The 4 best balance transfer credit cards in Canada for 2023
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Canada's best Balance Transfer credit cards at a glance
How to choose - frequently asked questions
What is the best balance transfer card?
Can I do a balance transfer to a card from the same bank?
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Best balance transfer card per category
Natasha Macmillan, Business Unit Director - Everyday Banking
If you’ve been carrying debt on your credit card that you can’t seem to pay off because of the monthly interest charges, you should consider using a balance transfer credit card to help you eliminate your debt once and for all.
A balance transfer card is a credit card that offers an ultra-low introductory interest rate (e.g. 1.99%) for a set promotional period (e.g. six months). When you transfer a balance onto this credit card, you’ll pay only this low interest rate for the promotional period. After the promotional period ends, your card’s interest rate will rise back to its standard levels, so it’s important that you pay off all or most of your debt before that happens.
Below, you can find in-depth descriptions of our top picks for Canada’s best balance transfer credit cards for 2023.
Best overall balance transfer card
The CIBC Select Visa shoots right to the top of our list for its undeniably great balance transfer promotion: it offers newly-approved cardholders a great welcome bonus - Transfer your credit card balance. Get 0% interest for up to 10 months with a 1% transfer fee and a first year annual fee rebate. With interest completely out of the equation for a limited time, you can move the balance owed on your current credit card over to the CIBC Select Visa and chip away at your debt faster and more efficiently.
The good news is the CIBC Select Visa also offers a below-average interest rate of 13.99% as standard. So, even if you can’t completely tackle the debt you transferred before the allotted ten-month promotional period ends, you can continue to leverage a low interest rate that’s between eight and six percentage points below what most other credit cards charge.
Users can also now save at the pumps through CIBC's new partnership with Journie Rewards. Link and use your CIBC Select Visa Card with Journie Rewards to automatically save up to 10 cents per litre† at participating Pioneer, Fas Gas, Ultramar and Chevron gas stations.†
There are a few caveats cardholders should know about, however.
First, the balance transfer offer is exclusively available to new cardholders applying online, so be sure to read your online application form carefully and tick off the relevant box to show you’re interested in the promotion. Second, there’s a flat transfer fee equal to 1% of the size of the balance you’re moving, which is a common fee on balance transfers that is well worth the price to access a 0% interest rate. Finally, you can only transfer up to 50% of your assigned credit limit (e.g. if you’re approved for the CIBC Select Visa with a $2,000 credit limit, you can only transfer up to $1,000 from another credit card).
The CIBC Select Visa has a $29 annual fee, which is rebated for the first year, and you’ll need an annual household income of at least $15,000 to be considered eligible to apply.
Why we like:
Simple really: it offers an unbeatable 0% interest rate on balance for a limited-time of ten months and carries a below-average interest rate of 13.99% as standard (including on transferred balances after the promotional period ends). To top it off, the card’s $29 annual fee is rebated for the first year.
As a low interest credit card, the CIBC Select Visa doesn’t offer much in the form of perks. But it does come with up to $100,000 in common carrier accident insurance and the ability to add up to three authorized users at no additional cost.
Best balance transfer card for perks
The BMO Air Miles Mastercard is a no annual fee, entry level credit card that comes with a 0.99 balance transfer offer. The introductory interest rate lasts for nine months and is exclusively for new cardholders who will also have to account for a transfer fee that’s equal to 1% of the balance being transferred.
Once the introductory offer ends after nine months, the interest rate on transferred balances will climb to 22.99.
Aside from the balance transfer offer, the BMO Air Miles Mastercard earns Air Miles on all new purchases. You’ll earn 3x the miles for every $25 spent at participating Air Miles partners and 2x the miles for every $12 spent at any eligible grocery store at Air Miles partner retailers (like Sobeys, Metro, Shell, Staples, and more), plus the usual 0.4 miles per dollar everywhere else you use the card. The kicker: you can earn miles twice when shopping online at airmilesshops.ca and when you show your Air Miles Collectors Card and credit card when shopping in-store at partner locations.
Best no-fee balance transfer card
Aside from its nonexistent annual fee and income requirement, The MBNA True Line Mastercard boasts one of the best promotional offers on the market: new users can get a 0% promotional annual interest rate for their first 12 months on balance transfers. For anyone trying to work themselves out of debt and rebuilt their credit, that provides an excellent head start. And, after the promotional period is over, you'll still pay an low rate of 12.99%.
Other perks of this card include discounts at participating Avis and Budget car rental locations and 9 free authorized additional users.
Best balance transfer credit cards – honourable mentions
Below, we’ve listed rewards credit cards that offer great balance transfer promotions.
We’ve categorized them as honourable mentions because they aren’t full-fledged low interest cards – so once their promotional periods end, the interest rate on balance transfers will increase sharply to between 19.95% and 22.9% (instead of just 13.99% to 12.99% like the two cards covered above).
Learn more about the Tangerine Money-Back Card
Learn more about the BMO CashBack Mastercard
Balance transfers in Canada
Now that we've gone over the best balance transfer cards in Canada, let's dive into how balance transfers work.
A balance transfer is what it sounds like: it’s the transfer of a balance from one credit card to another. A popular strategy for addressing credit card debt, the goal is usually to move your outstanding balance from a card that charges a high interest rate to a new card with a far-lower interest rate, and in the process, pay off your balance faster
Pros and cons of balance transfer credit cards
Better interest rates
The biggest benefit of balance transfer credit cards is that their interest rates are much lower than a typical credit card - and this is especially true when you consider their welcome offers. Contrary to the average interest rate of most credit cards (19-20%), some balance transfer cards even offer zero interest for a specific period of time.
Easier to pay off debt
Because of the ultra-low interest rates offered by balance transfer credit cards, you'll be able to focus entirely on paying off your existing debt without the added stress of more interest piling onto the principal. The only caveat? You'll want to make sure you have a solid repayment plan you can stick to. Otherwise, you'll be back to collecting interest once that promotional period ends.
They're not made for new purchases
While you can certainly use your balance transfer credit card to make new purchases, it's not recommended. This is because the main draw of the card itself - it's ultra-low interest rate - only applies to the existing debt you're transferring onto it, not to any new purchases you may make. New purchases charged to the card will be subject to it's regular interest rate, not it's promotional one. So until you've squared away your debt, you probably don't want to add to your existing balance.
You won't earn many rewards
Unlike rewards cards (which incentivize spending), balance transfer cards are meant to be paid off first. Because of this, you're not going to see many (if any) rewards or extra perks on cards like this. Once you've paid off your existing balance and built up your credit, however, you might want to switch over to a rewards or cash back card to begin earning points or cash back as you spend.
Promotional interest rates are time sensitive
While that ultra-low interest rate may seem like a dream come true to someone struggling to pay off credit card debt, it's important to remember that it will only exist for a specific window of time. That means you'll need to know for sure that you can pay off what you owe within that period - otherwise, you may find yourself accumulating interest again.