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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What to look for before cashing in.

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 balance transfer checks mean for you and how to use them.

Consider this alternative to a balance transfer check

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

  • Earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 3 months.
  • 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 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 15.24% to 26.24%.
  • Over 1.6 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2018.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms apply.
Read less
Read more
See Rates & Fees
Promoted

Compare our top picks for balance transfer cards

Name Product Introductory Balance Transfer APR Balance Transfer Fee Recommended Minimum Credit Score
0% for the first 15 months (then 17.24% to 25.99% variable)
$5 or 3% of the transaction, whichever is greater
670
0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers.
0% for the first 15 months (then 17.24% to 25.99% variable)
$5 or 3% of the transaction, whichever is greater
670
0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers.
0% for the first 15 months (then 15.24% to 26.24% variable)
$5 or 3% of the transaction, whichever is greater
680
Earn a $150 bonus statement credit after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
0% for the first 12 months (then 15.24% to 26.24% variable)
$5 or 3% of the transaction, whichever is greater
680
Earn $200 bonus cash back after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
0% for the first 15 months (then 15.24% to 26.24% variable)
$5 or 3% of the transaction, whichever is greater
680
Earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 or more in purchases with your new card within the first 3 months of card membership. Rates & Fees

Compare up to 4 providers

What are balance transfer checks?

Balance transfer checks work much like a normal check would — only instead of drawing from your bank account, they draw from your credit line. A credit card provider will send out balance transfer checks that are tied to a credit card you already have open, or to a card you prequalify for. The checks can then be used to pay accounts outside of the issuing provider.

The card tied to the offer doesn’t necessarily have to be a card you got for the purpose of a balance transfer. It could simply be one that allows balance transfers and has unused credit.

Usually balance transfer checks come with promotional terms, often APRs starting at 0% — depending on your creditworthiness.

Which brands offer balance transfer checks?

Credit card providerOffers balance transfer checksOffers convenience checks
American Express
Bank of America
Barclaycard
Capital One
Chase
Citibank
Discover
HSBC
USAA

How can you use a balance transfer check?

Using a balance transfer check is fairly similar to using a normal check. You’ll just want to fully understand its terms before signing off on it.

  1. Know the terms. Read the terms of the transfer offer. To truly get the most out of it, make sure there’s a low or 0% introductory APR, and that you can use it before the rate expires. Also check for any balance transfer fees you may incur.
  2. Fill out the check. Make the check out to the high-APR credit card you want to transfer, or to yourself. If you’re cashing it yourself, check what additional fees may apply and what the standard APR will be.
  3. Wait for the transfer to process. Depending on the account you’re transferring from and two, this time will range. If it’s not immediate, be sure to continue making the minimum payments on the old account until it processes.

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’s how to tell if a balance transfer check might be the right fit for you:

  • Intro APR.
    Introductory windows vary based on the lender and your creditworthiness, as do promotional rates. If you can’t pay off a large balance you want to transfer before the period ends, or if the intro rate is over 0%, it might be worth skipping.
  • Revert APR rate.
    After the introductory period is over, the provider applies what people call a revert APR rate to any remaining balance. Be sure the interest rate is either less than what you’re transferring from or that you can pay the balance off fully before the intro period ends to avoid paying more.
  • Balance transfer fees.
    A typical balance transfer fee ranges from 3% to 5% of the transaction. Balance the cost of the fee with the interest you’ll save by making the transfer to determine if it’s really worth it.

Not all balance transfer checks will have offers that are worth pursuing. For longer APRs or lower balance transfer fees, you may want to consider taking out a new balance transfer card after comparing the options available.

If you’re not sure how long you’ll need to pay off your balance, you can use our balance transfer calculator to get a quick and easy estimate.

Why am I getting this offer?

You may notice balance transfer credit card offers coming from a different bank than your current card provider. Balance transfer checks are a benefit that some 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 provider, it could be a convenience check. Typically, you can use them to make purchases or as cash advances instead of using a credit card.

But be careful — they often don’t come with an intro APR, and in fact can accrue the same high rate as a cash advance. 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 — a lower APR or longer terms and no fees. And they can come from a bank or credit card that you don’t already have a balance with.

What to look out for

  • Revert rate. Once your intro APR window closes, you’ll wind up with a higher APR. Any balance you haven’t yet paid off begins earning interest just as it would with any other credit card.
  • Costly cash advances. When a balance transfer check acts as a cash advance, it carries 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.

How to stop these offers from coming

If you’re not interested in balance transfer checks clogging up your mailbox, tell issuer to stop sending them. Send the credit card issuer a secure online message, mail or call them directly. If it’s a local bank, you can visit a branch and make the request in person.

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.

Bottom line

Looking into the different types of balance transfer cards and comparing them against balance transfer checks can make a big decision easier. The 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 before signing up.

Frequently asked questions

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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