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What is a balance transfer fee?
Move your debt to a new credit card and pay it off with an interest-free period.
A balance transfer is a great way to cut costs on 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 a balance transfer fee is and how it works.
What's in this guide?
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.
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.
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:
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 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:
- 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.
Our pick for a balance transfer credit card
Citi® Diamond Preferred® CardRead more
Compare balance transfer credit cards
Do I have to pay a balance transfer fee?
This actually depends on the card. Most credit cards will charge either 3% or 5% fee of the amount for a balance transfer. But some credit cards have no balance transfer fees. These are often cards issued by credit unions, although there are some cards issued by banks.
However, there’s a trade-off to having $0 balance transfer fees. Typically cards that come with no balance transfer fees have a shorter 0% intro APR period on balance transfers than the cards with balance transfer fees. Make sure you do the math and choose the option that will save you more money.
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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