Rodney Bennett, WalletHub Analyst
You need a credit score of 700 and greater on the 850-point FICO credit scoring scale to have a good chance at being approved for a good balance transfer credit card. Most 0% balance transfer credit cards require at least “good credit” for approval. There are exceptions, though. If you’re a student, there is no minimum credit score needed for a balance transfer credit card. Some student credit cards offer great balance transfer deals and don’t require applicants to have any prior credit history. Other than that, however, the selection will be limited.
Credit card companies generally don’t want to take on a customer’s debt until they have proved themselves reliable to repay amounts owed. Good credit seems to be the proven threshold for major credit card companies. You’ll find cards with 0% balance transfer APR periods from all of the 10 biggest credit card companies right now. For example, the Chase Slate card requires “good” credit or better for approval and offers 0% for 15 months on balance transfers, with a $0 balance transfer fee. That makes the balance transfer free for 15 months, since there’s no annual fee either.
It’s much harder to get approved for a balance transfer card with below-average credit. People with limited or no credit history could be in luck, however, if they happen to be in school. Some student credit cards offer 0% APR periods on balance transfers, such as the Wells Fargo Cash Back College card (0% for 6 months) and the BankAmericard student card (0% for 21 months).
People with “fair” credit—640 to 699—who meet certain criteria, such as being in the military, could potentially qualify for a balance transfer deal as well. USAA offers several credit cards with 0% APR balance transfers to people with fair credit. But the cards are only open to applicants who are USAA members, meaning people who’ve been in the military or who have eligible military family members. For example, the Wounded Warriors USAA Rewards card only requires fair credit and USAA membership, and offers 0% for 12 months on balance transfers.
Aside from that, some credit unions also offer balance transfer credit cards for fair credit. Credit unions are membership-based nonprofit organizations, and usually have specific requirements for becoming a member. If you qualify for TDECU membership, the TDECU Classic Mastercard offers 0% for 12 months on balance transfers with a $0 balance transfer fee, which is a good deal. So, consider looking for credit unions in your area that offer balance transfer cards if you have below-average credit.
People with bad credit scores, or scores under 640, won’t have much luck finding a balance transfer credit card that will be of much help. Unsecured cards for bad credit do exist, but you’ll usually pay a steep price in fees for even having these cards, and they typically don’t allow balance transfers. If you have bad credit, you should start rebuilding your credit with a secured credit card. Use the card responsibly and steadily make on-time payments, and over time, you’ll have a score that will qualify you for a better credit card.
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