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What is a balance transfer fee?
It's what you pay to transfer your debt.
A balance transfer fee is when a credit card company charges a fee to move your debt to their card — usually a flat fee of $5 to $10 or a percentage between 2% and 5%.
If you’re looking to transfer a balance from one card to another, you’re looking for a deal. Credit card companies bank on customers overlooking or disregarding a transfer fee as insignificant.
But if you do the math — transferring an $8,000 balance with no APR would cost an additional $400 with a 5% transfer fee. So now you’re debt has grown to $8,400.
What's in this guide?
How balance transfer fees are calculated
When transferring your existing credit card debt to a new balance transfer credit card you’ll typically be charged 3% to 5% of the total balance transferred.
Usually, this fee has a flat minimum amount, and you’ll be required to pay the larger of the two. For example, either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater. If 3% of the amount you’re transferring is less than $5, then you’ll be charged $5. Few banks will cap the transfer fee — most only set a minimum.
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.
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.
How to compare no-fee balance transfer cards
To find the best no-fee balance transfer card for you, consider what will benefit you most:
- Intro APR.
Some no-fee balance transfer cards offer a 0% intro APR on balance transfers, which can provide a break from interest.
- Ongoing APR.
Will you pay off your debt before your intro APR ends? If not, consider what the ongoing APR will be.If you plan on carrying debt for a long time, low-APR cards might be a more attractive option, even if you have to start paying interest on your balance immediately.
- Annual fee.
An annual fee can knock off a bit of your savings from a balance transfer card, so factor it in when you’re doing the math.
- Ongoing balance transfer fees.
If you plan on transferring balances over long periods of time, confirm whether your card offers no fees indefinitely or only for an intro period.
Our pick for a balance transfer card
Citi Simplicity® CardRead more
Compare balance transfer credit cards
Are intro balance transfer fees a good deal?
It depends. You may find a stellar card that doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee and offers a low APR of 10% or less. This situation can save you hundreds of dollars.
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.
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.
Tips to keep in mind with no-fee balance transfer cards
When you’re looking for a no-fee balance transfer card, consider the following:
- Offer terms.
The no-fee transfer period may expire. Read the fine print to make sure you can take advantage of not having to pay a balance transfer fee.
- Look for other fees.
You may be drawn to a card that offers a $0 fee for transfers, but costs $100 a year to use. Make sure the card’s other fees don’t negate what you saved in your transfer fee.
- Compare savings.
You may save more by paying a transfer fee and enjoying a 0% intro APR for 12 or more months. Make sure you do the math to see which deal saves you the most money.
- Number of transfers.
Some credit cards give you unlimited transfers for no fee, while others limit you to only one fee-free transfer.
Balance transfer calculator
To use this calculator:
- Fill out the amounts and APRs of the cards you’re transferring from.
- Use our default values or fill out a card you’re considering transferring your balance to.
- Click Calculate and find out what you could save.
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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