Canada’s best balance transfer credit cards 2020 - MoneySense

Canada’s best balance transfer credit cards 2020

These cards offer super low introductory rates for balance transfers

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Are you working on a plan to become debt-free, but paying a lot of interest on purchases made on your existing high interest card? A balance transfer credit card, which allows you to move the balance from your current cards over to a new card with a lower interest rate (some as low as 0%) can be a good strategy for you. Just keep in mind that these great balance transfer offers are time-limited and when that period ends—often after only six months—the rates will go back up. (Note that the regular rate on some of these cards is still significantly lower than the standard 19.99%.)

The best balance transfer credit cards in Canada 2020


MBNA True Line Mastercard*

This no-annual-fee card is perfectly suited to helping you save money on interest on your credit card debt. After signing up, you’ll enjoy 12 months interest-free on your transferred balances. It’s hard to beat 0% for a whole year though there is a flat 3% balance transfer fee you’ll have to cover (meaning, you’ll have to pay $30 if you transfer $1,000 from another card). Another perk is that it’s free to add up to 9 additional cardholders.

After the 12-month balance transfer offer ends, you’ll be charged 12.99% on any remaining balance from your transfer. You’ll also pay 12.99% for any new purchases you make on the card, which is modest compared to the 19.99% you were probably paying on your old card. Be aware, though, that a steep 24.99% interest applies to cash advances.

  • Annual fee: None
  • Balance transfer offer: No annual interest on balance transfers for the first 12 months (3% flat fee also applies); after 12 months, the rate increases to 12.99%
  • Interest rate: 12.99% on purchases; 24.99% on cash advances
  • Additional benefits: Around-the-clock fraud protection and access to 24/7 customer service; add up to 9 additional authorized users at no additional charge

NOTE: APR and balance transfer offer is different for residents of Quebec

Click here for more details about the True Line Mastercard*


MBNA True Line Gold Mastercard*

If your debt-reduction plan needs more time than the best welcome period allows, you’ll want a card that has a low regular interest rate along with a great balance transfer offer. With the MBNA True Line Gold, you’ll get an introductory 0% interest rate for the first 6 months, followed by just 8.99% after that; new purchases are charged the same 8.99% rate. With a modest fee of $39 per year, this card may be an essential part of your strategy as you pay off that balance and work towards becoming debt-free. 

  • Annual fee: $39
  • Welcome balance transfer offer: No annual interest on balance transfer fees for the first 6 months (3% fee applies); rate increases to only 8.99% after that
  • Interest rate: 8.99% interest rate on purchases; 24.99% on cash advances
  • Additional benefits: Around-the-clock protection against fraudulent charges

NOTE: APR and balance transfer offer is different for residents of Quebec

Click here for more details about the True Line Gold Mastercard*


Scotiabank Value Visa*

When you sign up for Scotiabank’s Value Visa, you get a super-low interest rate at 0.99% for the first six months, which could save you a lot of money if you’re transferring from a high-interest card. After the introductory period is over, your interest rate will increase to 12.99%, which is still lower than most cards, plus, you can use your card to get discounts at Avis Rent a Car. While the card does have an annual fee, it’s a modest $29. Plus, there’s no balance transfer fee to pay.

  • Annual fee: $29
  • Balance transfer offer: 0.99% interest on balance transfers for the first 6 months; 12.99% after 6 months
  • Interest rate: 12.99% on purchases and cash advances
  • Additional benefits: Get a 25% discount on rental cars at participating Avis Rent A Car locations

Click here for more details about the Scotiabank Value Visa*


American Express Essential

American Express EssentialWith no annual fee, this basic balance transfer card is simple to understand and easy to use. Once you sign up, you’ll have six months at a 1.99% interest rate. During that time, you can transfer over 50% of your assigned credit limit, up to a maximum of $7,500. The best part is that there’s no balance transfer fee, and after the promotional period, the interest rate increases to a relatively modest 12.99% (the same as the charge on new purchases and cash advances).

This card also comes with a few perks, such as American Express Invites including Front Of The Line, which gets you access to certain live events first, purchase protection and assurance, plus $100,000 in travel accident coverage. 

  • Annual fee: None
  • Balance transfer rate offer: 1.99% interest for the first 6 months
  • Interest rate: 12.99% on purchases and cash advances
  • Additional benefits: American Express Invites, including Front Of The Line; buyer’s assurance protection plan; purchase protection plan; travel accident insurance 


BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard*

BMO-Preferred-Rate-MastercardThis Mastercard comes with a low annual fee (which is refunded in the first year), and an appealing balance transfer welcome offer. The interest rate on your balance transfers is 3.9% for a full nine months. Note that you’ll be charged a 1% fee on the amount you transfer over (for a balance transfer of $1,000 that works out to $10.) After the nine months are up, you’ll be charged 12.99% on any remaining balance. If you make any additional purchases during that nine-month period, you will be charged 12.99% on new balances if you don’t pay in full by the end of the grace period noted on each statement. Perks include extended warranty and purchase protection, plus a 15% discount on Cirque du Soleil shows in Canada and 20% off on shows in Los Vegas.

  • Annual fee: $20, refunded in the first year
  • Balance transfer offer: 3.99% introductory interest rate on balance transfers in the first 9 months; 1% transfer fee
  • Interest rate: 12.99% for purchases and cash advances
  • Additional benefits: Extended warranty and purchase protection; discounts on Cirque du Soleil admission

Click here for more details about the BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard*


Honourable mention

PC Financial World Elite Mastercard*

PC financial world elite mastercardThis card from PC Financial is best known for its PC Points-earning potential at stores owned by Loblaws. You get 45 Points per dollar at Shoppers Drug Mart; 30 points per dollar at PC Stores including Loblaws, No Frills, Real Canadian Superstore and PC Travel; and 10 Points everywhere else. However, this card may also be beneficial if you’d like to transfer your balance from another card. The PC Financial World Elite has a promotional offer of 0.97% interest for the first 6 months. After the promotion ends, however, it will climb up to 22.97%, so be sure you can pay off your transferred balance within that time frame before you sign up. This balance transfer offer is available on all three PC Financial Mastercards.

  • Annual fee: None
  • Balance transfer rate offer: 0.97% for the first 6 months; after that, the balance transfer rate increases to 22.97%
  • Interest rate: 22.97% on purchases and cash advances
  • Additional benefits: Travel insurance that covers you if you are under the age of 65 and travelling for 10 days or less; Earn 45 PC Points per dollar at Shoppers Drug Mart, 30 Points per dollar at PC-affiliated stores and PC Travel and 10 points everywhere else

Click here for more details about the PC Financial World Elite Mastercard*


Honourable mention

BMO Air Miles Mastercard*

BMO Air Miles MastercardEven though this card has no annual fee, it comes with perks that may benefit you if you don’t think you’ll be carrying a debt for long. In addition to the introductory offer of 1.99% interest on balance transfers for the first 9 months, you can collect Air Miles at an accelerated rate on your new purchases; you’ll get 2x the Miles when you shop at Air Miles partners, and 1 Mile per $20 spent everywhere else. This card also comes with an extended warranty and purchase protection, and a discount on Cirque du Soleil shows. However, if you don’t pay off your balance within the first nine months, your interest rate will go up to 22.99%, which is a typical interest rate for most credit cards and may accumulate quickly if you still have a lot of debt to pay off. 

  • Annual fee: None
  • Balance transfer rate offer: 1.99% interest rate on balance transfers for 9 months; 1% fee applies 
  • Interest rate: 19.99% on purchases; 22.99% on cash advances 
  • Additional benefits: 2x the Miles for every $20 spent at Air Miles partners; 1 Mile for every $20 spent everywhere else; extended warranty and purchase protection; Cirque du Soleil discount

Click here for more details about the BMO Air Miles Mastercard*


What is a balance transfer?

A balance transfer is the transfer of debt from one credit card to another. Although a cardholder can transfer their debt for any variety of reasons, the goal is usually to move the debt to a lower interest-rate card, to cut down on the amount of interest charged and pay off the loan faster.

As most everyday-use credit cards command an interest rate of around 20%, your principal debt load can bloat quickly. By transferring debt to a card with a lower interest rate, youll incur lower interest charges—so more of your money goes to the principal balance.


Important things to know about balance transfer credit cards

Balance transfers can be an effective strategy for consolidating and addressing debt. But before you jump in, there are four main variables you need to understand.

  • Shop around for the rate, timing and terms that suit you
    If youre considering a balance transfer to eliminate debt, your best bet might be a balance transfer credit card. These cards come with promotions that let cardholders pay very low interest (as little as 0%) for a limited amount of time (like 6 or 10 months). These offers can be a really effective way to bring down your debt, fast, if you are disciplined about making regular payments, and not racking up a lot of new purchases. The card you choose will depend largely on what is available at the time youre looking, how long you think you need to pay off your debt, and the card’s other terms.
  • Remember that balance transfer promotions don’t last forever
    The low, single-digit rates available on balance transfer credit cards are limited-time offers, and once the promotional period is over, the cards’ regular interest rates will kick in. How you handle this will depend on the amount of your debt and how quickly you think you can pay it off, but in general the best strategy is to pay off your balance before the balance transfer offer ends, and to pick a card with a low regular interest rate. This way, youre saving money even if you still owe after the offer period.
  • Balance transfer fees
    Some—but not all—cards charge a fee on balance transfers. This fee is expressed as a percentage of the total amount you want to move, and is usually between 1% and 3%. So, for example, if youre looking to transfer $1,000 in debt to a card with a 3% fee, your opening balance will be $1,030. This additional cost may well be worth the money youll save at the new lower interest rate, but keep your eyes open: Occasionally, a card will run a promotion where they waive the balance transfer fee.
  • Separate your expenses
    It can be tempting to consolidate all your expenses in one place, but beware: If you charge a new purchase to your balance transfer card, this spend will be charged at the cards regular interest rate, not the promotional rate. This might not seem like a big deal, especially if youve been lucky enough to find a card with a lower regular rate, but theres an additional catch. Most credit cards apply payments to debt marked at the low or promotional rate first, which means your high-interest purchases are sitting there longer, racking up interest. If youre trying to pay down debt, this only compounds the problem. It’s good practice to leave your balance transfer card at home and use a different financial product (like debit, cash or even a different credit card) for new purchases.

Overview: Canada’s best balance transfer credit cards


Credit Card Annual Fee Balance Transfer Offer Transfer Fee Interest Rate After Offer
MBNA True Line $0 0% for 12 months 3% (minimum of $7.50) 12.99%
MBNA True Line Gold $39 0% for 6 months 3% (minimum of $7.50) 8.99%
Scotiabank Value Visa $29 0.99% for 6 months 0% 12.99%
American Express Essential $0 1.99% for 6 months 0% 12.99%
BMO Preferred Rate $20 3.99% for 9 months 1% 12.99%
PC Financial Mastercard $0 0.97% for 6 months 0% 22.97%
BMO Air Miles $0 1.99% for 9 months 1% 22.99%

*Terms may vary by cardholder. Check with the provider for details.


More on the best credit cards


Our methodology

For the best balance transfer credit cards 2020 ranking, we categorized credit cards based on their limited-time balance transfer rates. Our rankings also took into account fixed annual interest rates on balance transfers and purchases, purchase protections and annual fees.

‡MoneySense.ca and Ratehub.ca are both owned by parent company Ratehub Inc. We may be partnered with some financial institutions, but this does not influence the “Canadas Best Credit Card” rankings. You can read more about this in our Editorial Code of Conduct.