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Best Credit Cards for Paying Off Debt for March 2024

These credit cards could help you get rid of existing debt, so too could a debt-consolidation loan or debt repayment strategy.

  • CNET'S PICK
    CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
    9/10
    Annual Fee $0
    Rewards Rate
    N/A This card doesn't offer cash back, miles, or points
  • CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
    9.5/10
    Annual Fee $0
    Rewards Rate
    1% - 5% Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases-automatically.; Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
    Intro offer available Intro 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.
  • CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
    6/10
    Annual Fee $0
    Rewards Rate
    N/A This card doesn't offer cash back, miles, or points

The cost of carrying credit card debt is high, with the average annual percentage rate on a credit card hovering above 20%. Luckily, the Federal Reserve voted to hold rates steady in December and signaled they may even implement rate cuts this year, which means now’s the time to try to knock out any existing debt.

On average, Americans carry more than $5,805 in credit card debt, according to the 2022 TransUnion Credit Industry Insights Report. By only paying the minimum payment on a balance that high with a 20% APR, it could take you nearly 292 months to get rid of your debt. However, using the right credit card can help you get out of debt faster while avoiding high interest payments. Here are some of the best to pick from.

Best credit cards for paying off debt

CNET’S PICK
9/10
CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Annual Fee
$0
Rewards Rate
N/A This card doesn’t offer cash back, miles, or points
Rec. Credit Recommended Credit: A credit score is used to indicate an applicant’s credit worthiness and may provide guidance about account eligibility. It does not necessarily guarantee approval for any financial product.
670 – 850 Good – Excellent
APR
19.24% – 29.99% (Variable)

The Citi Simplicity® Card* is a no-frills card -- there are no rewards to earn, but you’ll get 21 months at 0% intro APR for balance transfers (and 12 months on purchases) -- one of the longest offers on the market. After the intro period, an 19.24% to 29.99% 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.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0% for 21 months on Balance Transfers
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 12 months on Purchases
Regular APR
19.24% – 29.99% (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.
N/A

The Citi Simplicity® Card* is a no-frills card -- there are no rewards to earn, but you’ll get 21 months at 0% intro APR for balance transfers (and 12 months on purchases) -- one of the longest offers on the market. After the intro period, an 19.24% to 29.99% 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.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0% for 21 months on Balance Transfers
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 12 months on Purchases
Regular APR
19.24% – 29.99% (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.
N/A
9.5/10
CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Intro Offer
Cashback Match™ Intro 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.
Annual Fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1% – 5% Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases-automatically.; Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Rec. Credit Recommended Credit: A credit score is used to indicate an applicant’s credit worthiness and may provide guidance about account eligibility. It does not necessarily guarantee approval for any financial product.
No Credit History
APR
18.24% – 27.24% Variable APR

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 (18.24% to 27.24% 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 18.24% to 27.24% variable APR).

Read our Discover It Student Cash Back review.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
10.99% for 6 months
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 6 months
Regular APR
18.24% – 27.24% Variable APR
Balance Transfer Fee
3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*
5%
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases-automatically.
1%
Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

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 (18.24% to 27.24% 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 18.24% to 27.24% variable APR).

Read our Discover It Student Cash Back review.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
10.99% for 6 months
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 6 months
Regular APR
18.24% – 27.24% Variable APR
Balance Transfer Fee
3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*
5%
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases-automatically.
1%
Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Long introductory period for paying off debt

BankAmericard® credit card

8.75/10
CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
BankAmericard® credit card
Annual Fee
$0
Rewards Rate
N/A This card doesn’t offer cash back, miles, or points
Rec. Credit Recommended Credit: A credit score is used to indicate an applicant’s credit worthiness and may provide guidance about account eligibility. It does not necessarily guarantee approval for any financial product.
670 – 850 Good – Excellent
APR
16.24% – 26.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

The BankAmericard® credit card* offers a good way to use a balance transfer to knock out some of your credit card debt. You’ll have 18 billing cycles to pay down a transferred balance at 0% introductory interest before the standard APR of 16.24% to 26.24% 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 an introductory balance transfer fee of 3% of the amount of each transaction when doing so (4% for balance transfers after 60 days from account opening). This is an average balance transfer fee. While some cards offer no balance transfer fees, the tradeoff is typically a shorter APR period.

That fee -- 3% of a transferred balance for 60 days from account opening (then 4%) -- 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.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0% Intro APR for 18 billing cycles for any BTs made in the first 60 days. A fee of 3% for 60 days from account opening, then 4% will apply.
Intro Purchase APR
0% Intro APR for 18 billing cycles for purchases
Regular APR
16.24% – 26.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Balance Transfer Fee
3% for 60 days from account opening, then 4%
N/A

The BankAmericard® credit card* offers a good way to use a balance transfer to knock out some of your credit card debt. You’ll have 18 billing cycles to pay down a transferred balance at 0% introductory interest before the standard APR of 16.24% to 26.24% 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 an introductory balance transfer fee of 3% of the amount of each transaction when doing so (4% for balance transfers after 60 days from account opening). This is an average balance transfer fee. While some cards offer no balance transfer fees, the tradeoff is typically a shorter APR period.

That fee -- 3% of a transferred balance for 60 days from account opening (then 4%) -- 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.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0% Intro APR for 18 billing cycles for any BTs made in the first 60 days. A fee of 3% for 60 days from account opening, then 4% will apply.
Intro Purchase APR
0% Intro APR for 18 billing cycles for purchases
Regular APR
16.24% – 26.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Balance Transfer Fee
3% for 60 days from account opening, then 4%
N/A
Long introductory balance transfer offer

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

8.75/10
CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
Annual Fee
$0
Rewards Rate
N/A This card doesn’t offer cash back, miles, or points
Rec. Credit Recommended Credit: A credit score is used to indicate an applicant’s credit worthiness and may provide guidance about account eligibility. It does not necessarily guarantee approval for any financial product.
670 – 850 Good – Excellent
APR
18.74% – 29.74% (Variable)

If you have a large expense coming up, you’ll have room to breathe with 21 billing cycles of introductory no-interest payments on purchases and balance transfers (18.74% to 29.74% 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.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0% intro APR for 21 billing cycles on balance transfers
Intro Purchase APR
0% intro APR for 21 billing cycles on purchases
Regular APR
18.74% – 29.74% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee
Either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater
N/A

If you have a large expense coming up, you’ll have room to breathe with 21 billing cycles of introductory no-interest payments on purchases and balance transfers (18.74% to 29.74% 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.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0% intro APR for 21 billing cycles on balance transfers
Intro Purchase APR
0% intro APR for 21 billing cycles on purchases
Regular APR
18.74% – 29.74% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee
Either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater
N/A
6/10
CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Annual Fee
None
Rewards Rate
N/A This card doesn’t offer cash back, miles, or points
Rec. Credit Recommended Credit: A credit score is used to indicate an applicant’s credit worthiness and may provide guidance about account eligibility. It does not necessarily guarantee approval for any financial product.
N/A
APR
10.99% – 18.00% Variable

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.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0% intro APR for 12 months on balance transfers
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
10.99% – 18.00% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
N/A

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.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0% intro APR for 12 months on balance transfers
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
10.99% – 18.00% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
N/A

What is a credit card for paying off debt?

A credit card that’s designed to help you pay off existing credit card debt is typically called a balance transfer credit card. These cards have an introductory 0% APR on balance transfers, which allows cardholders to transfer a balance from another card and pay it off while it accrues no interest.

Generally speaking, the best balance transfer credit cards charge a balance transfer fee, which usually ranges from 3% to 5% of the transferred balance. While paying another fee while dealing with credit card debt may sound like an unnecessary expense, it will likely cost less than expensive interest charges. And while you can find some balance transfer cards without balance transfer fees, they typically have shorter 0% introductory periods.

Pros

  • Get extra breathing room with an introductory balance transfer APR

  • Improve your credit by paying off debt and getting a lower credit utilization

Cons

  • Credit cards can lead to more debt

  • Balance transfer credit cards typically charge a fee to transfer a balance

How to choose a credit card for paying off debt

Choosing the right credit card involves making sure you have enough time before the introductory APR ends to pay off your debt. You’ll also want to plan for what to do with the card once its introductory APR ends and review the card’s terms and fees.

Introductory APR period

This is the most important factor. Some cards offer introductory APR periods as long as 21 months. If the card you’re looking into doesn’t have a long enough introductory APR period to pay off your transferred balance in time, consider one with a longer time frame. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying high-interest charges on the remaining balance, which may negate the expected savings from using a balance transfer.

You calculate the length of time you’ll need by dividing the balance you’ll transfer by the highest monthly payment you can make. For example, if you’re transferring a $5,000 balance and you can make payments of $450 each month, you’ll want a card that offers an intro APR period of at least 12 months ($5,000 divided by $450 equals 11.11 months).  Also, remember to account for the balance transfer fee, which will be tacked on to the balance.

Terms and fees

Balance transfer fees can range from 3% to 5% of the transferred balance. So, if you’re looking to transfer $5,805 in credit card debt (the national average), expect $174.15 to $290.25 to be added to your balance. 

To find out if this balance transfer fee is worth paying, you can use a credit card debt payoff calculator, like this one from Bankrate. They’re useful tools that can show you how much you’d pay in interest by the time you pay off your credit card balance and how long it’ll take you to pay it off by just paying the minimum. In most cases, the balance transfer fee will pale in comparison with what you’ll spend on interest charges.

Continuing with the example above, if you expect to pay more than $174.15 to $290.25 in interest charges on your $5,805 balance, then it is worth it to pay the balance transfer fee.

It’s also important to consider the card’s standard variable APR. If you aren’t able to pay off your debt by the end of the promotional period, the balance will begin to accrue interest at that rate.

Credit score requirements

Most balance transfer credit cards require good to excellent credit. If your credit scores are lower than what’s recommended to get approved, you could check for preapproval offers.

Preapproval offers can help you gauge your likelihood of approval without undergoing a hard credit check. However, getting preapproved doesn’t guarantee you’ll be approved for the card. You’ll still need to fill out a full application for the card.

On-going value

Once your balance is paid off, you may be able to get additional value out of your credit card. If the card’s only feature is balance transfers, it may not be particularly useful in the future. But some balance transfer cards provide rewards and can help you earn a little back on your spending once your balance is paid off.

If your card doesn’t have a rewards program, consider using it only for small purchases every six months or so to avoid an account closure and set up autopay. Instead, look into options for retention offers to keep the card open, or to product change to a more favorable credit card. This will allow you to keep the credit line open, which can help your credit score.

Avoid closing the account if you can. Closing a credit card can damage your credit as it could increase your credit utilization ratio and lower the average age of your credit accounts -- two factors that impact your credit score.

How to pay off debt effectively with a credit card

If you want a balance transfer card to help you out of credit card debt, you must figure out how much money to allocate to the transferred balance monthly. Divide the transferred balance (plus the balance transfer fee, if applicable) by the number of months in the promotional period.

For example, for a debt of $5,805 with a 3% balance transfer fee and a 21-month introductory APR, you’d need to pay at least $284.72 (($5,805 x .03) + $5,805 / 21) to pay off the debt before the 21 months are up. You should allocate more than this if you can to ensure you pay off the balance in time.

Alternatives to using a credit card to pay off debt

If you don’t want to open a new credit card account to wrangle in your debt, there are other options available.

You could opt for a personal loan to consolidate your debt. Personal loans like debt consolidation loans often offer a much longer amount of time to pay back the borrowed amount, plus with a much lower interest rate than credit cards -- usually around 11% to 13%. Just keep in mind that, like a credit card account, opening a personal loan will typically result in a hard credit check, which will likely lower your credit score by a few points. The drop should only be temporary.

You could also try a debt-payoff plan. Two of the most popular are the debt avalanche and debt snowball methods. The debt avalanche method involves paying the monthly minimum on all debts, while focusing on paying down the debt with the highest interest rate first. 

Once paid off, you can reallocate your funds to the debt with the next highest interest rate and so on.  While this method will save you the most in interest, the debt snowball method can be more motivating. You’ll also pay the monthly minimum on all debts, but also focus on paying off the debt with the lowest principal balance first. You’ll then move on to the next lowest, and so on.

How to apply for a credit card

To apply for a credit card, follow these steps:

  1. Choose a credit card that matches your needs.
  2. Apply securely on the credit card issuers’ website, providing the necessary personal and financial information. This will include your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, income, and monthly rent or mortgage payment.
  3. You should hear back instantly with the credit card company’s decision. If not, it may reach out for clarification or more information.

FAQs

It’s possible to pay down debt with a credit card. It may not be the best option, however, 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.

Some credit cards offer new cardholders a 0% (no interest) period for purchases and 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.

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%.

Credit cards with the best introductory and balance transfer offers typically require a good credit score of 670 or higher. However, some card providers have a prequalification tool, which 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.

Other cards we researched

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 Citi Simplicity Card, Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum Credit Card, BankAmericard 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.

Cynthia Paez Bowman is a finance, real estate and international business journalist. Besides Bankrate.com, her work has been featured in Business Jet Traveler, MSN, CheatSheet.com, Freshome.com and SimpleDollar.com. She owns and operates a small digital marketing and public relations firm that works with select startups and women-owned businesses to provide growth and visibility. Cynthia splits her time between Los Angeles, CA and San Sebastian, Spain. She travels to Africa and the Middle East regularly to consult with women's NGOs about small business development.
Liliana Hall is an editor for CNET Money covering banking, credit cards and mortgages. Previously, she wrote about personal credit for Bankrate and CreditCards.com. She is passionate about providing accessible content to enhance financial literacy. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor's degree in journalism, and has worked in the newsrooms of KUT and the Austin Chronicle. When not working, she is probably paddle boarding, hopping on a flight or reading for her book club.