A balance transfer may be a great option to move high-interest debt to a new card with low or 0% intro APR. Furthermore, many cards offer attractive choices for benefits and rewards. Figuring out how to make a balance transfer, however, can be confusing.
How to do a balance transfer in 6 steps
Completing a balance transfer is simple. Just follow these six steps and you’ll be on your way to a lower interest rate.
To help you through this process, use our balance transfer calculator to find out how much you could save by making a transfer.
To use the calculator:
Fill out your current credit card information by inputting the balance and APR on each line below. If you know the details about the card you’re transferring to, fill those out to see how much you’ll save.
We’ll input some default values for you if you don’t have a specific card in mind.
There are many ways to compare balance transfer cards, but a few of the most important factors include:
Promotional interest rate. Most balance transfer credit cards come with a 0% balance transfer intro rate, but some may offer a slightly higher rate.
Length of the introductory period. Theintroductory periodusually lasts between 6 and 21 months. Naturally, the longer the period, the greater your possible savings.
Ongoing interest rate. When the promotional period ends, a revert interest rate applies to your balance. This is usually a higher interest rate, such as the standard purchase and cash advance rate, so factor it into your calculations if you can’t pay off your debt during the intro period.
Balance transfer fee. You may be charged a one-time fee for the balance transfer, typically between 3% and 5% of the transferred amount. You may want a card with no balance transfer fee if you’re transferring several balances — otherwise, this fee could offset your interest savings.
No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee... Ever
0% Intro APR for 18 months on purchases from date of account opening and 0% Intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer. After that the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening.
There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi’s discretion.
Stay protected with Citi® Quick Lock and $0 liability on unauthorized charges
3. Apply for a card and request a balance transfer
Once you’ve found the perfect card, it’s time to submit your application.
Fill out an application online or through the mail, and include balance transfer amounts you wish to make. Be ready to provide your account numbers.
The exact amount you can transfer is determined once your application is approved.
Your new card provider transfers the balances on your behalf upon approval, up to the stated limit. It takes into account the transfer fees, and if the card has an annual fee. These fees affect your total transfer limit. It usually takes 7 to 15 days for a balance transfer to go through, so make sure to pay the minimum monthly payment on your old card until your transfer is complete.
4. Keep paying your old card until your transfer clears.
While you’re waiting for your balance transfer to be approved, continue making payments on your account to avoid fees and interest and a potential hit on your credit score.
Once you receive notification that your balance has been transferred, reach out to your bank to confirm. Before you stop making payments on your old card, check the balance statement; it should stand at zero.
5. Consider what to do with your old card
The logical option may seem like closing your old card. However, depending on how long it has been open, and if you used it responsibly, closing the account may affect your credit score.
Consider hanging on to your old card if it doesn’t have an annual fee. If the card does have an annual fee, weigh in the pros and cons of closing the card and whether the impact on your credit score is worth paying for it.
6. Start paying off your debt.
Once your balance transfer is complete, note how long your promotional APR lasts. If you have a balance after the APR expires, it starts accruing interest at the revert rate.
Try to make more than the minimum payment each month to repay the entire debt before the revert rate kicks in. Consider making financial changes or plans to help you clear off this debt. Two common helpful tips include:
Track your finances. Part of your balance transfer goals should be getting a complete handle on your finances. Understand where your money is coming from, where it’s going and how you can move this money around to best serve you.
Creating a budget. If you haven’t been much on budgeting up until the balance transfer, now might be the time to start. A budget can keep your spending in line during your balance transfer period and ensure you meet each monthly payment.
And if necessary, seek free help for managing your debt, such as our credit card repayment calculator. A balance transfer may buy you some interest-free time to repay your balance and ultimately save you money. With some discipline and commitment, you can be debt-free faster than you thought.
What happens if I don’t pay off my balance before the 0% introductory APR expires?
Any remaining balance will start accruing interest at a higher interest rate — also called the ongoing APR. That’s why it’s usually a good idea to pay off your balance before your 0% intro APR period expires.
Guides to how to do a balance transfer with each bank
The process for transferring a balance varies between credit card issuers. Check our list of providers for guides on making a balance transfer:
How to transfer your balance after you apply for and receive your card
If you submitted your application without making any balance transfer requests, you can usually request a transfer after approval. Do this in either online or over the phone.
Try to complete the transfer as soon as possible. If you wait longer than 60 days, you may lose your promotional APR.
If you don’t receive an immediate decision on your credit card, you’ll typically need to wait seven to 10 business days to hear back. If you still haven’t received word after this time, contact the bank to find out if there’s an issue. You may be asked to provide additional information.
How to do a balance transfer by phone
Call the number on the back of your card.
Tell the representative that you wish to make a balance transfer.
Give pertinent information to the representative, including the details about your other issuer and the balance you want to transfer.
Confirm details of your balance transfer with the representative.
How to do a balance transfer online
Sign up for online banking after you receive your card.
Log in to your online account and navigate to the balance transfer section.
If necessary, choose a balance transfer option offered to you.
Enter details of your balance transfer, including information about your other issuer and the amount you want to transfer.
Card providers that offer the promotional balance transfer after application
Period to transfer balances at the promotional rate
Typically 60 days after approval
Bank of America
Typically 60 days after approval
4 months after approval
Typically 60 to 90 days after approval
Applying for a balance transfer card can be your first step to getting yourself out of debt. Consider the promotional APR period, transfer fee and the card’s annual fee when comparing your balance transfer options.
Compare balance transfer credit cards
You’ll mainly want to compare balance transfer cards on factors such as intro APR and length of the promotional interest rate. However, you should also keep in mind that card providers don’t allow balance transfers between cards they issue. So if you have a Citi card, you won’t be able to transfer your debt to another Citi card.
Kliment Dukovski is a credit cards and investments writer. He's written over 600 articles to help readers find and compare the best credit cards. Kliment has also written on money transfers, home loans and more. Previously, he ghostwrote guides and articles on foreign exchange, stock market trading and cryptocurrencies.
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