balance transfer fee is often worth it if you’re able to save money on interest over a longer timeline.

Imagine that you have $9,000 in credit card debt at 19 percent APR. You’re considering the Chase Slate®, which gives you 15 months at zero percent APR on purchases and balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening (16.49 to 25.24 percent variable thereafter). You also won’t have any balance transfer fees for transfers during those 60 days. At that rate, you could avoid interest for a full 15 months with a minimum monthly payment of 2 percent of your balance, or $180. By the time 15 months were up, you would owe just $6,300 provided you made the same payment each month.

After 15 months were up, your interest rate would reset to the higher variable rate between 16.49 and 25.24 percent. For the sake of this example, let’s say your new rate is 19 percent. During the six months after your interest rate reset to 19 percent, if you made the same monthly payment of $180 you would pay $1,080 of your balance (more than half of that would go to interest). This means that, by the time 21 months total are up, you would still owe about $5,800 on your debt.

Now let’s imagine you opt for a card that offers a longer zero percent APR period in exchange for a balance transfer fee. With the Citi Simplicity® Card, you would get 21 months at zero percent APR on balance transfers, followed by a variable APR of 16.24 to 26.24 percent. But this card comes with a 5 percent balance transfer fee (minimum $5) on balances transferred in the first four months.

If you transferred your balance over to this card, you would be charged a 5 percent balance transfer fee of $450 upfront, bringing your initial balance up to $9,450. If you paid $180 per month for 21 months at zero percent APR, however, you would pay down $3,780 in debt during your card’s introductory offer. This means you would end the offer with $5,670 in remaining credit card debt by the time your interest rate is ready to reset. That’s $130 less than you would owe with the Chase Slate® after 21 months, even though you paid a balance transfer fee.

In simple terms, it can make sense to pay a balance transfer fee if you have a lot of debt at a high APR and you need as much time as possible to pay it off without interest. Make sure to run the numbers for your situation and use a credit card balance transfer calculator to determine which card works best for your needs.

Frequently asked questions

What is a balance transfer fee?

A balance transfer fee is a fee charged upfront by credit card issuers in order to be able to transfer balances over from another credit card or multiple cards.

What is the average balance transfer fee?

Most balance transfer cards with this fee charge either 3 percent or 5 percent of your balance upfront. Note, however, that not all credit cards charge a balance transfer fee.

When are balance transfer fees applied?

Balance transfer fees are charged upfront as soon as your balances are successfully transferred over to your new credit card account.

What is an introductory offer?

Some balance transfer credit cards come with an introductory offer that only lasts a limited time. So you may get a zero percent APR for a period, typically 15 to 21 months, and then the APR will revert to the card’s variable APR.

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AROUND OREGON: A financial lifeline during Covid

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The economic downturn caused by the pandemic has hit Indian Country particularly hard. Entrepreneurs are turning to small, local lending institutions in a region that’s often outside the reach of traditional banks.

Clients of Roxanne Best take part in one of her paddleboard yoga classes on the Okanogan River. (Courtesy/ Underscore)

Roxanne Best was preparing to relaunch her photography business when Covid made its way to the U.S. A serial entrepreneur and member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Best teaches paddleboard yoga classes and artist-in-business workshops. She also taught “Indianpreneur” classes, the term used by an Oregon nonprofit for its business workshops. To put the photo enterprise back on its feet, she purchased marketing materials and scheduled events to showcase her product to clients.

“Then the pandemic hit and all the gigs I was scheduled for were canceled,” Best said in a telephone interview from her home 40 miles south of the Canadian border. “The income I was expecting was gone.”

Best went from helping other entrepreneurs get started to needing assistance herself. So she turned to the Northwest Native Development Fund, a community development financial institution based in Coulee Dam in north-central Washington state. Known as a CDFI, the fund is a private financial institution that delivers affordable lending to help low-income, low-wealth, and other disadvantaged people and communities. CDFIs mostly focus on specific communities or regions and provide funding and other services to encourage economic development and economic security.

The funds are nothing new — the Northwest Native Development Fund has been around for more than a decade. But the funds have been a lifeline to entrepreneurs who don’t have access to connections with traditional lines of credit during the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. Indian Country, and businesses in the arts, entertainment, and recreation, have taken a hard hit during the pandemic, according to a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’ Center for Indian Country Development.

Many reservation residents in the Pacific Northwest “don’t have an ATM on their land, let alone a full-service bank,” said Amber Shulz-Oliver, a Yakama-Wasco descendant who is the executive director at the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians – Economic Development Corporation. “Many don’t have collateral like a house or a rich uncle to borrow $10,000. CDFIs can be an institution that is trusted to get that kind of capital to build businesses.”

The battle to end predatory lending

Ted Piccolo, executive director and creator of the Northwest Native Development Fund based on the Colville Indian Reservation, is considered the region’s CDFI guru.

NNDF, which Piccolo founded 13 years ago, has lending capital of about $5 million. He would like to double that war chest by the end of the year.

“If we had to, if people came to the door, we could deploy close to $8 million tomorrow with the money on hand,” he said, noting that total would include loans already out.

The fund opened its doors in 2009 with classes, workshops, and small business planning.

“I was looking for ways to get some of our Native-owned businesses financing who couldn’t get traditional financing,” said Piccolo, a member of the Colville Tribe. “They were stuck in the water, on the sidelines.”

NNDF became a quasi-business consultant, educating business owners about the financing process and the need for good credit. Toward that credit goal, NNDF initiated an “anti-payday loan” program.

“One of the reasons for bad credit was people getting into all this high-risk stuff, super expensive predatory sinkholes that they couldn’t get out of,” Piccolo said.

People were trapped in a system that operated to keep borrowers in debt. Piccolo said predatory lending practices that include the principle, interest, and fees, can reach 200 or 300 percent, and create an exponential and unending debt.

Instead, NNDF offers a loan product that allows an individual to pay off a hypothetical $1,500 loan over 12 months with an interest rate of 15%, building new credit as he or she pays off the loan.

Borrowers are incentivized to pay off their advances with the promise of better interest — as low as 10 percent — on ensuing loans.

As envisioned, borrowers will pay off their NNDF loans and build enough beginning credit to obtain further credit through more traditional banks or credit unions. On top of providing loans, the fund offers counseling to help clients build business and marketing plans. Staffers hold family budget workshops, and in 2019 the fund financed the construction of a house to address a shortage of homes in the region.

Economic development means a robust private sector

CDFIs serving Native American communities give an economic boost for the entire region, Shulz-Oliver said.

“One of the big tools of economic development is a robust private sector, but small businesses need capital,” she said.

Piccolo said the biggest challenge for CDFIs in Indian Country is “human capacity” to operate the financial institutions.

“Out here on the reservation there just are not a lot of loan officers, accountants or controllers,” Piccolo said. “We need to train them and pay them, and still operate at the same time. We’re all learning on the fly, learning how to train while raising money to train and lend.”

And while CDFIs aren’t new — there are at least 1,000 of them, 70 of which serve Native communities, across the country — they’re growing. A 15-member Northwest Native Lending Network of developing or operating CDFIs was organized in 2019 at the Economic Summit for the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians – Economic Development Corporation. The Northwest’s newest CDFI is the Nixyaawii Community Financial Services serving the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in northeastern Oregon.

In the Northwest region, many Native CDFIs’ business portfolios consist primarily of natural resource-based ventures, with loans for logging equipment and fishing boats. However, CDFIs work with all kinds of clients, including a software company trying to get off the ground with help from ATNI’s Economic Development Corporation. The goal of these institutions is to help clients reach financial stability so they no longer need the CDFIs’ services.

“We’re trying to put ourselves out of business, to make individuals credit worthy enough” to access more traditional funding sources, Shulz-Oliver said.

Loan provided needed boost

Best provides training and teaches her yoga classes, but her bread-and-butter is portrait photography, especially photos for high school seniors.

More than a year after the pandemic hit the U.S., Best is still in business, eying senior portraits and the paddleboard yoga season. Best said the NNDF loan provided cash flow that carried her through the initial shock of the economic slump.

“That $5,000 is all it took to get out of the stressed-out mindset,” she said. “Now the bills are paid. You’ve got a good month or two to figure out how to make things work. That one little loan transformed the direction I was able to grow with my businesses.”

This story published with permission as part of the AP Storyshare system. Salem Reporter is a contributor to this network of Oregon news outlets.

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Why Are Certified Pre-Owned Cars More Expensive?

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The used car vs. certified pre-owned (CPO) argument can typically be summed up with the phrase “you get what you pay for.” Both are technically used vehicles, but CPO cars have a few advantages that may be worth their price tag.

Why CPOs Cost More Than Regular Used Cars

A CPO vehicle is commonly called the cream of the crop of used cars, and its price tag often reflects this. CPO vehicles tend to be more expensive than standard used ones.

But, why?

One of the biggest reasons why CPO cars are more expensive than their used counterparts is that CPOs are inspected by a manufacturer-certified mechanic. This means that every CPO vehicle must meet certain standards before it’s labeled as such. A true CPO is sold at a franchised dealership. Mom-and-pop dealers don’t have these vehicle options (and “dealer-certified” is not the same thing as a manufacturer-certified car).

Another reason for the higher price tag is that many CPO vehicles have just come off-lease. When a lessee returns a lease, the manufacturer’s likely to inspect to see if it qualifies for their CPO program. Since most auto lease terms are around two to three years, many off-lease cars make the cut when they’re returned clean and meet the low-mileage requirements. CPO cars are also refurbished, unlike regular used vehicles.

Each auto manufacturer has its own set of standards for their CPO cars, but the guidelines are usually in this ballpark:

  • Vehicles typically must have less than 80,000 miles
  • Some luxury brands require less than 50,000 miles
  • Typically must be less than ten years old, sometimes newer
  • Only one previous owner

Regular used cars don’t go through these rigorous manufacturer inspections before they’re sold. A used vehicle may be inspected in-house at the dealership before it’s sold, but likely not through the manufacturer like a CPO.

CPOs Are Covered

All CPO vehicles come with some sort of warranty, which adds to the overall cost, but offers peace of mind. Being on the newer side, many CPO cars may still be covered under their original manufacturer’s warranty and often include an extended warranty once that expires.

Some perks manufacturers may include in their CPO warranties include:

  • Why Are Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles More Expensive?12-months of 24-hour roadside assistance
  • A 12-month warranty after the manufacturer’s warranty expires
  • A vehicle history report
  • Powertrain coverage
  • Car rental coverage
  • Trip interruption benefits

Of course, manufacturers vary in what their warranties include when you purchase a CPO vehicle. Be sure to read through the exclusions of the warranty so you know what the terms are, how long you’re covered, and if there are any limitations.

Can Bad Credit Borrowers Finance a CPO?

Generally, bad credit borrowers are told to finance a used vehicle over a brand new one because used cars come with a lower sticker price, usually. However, while CPO vehicles tend to be a little more expensive than regular used vehicles, a CPO’s selling price is still likely less than a new car due to initial depreciation. Depreciation is loss of value over time due to mileage, age, and normal wear and tear.

Brand new vehicles lose a lot of value in the first two or three years of ownership, possibly up to 20% in that time, and it’s usually the steepest drop in value over the life of the vehicle. However, after those first couple of years, depreciation tends to slow down. If you opt for a CPO car, it’s usually much less expensive than its brand new equivalent, and very likely has already seen its steepest drop in value.

A CPO car is likely a more attainable option for bad credit borrowers than a brand new one. And if a borrower with credit challenges works with a special finance dealership that’s signed up with subprime lenders, CPO vehicles can be an option if they meet lender requirements.

Ready to Stop Looking and Start Shopping?

Sometimes the toughest part of car shopping is figuring out which dealership you can work with. There are so many dealers out there, and it can be tough for bad credit borrowers to tell which ones are signed up with subprime lenders that can assist with credit challenges.

At Auto Credit Express, we’ve crafted a nationwide network of special finance dealerships that are able and willing to help bad credit borrowers get the vehicle they need. Skip the search for a dealer with bad credit resources and let us do the legwork for you.

Starting is simple: complete our free auto loan request form and we’ll look for a dealership in your local area with no obligation.

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My husband signed for a car for a friend — against my wishes. Now we get notices for unpaid tolls and parking tickets. What if there’s an accident?

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My husband signed a car lease for a friend. He told me he was co-signing because his friend had bad credit even though I objected to that and asked why his friend can’t just buy a used car. Then at the last second, my husband told me that his friend’s credit “was so bad he had to take out the whole loan” in my husband’s name only.

Aside from the fact this story doesn’t add up, he is now getting second notices for unpaid tolls and parking tickets, and just sends them to his friend and trusts him to pay. He ensures the lease payments are made every month, and tells me that tolls will send collections notices before reporting to credit-collection agencies.

He also claims that his friend has insurance, but that doesn’t add up. The state we are in requires the owner to have insurance. He tells me that none of this is my business, and I have no right to be upset. Yet every time another “past due” envelope arrives I panic at the thought of the savings I worked so hard to put away might be gone in one accident, and that the home I wanted to buy with our excellent credit won’t be possible anymore.

Can you help me explain to him why this was a very bad idea, and why it’s not “none of my business,” as he says? What options do I have to get us out of this mess before we lose everything?

Panicking Wife

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at [email protected]

Dear Panicking,

Yes, your husband is responsible for the vehicle insurance, especially if someone else is driving this car on a regular basis. If the documents say the borrower should be the primary driver, your husband’s arrangement with this friend is a “straw deal” and is likely also illegal.

But your problems go way beyond this car. Your husband’s willingness to take out a lease on behalf of a friend, and endure these collection notices, raises many red flags. What does your husband owe this person? Why would he go above and beyond any reasonable expectation of a friendship to risk his finances and credit rating in this way? The fact that he did this against your express wishes and good sense adds insult to injury. Something is wrong with the bigger picture.

As for your husband’s legal liability. According to Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi, a law firm based in Fort Lee, N.J., “As strange as it may sound, you can be held liable for a car accident that involves your vehicle — even if you weren’t present at the time. In most motor vehicle accidents, the negligent driver is the one held liable for any injuries or harm caused. However, in certain situations, the law can attribute fault to the owner of the car instead.”

The firm cites the legal principles of negligent entrustment and negligent maintenance. The first involves “entrusting your vehicle to someone who was unfit to drive.” Negligent maintenance “is the failure to properly maintain your vehicle, presenting a safety risk for anyone driving the car. This term ‘negligent maintenance’ is used because you have a duty to other drivers to keep your car in safe, working condition as to minimize the risk of an accident.”

Given that your husband owns the car and it is being driven by someone who is not paying its bills, and creating more costs through careless driving and bad parking, your husband is already fully aware that this is a bad situation. You are left without a “why” or action by your husband to address this. Take a closer look — with the help of an attorney — at your joint/separate finances, and explore ways to protect your savings. You also need to take action to restore your peace of mind.

Otherwise, you will be driving around in proverbial circles without knowing your legal and financial options. Whatever that potential action entails should be decided between you and your attorney in the first instance. I am willing to guess that this is not the first time your husband has made a decision in your marriage that has left you baffled. A lawyer should explain to you why it’s a bad idea to endure these kinds of unilateral decisions, and what you can do about them.

The Moneyist: ‘I cut his hair because he won’t pay for a haircut’: My multimillionaire husband is 90. I’ve looked after him for 41 years, but he won’t help my son

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