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Best Credit Cards for Paying Off Debt for December 2022

You can avoid interest charges and improve your credit score if you use these credit cards properly.

If you have high-interest credit card debt, it's hard to unbury yourself if your monthly payments are barely covering interest charges. This is especially true as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates, which then trickle down to increased credit card annual percentage rates

Here's one way to help you get some breathing room to pay off debt. There are credit cards that offer introductory APRs and balance transfer opportunities -- that's when you move your balance from high-interest cards to the balance transfer card, allowing you to capitalize on a promotional period of 0% introductory APR, meaning no interest as long as you pay at least the minimum payment on time every month. We recommend paying as much as you can each month to help you pay down debt.

These terms usually last for 12 to 18 months, but some cards offer even longer. Taking advantage of these offers can afford you some space so you can chip away more easily at your principal balance.

Best credit card for paying off debt

8.75/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferN/A
APR15.74% - 25.74% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Intro Purchase APR0% Intro APR for 21 billing cycles for purchases
Recommended Credit Excellent/Good
Reward RatesN/A
Annual Fee$0
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APR0% Intro APR for 21 billing cycles for any BTs made in the first 60 days. A 3% fee (min. $10) applies.
Balance Transfer APR15.74% - 25.74% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Balance Transfer Fee Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
Late Payment Fee See Terms
Foreign Transaction Fees 3%
Penalty APR none

Our Take

This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.

The BankAmericard® credit card offers one of the best ways to use a balance transfer to knock out some of your credit card debt. You'll have 21 billing cycles to pay down a transferred balance at 0% introductory interest before the standard APR of 15.74% to 25.74% variable applies.

You'll need to make any balance transfers within the first 60 days of account opening to qualify, but you'll only need to pay a 3% fee ($10 minimum) when doing so. This is an average balance transfer fee. While some cards offer no balance transfer fees, the tradeoff is typically a shorter APR period.

3% of a transferred balance pales in comparison to what you'd likely end up spending on interest charges on a balance from another credit card. The card also gives you the same introductory period for new purchases.

For more information, see our full review of the BankAmericard credit card.

Long introductory balance transfer offer

8.75/10 CNET Rating
See Rates and Fees
Card Highlights
Intro OfferN/A
APR18.24% - 28.24% (Variable)
Intro Purchase APR0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles on purchases
Recommended Credit Good/Excellent
Reward RatesN/A
Annual Fee$0
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APR0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles on balance transfers
Balance Transfer APR18.24% - 28.24% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee Either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater
Foreign Transaction Fees 2% of each foreign purchase transaction or foreign ATM advance transaction in U.S. Dollars. 3% of each foreign purchase transaction or foreign ATM advance transaction in a Foreign Currency

Our Take

If you have a large expense coming up, you'll have room to breathe with 18 billing cycles of introductory no-interest payments on purchases and balance transfers (18.24% to 28.24% variable APR thereafter). This is one of the longest introductory APR periods for purchases on the market, or you can use a balance transfer to minimize interest charges if you're still trying to pay off a previous large purchase.

For more details, see our full review of the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card.

Long introductory period for paying off debt

7.25/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferN/A
APR17.74% - 28.49% (Variable)
Intro Purchase APR0% for 12 months on Purchases
Recommended Credit Excellent, Good
Reward RatesN/A
Annual Fee$0
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APR0% for 21 months on Balance Transfers
Balance Transfer APR17.74% - 28.49% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee There is an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer (minimum $5) completed within the first 4 months of account opening. A balance transfer fee of 5% of each transfer ($5 minimum) applies if completed after 4 months of account opening.
Late Payment Fee No Late Fees
Foreign Transaction Fees 3%

Our Take

The Citi Simplicity® Card is no-frills -- there are no rewards to earn, but you'll get 21 months at 0% intro APR for balance transfers (and 12 months on purchases). After the intro period, a 17.74% to 28.49% variable APR applies. Plus, you have four months to complete a balance transfer, which is longer than most cards allow. 

The Citi Simplicity® Card is one of the most flexible and forgiving cards when you're paying off debt. If you tend to forget a payment now and then, you won't have to worry about late fees or getting hit with a penalty APR.

No annual fee and no balance transfer fee

6/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferN/A
APR8.99% - 18.00% Variable
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Recommended Credit N/A
Reward RatesN/A
Annual FeeNone
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APR0% intro APR for 12 months on balance transfers
Balance Transfer APR8.99% - 18.00% Variable
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Penalty APR 18.00%

Our Take

The Navy Federal Credit Union® Platinum Credit Card* is the lowest-fee card in our roundup of best credit cards for paying off debt. Besides no annual fee, it's the only card on our list with no balance transfer fee. This is a big deal -- most cards charge a minimum of 3% as a balance transfer fee. (That's $300 on a $10,000 balance transfer.) If you plan on making multiple balance transfers, it's good to know you won't be incurring charges for paying off your debt. 

Pay off debt while building credit

9.5/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferIntro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match - only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
APR16.74% - 25.74% Variable
Intro Purchase APR0% for 6 months
Recommended Credit Fair/New to Credit
Reward Rates
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • Earn 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Annual Fee$0
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APR10.99% for 6 months
Balance Transfer APR16.74% - 25.74% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*
Late Payment Fee None the first time you pay late. After that, up to $41.
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • Earn 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

Our Take

The Discover it® Student Cash Back* is designed for students who lack a long, positive credit history. If you're a student, you'll still have access to a 0% introductory APR on new purchases -- albeit for only six months (16.74% to 25.74% variable APR thereafter). However, it may be long enough to pay down the debt before the standard APR kicks in. As for balance transfers, Discover offers a 10.99% introductory interest rate for the first six months after the initial transfer (then 16.74% to 25.74% variable APR).

Read our Discover It Student Cash Back review.

 

FAQs

Can I pay down debt with a credit card?

It's possible to pay down debt with a credit card. However, it may not be the best option unless you can make good use of an extended no-interest period of 12 months or longer. Keep in mind that many of the best low- or no-interest offers are introductory and reserved for individuals with good credit or better. If you're overwhelmed by debt, that could hurt your credit score and you may have trouble getting approved for a no-interest or low-balance-transfer card.

What is a 0% introductory period?

Some credit cards offer new cardholders a 0% (no interest) period for purchases and/or balance transfers. The interest-free term is typically only for a set amount of time, such as 12 or 18 months. This means that any purchases or balance transfers you make within the qualifying period can be paid back without interest during the introductory period. Once the term is up, the remaining balance will start accruing interest at the standard interest rate. 

What should I look out for when making a balance transfer?

Even if you land a balance transfer credit card with a no-interest period of 12 months or longer, watch out for balance transfer fees. These fees are typically 3% to 5% of the amount you plan on transferring. While this may be manageable if you're only dealing with a few hundred dollars of debt, the transfer fee can add up. A $5,000 balance can cost you $250 to transfer if the fee is 5%.

What credit score do I need to get approved for a debt consolidation credit card?

Credit cards with the best introductory/balance transfer offers typically require a good credit score of 670 or higher. However, some card providers have a prequalification tool that tells you whether you'd be approved for a credit card before you apply -- without affecting your credit score. Capital One, Discover and Navy Federal all offer prequalification. 

Our methodology

CNET reviews credit cards by exhaustively comparing them across set criteria developed for each major category, including cash-back, welcome bonus, travel rewards and balance transfer. We take into consideration the typical spending behavior of a range of consumer profiles -- with the understanding that everyone's financial situation is different -- and the designated function of a card. 

For cash-back credit cards, for example, key factors include the annual fee, the "welcome bonus" and the cash-back rate (or rates, if they differ by spending category). For rewards and miles cards, we calculate and weigh the net monetary value of a card's respective perks. And with balance transfer credit cards, we analyze specs such as the duration of the introductory 0% APR period and the balance transfer fee, while acknowledging secondary factors such as the standard APR and the length of time you have to make a balance transfer after you open the account.

*All information about the Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum Credit Card and the Discover it Student Cash Back has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.