How to use balance transfer checks the right way | finder.com
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How do balance transfer checks work?

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How to use a balance transfer check and what to watch out for.

Have you wondered why you got a blank check from a credit card company? Before you take it to the bank, learn more about what these balance transfer checks mean and how to use them.

What are balance transfer checks?

The credit card company wants you to take balances from other debt to make you an offer on new balance transfer credit card.

Is this a good deal? It could be. By using these checks, you agree to open the company’s card and transfer a credit card balance to it. Balance transfer checks usually include promotional amounts and term length. They often boast APRs starting at 0% — depending on your creditworthiness.

How can you use a balance transfer check?

If you have a balance with another credit card and are paying a high monthly APR you could benefit from a balance transfer check. Use the check by filling it out for the balance on your high-APR credit card or to yourself for a cash advance. This transfers your debt to the check issuer for better terms or APR.

Pro tip:

If you’re unsure whether a check is going to act as a cash advance with high fees, call the bank that sent it to you. Better to find out before you cash it.

Is using a balance transfer check a good deal?

Balance transfer checks can be a good deal if the rates are lower than what you’re paying. Here what to look for:

  • Length of introductory period. Introductory windows vary based on the lender and your creditworthiness. Shop around for one that’s best for you. Perhaps a shorter window is all you need to pay off a smaller balance.
  • Intro APR. This APR differs from lender to lender. Some offers can be as low as 0%, but they can go as high as 4% based on your creditworthiness.
  • Revert APR rate. After the introductory period is over, the provider applies what people call a revert APR rate to any remaining balance. If you know you’ll still have a large balance, it may help to look for a balance transfer card with a lower APR.
Name Product Introductory APR for Balance Transfer APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases Annual Fee Minimum Credit Score
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.74%, 18.74% or 24.74% variable)
14.74%, 18.74% or 24.74% variable
$0.00
Fair (660-699)
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees
0% for the first 18 months from account opening (then 12.74%, 16.74% or 20.74% variable)
12.74%, 16.74% or 20.74% variable
$0.00
Fair (660-699)
An 18-month 0% Intro APR period on both purchases and balance transfers, plus zero foreign transaction fees, makes this is a strong well-rounded card. See Rates and Fees
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 16.74% variable)
16.74% variable
$195.00
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 16.74% variable)
16.74% variable
$495.00
Good (700-739)
Mastercard Black Card members receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
0% for the first 15 months (then 16.74% to 25.49% variable)
16.74% to 25.49% variable
$0.00
Fair (660-699)
Jumpstart your financial fitness! 60 day introductory balance transfer offer, save on interest, and get your free monthly credit score.
0% for the first 15 statement closing dates (then 14.49% to 24.49% variable)
14.49% to 24.49% variable
$0.00
Fair (660-699)
Transfer high rate balances and save on interest with an Introductory $0 balance transfer fee for the first 60 days your account is open. After that, the fee for future balance transfers is 3% (min. $10).
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.74% to 25.74% variable)
14.74% to 25.74% variable
$0.00
Fair (660-699)
Earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive the $150 back in the form of a statement credit.
0% for the first 15 months (then 16.74% to 25.49% variable)
16.74% to 25.49% variable
$0.00
Fair (660-699)
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic. No minimum to redeem for cash back.
0% for the first 12 statement closing dates (then 14.74% to 24.74% variable)
14.74% to 24.74% variable
$0.00
Good (700-739)
Earn more cash back for the things you buy most.
NASA Federal Platinum Advantage Rewards Credit Card
NASA Federal Platinum Advantage Rewards Credit Card
9.90% for the first 90 days (then 11.40% to 17.99% variable)
11.40% to 17.99% variable
$0.00
Fair (660-699)
Enjoy perks and save money while gaining points that never expire with every purchase.
13.25% variable
$0.00
Poor (Below 660)
A great way to establish or improve your credit history.
10.74% variable
$0.00
Good (700-739)
A low, variable APR on purchases, balance transfers and cash advances.
10.99% for the first 6 months (then 24.74% variable)
24.74% variable
$0.00
Poor (Below 660)
2.00% Cashback at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus 1.00% cash back on all other credit card purchases.
25.74% variable
$24.00
Poor (Below 660)
Build, or rebuild, your credit with each purchase.

Compare up to 4 providers

Why am I getting this offer?

You may notice that balance transfer credit card offers always come from a different bank than your current card provider. Balance transfer checks are a benefit that providers use to earn your business from competitors.

Balance transfer checks vs. convenience checks

If you get a check in the mail from your bank or credit card, it could be a convenience check. These are used to make purchases or as cash advances instead of using a credit card. But be careful — they often don’t come with any APR benefit. They can accrue the same high rate as a cash advance — sometimes as high as 24%. You could also be charged a convenience fee as high as 4% of the check amount.

Balance transfer checks usually offer some sort of incentive — lower APR or longer terms and no fees. And they often come from a bank or credit card that you don’t already have a balance with.

Which is better really depends on your situation. If you’re working on building your credit and can’t qualify for another credit card, using a convenience check may suit you. Though you could pass on the checks, save on fees and simply use the card for a purchase. Balance transfer checks are better if you want to change credit cards to get a better APR or extended time to pay off a balance.

What to look out for

  • Change from intro APR to a higher one. Once your intro APR window closes, you’ll revert to a higher APR. Any balance you haven’t yet paid off begins earning interest just as it would with any other credit card.
  • You’ll pay for cash advances. Balance transfer checks that act as a cash advance carry a higher interest rate.
  • Transaction fees and finance charges may apply. You could be on the hook for transaction fees of as high as 5% of the borrowed amount.

Consolidate and pay off debt with a large balance transfer

How to stop these offers from coming

Balance transfer checks can be tempting and have potential to get you into financial trouble. They also can lead to fraud if someone finds them and cashes them in your name. Always shred these checks if you don’t plan on using them.

If you’re not interested in balance transfer checks clogging up your mail box, tell the credit card company to stop sending them. Send the credit card issuer a secure online message, mail or call them directly. If it’s a local bank, walk into the branch and request that you no longer get its promotional mail.

Bottom line

Looking into the different types of balance transfer cards and comparing them against balance transfer checks can make a big decision easier. And option to convert your debt to a lower APR is tempting, but look at your financial situation to make sure the credit card suits your needs.

Balance transfer calculator

Your current credit cards:

Amount Owing

APR

Card 1

Card 2

Card 3

Card 4

Card 5

Card that you are transferring to:

Intro APR

Intro Term (months)

Ongoing APR

Balance Transfer Fee

Annual Fee

Your monthly repayment
$500

 
 
Critical
At this rate, you will not pay off your debt.
 
Recommended
At this rate you will pay off your debt during the card's intro period

At that rate you will not pay off your debt. You will need to make higher repayments.

Months that it will take you to pay off your debt:

With a balance transfer
12 months

Without a balance transfer
15 months

Money saved transferring debt to a balance transfer card:

Savings = $1,000

By moving forward with a balance transfer credit card and transferring the maximum amount, you could be saving $1,000 on fees and interest charges.
You will save an infinite amount of money as you will not pay off your debt on your current cards at that rate.
In this case, a balance transfer card is not the best option. You might want to consider a personal loan to help consolidate your debt. You can find out more here.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this calculator, the results should be used as indication only. Certain assumptions have been made around the repayments made. This calculator is neither a quote nor a pre-qualification for a credit card

Kelly Waggoner

Kelly Waggoner is a senior editor with finder.com. She's worked with publishers, magazines and nonprofits throughout New York City, including ghostwriting a how-to on copyediting for the Dummies series. Between projects, she toys with words, flips through style guides and fantasizes about the serial comma's world domination.

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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    SusanJune 26, 2017

    When you use a balance transfer check to pay off an auto loan can you write the check for more than the loan and have the bank give you the difference?

    • finder Customer Care
      AnndyJuly 4, 2017Staff

      Hi Susan,

      Thanks for your question.

      Generally, when you request a balance transfer, you’ll have to provide the details of your current lender you have a balance with. A balance transfer check is then written directly to that lender or to yourself. In either case, the amount written is the total debt you owed with the lender you listed. Kindly note that the amount of the check will also depend on how much credit limit you have.

      This is just a general rule, other banks may have exceptions. You may have to directly call the bank where you are transferring your balance to and inquire if this is possible.

      Cheers,
      Anndy

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