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Источник: ЦБ РФ

How to Find the Best Mortgage Rates in 2017

The best mortgage rates are still at historic lows heading into 2017. According to the St. Louis Federal Reserve, average 30 year fixed mortgage rates are still under 4%. With these rates, home ownership has never been more attainable. Low mortgage rates are only one aspect of choosing a lender, but finding the best rates is the first step in whittling down your list. I’ve purchased two homes in the past five years, and can personally attest to the fact that the home buying process can be nerve-wracking, but tremendously worthwhile in the end.

Mortgage Rate Comparisons

As a starting point to your search, the table below gives you a quick snapshot of mortgage rates in your state. You can choose your loan amount, loan type, and whether you’re purchasing or refinancing your home to get rolling. Using this tool, I found a low 3.4% APR on a $200,000 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage in my home state of Tennessee from AimLoan.com. If I wanted an adjustable-rate mortgage for the same amount instead, I could get a low 2.8% APR from AimLoan.

If you’re not purchasing a home, but looking to make some improvements, take a look at this Best Home Equity Loan Rates guide.

Current Rate Climate

While current numbers don’t match the historically low rates of 2012 and the first half of 2013, they’re still nothing to sneeze at. Average 30-year mortgage rates started 2014 at an average of 4.42% and dropped to just under 3.9% by the end of the year. That’s where they remain heading into 2017.

Right now, the best rates for the most credit-worthy borrowers on a conventional 30-year mortgage are hovering around 3.8%.

If you’re in the market for a mortgage, is it time to act? Experts say you’ll probably be in good shape even if you wait a bit longer. Rates are likely to remain low, though there is the possibility of a noticeable bump if the Federal Reserve raises rates significantly.

Here’s how to Find the Best Mortgage Rate

Compare Rates

Polish your credit score

Beef up your down payment

Consider how long you’ll be in your house

If you’re ready to get going in your search for the best mortgage rate, here are four tips that will ease your search. If you’re unsure of the type of mortgage you’ll need, make sure you read my summary of the different kinds of mortgages further down in this post.

Tip #1: Compare Rates

When you find the home of your dreams, chances are your real-estate agent will direct you to certain preferred lenders that he or she has worked with before. Take that recommendation with a grain of salt. Remember, your agent’s primary concern might be to close your deal quickly, but securing a mortgage is a complicated process, particularly if you’re a first-time buyer. Speed isn’t everything, and you need to look around for the best deal.

Whether you want to keep your business with a local lender or are considering working with a big-name company, be sure to look at rates online so you have a good comparison. This mortgage rate tool can help you find the best rates to aid your search.

Tip #2: Polish your credit score

Keeping your credit in top shape is paramount, especially if you’re applying for a conventional loan. The higher your score, the better your interest rate and the more loan choices you’ll have.

For example, according to the rate calculator at myFICO, I could pay as little as $1,305 a month on a $300,000 home loan in Ohio with a credit score higher than 760. My interest rate would be a hair under 3.3%. With a score of about 680, I’d be paying $1,372 a month at an interest rate of about 3.6%. And with a score of 620, I could be paying as much as $1,581 a month at an interest rate of more than 4.8%. With the lower credit score, I’d be paying $99,146 more in interest over the life of the loan.

Tip #3: Beef up your down payment

It can be painful to save enough for a down payment, but paying more up front can help you nab a better interest rate and save you money as you pay down your loan. It may also save you the cost of mortgage insurance, which many lenders will charge if you have a lower-than-normal down payment.

If I put the recommended 20% down, or $40,000, on a $200,000 home in Tennessee, I’d pay as little as $730 a month in mortgage payments, according to this Bank of America calculator. This assumes a 3.7% APR, solid credit, and a fixed 30-year loan. If I could only scrape together $25,000, I’d suddenly be paying $798 a month. And then there’s $70 a month in mortgage insurance, which I’d have to pay since I couldn’t put 20% down. That brings my monthly payments to just under $870.

Tip #4: Consider how long you’ll be in your house

If you know you’ll be in your home for a relatively short time before selling, looking at adjustable-rate mortgages can make more sense. That’s because you can take advantage of the ARM’s low initial interest rates, then sell the home before your rate begins to reset. Be absolutely sure you will only be in your home a short while. Many homeowners were banking on ARMs, but suffered rate increases when the value of their homes fell in 2008 and they were unable to sell.

If ARMs seem like too much of a risk to you, look seriously at a shorter-term fixed rate mortgage. Your monthly payments will be larger, but you will nab a much lower interest rate. Ultimately, you’ll pay much less over the life of the loan with the added bonus of building equity much faster.

Finding the Best Mortgage Lenders

Taking out a mortgage can be a time-consuming, confusing, and even emotional process. For that reason, we encourage you to look beyond getting the best mortgage rates when choosing your lender. The top mortgage lenders will not only give you a competitive rate, but make the process as seamless as possible. Here are a few tips that can help you find the best mortgage companies.

Tip #1: Do your homework online

Harness the power of the Internet to give you a wider perspective than you can gain from family and friends. You can find reviews of the best home loan lenders with just a few clicks. As with all online reviews, remember to consider trends. A few very bad (or very good) reviews may be an anomaly, while dozens of good or bad reviews probably get you closer to the truth.

A particularly good place to look is J.D. Power and Associates’ annual mortgage lender customer-satisfaction survey. The 2014 survey, based on the experiences of thousands of real customers, found Quicken Loans had the most satisfied customers, followed by Bank of America, Chase, U.S. Bank, and USAA. Criteria included how satisfied customers were with application and approval; whether the closing process was relatively quick; and whether the lending agent was reliable and easy to understand.

Tip #2: Ask friends and family

Local lenders may not have as many online reviews, so asking around can be crucial in helping you find the best mortgage companies in your area. Conduct a quick survey of your family and friends, especially if they’ve recently purchased or refinanced a home. Ask whether they felt they understood the lending process, whether their agent was prompt and courteous, and whether they feel they got the best rate they could.

Of course, it may so happen that your real-estate agent steers you to a reputable company. Happily, this was the case with my most recent home purchase. My husband and I researched the lender our agent recommended and found nothing but good reviews. We’ve been satisfied customers ever since closing.

Tip #3: Take note of how you’re initially treated

If you call a lender for information and don’t receive it quickly, consider that a red flag. Similarly, any lender who is unwilling or unable to clearly answer your questions — or acts like it’s a pain to do so — will probably be less than pleasant to deal with further down the line. Several of our calls to prospective lenders went unreturned, and we crossed those companies off our list immediately. Your mortgage might be the biggest financial transaction of your life, and you should feel comfortable with your lender.

Common Types of Mortgages

Obtaining a mortgage doesn’t always mean you’ll be coughing up 20% down and forking over the same payment for 30 years. Take a look at today’s most common types of mortgage so you understand what’s the best for you — and obtain the best mortgage rate in the process.

Fixed-rate mortgages

A fixed-rate mortgage is by far the most common type of home loan. It’s also the easiest to understand. Though the proportion of principal versus interest on your bill will change over the course of the loan, you still pay the same amount every month. Your interest rate is locked in when you close on the loan, so you aren’t vulnerable to sudden increases in interest rates.

Of course, while you aren’t vulnerable to interest-rate increases, you’ll lose out if rates decline — you’ll be stuck paying that higher rate. It can also be harder to qualify for a fixed-rate mortgage if your credit score is less than stellar, particularly if interest rates are high. Down payments are typically high, too, with most lenders requiring 20% of the loan to avoid pricey mortgage insurance.

Fixed-rate mortgages are most often offered for 10-, 15- or 30-year terms, with the latter being the most popular choice. Longer terms generally mean lower payments, but they also mean it will take longer to build equity in your home. You’ll also pay more interest over the life of the loan.

We opted for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage when we bought our most recent home. Because we closed at the beginning of 2013, when rates were at historic lows, we were reasonably confident about locking in our rate. Though we still have to pay mortgage insurance because we didn’t quite have a 20% down payment, we’re able to afford it, and we don’t mind taking a while to build equity since we believe we’ll be staying put for a long time. It’s also easy to budget for the same payment every month.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs)

ARMs make home-buying more accessible for more people. Typically, they offer lower down payments, lower initial interest rates, and lower initial payments, making it easier for a wider range of people to qualify for better homes. The interest rate remains constant for a certain period of time — generally, the shorter the period, the better the rate — then rises and falls periodically according to a financial index.

The main downside is obvious: If your ARM begins to adjust when interest rates are climbing, your escalating payments could start to squeeze your budget. It can also make annual budgeting tricky, and if you want to refinance with a fixed-rate loan, the cost can be quite steep. Ultimately, with an ARM, you’re accepting some of the risk that your mortgage lender would absorb with a fixed-rate loan.

There are several kinds of ARMs. One-year ARMs typically offer the best mortgage rates, but they’re also the riskiest because your interest rate adjusts every year. At slightly higher rates, hybrid ARMs offer a longer initial fixed-rate period. Common hybrid loans include 5/1 mortgages, which offer a fixed rate for five years and then and an annually adjustable rate for the next 25 years.

FHA and VA loans

FHA and VA loans are government-backed mortgages. FHA loans require much smaller down payments than their conventional counterparts. In fact, you may qualify for an FHA loan with as little as 3.5% down. They may also be available to those with less-than-perfect credit. However, you’ll likely be on the hook for mortgage insurance each month in order to help the lender blunt some of the risk. That makes FHA loans a good option for those with a steady, healthy income without enough savings for a huge down payment. My husband and I purchased our first home using an FHA loan and roughly 10% down. Though we did have to pay mortgage insurance, we received a good interest rate and could easily handle the payments with our income — and of course, we were happy to start building equity instead of paying rent month after month.

VA loans are also available with low (or even no) down-payment options, minus the mortgage insurance required on FHA loans. However, the VA typically charges a one-time funding fee that varies according to down payment. You must have a military affiliation to get a loan — active-duty members, veterans, guard members, reservists, and certain spouses may qualify.

Interest-only mortgages

Technically, interest-only mortgages are a type of ARM. These mortgages are compelling because they allow home buyers to pay only interest for a certain period at the beginning of the loan, keeping payments as low as possible. They can be a good choice for someone who expects a significant increase in income down the pike.

If this sounds like a sweet deal, it’s because interest-only mortgages come with tremendous risk. They can goad buyers to purchase much more home than they would otherwise be able to afford. Your payment is lower initially, because you are only paying interest, and not principal. Once the interest-only payment period is up, your payment will jump significantly when you begin to pay the principal of the loan, plus you can experience a rate increase. With these risks, you’ll probably want to steer clear of interest-only mortgages as your primary option.

Balloon mortgages

Balloon mortgages offer low, fixed interest rates for a short term — typically five to 10 years. In fact, you may only pay the interest on the loan for that term. The catch? The remainder of the loan, likely a very significant sum, is due when the term is up. While most people intend to refinance with a more traditional mortgage to avoid making the lump-sum payment, depending on doing this is a big risk. If your home has declined in value or you’re deemed uncreditworthy, you might be out of luck — and at risk of foreclosure. For this reason, balloon mortgages are best avoided except in very special cases.

Starting Your Search for the Best Mortgage Rates

You’ll need a good understanding of the best type of loan for you as well as prevailing mortgage rates. And be sure to pick a lender with a reputation for good customer service. Ready to begin? Get started by using our online search tool to find the best mortgage rates in your area.

Once you’ve found and purchased the home of your dreams, you’ll need to protect your investment. Check out our guides to the Best Home Insurance and the Best Home Warranty Companies to keep your home safe from everything from natural disasters to pesky appliance breakdowns.

Remember, securing the best mortgage isn’t simply about finding a lender who offers you the best rate. The best mortgage lenders will guide you through the complex process with ease and treat you with respect. This makes finding the best rates from top mortgage lenders a little bit tougher than finding, say, the Best Credit Card or the Best Savings Account.

And if you’re searching for other banking services, check out our other guides on the Best Free Checking Accounts, the Best Money Market Accounts, and the Best CD Rates. Good luck!

When To Hire A Personal Injury Attorney

Many people choose to hire an accident lawyer after they've been involved in a car crash that results in personal injury and monetary losses.

Why Should You Hire a Lawyer?

Technically, you can file a personal injury claim against an insurance company by yourself. Some people choose this route when they've suffered only mild injuries and have the time to research the legal claims process themselves. Also, skipping an attorney will save you some money in legal fees.

However, an accident attorney— especially a personal injury attorney—can help you go up against big auto insurance companies and their team of lawyers. Your attorney already knows the personal injury laws and procedural rules and can effectively handle all the legwork for you. He or she will act as your advocate throughout the entire case.

Because an insurance company's lawyers have the knowledge to reduce compensation and even deny the claim altogether, hiring an accident attorney is the best option for people who:

Have suffered severe injuries.

Are faced with expensive medical bills.

Have experienced a significant loss of wages due to their injuries.

Reasons to Consult an Accident Attorney

Consider hiring an accident attorney if any of the following apply to you.

Auto Accident Injuries

Severe Injuries

Generally, the severity of your personal injuries is measured by the:

Type of injury (or injuries) you've sustained.

Length of time it takes (or will take) for you to recover.

Cost of medical bills (and any other therapeutic procedures) you've incurred.
This also can include the estimated cost of future medical procedures.

Long-Term or Permanently Disabling Injuries

Generally speaking, a long-term injury is one that lasts for around a year or longer, while a permanent injury is one that disables you for life. These types of personal injuries seriously affect your ability to become and stay employed—not to mention the quality of your life.

Proving long-term and permanently disabling injuries can be tricky business, and your personal injury attorney probably will consult with each medical professional you've seen. He or she even might request the presence of your medical professionals during any legal proceedings.

Disputed Liability

When an insurance company disputes its policyholder's liability for the car crash, the company is basically saying that the policyholder is not at fault (or is at least claiming you don't have enough proof of fault) and, therefore, the insurance company is not responsible for paying for your damages.

An accident attorney will help you provide this proof and show that the other party was indeed at fault.

Refusal to Pay

Refusal to pay (which can but doesn't necessarily stem from a disputed liability) or refusal to pay a fair amount is when an insurance company outright won't make a fair settlement offer—or any offer at all.

 

Best Car Insurance Companies of 2017

The best auto insurance companies have more than just competitive prices; they also offer versatile coverage options, superior customer service, a solid financial report, and an excellent shopping experience. I researched all of those factors and discovered that only four of the nation’s biggest insurers impressed me enough that I would recommend them to family and friends. Use our tool below to find the best coverage available in your area:

Price is the single most important factor for a lot of car insurance shoppers. Choosing a policy based on rates alone could cost far more out of pocket when filing a claim, however. Statistically speaking, that will happen to each driver at least once every 18 years. It pays to get the right amount of coverage, whether it’s the cheapest package or not.

The Simple Dollar’s Top Picks for Best Auto Insurance Companies

Best Overall: Amica

Best Customer Service: State Farm

Best Policy Options: The Hartford

Best for Military: USAA

 

How I Picked the Best Car Insurance Companies

First, I conducted an in-depth analysis of 15 auto insurance providers. I gathered data on 86 different features (like a 24/7 claims center or discounts for electric vehicles), organized them into 12 categories, and scored each company on a 100-point scale. Below are the categories I used, along with the weight each one was given in the test.

Next I incorporated learnings from auto experts, insured drivers, and third-party studies into my evaluation and calculated the final scores. I organized this research into three distinct categories, which are outlined below.

Claims and Price Satisfaction: I looked at J.D. Power’s 2014 Auto Claims Satisfaction Reports, Insure.com’s Best Car Insurance Companies for 2014, and Consumer Reports’ 2014 Car Insurance Ratings to get a bird’s-eye view of the industry across the nation. I also conducted a survey of 100 insured drivers who had filed a claim within the past 12 months.

Ease of Shopping: I applied for quotes from over 15 auto insurance companies to evaluate the shopping experience. I also considered J.D. Power’s 2014 Auto Insurance Purchase Experience Ratings, which asked customers about their personal take on local agents, call-center representatives, and websites.

Financial Strength Ratings: I used A.M. Best to gauge financial stability. Any company with a “B” grade or below is considered vulnerable, so I chose companies with an “A-” or above.

 

The Best Car Insurance Companies of 2017

Amica: Best Overall Car Insurance Company

Amica was the strongest company overall in my research, and ranked number two in J.D. Power’s 2015 customer satisfaction report — that means out of 11,469 surveyed drivers, it had the second highest satisfaction rating among more than 20 different companies. It also received the highest Consumer Reports rating among auto insurance providers. Consumer Reports even noted that an overwhelming number of customers reported “relatively few” problems during the claims process.

Pros

A high J.D. Power satisfaction rating: Amica received a perfect score in 4 out of 7 categories in J.D. Power’s 2015 auto insurance study.

High financial stability ratings: Amica boasts a “Superior” financial stability rating from A.M. Best, which is the highest rating available.

No repair facility restrictions: Unlike most every other insurer, Amica has zero restrictions on which body shop you use for repairs.

“Platinum Choice” coverage: Amica offers an additional tier of coverage called Platinum Choice, which costs more, but includes identity fraud monitoring, full glass coverage, prestige rental coverage, and rewards for good driving.

Best array of coverages: Amica offers the most driver and vehicle coverages of all my top recommendations. Its list includes GAP insurance and interior vehicle coverage, which aren’t offered by State Farm, The Hartford, or USAA.

 

Cons

Quote process is less than desirable: Whether you start online or over the phone, you will eventually wind up on the phone to get an official quote — that can tack an extra 20 to 30 minutes to the process.

Fewer driver discount opportunities: Amica is missing a few key driver discounts, including pre-pay, low mileage, and military discounts. Consequently, it scored only 46 out of 100 in my driver discount evaluation.

Few online resources: There are a few FAQs on the site, but Amica lacks in-depth online materials to help customers get a complete grasp on their purchases without having to talk to someone. Additionally, some policy changes require direct assistance from an Amica agent, which can be time-consuming.

 

State Farm: Best Car Insurance Company for Customer Service and Interaction

State Farm is the largest car insurance company in the nation, per Insurance Journal in 2016. Fortunately, it’s also one of the best — especially when it comes to the customer service experience. In 2015, State Farm received high praise from J.D. Power for its service interaction and claims handling. And of all the insured drivers I surveyed, it received the most positive remarks by far.

It is incredibly easy to get in touch with State Farm. You can call one of the company’s 18,000 agents, go online, or even send a picture of your damaged car with your smartphone using the Pocket Agent mobile app. Compare that to Amica, which doesn’t allow you to connect with an agent via an app, or file a claim through an agent. State Farm also gets high marks for a pain-free shopping experience that lets prospective customers call their local agent or chat with a representative online if they have any questions.

Pros

Superior claims handling: No other insurer makes it easier to file a claim — a fact corroborated by its high service rating, 18,000 agents nationwide, and excellent mobile app. Sure, most other auto insurers offer the basic trifecta of phone, app, and email contact to agents, but State Farm’s is the easiest to use by far.

Great financial standing: State Farm has an A.M. Best outlook of stable, and a “Superior” overall rating — the highest given.

Best online quote tool: Out of all the competition, State Farm has the simplest online quote tool. In less than five minutes, it’ll guide you completely through the process, replete with thorough examples of coverage options.

 

Cons

Missing a few common driver discounts: Like Amica, State Farm lacks two extremely common discounts: pay-in-full, and automatic pay. These two discounts don’t save a ton of money, but are definitely nice options to have — and are offered by my third pick, The Hartford.

Lacks a couple of important coverages: Unlike its competitors, State Farm doesn’t offer stacked uninsured motorist or new car replacement coverages. That could be a deal breaker for someone who lives in a state with an incredibly high rate of uninsured drivers.

 

The Hartford: Best Car Insurance Company for Policy Options

The Hartford is only the nation’s 11th largest insurer, but it still packs a punch. In fact, it had the highest score in my 12-category feature evaluation (92 out of 100). It also offers a wide range of policy options and benefits (including rates based on how much you actually drive your car and a new car replacement program for cars totaled shortly after purchase) and was the only insurer to score a perfect 100 in my vehicle-discount evaluation.

Pros

Mechanical breakdown coverage: Mechanical breakdown insurance helps cover the cost of repairs that aren’t covered by your car’s warranty. The Hartford is the only one of my top picks that includes this coverage.

Useful policy benefits: The company provides not only a solid set of coverages, but also a great selection of policy benefits. For instance, frequent travelers will appreciate The Hartford’s towing and roadside assistance programs.

Excellent purchase experience: The Hartford is one of two national providers to receive a perfect “Overall Purchase Experience” score from J.D. Power.

 

Cons

Less-than-average claims satisfaction: The Hartford received a perfect score in my claims management evaluation, but according to J.D. Power, customers are still less than satisfied — it received only a 2-star rating for service interaction.

Fewest online educational resources: The Hartford offers the fewest online learning materials among this field of competitors.

 

USAA: Best Car Insurance Company for Members of the Military

Throughout my research, I found that the company’s stellar reputation holds true. If you are a member of the US armed forces, or are related to one, there is no better option than USAA.

It is one of the three highest-rated automotive insurers in the country. The only downside is its limited availability: USAA only services the immediate families of active and former members of the military. Given those restrictions, the quote process is a bit more intense compared to its competitors, but that’s a small price to pay for its exemplary service.

Pros

Rated no. 1 nationally for purchase experience: USAA received the only perfect score in J.D. Power’s 2016 report.

Solid financial stability: A.M. Best gives USAA the highest possible stability rating: “Superior.”

 

Cons

Membership restrictions: USAA is only available to members of the military and their immediate family.

Missing three key vehicle coverages: USAA doesn’t offer GAP insurance, interior vehicle coverage, or new car replacement coverage.

 

Other Car Insurance Companies to Consider

Progressive

Progressive is worth noting due to its variety of discounts and special coverages that could shave a decent amount of green off your monthly bill. For example, the Snapshot tool allows Progressive to reward you based upon your driving habits. Have an anti-theft device? There’s a discount for that too. The company also offers pet injury coverage — which is included with collision, and comes standard in most states. However, Progressive’s scores across the board were only average, and I couldn’t justify recommending it over my top picks. And, despite what Flo, Progressive’s famous, peppy insurance cashier, would lead you to believe, its mobile apps ratings average out to just under 3 out of 5 stars.

Erie Insurance

If you live in the South, Midwest, or Mid-Atlantic regions, Erie Insurance is worth your consideration. Erie has consistently received high marks from J.D. Power and Consumer Reports, but didn’t make it into my top four recommendations due to limited availability — it only serves residents in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and certain parts of DC.

Outside of that, Erie is one of the best commercial auto insurers, offering policies that come standard with coverage for road service, lawyer fees, and loss of earnings. It also has particularly comprehensive coverage options that include extras such as money toward rental cars after a crash (this is usually an add-on policy with most insurers).

Auto-Owners

Auto-Owners Insurance is available in 26 states located primarily in the South and Midwest. It uses an agent-only model that promotes customer relationships, so if you prefer talking to a human being, Auto-Owners is a great choice. The company also scored a nearly perfect score in J.D. Power’s 2015 satisfaction report, falling short only in the realm of its rental car experience.

States Serviced by Auto-Owners:
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin

Choosing the Right Amount of Coverage

Let’s say I live in Florida and cause an accident that injures another person to the tune of $40,000. If I only have the state’s minimum bodily injury protection ($10,000 per person, $20,000 per accident), I’d be responsible for the remaining $30,000. But, if I had purchased more than Florida’s minimum — say $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident — I wouldn’t have to pay a single dime out of pocket.

Sure, upgraded coverage means a higher monthly premium. But which would you rather do: Pay an extra $80 a month or wind up owing a lump sum of $30,000 out of pocket? It would take an accident-free 30 years to spend the same amount on the extra coverage. And remember: statistically speaking, you are going to get in a wreck every 18 years. Hopefully, it’s nothing more than a fender bender, but if the worst should happen, you’ll appreciate being fully covered.

That’s why it’s incredibly important to understand what type of coverages you need, and how much coverage you need, before you start shopping for a policy. And in the same vein, it’s also crucial to compare rates that include more than your state’s minimum required coverages (which you can find online at your state’s DMV). You do not want to be the victim of a serious accident only to find out after the fact that you’re underinsured.

Below is a comparison of the coverages offered by my top four auto insurance companies, and a breakdown of each type of coverage.

Types of Auto Insurance Coverages

Bodily Injury Liability: Coverage against bodily injuries to others in an accident that is your fault.

Personal Injury Protection: Coverage for injuries sustained by the driver or any passengers, often including medical bills and lost wages.

Property Damage Liability: Coverage against property damage to another party in an accident that is your fault.

Rental Car Coverage: Coverage for your rental car if it is damaged or stolen.

Stacked Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Coverage that allows you to combine or “stack” the individual limits of coverage on multiple insured vehicles in the same household.

Uninsured Motorist Property Damage Coverage: Coverage that protects against property damage caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist.

Pet Injury Coverage: Coverage for injuries to your pets sustained in an auto accident.

Collision: Coverage against any damage resulting from a collision.

Comprehensive: Coverage against any non-collision vehicle damage including fire, theft, or vandalism.

GAP Insurance: Coverage that pays the difference between the actual value of a totaled car and the balance remaining on an auto loan.

Interior Vehicle Coverage: Coverage of personal belongings inside of the car, like your clothes, sound system, or purse.

New Car Replacement: Coverage that will replace a totaled car with a brand-new version if it is less than one year old.

You should shop for a policy every two years

Contrary to popular belief, car insurance companies don’t just calculate rates on risk alone. It goes much deeper than that. Welcome to the world of “price optimization,” which is the practice of setting rates based upon how much insurers think customers are comfortable paying. Simply put, it’s a way to maximize profit.

In 2013, Earnix found that 45 percent of larger insurance companies analyze a ridiculous amount of customers’ personal data (like social media posts, credit scores, and web shopping habits). Then, they churn the data through a proprietary algorithm that estimates how likely you are to shop around. By doing so, they can charge you based upon a perception of your level of comfort, raise profit margins, and do it all without causing you to lift an eyebrow.

The best way to prevent falling victim to this practice is to shop for a new policy every one to two years. Companies are aware of your online activity, so the more quotes you get, the less likely you are to be tagged as someone who won’t jump ship for a better deal. Plus, it helps you find a policy rate that reflects you as a person and isn’t based on predictive analytics.

Should I use an agent or go online?

Depending on which companies you consider, you may have to decide whether to do business with an insurance agent or purchase a policy online. If you value face-to-face relationships and personal service, it’s hard to beat an agent. But all agents aren’t created equal. Some are “captive,” meaning they sell car insurance for only one company. Others are “independent,” meaning they can sell car insurance for multiple companies. Here are a few things you should consider for each scenario.

Using Captive Agents

The biggest benefit to captive agents is that many aren’t primarily motivated by commission. That means they have less of a reason to “sell you” and more of a reason to spend quality time educating you. Going with a captive agent also makes sense if you’re already committed to a particular company. Additionally, they will know their company’s policies and coverages from top to bottom.

Using Independent Agents

Independent agents have special access with several companies and help you to find the best rate available. However, some companies pay higher commission than others, and that means you may face pressure to choose a particular company or coverage plan.

During my research, I interacted with several independent agents who refused to give me a single detail about higher-priced plans. Despite my persistence, I was repeatedly asked, “Why would you want to consider something that costs more?” and did not get the information I wanted. On the flip side, if your rates go up after committing to a policy, independent agents are best-suited to help you negotiate a lower price.

Shopping online

Some companies allow customers to do business directly online. If you’re a self-starter, this could very well be the most convenient option. And in some cases, it may also be the cheapest option.

The biggest downside to buying a policy on your own is the risk of underinsuring yourself. Buying the wrong policy, or a policy that doesn’t have state-mandated coverage levels, could cost you a pretty penny if the worst should happen.

Best Unsecured Personal Loans for 2017

A personal loan can get you the money you need in short order if you qualify. Personal loans are a popular tool for consolidating and eliminating high interest credit card debt. Just like credit cards, these personal loans don’t require collateral — they are unsecured. But unlike most credit cards, most personal loans offer fixed interest rates and payments, making payments easier to budget for. You’ll also probably be able to borrow a greater chunk of change than you could cover with a credit card, possibly at a lower rate.

The Simple Dollar’s Best Personal Loan Picks

If you want to get started on your search right now, here are a few lenders that stood out as I looked for the best personal loans:

Best personal loans overall: Lending Club, Wells Fargo, and Prosper

Best personal loans for excellent credit: Sofi, LightStream, and Earnest

Best personal loans for average credit: PersonalLoans.com, Peerform, Avant, and Vouch

The personal loan space is growing with a number of online lenders challenging credit-card companies and traditional banks. In 2017, the trend toward a streamlined lending process, better interest rates and more transparent lending criteria will continue.

In fact, some brick-and-mortar banks are only recently returning to this kind of lending after the subprime mortgage crisis. So if you’re in the market for an unsecured personal loan, you’ll have plenty of options, especially if you have good credit.

As you read on, I’ll discuss unsecured personal loans in greater detail, why they’re difficult to obtain with bad credit, and strategies you can use while shopping to make sure you find a loan that’s right for you.

When and When Not to Use a Personal Loan

Before you get an unsecured personal loan, there may be other options to explore first depending on your situation and goals. Personal loans are great if you do not want to pledge anything as collateral, or you don’t have any collateral to pledge. However, unsecured loans probably won’t get you the best rate. For instance, a home equity loan will net you much better terms because it’s less risky for the lender. Also, some lenders have tailored loans for people with bad credit, which may or may not require collateral.

It’s not a wise idea to use a personal loan for a discretionary purchase because of potentially high interest rates. However, personal loans have their place. For instance, you may be a small business owner who needs to cover your quarterly taxes until a major supplier pays their invoice. Or perhaps you want to consolidate high-interest debt and can better manage a single payment.

Best Personal Loans Overall

The companies below are among the biggest names in personal lending, targeting borrowers who have solid credit (and better). They’re worth considering for anyone who needs an unsecured personal loan. However, if your credit is top-notch — or not so hot — make sure you keep reading for some lenders that target excellent- and average-credit borrowers.

Lending Club

One of the two biggest peer-to-peer lenders, Lending Club makes loans up to $40,000. Though very similar to other peer-to-peer lenders in many ways, it is a bit more lenient with credit scores, requiring a minimum of 600, but a bit stricter with other criteria such as debt-to-income data. APRs range from 5.99% to 35.89%* APR. Best APR is available to borrowers with excellent credit.

Lending Club does business in 48 states (right now, you’re out of luck in Iowa and West Virginia). Lending Club also charges a loan origination fee from 1% to 6% and charges a check-processing fee. Terms are three or five years, though Lending Club makes two-year loans to its most credit-worthy borrowers.

Why it’s a solid bet: Lending Club is a major player and pioneer in the peer-to-peer lending business. They also have the same strengths: competitive interest rates, wide availability, and transparency. If you’re thinking of seeing what kind of rate you can wrangle with one of these companies, it’s absolutely worth checking with the other at the same time — neither company uses a “hard pull” that will impact your credit score.

Wells Fargo

If you have good credit and would rather keep your business with a long-established bank, Wells Fargo could be a good option. With advertised APRs of 6.25% to 19.75% and loans from $3,000 to $100,000, this brick-and-mortar lender could be worth a look for any borrower with solid credit.

Repayment terms can range from 12 to 60 months and there are no prepayment or origination fees. The main downside here is convenience: You can’t apply online unless you’re an existing Wells Fargo customer, so you’ll need to be near one of their branches. Wells Fargo also doesn’t fare as well as many competitors in customer service ratings, and they aren’t as transparent about lending criteria as many online competitors.

Why it’s a solid bet: When it comes to a loan, some people prefer doing business face to face. If you’re among them, Wells Fargo offers competitive rates, the comfort of a big name, and the convenience of a huge branch network — there are more than 6,000 locations nationwide. Wells Fargo also offers a couple other options that aren’t as common with online lenders: A more flexible personal line of credit as well as a loan that you can secure with a savings account or CD in order to get a lower rate.

Prosper

Second in size compared to Lending Club, Prosper is slightly more liberal with its lending criteria than major competitors. It requires a minimum Experian credit score of 640, but Prosper will look at several other factors to give you a shot at a better interest rate. You can borrow from $2,000 to $35,000 at APRs ranging from 5.99% to 35.97%.

Interest rates and fees are easy to find and evaluate, and Prosper can make loans in 47 states (loans aren’t available in Iowa, Maine, and North Dakota). As with all peer-to-peer lenders, you could be waiting a week or more for your loan to be funded, however. Prosper also only allows you to choose between three- and five-year repayment terms.

Why it’s a solid bet: Along with Lending Club, Prosper is one of the biggest names in peer-to-peer lending, which should inspire confidence in anyone who is leery of dipping a toe into online lending. It is impressively transparent, widely available, and a bit looser with lending criteria such as debt-to-income ratio and the number of recent credit inquiries on your credit report.

Best Personal Loans for Excellent Credit

If you have great credit, good news: You may qualify for personal loans with impressively low interest rates. However, keep in mind that lenders who offer these low rates will also want to see other markers of financial health, such as steady employment and a low debt-to-income ratio.

LightStream

LightStream, an offshoot of SunTrust Bank, offers excellent rates for creditworthy borrowers, currently 2.19 – 17.49% APR with AutoPay* for non-home and auto-related personal loans. Another pro: There are no fees for loan origination, prepayment, or anything else.

The main downside here is the high threshold you’ll have to meet to qualify. Your credit score will have to be great, but you’ll also need to prove “stable and sufficient” income and assets as well as a solid savings history, among other requirements.

Why it’s a solid bet: LightStream’s flexible terms and high borrowing limits make it a good choice for prospective borrowers who need a hefty amount and a longer time to pay it back. Loans of $5,000 to $100,000 are available, and terms can be anywhere from 24 to 84 months. If you need money fast, LightStream is also speedier than peer-to-peer competitors — you can have your money in as little as a day.

* Monthly payments for a $10,000 loan at 5.99% APR with a term of 3 years would result in 36 monthly payments of $304.17.

SoFi

Sofi may be best known for student loan refinancing, but it also offers extremely competitive personal loans from $5,000 to a whopping $100,000. There are fixed- and variable-rate options ranging from 5.49% – 14.24% APR (with Autopay) and 4.990% – 11.090% APR (with Autopay), respectively. You also won’t pay any fees for loan origination or anything else.

Choose from three-, five-, or seven-year repayment terms. You’ll need to meet a high threshold to qualify, with a favorable debt-to-income ratio, dependable employment, and a high credit score. Loans are available in 47 states.

Why it’s a solid bet: If you’re a rate hawk, SoFi offers some of the lowest rates I saw, and its variable-rate option offers a chance for even more savings if you’re willing to accept the risk that rates will rise. (Variable rates are capped at 11.340% APR.) SoFi also sets itself apart with its hefty loan amounts of up to $100,000 and a unique unemployment protection program that allows you to suspend loan payments.

Earnest

Earnest, a relatively recent startup, bills itself as “low-cost loans for the financially responsible.” Indeed, this online lender offers very low rates from 4.25% to 9.25% on loans up to $50,000. It also looks beyond your credit score to evaluate other criteria including education, career, and savings.

On the downside, Earnest only offers one-, two-, and three-year loans, but the company will work with you to match repayment terms to your budget. Loans are available in 36 states and Washington, D.C.

Why it’s a solid bet: Earnest could be a great option for younger borrowers who may not have a long credit history. Keep in mind that whatever history you do have will need to be mostly blemish-free, and you’ll also have to show that you have a healthy savings account and income that can easily support living expenses and a loan.

Best Unsecured Loans for Average Credit

It can be hard to find a personal loan with a reasonable interest rate if your credit isn’t top-notch. The lenders below will still consider you if you have less-than-sterling credit, with rates that are much better and practices that are much more reputable than payday lenders and the like.

Related: What Is a Good Credit Score?

 

PersonalLoans.com

PersonalLoans.com offers several types of loans from traditional bank personal loans, peer-to-peer loans, and installment loans. This service is available in all 50 states and loan amounts go up to $35,000 with APRs ranging from from 5% to 36%.

Keep in mind, PersonalLoans.com is only a referral site and not a direct lender. This makes it hard to know in advance critical information that might be easier to understand with a direct lender like which fees will be attached to your loan or which APR rates will be offered.

Why it’s a solid bet: PersonalLoans.com is a great option for borrowers looking for a quick turnaround on their loan. Just a three-step application process and you can have loan approval in minutes. Not only is it a well designed and informative website, since PersonalLoans.com is a referral resource, they can find you multiple offers with competitive interest rates, which is a huge timesaver when shopping around.

Peerform

While most peer-to-peer lenders focus on borrowers with good or excellent credit, Peerform is an option for borrowers with credit scores as low as 600. Its APRs are competitive (7.12% to 28.09%), and its fees are clearly disclosed.

However, this lender is only available in 37 states, and you may need to wait up to two weeks to get your money as investors decide whether to fund your loan. Peerform also charges several fees, including up to 5% for loan origination and a less-common collection fee and service charge.

Why it’s a solid bet: Peerform’s rates are among the best you’ll find with average credit, and the website is impressively transparent about exactly what you’ll need to qualify for a loan. Peerform also lends up to $25,000, a generous amount for average-credit borrowers. Just be aware that you won’t be able to choose a repayment term with Peerform — all loans require a three-year term.

Avant

Avant can help you with access to loans from $1,000 to $35,000 if your credit isn’t good enough to nab the lowest rates, but you don’t want to look into secured loans. This online lending platform targets borrowers with credit scores of roughly 580 to 700, offering APRs of 9.95% to 36%. Avant is available in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

Why it’s a solid bet: Loans of as much as $35,000 are hard to come by if your credit isn’t top-notch, and while the APRs aren’t the lowest around, they’re still fair for an unsecured loan at that level. Since Avant isn’t a peer-to-peer lender, you can have your money more quickly since you don’t have to wait around for investors to fund your loan. Terms are also relatively flexible, ranging from 24 to 60 months.

Vouch

Vouch is an interesting new company that, as its name implies, requires at least one person to “vouch” for you in order for you to get a loan. Essentially, you can get friends or family to pledge a certain amount of money ($100 and up) in case you don’t pay back your loan, lessening the lender’s risk and leading to a lower interest rate than you might get otherwise.

Vouch makes loans from $500 to $15,000. APRs range from 7.35% to 29.99%, with loan origination fees from 1% to 5%. You’ll need a credit score of at least 600. Terms are relatively short at one to three years.

Why it’s a solid bet: Vouch has essentially made the traditional idea of co-signing a lot less threatening by allowing friends to back you with smaller, manageable amounts instead of being on the hook for an entire loan if you don’t pay. So if you have a big network to lean on, your interest rate will go down and the amount of money you can borrow may go up. Vouch also may be a good option for someone who is looking for a smaller loan that they can pay back quickly, since lower amounts and shorter terms are on offer.

How I Picked the Best Personal Loans

You’ll want a competitive rate from your unsecured loan, but you’ll also want the flexibility to pick a term that works for you, low or no extra fees, and a lender with whom you’re comfortable doing business. Here are the factors I considered when picking the best unsecured loans:

Low APRs: The lender’s advertised interest rates are in line with or better than those advertised by the competition.

Low or no fees: Some lenders don’t charge fees other than interest; others may charge origination fees, late payment fees, or prepayment fees. If fees are present, they must not be significantly higher than its competitors’.

Higher loan limits: Though you want to be careful not to borrow more than you can afford, the best lenders won’t cap their loans at low amounts, letting you borrow what you need.

Flexible terms: Some lenders only allow you to pick from a couple of terms, such as three or five years. Lenders earned points for flexibility for allowing shorter or longer terms to accommodate a wider range of needs.

Serves most of the country: While most major banks have national reach (or close to it), online lenders may only be able to do business in a limited number of states. Bonus points went to lenders with a wider reach.

Transparent, informative website: The best lenders are transparent about APRs, loan limits, terms, fees, and other crucial information. It should be clear where to get these details, and you shouldn’t have to give your personal information in order to see it.

Reputation: I considered each lender’s longevity, online reviews, and status with the Better Business Bureau. BBB accreditation is a plus, not a necessity, especially for newer companies. I also considered customer service ratings from the 2014 J.D. Power Retail Banking Study when applicable. I gave individual reviews less weight, as many negative reviews are from prospective borrowers unhappy about being denied.

 

Of course, before you decide to take out any loan, it’s always wise to educate yourself. Keep reading to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting with an unsecured loan and how to score the best deal.

What Is a Personal Loan?

An unsecured personal loan is simply a fixed-rate loan that you can receive without collateral to guarantee it. With secured loans, you’re allowing the lender to use one of your assets — for instance, your car or house — to recoup their losses if you fall behind on payments. When your loan is unsecured, the lender has no such recourse if you don’t pay up.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there are no consequences if you default on an unsecured loan. Your credit will take a nosedive, and your lender could sue or send its very unpleasant collections department after you. However, the lack of collateral ultimately means unsecured loans are riskier for the lender.

Unsecured personal loans are available at certain banks and credit unions, as well as online through startups including peer-to-peer lenders. Though the lender may ask why you’re borrowing, you can generally use these loans for any purpose: debt consolidation, home improvement, business expenses, new cars, a budget-busting wedding, or even a trip around the world. Credit cards and student loans are also unsecured loans, though with more specific purposes.

Do I need good credit for a personal loan?

For the most part, yes. It’s possible that you’ll find a willing lender even with poor credit, but you’ll likely be paying an astronomical interest rate in order to lessen that lender’s risk.

Major peer-to-peer lenders typically won’t lend to borrowers with credit scores lower than roughly 640-660, and if your score is that low, your APR will be well into the double digits. For instance, peer-to-peer lender Prosper offers APRs as low as 5.99% for borrowers with the best credit. Borrowers with the lowest scores could be paying 35.97%.

If your credit isn’t great, experts advise starting with your existing bank, which may have a better idea of your finances. You may also want to try a credit union, which may be more flexible with its lending criteria. But a secured loan will almost certainly get you a better APR if you’re willing to put up the collateral. So will a co-signer with better credit, but that person will be on the hook for repayment if you default — a tremendous financial risk that could certainly ruin your relationship.

A word of caution: You may run across lenders who say they’ll give you an unsecured personal loan without even checking your credit. This is a common proclamation among payday lenders, who only require proof of income to make you a small, short-term loan. But the APR could be in the triple digits, and you may end up rolling over the loan from one month to the next when you have no real ability to repay. As a rule, be wary of any no-credit-check loan.

If you’re searching for a loan with bad credit, be sure to check out my post on the best bad-credit loans for some more reputable options.

Four Shopping Tips for Personal Loans

#1: Shop around

Never sign on the dotted line the first place you look for a personal loan. Each lender will have a slightly different formula when considering your application, which means your interest rate will vary — perhaps significantly — from one lender to the next. One convenient way to search for an unsecured loan online is by using our loan search tool below which can help match you with the best personal loan for your needs.

If your credit is great and you’re able to pay off a loan quickly, you might want to consider treating a credit card with a 0% (or otherwise very low) introductory APR as a personal loan. Of course, you’ll need to make sure the credit limit is high enough for your needs. You’ll also need to have the discipline not to add to your balance, and to pay it off before your low interest rate expires, typically in 15 to 18 months. If you think you can swing this, be sure to check out our post on the Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards for some great 0% introductory APR credit cards.

#2: Keep an eye on fees

Make sure you know whether there are fees other than the interest you’ll pay associated with your personal loan. Common fees include an origination fee (typically a percentage of the amount you’re borrowing, which can vary from under 1% to as much as 5%). Also note whether there are fees for late payments ($15 or 5% of your outstanding balance is typical). Other fees may include charges for unsuccessful payments or payments made by check.

Also be on the lookout for prepayment fees. These are fees lenders charge if you pay off your entire loan early (which means the lender won’t be getting the full amount of interest it would have if you had made payments as scheduled for the full loan term). Most lenders I researched won’t hit you with a prepayment penalty for unsecured personal loans, but it’s definitely worth double-checking.

#3: Choose the right term

You’ll want to see how flexible your lender is on loan terms. Some online lenders may only let you choose between three- and five-year terms, for instance. Term is important because it affects how much you ultimately pay over the life of the loan. A longer term can help keep your payments manageable, but it means you’ll be paying more in the end. On the flip side, a shorter term will mean higher payments, but you’ll shell out less overall.

For a more concrete example, let’s say I take out a $10,000 unsecured personal loan at 12% interest. According to this Bankrate calculator, I would pay $11,957 over a three-year term, but $13,347 over a five-year term. If I can afford the higher monthly payment ($332 a month for three years instead of $222 a month for five years), the shorter term means significant savings.

#4: Be careful of scams

There are several unscrupulous lenders who want to scam potential borrowers. Here are a few tips that will help you make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate company:

Don’t pay upfront fees. Remember that you should never pay anything simply to apply for a loan. If a potential lender demands payment to evaluate your credit and other financial information, run the other way.

You should contact them — not the other way around. If a lender is badgering you, whether through phone calls, mailings, or online, consider that a big red flag. Legitimate lenders simply don’t need to be this aggressive to attract borrowers.

Guarantees are bogus. No legitimate lender can promise that they’ll approve your loan application before evaluating your finances. Even payday lenders need proof of income before they’ll make a loan.

Verify, verify, verify. Make sure you double-check the lender’s physical address, which should be readily available. Also consider looking them up with the Better Business Bureau or your state banking regulators.

You should feel in control. Take your business elsewhere if a lender threatens you in any way, tries to dissuade you from considering competitors’ offers, or tries to get you to borrow more than you owe.

 

Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards for 2017

Experts agree, it’s best to pay off your entire balance each month. But when that isn’t possible, balance transfer credit cards can help you get your debt under control. The strategy is simple: transfer your debt from a high-interest card to one with 0% introductory APR, and you’ll pay off what you owe sooner.

The Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer is our favorite balance transfer card for several reasons. 1) It offers extra-long 0% intro APR to pay off what you owe interest-free. 2) It also has great rewards potential, with 5% back on rotating categories and 1% on everything else. 3) Its first-year bonus for new customers is one of the best out there: Discover will match the cash back you earn at the end of your first year, automatically.

Card Highlights

Card Highlights Provided by Discover: You could turn $200 into $400 with Cashback Match™. Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, Amazon.com, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Redeem your cash back for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.

100% U.S. based customer service.

Get your FICO® Credit Score for free on monthly statements, on mobile and online.

No annual fee.

Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.

Have a large balance to transfer? If so, balance transfer fees (rather than rewards) may be your top concern. The Chase Slate® charges no fee on balance transfers made during your first 60 days (plus, you’ll get 0% intro APR on those transfers).

Each of the cards we’ll describe would be a good choice for transferring a balance — but the best fit will depend on your priorities and circumstances. Ready to find the card that works best for you? Check out our top picks for balance transfer cards that will help you knock out your debt this year.

Longest 0% Interest Period:
Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer

The Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer is our top pick right now. It offers an extremely long 0% intro APR period with no annual fee, so you can make a big dent in your balance without paying a dime in interest.

Discover’s popular cash back program makes it easy to earn rewards quickly. You’ll get 5% cash back in rotating categories like gas, restaurants, and online shopping (up to the quarterly maximum), plus 1% back on all other purchases. Amazon shoppers will be happy to learn they can apply Discover cash back instantly at checkout.

This card also includes an amazing offer for new cardmembers: automatic, dollar-for-dollar match of all cash back earned at the end of your first year. All told, the Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer strikes a great balance between a rewards card and a balance transfer card.

Card Highlights Provided by Discover: You could turn $200 into $400 with Cashback Match™. Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, Amazon.com, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Redeem your cash back for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.

100% U.S. based customer service.

Get your FICO® Credit Score for free on monthly statements, on mobile and online.

No annual fee.

Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.

Best for Large Balances:
Chase Slate®

The Chase Slate® is also worth a look, especially if you’re looking to transfer a large balance. In addition to extended intro APR, it offers $0 intro balance transfer fees. If the balance you’re looking to transfer has crept into the hundreds or even thousands, your savings with the Chase Slate® could be significant. (Note: to get the $0 balance transfer fee, you’ll need to transfer your balance within 60 days of opening your account. Transfers after that period will be subject to a fee of 5% or $5, whichever is greater.)

One caveat to keep in mind: you won’t be able to transfer a balance from another Chase account to the Chase Slate®. Your balance transfer must come from a card backed by another bank, like Bank of America or Discover. The Chase Slate® doesn’t include a rewards program, so it will work best for tackling your existing debt. Use it to pay off your balance quickly— then consider making the switch to a card with a rewards program.

$0 Introductory balance transfer fee for transfers made during the first 60 days of account opening

0% Introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

Monthly FICO® Score and Credit Dashboard for free

No Penalty APR – Paying late won't raise your interest rate (APR). All other account pricing and terms apply

$0 Annual Fee

Great Signup Bonus:
Chase Freedom®

In addition to a generous intro APR period, the Chase Freedom® offers access to a popular rewards program. Like the Discover it 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer, this card features rotating 5% cash back categories that change quarterly. There’s also an easy-to-earn $150 signup bonus — all with no annual fee.

If you happen to have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the Chase Freedom® is a no-brainer: Chase Ultimate Rewards® points are transferrable between the two cards, so you can earn rewards even faster while you’re paying off your transferred balance!

Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate

Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – it's automatic

0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.74-24.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum

Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months

Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open

No annual fee

Best Rewards for Everyday Purchases:
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Want a balance transfer card that will double as an excellent everyday card even after you pay your balance off? The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express hits all the marks.

In addition to extended 0% intro APR, it offers a rewards program that aligns well with most people’s spending habits. Cardmembers earn 3% cash back on up to $6,000 per year at U.S. supermarkets per year (then 1%), 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, and 1% cash back on everything else. Additionally, the $100 signup bonus is easy to earn — just spend $1,000 in purchases in your first three months. And there’s no annual fee!

Our Verdict

$100 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.

No annual fee.

3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).

2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.

Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 13.74% to 24.74%.

Expanding merchant acceptance: Over 1 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in the last year.

Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.

Terms Apply.

See Rates & Fees

Honorable Mention:
Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard®

Everyone loves a good rewards program. But if you have a large balance, balance transfer costs and terms should take precedence when choosing your new card. Most balance transfer credit cards charge a fee of 3-5% per transfer — but the Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® is different. It offers a rare combination of features that make it an especially powerful tool for paying down high balances.

Why the Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® is Best for Large Balances

No balance transfer fees
Some cards offer $0 balance transfer fees for a set period after you open your account. But the Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® doesn’t charge them at all.

Extended 0% intro APR on balance transfers and purchases
This will give you more time to make a dent in your balance interest-free. And if you need to make a large purchase, you can save on interest there too (as long as you pay off the total amount during the intro APR period). Note: you’ll need to transfer your balance in the first 45 days to secure the 0% intro APR.

While the Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® doesn’t offer a rewards program, it’s very effective as a debt-elimination tool. In addition to $0 balance transfer fees, it has no annual fee, so you can transfer balances within your first 45 days without an upfront cost.

Our Verdict

0% Introductory APR for the first 15 months on purchases. Plus, you'll get a 0% introductory APR for 15 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 13.74%

No balance transfer fees

No foreign transaction fees

Chip technology, so paying for your purchases is more secure at chip-card terminals in the U.S. and abroad

Free online access to FICO® Credit Score

The Best Way To Use A Balance Transfer Card

Let’s say you have a high balance to transfer and don’t want to get hung up on the fees charged by most cards. The Chase Slate® is the only card on my list that doesn’t have any fees for transferring a balance for the first 60 days of account opening. If you need as long as possible to pay down your debts, you may want to consider a different balance transfer card with a longer timeline.

Also, balance transfer cards extend the 0% APR offer to balance transfers and purchases. These cards simply offer more flexibility to manage your cash flow and pay down debt without donating your money to high interest payments. So, you can use a balance transfer offer to make a large purchase at 0% APR, then use the promotional period to pay it off over time. The best 0% balance transfer cards will usually offer 0% on new purchases for at least 6 months.

This is obviously to incentivize people to keep spending on the cards, but if you’re not in debt, you can take advantage of it. Maybe you want to buy a couch, pay a medical bill, or tackle a home renovation project.

Other reasons to get a balance transfer card:

Consolidate your debts or get rid of cards with fees

Upgrade your credit card to earn more rewards

Add a card with great service and amenities

If your credit is good and you’re in this camp you should check out my reviews of the best rewards credit cards, best cash back credit cards, or best travel credit cards.

Research More Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Our team also created a directory of the most popular balance transfer credit cards available today. This directory was used as a starting point for my research and analysis. It is updated weekly to reflect any new changes to balance transfer offers, to add new cards, and to remove any expired deals.

The balance transfer credit cards directory is customized to highlight the most important features for balance transfer credit cards. It includes every credit card that has a 0% intro APR on balance transfers and rates each offer based on a number of key factors.

Balance Transfer Credit Card Directory

In order to value each of these cards, certain features were balanced accordingly based on overall importance to the prospective cardholder. The most relevant features for balance transfer credit cards are Balance Transfer Fee, Introductory Balance Transfer APR, Ongoing APR, and Annual Fee.

Obviously the biggest feature is having a 0% intro APR. You can also use the directory to filter by signup bonus or ongoing rewards if those are features that are more important to you.

Rating Methodology

To come up with a list of top balance transfer credit cards, I used the information shown in the directory above in addition to other data gathered on each credit card. For a better explanation of what was analyzed, I’ve included additional details below. Sometimes the terminology in the credit card world can be a bit confusing, so take a look if you’re unsure of anything.

Balance Transfer Fee

Credit card companies usually charge a fee of up to 3% when you transfer a balance to a new card. This means that if you transfer a $10,000 balance, you will pay an extra $300 to the credit card company. Even some of the best balance transfer credit cards on this list charge this fee.

The Balance Transfer Fee carries high importance because it can likely cost you a decent amount of money. However, depending on the card you choose, the fee may be worth it to get a few extra months of zero interest.

The Chase Slate® does not have a balance transfer fee for the first 60 days of account opening, making it the top choice on my list. The Discover it® has an industry-leading intro offer of 18 months for a balance transfer, which is six months longer than any other card, including the Chase Slate®. Deciding which of these cards to commit to may come down to knowing how much you’ll transfer, so you can decide between having no fee or the longer introductory period.

Balance Transfer Intro APR

The Balance Transfer Intro APR refers to the promotional interest rate charged for transferring a balance or making new purchases. The Intro APR is 0% for the best balance transfer credit cards. Nothing higher should be considered unless you can’t get approved.

Intro APR holds a high importance level when ranking all the top balance transfer cards simply because the main reason to transfer a balance is to stop paying interest for a period of time by taking advantage of a 0% APR.

Many times, the Intro APR is also extended to new purchases, not just balance transfers. This way, you can take advantage by purchasing items and paying them off over the introductory period without accruing interest.

Balance Transfer Intro Period

The Balance Transfer Intro Period is the time frame for which the Intro APR or other promotion is valid. As I mentioned earlier, the best balance transfer credit cards will run a 0% Intro APR on a combination of balance transfers or new purchases for at least 12 months, with some offering up to 18 months.

The Intro Period is of high importance because it controls the amount of time you can start paying down a high balance without accruing interest.


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