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: Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Credit Card Best For
Tangerine Money-Back Credit CardCash back rewards + low introductory balance transfer rate
Scotiabank Value VisaVery low introductory balance transfer rate
Best Western Rewards MasterCardGenerous 10-month grace period + rewards
MBNA True Line MasterCardShort-term balance transfers
American Express Essential 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 Airmiles 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 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 of the Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards in Canada in 2019

Credit Card Annual feeIntroductory RateGrace PeriodRegular Balance Transfer RateBalance Transfer FeeApply
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card$01.95%6 months19.95%3% or $5.00 minimumApply
Scotiabank Value Visa$290.99%6 months12.99%$3.50Apply
Best Western Rewards MasterCard$01.99%10 months21.99%1%Apply
PC Financial Credit Card$00.97%6 months21.97%1%Apply
MBNA True Line MasterCard$02.99%6 months12.99%1% (minimum $7.50)Apply
American Express Essential Card$01.99%6 months8.99%None (conditions apply)Apply

Tangerine Money-Back MasterCard

  • Introductory 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.

Scotiabank Value Visa Card

  • Introductory 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.

Best Western Rewards MasterCard

  • Introductory rate/grace period: 1.99% for 10 months
  • Regular balance transfer rate: 21.99%
  • Balance transfer fee: 1%
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Rewards: Earn Best Western reward points 

In addition to a generous 10-month grace period, the Best Western MasterCard is a natural contender because of its rewards program. Plus, customers earn reward points on all spends that can be redeemed towards hotel stays, dining, gift cards, and more, and you will receive 20,000 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.

PC Financial MasterCard

  • Introductory 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.

MBNA True Line MasterCard

  • Introductory rate/grace period: 2.99% for 6 months
  • Regular balance transfer rate: 12.99%
  • Balance transfer fee: 1% (minimum $7.50)
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Rewards: None.

With no annual fee, a low 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 promo period of 2.99% for 6 months on balance transfers.

AMEX Essential Credit Card

  • Introductory 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 AMEX 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 is attractive, but the regular rate of 8.99% makes this a rare card indeed. With no annual fee and purchase protection, this AMEX product is a standout.

Other Recommended Balance Transfer Credit Cards:

BMO AIR MILES MasterCard

  • Introductory rate/grace period: 1.99% for 9 months
  • Regular balance transfer rate: 22.99%
  • 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 800 AIR MILES, and new rules mean that members get two times the rewards when they shop through partner sites. With no annual fee, this is a card to consider.

BMO Preferred Rate MasterCard

  • Introductory 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 purchase protection.

American Express AIR MILES Credit Card

  • Introductory rate/grace period: 1.99% for 6 months
  • Regular balance transfer rate: 22.99%
  • Balance transfer fee: 0%
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Rewards: Earn AIR MILES points

AIR MILES collectors might be enticed by the welcome bonus of 500 AIR 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 Reward Mile for every $15 in Card purchases at AIR MILES Sponsors and 1 Reward Mile for every $20 in Card purchases everywhere else.

Scotia Momentum Visa Card

  • Introductory rate/grace period: 2.99% for 6 months
  • Regular rate: 22.99%
  • Annual fee: $39
  • Balance transfer fee: $3.50
  • Rewards: 1-2% cash back

The Scotia Momentum Visa Card is a cash back card offering 2% on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, drug stores, and on recurring bill payments. All other purchases earn 1% cash back. Their balance transfer deal is 2.99% for 6 months, after which time remaining debt is charged at 22.99%. Note that balance transfers cannot be transferred from another Scotiabank product.

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.

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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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