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Carrying high-interest credit card debt can feel like an endless cycle of accumulating interest. Continuing to make minimum payments barely dents your balance and results in high-interest fees. A balance transfer credit card can provide relief by letting you move your existing balance to a lower interest rate. For example, balance transfer cards offer promotional rates that reach 0% for six months or longer.

During the intro period, your monthly payment goes toward reducing the principal rather than paying interest. This allows you to pay down a substantial portion of your debt or eliminate it within the promotional timeframe.

Below, we’ll compare the top balance transfer card offers available in Canada. We’ve examined the key features and fine print to help you determine which option best fits your financial situation.

Best Balance Transfer Credit Card In Canada

CardFeesIntro APRPromotion Length
MBNA True Line® Mastercard®Annual fee: $0
Balance Transfer Fee: 3%
0%12 months
BMO® Preferred Rate MasterCard®Annual fee: $29 (waived year 1)
Balance Transfer Fee: 2%
0.99%9 months
Tangerine Money-Back Credit CardAnnual fee: $0
Balance Transfer Fee: 3%
1.95%6 months
Scotia Momentum® No Fee VisaAnnual fee: $0
Balance Transfer Fee: 2%
0%6 months
CIBC Select VisaAnnual fee: $29 (waived year 1)
Balance Transfer Fee: 1%
0%10 months
MBNA True Line Mastercard

MBNA True Line® Mastercard®

The MBNA True Line Mastercard stands out from the competition with its exceptionally long 0% intro APR period of 12 months on balance transfers. This provides ample time to pay off a transferred balance in full. 

Key Features

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Intro APR: 0% for 12 months
  • Regular APR: 12.99% (purchases & balance transfers)
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3%
  • Welcome Bonus: None
  • Transfer Window: 90 days
  • Income Requirements: N/A
  • Balance Transfer Limit: Not specified

With no annual fee, the MBNA Mastercard removes barriers to getting a balance transfer card, making it widely accessible. A key drawback is the 3% balance transfer fee. But on a large balance transfer, this is likely insignificant compared to the interest savings over 12 months at 0%. Likewise, cardholders must ensure they complete the transfer within 90 days of account opening. 

After the promotional period, your interest rate increases to 12.99%. This continues to keep costs low during a longer payback period. Overall, the MNBA card is an accessible, no-frills balance transfer card that is meant to help you consolidate and pay off your debt quickly

bmo preferred rate

BMO® Preferred Rate MasterCard®

The BMO Preferred Rate MasterCard combines a solid intro APR offer with lasting rate savings, making it a flexible balance transfer option from a reputable bank. This card shines with the ultra-low 12.99% regular purchase APR, which applies to all purchases made on the card. Meanwhile, your transferred balance interest rate will increase to 15.99% after the promotion. 

Key Features

  • Annual Fee: $29 (waived year 1)
  • Intro APR: 0.99% for 9 months
  • Regular APR: 12.99% (purchases), 15.99% (balance transfers)
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 2%
  • Welcome Bonus: None
  • Transfer Window: 9 months 
  • Income Requirements: N/A
  • Balance Transfer Limit: Credit limit minus fees

The 0.99% intro APR allows you to make headway on credit card debt over a 9-month term without receiving excessive interest fees. However, all transfers are subject to a 2% transfer fee. BMO waives the $29 annual fee for the first year, reducing upfront costs.

To summarize, the BMO Preferred Rate MasterCard allows you to pay off a transferred balance over time at a very affordable rate. Make the most of the 0.99% intro APR period, as the welcome offer isn’t the strongest in the market. 

Tangerine credit card

Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card

The Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card is one of the no-fee credit cards in Canada. It combines a solid balance transfer offer with opportunities to earn lucrative cash back rewards. It’s a great option for those wanting to keep the card after the balance transfer period. 

Special Offer

Apply for a Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card by April 30, 2024. If you’re approved, you’ll earn an extra 10% back on up to $1,000 in everyday purchases made within your first 2 months.*

Key Features

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Intro APR: 1.95% for 6 months
  • Regular APR: 19.95% (purchases and balance transfers)
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3%
  • Welcome Bonus: 10% cashback (up to $100) in first 2 months
  • Transfer Window: 30 days
  • Income Requirements: $12,000 personal
  • Balance Transfer Limit: Not specified

Although the balance transfer promotion isn’t market-leading, the card’s overall benefits make it appealing. For example, cardholders can receive up to 2% cashback on up to three chosen categories. The card also offers a tempting welcome bonus of 10% cashback on up to $1,000 in the first two months, which should be avoided for those looking to curb their credit card balance. 

Overall, the Tangerine Money-Back Card balances short-term debt repayment with long-term rewards earnings. However, the short 30-day balance transfer window requires cardholders to be vigilant to benefit from the promotional offer. 

Scotia Momentum no visa

Scotia Momentum® No Fee Visa

The Scotia Momentum No Fee Visa combines an attractive 0% intro APR offer for six months with opportunities to earn cashback rewards on everyday purchases. With no annual fee, the 2% balance transfer fee is reasonable. After the intro period ends, the ongoing APRs reach typical rates at 19.99% for purchases and 22.99% for balance transfers. 

Key Features

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Intro APR: 0% for 6 months
  • Regular APR: 19.99% (purchases), 22.99% (balance transfers)
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 2%
  • Welcome Bonus: 5% cashback during first 3 months ($100 total)
  • Transfer Window: Not specified
  • Income Requirements: $12,000 personal
  • Balance Transfer Limit: Not specified

For rewards, cardholders earn 1% cash back on gas, groceries, drugstores, and recurring payments. All other purchases receive 0.5% cashback. New cardholders can earn 5% cashback on all purchases for the first three months, up to $2,000 in spending. Overall, it’s a well-rounded card for short-term debt repayment and long-term rewards.

cibc select visa

CIBC Select Visa

A standout feature of the CIBC Select Visa is the remarkably low 13.99% ongoing purchase rate combined with 0% intro APR for ten months. Cardholders benefit from a low interest rate if carrying a balance after the promotional period. The CIBC Select Visa is a great option for those wanting a no-frills card with a low interest rate. 

Key Features

  • Annual Fee: $29 (waived year 1)
  • Intro APR: 0% for 10 months
  • Regular APR: 13.99% (purchases and balance transfers)
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 1%
  • Welcome Bonus: None
  • Transfer Window: Not specified
  • Income Requirement: $15,000 household
  • Balance Transfer Limit: 50% of credit limit

While there is a $29 annual fee, it’s waived for the first year, so there are no costs while you pay down your initial transfer. This card offers short-term and long-term savings, making it a great choice for those expecting to carry a balance after ten months. 

How Does A Balance Transfer Credit Card In Canada Work?

Step 1 – Get Approved For A Balance Transfer Card

Submit an online application for one of the recommended cards or another reputable balance transfer offer. Generally, a good credit score (above 650) and, in some cases, a minimum income are necessary for approval.

Step 2 – Request Your Balance Transfer Immediately

Time is crucial; the promotional rates often apply only within 1-3 months of obtaining the balance transfer card. Missing this window leads to the transfer being charged at the standard rate. Contact the new issuer immediately to request the balance transfer, but keep in mind there might be a 1-3% balance transfer fee.

Step 3 – Receive The Promotional APR

The transferred balance will now incur the promotional interest rate for the specified introductory period, typically 6-12 months. Maintaining on-time payments is vital as any missed payment usually resets the promotional APR to the standard rate.

Step 4 – Pay Off the Balance During The Intro Period

Focus on reducing your balance; avoid new purchases and tempting welcome bonuses. Concentrate on paying down your debt during this period. The aim is to eliminate the debt before the standard purchase APR becomes effective.

Step 5 – Interest Rates After Promotional Period

At this stage, different interest rates come into effect. The transferred balance starts accumulating interest at the balance transfer rate, while new purchases are charged at the purchase interest rate.

It’s important to note that new purchases made during the promotional period typically incur the standard purchase APR. Consequently, any additional balance from these purchases won’t benefit from the promotional rate.

Certain cards offer post-promotional rates below 15%, which is advantageous if you anticipate carrying a balance after the promotion ends. However, you can opt to transfer to other balance transfer cards if needed and repeat the process. Remember, you can only benefit from promotional rates if you transfer to another financial institution.

What To Look For In A Balance Transfer Credit Card

Balance transfer
  • Promotional Balance Transfer APR – The lower, the better. After the promotional period, your transferred balance will accrue interest at the standard balance transfer rate. 
  • Purchase APR – Although your transferred balance receives the promotional rate, new purchases accrue interest at the purchase APR. You can dilute savings by making new purchases on your card. 
  • Fees – Besides the annual fee, most cards charge a 1-3% balance transfer fee. Some options may lure you with a low APR and then surprise you with high transfer fees. 
  • Length of Promotional Term – Longer intro periods allow more time to pay off the balance. Your promotional rate ends with the term. 
  • Earning Potential – Some cards offer cash back or rewards on purchases made after the balance is paid, making them viable long-term credit cards.
  • Transfer Window – You’ll generally need to transfer your balance to the new card within 1-3 months of opening the account. Failing to do this will revoke the promotional APR. 
  • Transfer Limit – Each card has a different balance transfer limit. For example, some options only let you transfer up to 50% of the card’s overall credit limit, while others are higher. 
  • Perks – Extras like insurance, purchase protection, and extended warranty are nice-to-haves that can boost a card’s appeal. 

Should You Get A Balance Transfer Credit Card In Canada?

Transferring balances on credit cards offers excellent potential for managing debt, but it’s vital to follow the terms and conditions closely. Missing a payment could lead to losing the promotional rate and returning to the default, impacting the expected benefits.

These transfers often include limits, typically around 50% of the new card’s credit limit. It’s advisable to complete the balance transfer within the initial months of obtaining the new card, often part of a welcome bonus. Also, consider the potential extra cost through a balance transfer fee, which typically ranges from 1% to 3%.

Balance Transfer Credit Card In Canada – Pros:

  • Very low-interest rates for a reasonable period
  • Pay off debt faster by saving on interest
  • Reasonable interest rates after the promo period
  • Ability to switch to other cards after the promo ends
  • No need for collateral like a loan

Balance Transfer Credit Card In Canada – Cons:

  • Balance transfer fees might reduce savings
  • You need discipline to make use of the promo period
  • Applying for a new card can affect credit score
  • Transfers can’t be within the same bank
  • Missing a payment could cancel the low rate
  • Limits on the amount you can transfer, often up to 50% of the new card’s limit

Ultimately, for those with good credit, large high-interest credit card debt, and the means to pay it down within a 6 to 12-month timeframe, a 0% balance transfer card can provide significant savings versus letting it linger.

How To Make The Most Of A Balance Transfer Credit Card In Canada

Utilize Your Balance Transfer Card Strictly For Debt Payments

You’re likely researching a balance transfer card to reduce your debts. As such, try to avoid using the new card for purchases. Since the promotional rate only applies to your transferred balance, new purchases have a standard interest rate of around 20%. You can cut up your new card if necessary to prevent additional payments. 

Keep Track Of Promotional Periods

The promotional APR is temporary. Your interest rate will increase back to the standard rate afterward. As such, try to clear your debt within the promotional period to avoid another debt spiral. If you still carry a balance at the end of your promotion, you can use a balance transfer card from another financial institution. 

Make Timely Payments 

Missing a payment generally terminates the balance transfer interest rate, increasing it back to the standard rate. In addition, you may be charged late fees and a missed payment could negatively impact your credit history. This will prevent your ability to open additional balance transfer cards in the future. Set up automatic payments to prevent this, but ensure sufficient funds in your bank account. 

Bottom Line: Best Balance Transfer Credit Card In Canada

If you carry credit card balances charging upward of 19% interest, transferring to a card offering a promotional rate for six months or longer can lead to considerable interest savings. You’ll be able to focus on aggressively paying down your debt without it ballooning from ongoing high interest.

While not a cure-all for bad credit habits, the strategic use of a balance transfer credit card provides an affordable way to eliminate nagging high-interest debt under the right circumstances. Just be sure to prioritize paying down your debt by avoiding additional payments. Also, attempt to eliminate the balance within the promotional period, otherwise, you can switch to another balance transfer card. 

Balance Transfer FAQs

How does a balance transfer impact your credit score?

Applying for a new credit card results in a hard inquiry and a lower average account age, which may cause a small temporary score drop. But paying down debt improves utilization over time, which could boost your score.

What credit score do you need for a balance transfer card?

You typically need a score of 650 or higher to qualify for a balance transfer credit card. Those with lower scores may need to look at secured cards to rebuild credit first.

Can you transfer a balance to any credit card?

Most cards permit balance transfers, but you typically can’t move debt between two cards from the same financial institution. The new card must be from a different provider.

How long does a balance transfer take to process?

Allow 3 to 4 weeks after approval for a balance transfer to complete. Keep paying your normal card minimums until the balance moves.

Should you take cash advances on a 0% balance transfer card?

No, cash advances don’t qualify for the promotional interest rate. Instead, your card will charge interest immediately at the higher cash advance rate. Only balance transfers qualify for the promotional rate if made within the transfer window. 

What happens after the promotional period expires?

Any remaining balance will begin accumulating interest at the regular balance transfer APR. Meanwhile, any purchase made during the promotional period will still receive the purchase interest rate, often 20%. It’s best to attempt paying off your balance while the promotional rate is active. 

 

Trevor O'Hagan avatar on Loans Canada
Trevor O'Hagan

Trevor is a personal finance, SEO, and technical sales expert. He received an Honours BAA (Economics) degree from Wilfrid Laurier University. Trevor previously worked at Salesforce and used his personal finance knowledge to become a homeowner in Ontario by age 25. Aside from Loans Canada, Trevor contributes to Forbes Advisor and Hardbacon. He also serves as the chairman of the Schwartz-Reisman Alumni Association and is a content specialist at Croton Content.

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