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These balance transfer statistics show how Americans are handling debt

Just 1% of US cardholders took out a balance transfer in 2018.

Updated

Fact checked

While only 1% of American cardholders took out a balance transfer in 2018, roughly $54 billion in existing debt was moved to a balance transfer card by cardholders that year. That makes up about 9% of the total credit card debt across all cardholder accounts, according to a recent report from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.

Balance Transfer Statistics

Just 1% of US credit card accounts took out a balance transfer in 2018.

Nonetheless, roughly $54 billion in existing debt was moved to a balance transfer card by cardholders that year. That makes up about 9% of the total credit card debt across all cardholder accounts, according to a recent report from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.

Balance transfers performed by credit score

Generally, the most valuable balance transfer credit cards or opportunities are found on credit cards requiring good or excellent credit.

See our breakdown of balance transfers based on cardholder credit score.

Credit scoreDebt transferredOverall percent
Excellent$38.8 million72%
Good$13.5 million25%
All other scores$1.62 million3%

Source: Consumer Credit Card Market Report, August 2019, Consumer Finance Protection Bureau

As you can see, most balance transfer activity is performed by those with excellent or good credit. Those with fair or poor credit, on the other hand, are less likely to transfer a balance using a credit card.

The average debt amount transferred by credit score

The size of the average balance transfer differed based on credit score. As you’ll see below, those with higher credit scores transferred more debt with their balance transfer.

Credit scoreAverage balance transfer 2015Average balance transfer 2018
Excellent$5,049$5,453
Good$3,235$4,136
Fair$2,313$2,845

Source: Consumer Credit Card Market Report, August 2019, Consumer Finance Protection Bureau

The amount of debt transferred across all segments also grew from 2015 to 2018. This is most likely thanks to a growing economy over this period.

Intro period length across balance transfer cards

We dove into our credit card database to take a look at how the intro APR periods across balance transfer cards broke down.

Intro PeriodPercentage of Balance Transfer Cards
6 Months8.06%
9 Months2.42%
12 Months40.32%
13 Months1.61%
14 Months2.42%
15 Months39.52%
18 Months4.84%
21 Months0.81%
As you can see from the data above, you’re most likely to find a balance transfer offer with an intro period of 12 or 15 months. Despite their small length, 6-month intro periods were the third most common, with the much coveted 21-month period the scarcest of all periods.

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