The Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards in Canada for 2019

best balance transfer credit cardsCarrying debt on a high-interest credit card? One way to tackle this problem is to do a balance transfer – whereby you move debt from one high-interest credit card to a new one with a much lower (or no) interest rate. This smooth move could save you hundreds of dollars in interest, allowing you to pay down your debt faster. A balance transfer credit card is a card with very low or no monthly interest on balance transfers. Basically, you’re using one card to pay off another, while also taking advantage of a rock bottom interest rate that’ll make your payments more manageable. Here are our top picks for the best balance transfer credit cards in Canada.

Overview of Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards in Canada 2019

Credit Card Best For
Scotiabank Value® Visa* CardVery low introductory balance transfer rate
Tangerine Money-Back Credit CardCash back rewards + low introductory balance transfer rate
MBNA Best Western Rewards® Mastercard®Generous 10-month grace period + rewards
MBNA True Line® Mastercard®Short-term balance transfers
American Express Essential™ Credit CardNo Annual Fee
PC Financial ® MastercardVery low introductory balance transfer rate + rewards

Why Get a Balance Transfer Credit Card? 

Transferring a balance can be an excellent strategy for consolidating debt and getting you back in the black. When moving outstanding debt from a high-interest credit card onto a balance transfer credit card, you can either stop or greatly reduce the accumulation of interest while buying time to pay down your principal.

For example, imagine you have $2,500 in debt sitting on a credit card with the typical interest rate of 19.99%. The interest on that debt totals around $500 over a year—that’s no small change! Instead of chipping away at the debt while interest accumulates, you could send that debt over to a balance transfer credit card at a lower interest rate and pay down the principal with little or no interest accumulating. In the long-run, this savvy strategy could save you some serious coin.

In general, balance transfer cards are a very good idea for small or medium amounts of debt. Since you can transfer debt from multiple cards, they work like a charm if you’re trying to consolidate what you owe. Just make sure to read the fine print, as interest rates and grace periods vary for each credit card.

How to Choose a Balance Transfer Credit Card

When choosing a balance transfer credit card, here are five things to be on the lookout for:

  • Introductory interest rate on transferred balances: The lower the interest rate, the better. Paying 0% is the best-case scenario!
  • Length of promotional grace period: The amount of time the promotional rate is in effect varies card to card. The longer, the better – especially if it’s a lengthy 0% timeline.
  • Balance transfer fee: Typically expressed as a percentage of the balance you’re moving, this fee is tacked onto your total.
  • Annual fee: Some balance transfer cards have an annual fee, so work that into your calculations. A card with no annual fee is best for transfers.
  • Regular rate: What is the interest rate after the grace period? Although your plan should be to pay down your debt before the low-interest promotion expires, you don’t want to be caught out paying a higher-than-average rate should you need to take more time.
  • Rewards: Sweetening the pot, some balance transfer cards also allow you to collect rewards. The BMO® AIR MILES®† Mastercard®*, for example, lets you earn miles that can be spent on travel, products, or as cash in select stores. Carriers of the MBNA Best Western Rewards® Mastercard® will receive 20,000 points—enough for a free night’s stay—on their first purchase plus additional points thereafter.

One thing to note: the low-interest rate for balance transfers is typically offered on an introductory basis for a finite period. After the promo expires, the balance is charged at a much higher rate. So your goal should be to pay down your balance before the promotion period ends.

Summary: The Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards in Canada in 2019

Credit Card Annual feeBalance Transfer Intro RatePurchase Interest Rate (APR) More Info
Scotiabank Value® Visa* Card$290.99% for 6 month12.99%Learn More
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card$01.95% for 6 month19.95%Learn More
MBNA Best Western Rewards® Mastercard®$01.99% for 10 month21.99%Learn More
PC Financial ® Mastercard$00.97% for 6 month21.97%Learn More
MBNA True Line® Mastercard®$00% for 10 months12.99%Learn More
American Express Essential™ Credit Card$01.99% for 6 month8.99%Learn More

MBNA Best Western Rewards® Mastercard®: *This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For residents of Quebec, please click here.
MBNA True Line® Mastercard®: *This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.

Scotiabank Value® Visa* Card

Scotia Value VisaIntroductory rate/grace period: 0.99% for 6 months
Regular balance transfer rate: 12.99%
Annual fee: $29
Balance transfer fee: $3.50
Rewards: None

 

One of the few cards on this list that carries an annual fee, the Scotiabank Value® Visa* Card is enticing because it offers an extremely low 0.99% introductory rate for 6 months on balance transfers. After that, it reverts to the regular rate at 12.99% – still a low-interest rate by industry standards. However, if you miss your mark and fail to pay off all of your transferred debt, it will accumulate interest at a much more attractive rate than with many other cards.

Click here to apply for the Scotiabank Value® Visa* Card


Tangerine Money-Back MasterCard

Tangerine-Money-Back-Credit-Card_243x153Introductory rate/grace period: 1.95% for 6 months
Regular balance transfer rate: 19.95%
Balance transfer fee: 3% or a minimum of $5.00
Annual fee: $0
Rewards: 2% back in cash on eligible money-back categories

The Tangerine Money-Back MasterCard is offering a sweet balance transfer deal to new customers: make a transfer within 30 days of opening your account and pay only 1.95% for 6 months, after which time you will pay the standard interest rate of 19.95%. This is an attractive offer, especially combined with no annual fee and Tangerine’s cash-back benefits of 2% on eligible money-back categories. Best of all, Tangerine has a lucrative, limited-time welcome offer. As of April 22, 2019, new Tangerine Credit Card Account holders can earn 4% Money-Back Rewards on purchases in up to three Money-Back Categories of their choice, for the first three months. Apply now, because this promo expires on July 31, 2019.

Click here to apply for the Tangerine Money-Back MasterCard


MBNA Best Western Rewards® Mastercard®

Best-Western-MasterCard®-credit-card_243x153Promotional annual interest rate: 1.99% for 10 months with a 1% transfer fee
Regular balance transfer rate: 21.99%
Balance transfer fee: 1%
Annual fee: $0
Rewards: Earn Best Western Rewards® points 

 

In addition to a generous 10-month grace period, the MBNA Best Western Rewards® Mastercard® is a natural contender because of its rewards program. Upon sign-up, you can get a balance transfer at 1.99% for 10 months with a 1% transfer fee – one of the top promotions in Canada. Plus, customers earn Best Western Rewards® points on all spends that can be redeemed towards hotel stays, dining, gift cards, and more, and you will receive 20,000 BWR® points after your first eligible purchase—that’s enough for a free one-night stay! With no annual, this card offers great perks to frequent travellers.

*This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For residents of Quebec, please click here.

Click here to apply for the MBNA Best Western Rewards® Mastercard®


PC Financial ® Mastercard

PC-Financial-MasterCard-243Introductory rate/grace period: 0.97% for 6 months
Regular balance transfer rate: 21.97%
Balance transfer fee: 1%
Annual fee: $0
Rewards: Earn PC Optimum Points

 

For those who shop in the President’s Choice family of brands, the PC Financial ® Mastercard pairs an attractive balance transfer offer of 0.97% for 6 months with the opportunity to earn PC Optimum points that can be redeemed for groceries and eligible products. With a generous 10 points per dollar in their stores plus 25 points per dollar at Shoppers Drug Mart, it’s fast and easy to earn your way towards free gas or groceries and do it with no annual fee.

Click here to apply for the PC Financial ® Mastercard


MBNA True Line® Mastercard®

MBNA-True-Line-MasterCard-243Promotional annual interest rate: 0% for 10 months with a 3% transfer fee (min. $7.50)
Regular balance transfer rate: 12.99%
Balance transfer fee: 1% (minimum fee of $7.50)
Annual fee: $0
Rewards: None.

 

With no annual fee, an incredible balance transfer rate, and a low purchase interest rate of 12.99%, the MBNA True Line® Mastercard® is a solid choice for those looking for a place to park and pay off their balance quickly. It’s especially enticing with the 0% promotional annual interest rate for 10 months on balance transfers completed within 90 days of account opening, with a fee of 3% of the amount advanced (minimum fee of $7.50).

*This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.

Click here to apply for the MBNA True Line® Mastercard®


American Express Essential™ Credit Card

American-Express-Essential-Credit-Card_243x153Introductory rate/grace period: 1.99% for 6 months
Regular balance transfer rate: 8.99%
Balance transfer fee: None
Annual fee: $0
Rewards: None

 

With the American Express Essential™ Credit Card, cardholders can transfer their balances without paying a transfer fee—one of the few cards on our list to offer this perk. The introductory rate of 1.99% for balance transfers for the first six months is attractive, but the regular rate of 8.99% makes this a rare card indeed. With no annual fee and purchase protection, this card is a standout.

Click here to apply for the American Express Essential™ Credit Card


Other Recommended Balance Transfer Credit Cards:

BMO® AIR MILES®† Mastercard®*

BMO-Air-Miles-Mastercard-243Introductory rate/grace period: 1.99% for 9 months
Regular rate: 19.99% for purchases and 22.99% for cash advances
Balance transfer fee: 1%
Annual fee: $0
Rewards: Earn AIR MILES Reward Miles for every credit card purchase

 

Cardholders can take advantage of a low 1.99% introductory interest rate for a full 9 months on balance transfers and collect AIR MILES with the BMO® AIR MILES®† Mastercard®*. New customers receive a bonus of up to 800 AIR MILES, and new rules mean that members get two times the rewards for every $20 spent at participating AIR MILES Partners along with 1 AIR MILE for every $20 spent everywhere else. With no annual fee, this is a card to consider.

Click here to apply for the BMO® AIR MILES®† Mastercard®*

BMO® Preferred Rate Mastercard®*

BMO-Preferred-Rate-Mastercard-11.9_243x153Introductory rate/grace period: 3.99% for 9 months
Regular balance transfer rate: 12.99%
Balance transfer fee: 1%
Annual fee: $20
Rewards: None

 

For the reasonable annual fee of $20, customers choosing the BMO® Preferred Rate Mastercard®* will receive a balance transfer rate of 3.99% for 9 months—and a very competitive regular rate of 12.99%. Unlike a lot of other low rate cards, this one also includes extended warranty and purchase protection.

Click here to apply for the BMO® Preferred Rate Mastercard®*

American Express® AIR MILES®* Credit Card

American-Express-Air-Miles-Credit-Card_243x153-2Introductory rate/grace period: 1.99% for 6 months
Regular rate: 19.99% on purchases and 22.99% on funds advances
Balance transfer fee: 0%
Annual fee: $0
Rewards: Earn AIR MILES®* Reward Miles

 

AIR MILES collectors might be enticed by the welcome bonus of 500 AIR MILES®* Reward Miles but the 1.99% introductory rate on balance transfers with no transfer fee really sets the American Express® AIR MILES®* Credit Card apart. With no annual fee, this card is an excellent option, especially since you'll earn 1 AIR MILES®* Reward Miles for every $15 in Card purchases at AIR MILES® Sponsors and 1 Reward Mile for every $20 in Card purchases everywhere else.

Click here to apply for the American Express® AIR MILES®* Credit Card

Balance Transfer Card Best Practices

Get the most from your balance transfer credit card by following these savvy strategies:

  • Don’t make new purchases on your balance transfer card: Your balance transfer is charged at a low or 0% rate of interest, but there is a different interest rate for new purchases. If you make purchases on the same card, your payments will be equally split between your balance transfer and the purchase amount. The idea in using a balance transfer card is to pay down debt fast, and this simple mistake will stretch out your repayment time—and trigger interest on the purchase amount. It’s a good idea to have a separate card for new purchases, so consider leaving one of your existing accounts open—or look into getting a low-interest credit card.
  • Don’t exceed your credit limit: Some companies allow overspending – and if that happens, there’s a chance of losing your introductory low-interest rate.
  • Pay your minimum monthly payments: If you miss a payment deadline, you could lose your low introductory interest rate.
  • Keep track of the time: Like all good things, the promotional period must come to an end. When it does, you’ll be charged at a much higher interest rate. Aim to pay off your debt in full, but failing that, give yourself time to transfer your remaining debt to another balance transfer card.

The Final Word

If you’re one of the many Canadians holding a modest amount of debt, you should definitely consider getting a balance transfer credit card to lighten the load. With typical credit card interest rates running at around 20%, a small money misstep can turn into an onerous obligation—and fast. Luckily, the smart and strategic use of balance transfer credit cards can help minimize the financial blow. Just remember to shop around for the right one: look carefully at the introductory interest rate, regular interest rate, annual fee, and balance transfer fee to see which credit card best matches your needs. With a little strategy and determination, you can eliminate your debt in no time at all.

The Best Credit Cards by Category:

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Keph Senett

Keph Senett is a Canadian freelance writer with an interest in helping people make solid choices towards debt-free living. Her work has appeared in publications including Al Jazeera America, Greedy Rates, BBC News, and The Globe & Mail.

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