How to Do a Credit Card Balance Transfer
Balance transfers are an effective way to tackle credit card debt. We’ll cover whom it works best for, how to do it, and whether you should.
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You check your credit card balances after months of paying on time and barely see any movement in the balance. What seemed like a good purchase now stands in the way of your other financial goals.
Credit card interest might feel insurmountable, but an effective way to tackle it is with a balance transfer. Transferring a balance can help you pay off credit card debt faster—and spend less doing it.
We’ve researched everything you need to know about how to do a credit card balance transfer and choose the right offer.
In this guide:
- What is a credit card balance transfer?
- How to choose a credit card for balance transfer
- How long will the introductory rate last?
- How to transfer your credit card balance to your new card
- Will I pay fees for a credit card balance transfer?
- Conditions and rules
- How many times can I transfer a credit card balance to another card?
What is a credit card balance transfer?
A balance transfer is when you move a high-interest credit card balance to a temporarily lower-interest or zero-interest credit card.
This saves you on interest charges and helps you pay off your credit card debt faster.
Transferring works well for people who:
- Have high-interest credit card debt
- Have moderate balances they can pay off within the introductory period
- Can afford higher credit card payments
- Want to consolidate their credit cards
- Have a credit score of at least 670
When transferring an old balance to a new credit card, the period of 0% interest doesn’t last forever. The introductory period is often six to 21 months.
After the introductory period ends, your interest rate reverts to the standard variable APR for the credit card. Sometimes this is even higher than the interest rate you had before transferring.
Before going through with a balance transfer, ensure you can pay off the balance before your promotional interest rate ends. Otherwise, interest charges can eat into your potential savings in a hurry.
>>Read more: How do credit cards work?
Should I transfer my credit balance to a new card?
Whether you do a balance transfer depends on your finances. It’s helpful for many people, but it’s not the right move in certain situations.
Determine whether it makes sense for you by analyzing your current credit cards. It’s as simple as making a list.
On your list, include details such as:
- The name of each credit card you have
- Current balance on each card
- Interest rates
- Annual fees
- Monthly payments
- Card benefits you like
By laying out this information, you’ll notice which cards you’re paying the most interest with, which no longer make sense to keep due to annual fees, and which ones provide valuable benefits.
At this point, you may even break out a debt repayment calculator to determine which credit cards make sense to transfer first. Your credit card debt isn’t the only factor to consider.
Consider the other aspects of your finances by asking yourself:
- Is paying off your balance transfer within the promotional period realistic?
- Are you paying a balance transfer fee? How much?
- How much will you save?
- Are there other fees to consider?
- Is there room in your budget to cover a larger payment?
- What does your credit score look like?
The answer to these questions will be unique to your situation. Either way, it’ll help you better understand your options. Let’s review a scenario to understand how these factors affect your balance transfer decision.
Balance transfer example
Let’s say you want to pay off a credit card with a $7,000 balance and an interest rate of 18.99%. You’ve worked out a budget and dedicated $300 monthly to paying your credit card debt.
You have a credit score of 625, and the balance transfer card for which you qualify has these features:
- 5% balance transfer fee ($350)
- 12-month introductory period at 0% APR
- $100 annual fee
- 24.99% APR after the promotion ends
So the total cost of transferring your balance to the new card would be $450. Add that amount to your balance:
|Balance transfer + fees||$7,450|
|Months to pay off||19|
|Balance remaining after introductory period||$2,650|
Since it will take more than 12 months to pay off the balance, add in the cost of 24.99% APR and another $100 annual fee.
This would save you about $500 on interest, which is excellent—but it isn’t the best financial move you could make. If you could qualify for a 21-month offer at 0% APR and pay $400 per month, you’d stand to save about $1,100 instead.
How to choose a credit card for balance transfer
Choosing a balance transfer credit card that’s best for you depends on your goals.
Which of the following are you hoping to accomplish?
- Save as much money as possible
- Pay off debt fast
- Get rid of credit cards you don’t need
If your goal is to save money on interest, you might be looking for a credit card with the following:
- No annual fee
- No balance transfer fee
- 0% introductory APR for an extended period
If you aim to get rid of credit cards you don’t need, you’ll prioritize a balance transfer card with a solid rewards program outside the introductory APR.
Your goals and finances should dictate what balance transfer card you choose. To find the best balance transfer cards, evaluate the following factors:
- Introductory interest rate
- Balance transfer fee
- Annual fee
- Length of introductory period
- Rewards programs
- Regular interest rate
You’ll apply with a credit card issuer to get a balance transfer credit card. An application requires you to meet its credit and income standards to qualify for the best offers.
Most balance transfer credit cards require a credit score of at least 670 to qualify. If your credit score is lower, you may have difficulty finding a balance transfer card that makes sense.
Your credit score affects your credit limit and introductory offer, so it’s crucial to maintain a solid credit score ahead of your application.
There’s still hope if you have a low credit score, but you may need to compromise on features. For example, you might have to accept a shorter promotional period or a lower credit limit. Before filling out applications, take the following steps:
- Compare several credit cards that meet your needs.
- Check your credit score to avoid surprises
- See whether you’re preapproved for your selected cards. (This won’t hurt your credit score.)
Preapproval is a step borrowers often skip. However, it can save you from damaging your credit score with multiple applications.
Preapprovals let you see your potential credit limit, introductory offer, and interest rate before committing to a complete application—without hitting your credit score. That lets you shop for the best offers before making a final choice.
Steps to start your balance transfer
Get started with a balance transfer application by following these steps:
- Once you decide on a credit card, go to the issuer’s website to apply. You could also call its customer support center or visit one of its in-person locations to apply.
- In most cases, you’ll get a credit decision within minutes. Sometimes, it could take a few days. Either way, you’ll get confirmation of your approval or denial online and by mail.
- If approved, submit the information about the credit card whose balance you want to transfer to your new card issuer on its website or through its customer service line. The timing depends on your credit card issuer. It could be as few as three days and up to 21 days for certain banks.
- Check your old and new credit card accounts to ensure the transfer is complete and the balance only shows on the new card.
- After the transfer is processed, check your old credit card account to ensure no remaining balances or charges come through.
If you get denied the credit card, consider applying with another company. Being denied for one card doesn’t always mean you’ll be denied for the next. Consider the reason the issuer offers for the denial. If it’s credit score-related, ensure you meet another card issuer’s credit score requirements before applying.
Be cautious not to overdo it. Limit yourself to two or three applications because multiple credit card applications at once can be a red flag for lenders.
How long will the introductory rate last after a balance transfer?
The introductory rate for a balance transfer ranges from six to 21 months, depending on which credit card you choose.
You’ll notice below that most cards we included have promotional periods of at least 15 months. Follow the link from the name of the card issuer in the table to find out how to do a balance transfer for that type of card.
|Card||Introductory rate||Introductory period||Fee||More info|
|USAA Rate Advantage Visa® Platinum Credit Card||0% APR||15 months||3%||How to Do a USAA Balance Transfer|
|PNC Core® Visa® Credit Card||0% APR||15 months||3% within 90 days of account opening||How to Do a PNC Balance Transfer|
|Wells Fargo Reflect® Card||0% APR||Up to 21 months||3% within 120 days of account opening||How to Do a Wells Fargo Balance Transfer|
|Truist Future Credit Card||0% APR||15 months||3%||How to Do a Truist Balance Transfer|
|Citizens Clear Value® Mastercard||0% APR||21 months||5%||How to Do a Citizens Bank Balance Transfer|
|Capital One VentureOne Rewards||0% APR||15 months||3% for the first 15 months||How to Do a Capital One Balance Transfer|
|Chase Slate Edge Credit Card||0% APR||18 months||3% within 60 days of account opening||How to Do a Chase Balance Transfer|
|Discover it® Cash Back Credit Card||0% APR||15 months||3%||How to Do a Discover Balance Transfer|
|Citi Simplicity® Credit Card||0% APR||21 months||3%||How to Do a Citi Balance Transfer|
|Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card||0% APR||18 months||3%||How to Do a Bank of America Balance Transfer|
How to transfer your credit card balance to your new card
Transferring your balance to your new card is easy.
Once approved for your new balance transfer credit card, you have three options to complete the balance transfer:
- Log in to your online account.
- Call the customer service line.
- If your credit card issuer has a local branch, visit it.
No matter which you choose, you’ll need to have your original card information ready.
You can do this online in four steps:
- Log in to the online account for your new balance transfer card.
- Select the new card and the “balance transfer” option.
- Enter the details about your old credit card, including the account number and payoff balance.
- Review the information, and submit it.
You’ll need to verify when the transfer goes through. This could take anywhere from three to 21 days.
Will I pay fees for a credit card balance transfer?
A survey from Experian found that 61% of people who transferred a balance paid a fee. So it’s common for fees to be part of a credit card balance transfer. If you’re determined to save as much money as possible, you can find a card with minimal fees.
The fees you might encounter when searching for a balance transfer card include:
- Balance transfer fee
- Annual fee
- Transaction fees
- Penalty fees
The balance transfer fee is the most common and one of the most expensive, at 3% to 5% of your balance. Annual fees aren’t uncommon, but they’re avoidable. All the balance transfer cards we listed above have no annual fee.
Unless you plan to use your new credit card for purchases later, you won’t need to worry much about foreign transaction fees and cash advance fees.
Penalty fees could come in when you’ve made a late payment or exceeded your credit limit. They often cost about $40, but you can avoid them by making all your payments on time.
Conditions and rules of credit card balance transfers
The conditions of a balance transfer change based on which financial institution you choose.
Standard terms include:
- No balance transfers from other accounts within the same bank.
- Balance transfer cap (often $10,000 to $15,000).
- Introductory APR could end if you make a late payment.
- Minimum balance transfer amounts ($100 to $500).
You’ll find similar rules in most credit agreements, but the specific rules depend on the lender. For example, Chase has a balance transfer cap of $15,000, while American Express limits balance transfers to $7,500.
To understand the rules and conditions of your balance transfer, read through your bank’s credit card terms and conditions page for the most up-to-date information.
How many times can I transfer a credit card balance to another card?
There’s no limit to how many times you can transfer a credit card balance to another card. However, issues arise if you attempt to transfer a balance within the same credit card company. Most terms and conditions prohibit this.
You might encounter problems with eligibility for new introductory offers if you’ve opened a balance transfer card with the same company. Certain card issuers only allow borrowers to take advantage of one promotional offer every two years.
If you want to transfer another balance to your new card, it’s not a problem if you don’t mind another balance transfer fee. You might pay a higher balance transfer fee if you’re outside the introductory offer period.
Author: Seychelle Thomas
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