Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Are you looking to cut down on your current high-interest debt, then consider taking advantage of a balance transfer credit card with low interest.

WRITTEN BY
Lisa Rennie
Updated November 6, 2020

It can be tough to pay down your debt when your interest rates are through the roof, in which case a large chunk of the payments you make goes towards the interest portion as opposed to the principal. 

That’s why many Canadians seek out ways to consolidate their high-interest debt, and one effective way to do so is to transfer high-rate balances over to a low-interest credit card. 

There are a handful of excellent credit cards available to Canadian consumers that come with low rates, while others offer hard-to-resist low-rate promotions, sometimes as low as 0%. 

Taking advantage of these promotions can help you pay down your debt faster and more easily, helping you to reach financial freedom sooner rather than later.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite balance transfer credit cards that you may want to consider using to consolidate your high-interest debt and chip away at your financial obligations in a more efficient manner. 

Criteria Used to Evaluate Balance Transfer Credit Cards

We looked at the following criteria to help us compile our list of the best balance transfer credit cards available to Canadians: 

  • Promotional interest rate
  • Annual fee
  • Balance transfer fee
  • Interest rate following the promotional offer
  • Perks

Summary of the Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards

The following is a list of the best balance transfer credit cards and their associated promotional balance transfer rates: 

Credit CardPromotional Interest RateAnnual Fee
CIBC Select Visa0% for 10 months$29
Scotiabank Value Visa0.99% for 6 months$95
BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard3.99% for 9 months$20
PC Financial World Elite Mastercard0.97% for 6 months$0
BMO Air Miles Mastercard1.99% for 9 months$0
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card1.95% for 6 months$0

CIBC Select Visa

You’ll have a tough time finding a better promotional rate for balance transfers than the CIBC Select Visa. For the first 10 months, you can take advantage of 0% on transfers, as well as a full rebate on the $29 annual fee. The transfer fee is a modest 1% for amounts up to half of your credit limit.

Following the promotional period, your interest rate for purchases and cash advances will be 13.99%. This is still relatively competitive considering conventional credit cards can often come with rates nearly double that amount. You’ll also have $100,000 in accident insurance when you sign up for the CIBC Select Visa. 

  • Promotional Balance Transfer Rate: 0% (for 10 months)
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 1%
  • Purchase Interest Rate After Expiry of Promotion: 13.99%
  • Cash Advance Rate: 13.99%
  • Annual Fee: $29 (waived for first year)
  • Minimum Annual Income: $15,000 

Scotiabank Value Visa

Moving your balances from higher-rate credit cards to the Scotiabank Value Visa can help you consolidate your debt and save on interest. For the first 6 months, you’ll be charged a mere 0.99% interest on balance transfers, plus there are no transfer fees to pay. After the promotional period expires, the rate for both purchases and cash advances will increase to 12.99%. 

The annual fee is also relatively low at $29. Plus, you can use your Scotiabank Value Visa card at Avis Rent-A-Car to get discounts. 

  • Promotional Balance Transfer Rate: 0.99% (for 6 months)
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 0%
  • Purchase Interest Rate After Expiry of Promotion: 12.99%
  • Cash Advance Rate: 12.99%
  • Annual Fee: $29
  • Minimum Annual Income: $12,000 

BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard

The BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard offers an attractive balance transfer promotional offer. When you transfer your balance from another credit card, your rate is 3.9% for 9 months, along with a 1% transfer fee on the amount transferred. After the initial 9 months, you’ll be charged 12.99% for purchases and cash advances. 

The card comes with a $20 annual fee, though this will be waived for the first year. Other perks include Zero Dollar Liability which protects you against unauthorized use of your card and an extended warranty on certain items. 

  • Promotional Balance Transfer Rate: 3.99% (for 9 months)
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 1%
  • Purchase Interest Rate After Expiry of Promotion: 12.99%
  • Cash Advance Rate: 12.99%
  • Annual Fee: $20 (waived for first year)
  • Minimum Annual Income: $15,000 

PC Financial World Elite Mastercard

Not only does the PC Financial World Elite Mastercard offer an enticing low-rate introductory promotion, but it also offers a quick and easy way to earn free groceries. 

For the first 6 months, you’ll be charged 0.97% in interest to transfer your balance from another credit card. When the promotion ends, however, the balance transfer rate will spike to 22.97%, so you’ll want to do what you can to transfer your balance and pay as much of it down as you can during the promotional time frame before the rate changes. 

The PC Financial World Elite Mastercard can also help you save money by allowing you to accumulate rewards points with every purchase you make. You can earn 30 points for every $1 spent at participating PC grocery stores, and 10 points for every $1 spent anywhere else. The more you use the credit card, the more points you can earn towards grocery shopping expenditures. 

The card comes with other perks as well. For starters, there’s no annual fee. You’ll also have a 21-day interest-free grace period on new purchases, as well as insurance products like emergency medical insurance, car rental insurance, and even identity theft insurance. 

  • Promotional Balance Transfer Rate: 0.97% (for 6 months)
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Not specified
  • Purchase Interest Rate After Expiry of Promotion: 20.97%
  • Cash Advance Rate: 22.97%
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Minimum Annual Income: $80,000 

BMO Air Miles Mastercard

The BMO Air Miles Mastercard offers the best of both worlds in terms of a low introductory balance transfer rate and the ability to collect Air Miles rewards points to be put towards future travel or merchandise. 

For the first 9 months, you can take advantage of a low 1.99% promotional balance transfer rate, though there is a 1% transfer fee that applies. Following the promotional period, you’ll be charged 19.99% on purchases and 22.99% on cash advances. 

The card also comes with another appealing welcome offer in the form of 950 Air Miles bonus miles, which is the equivalent of $100 towards purchases with Air Miles. Earn 2x the Air Miles for every $20 you spend at eligible retailers, and 1 Air Mile for every $20 you spend anywhere else. 

Plus, there’s no annual fee to pay, and you’ll also have an extended warranty and purchase protection on big purchases. 

  • Promotional Balance Transfer Rate: 1.99% (for 9 months)
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 1%
  • Purchase Interest Rate After Expiry of Promotion: 19.99%
  • Cash Advance Rate: 22.99%
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Minimum Annual Income: $15,000 

Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card

Tangerine is one of the more well-known online-only banks in Canada, particularly for its high-interest savings account. But the virtual bank also offers other financial products, including its Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card that comes with a 30-day promotional rate of 1.95% on balance transfers. The rate increases to 19.95% after the 30 days are up.

While 30 days might not be a lot of time compared to other credit cards on this list, it’s still a great opportunity to whittle down your high-interest debt at a far lower rate. If you think you can pay down a big portion of your debt in a short period of time, this card may offer a great opportunity to do so. 

If not, it’s a good way to start off with an awesome points-driven card that offers cash back rewards on your purchases, so your money can work for you. Earn 2% cash back in up to 3 different categories of your choice, including restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, drug stores, and more. All other purchases allow you to earn and 0.50% in cash back rewards. 

Otherwise, you can put the points collected towards your credit card balance or redeem them into your savings account.

  • Promotional Balance Transfer Rate: 1.95% (for 6 months)
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3%
  • Purchase Interest Rate After Expiry of Promotion: 19.95%
  • Cash Advance Rate: 19.95%
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Minimum Annual Income: $12,000 

Why Apply For a Balance Transfer Credit Card?

Most credit cards that provide low-rate balance transfer promotions give you a few months to take advantage of rock-bottom interest rates when you move your balances from another credit card. If you think you can take full advantage of this time to bring down your debt load significantly, then a balance transfer card may be worth considering. 

Just keep in mind that the rate initially offered will not last forever, which is why it’s important to verify what the news rate will be after the promotional period ends. That will be the rate you will be stuck with for all other purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances.

If you don’t hold a high outstanding balance and usually pay in full every month, then applying for a balance transfer card might not be necessary. But if you need some relief from a high-interest rate, moving your balance over to a low-rate card can buy you some time. That way, you can put most of your payments towards the outstanding balance rather than spending all your money on interest. 

What to Look For in a Balance Transfer Credit Card 

Before you apply for a balance transfer credit card, consider the following factors first:

Promotional balance transfer rate. A lower rate is always better for obvious reasons. 

Promotion time frame. Different balance transfer credit cards will offer their own promotion length. Keep this time frame in mind before applying and consider whether the time allotted will be enough for you to pay down your debt. The longer the promotion length, the better.

Interest rate following the promotional period. When the promotional time frame expires, what will the interest rate be increased to? While some credit cards still offer a low-interest rate even after the end of the promotion, others boost the interest rate up much higher.

Balance transfer fee. Some credit cards charge a balance transfer fee, which generally stays within the 1% to 3% mark. 

Minimum annual income. Many credit cards may have a minimum annual income that you will need to earn in order to be eligible for the card.

What Kind of Debt Can You Transfer With a Balance Transfer Credit Card?

Balance transfer credit cards are best used to transfer balances from other credit cards. However, you may be able to transfer other types of debt, such as a balance from your line of credit or personal loan, depending on what your credit card issuer allows. 

Will Taking Out a Balance Transfer Credit Card Damage Your Credit Score?

Applying for a credit card typically requires a “hard inquiry” from your credit card issuer, which simply means your credit report will be pulled to verify your credit rating. A hard inquiry can bring your credit score down, but only temporarily. 

That said, it’s not recommended to apply for a variety of credit cards within a short period of time. At the same time, using your balance transfer credit card responsibly can actually help improve your credit score as you pay down your debt and make timely payments every month. 

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a way to cut down on your current high-interest debt, then transfer your outstanding balance over to a balance transfer credit card. The low introductory rate can give you some time to significantly reduce your debt load. There are a few good balance transfer credit cards out there, so do some comparison shopping. Crunch the numbers to see if taking out a credit card like this is a good idea and if you can make the most of the rates offered to you.