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What is a balance transfer fee?

Learn more about the one-time fee you might pay when you move your debt to a new credit card.

Updated

Fact checked

A balance transfer is a great way to cut costs on an existing debt. However, many credit cards charge a fee on the transfer which can lead to unexpected costs if you’re not careful. Here’s what what a balance transfer fee is and how it works.

How does a balance transfer fee work?

A balance transfer fee is the fee charged by your lender when you balance transfer an eligible debt onto a new credit card. The balance transfer fee is usually 3% to 5% of the entire balance transfer amount. This fee is represented on the balance of the credit card receiving the balance transfer.

For example, if you are transferring $5,000 onto a new card and are charged a 2.5% balance transfer fee, the entire amount of the debt that will appear on the new card is $5,125, which is the $5,000 existing debt and the $125 balance transfer fee. Unlike an annual fee, this fee is only charged once when you first move your balance.

How to calculate your balance transfer fees

If you’re curious how to calculate the potential costs of a balance transfer, we’ll help you break down the logistics.

For a balance transfer, you’ll typically be charged 3% to 5% of the total balance transferred. Usually, this fee has a flat minimum amount. This is usually written as “$10 or 3%” on the card rates and fees, and you’ll need to pay the greater of these two numbers. If 3% of the amount you’re transferring is less than $5, then you’ll be charged $5. Here are a few examples:

Scenario 1:
You’re transferring $10,000 to a new card. The card has a 3% balance transfer fee with no cap. Because the card has no cap on the fee, you’ll pay $300 since $10,000 x .03 = $300. As you can see, balance transfer fees can add up quickly if you’re transferring a large balance to a card with no cap on the fee.
Scenario 2:
You’re transferring $10,000 to a new card. The card has a 2% balance transfer fee with a max of $75. Because 2% of $10,000 is $200, you’ll pay just $75.

If you’re wondering what fee you’ll be charged to transfer a balance, check the terms and conditions of the card. You should be able to find your answer under the fees and rates section.

If you’re still unsure, contact the provider’s customer service team to confirm what you’re expected to pay. You may find out that you don’t have to pay one at all.

You can also calculate what you’d save with various balance transfer fees using our calculator.

Our pick for a balance transfer credit card

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

  • 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
  • Get free access to your FICO® Score online.
  • With Citi Entertainment®, get special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events, including concerts, sporting events, dining experiences and more.
  • Shop with confidence knowing that you have dependable protection benefits, including $0 Liability on Unauthorized Purchases and Citi® Identity Theft Solutions.
  • 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.
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Is it worth paying a balance transfer fee?

It depends. If you’re transferring a high amount to a credit card with a 0% intro APR for 12 months, you’ll likely pay less in transfer fees than you would in interest.

You may also find a stellar card that doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee and offers a low APR of 10% or less. Depending on your repayment timeline, this situation can save you hundreds of dollars.

However, no-fee balance transfer cards often come with short 0% intro APR periods — or none at all. If you don’t pay off your balance by the time the promotion expires, your remaining debt might be assessed at a higher interest rate. With no 0% intro period, you’ll start paying interest on balance transfers immediately. You’ll want to calculate your repayment period before settling on a balance transfer card.

Compare balance transfer credit cards

%
Name Product Amount saved Balance transfer APR Balance transfer fee Recommended minimum credit score Filter values
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
0% intro for the first 18 months (then 14.74% to 24.74% variable)
$5 or 3% of the transaction, whichever is greater
740
Long 18 months intro APR periods on purchases and balance transfers. Plus Citi Entertainment℠ for deals on dining and going out.
Citi® Double Cash Card
0% intro for the first 18 months (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable)
$5 or 3% of the transaction, whichever is greater
740
This one of the most valuable flat cashback cards. It comes with 2% cash back (1% when you buy plus 1% when you pay) and 18 months to pay off transfers.
Luxury Card Mastercard® Titanium Card™
0% intro for the first 15 billing cycles (then 14.99% variable)
$5 or 3% of the transaction, whichever is greater
700
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
TD Cash Credit Card
0% intro for the first 15 billing cycles (then 12.99%, 17.99% or 22.99% variable)
$5 or 3% of the transaction, whichever is greater
680
3% on dining and 2% on groceries make this a valuable card for food purchases. Use it while traveling, too, with no foreign transaction fees. Available in: CT, DC, DE, FL, MA, MD, ME, NC, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, SC, VA, VT
CardMatch™ from creditcards.com
See issuer's website
300
Use the CardMatch tool to find cards you're likely to qualify for with your credit score, without a hard pull on your credit.
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Compare up to 4 providers

How much will a balance transfer cost me?

You’ll pay anywhere from nothing to hundreds of dollars on a balance transfer. How much you pay comes down to the amount of debt you’re transferring the credit card receiving the transfer, and how soon you can pay off the balance.

If you want to get an idea of how much you’ll pay on a balance transfer, you can use our balance transfer calculator below.

To use this calculator:

  1. Fill out the amounts and APRs of the cards you’re transferring from.
  2. Use our default values or fill out a card you’re considering transferring your balance to.
  3. Click Calculate and find out what you could save.
Card #1
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Card that you are transferring to:

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Disclaimer: While 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 prequalification for a credit card.

Do I have to pay a balance transfer fee?

It depends. Not all credit cards charge a fee on balance transfers. You can browse cards without balance transfer fees to see if one fits your needs.

Bottom line

If you’re committed to getting out from under your debt, finding a balance transfer card can help. Evaluate your needs, the fees and APR of your new card and what will save you the most money in the long run.

No-fee cards with low APRs can help, but make sure you compare your balance transfer options before you decide on a new balance transfer credit card.

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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    ZiaOctober 20, 2018

    4% apr vs 3% fee balance transfer

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      AnndyOctober 22, 2018Staff

      Hi Zia,

      Thanks for your question.

      The 4% APR is the amount of interest you will pay for any unpaid balance transfer amount. On the other hand, the balance transfer fee is a one-off payment that is charged when transferring your existing credit card debt to a new credit card.

      We can easily understand the difference between the two if we set a sample figure. Say, you are transferring $10,000 and your options include credit card A with 4% APR and no balance transfer fee and credit card B with 0% APR on balance transfers but charges 3% balance transfer fee.

      Credit card A will charge you about $400 on the first month and this may go down on the second month if you are able to reduce your principal balance by paying more than the required minimum repayment.

      Credit card B will charge you a one-off $300 balance transfer fee which is normally charged on your first billing after credit card approval. This is the only time you will incur this fee.

      I hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Anndy

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