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How to boost your balance transfer approval odds
Learn what credit card issuers look for — and how to best appeal to them.
You’ve done your homework. You’ve found the balance transfer card that meets your needs. You’ve scoped out an offer with a credit limit that lines up with how much debt you have.
Now learn about options that apply to your specific situation — your debt balance, the types of accounts you’re paying off, your current income and your credit history.
5 tips to help get your balance transfer approved
There’s no guarantee that your balance transfer will be approved by the card issuer. But if you follow these five tips, you’ll increase your chances of success.
- Check your credit score
- Compare a range of cards
- Request a transfer from a different bank
- Check your credit card balance
- Don’t request a transfer amount higher than your credit limit
1. Check your credit score
Your credit score weighs heavily in a card provider’s approval or rejection of your application.
Credit defaults, late payments, court orders and bankruptcies could label you as a high-risk applicant. To make sure you are approved for a balance transfer card and you’re eligible for a balance transfer, try to apply when you reach a good credit score of 670 or higher.
2. Compare a range of cards
A strong balance transfer credit card will offer a promotional APR of 0% that can last 21 months. Of course, there are other balance transfer credit cards with shorter interest-free periods but with additional perks.
Whichever you choose, make sure that the length of the promotional period is long enough for you to pay off your debt in full. Otherwise, the remaining amount will continue to accrue interest.
3. Request a transfer from a different bank
Card providers almost never accept balance transfers from accounts within the bank or from affiliated institutions. Make sure your balance transfer card is from another card provider than the provider you already have a debt with.
4. Check your credit card balance
Know your existing credit card balance when you apply for a balance transfer. It’s important your numbers are up-to-date so that you can balance transfer the whole amount.
Checking your balance online can be the easiest way to get this information. However, it’s often safer to call your current card provider and ask them for the actual figure to balance transfer.
5. Don’t request a transfer amount higher than your credit limit
Credit card providers often let you transfer either a specific amount, such as $5,000 or $15,000, or up to 100% of your credit limit including fees. Requesting a higher amount to transfer than the card provider’s limit is a sure way to get your balance transfer rejected.
Our pick for a balance transfer credit card
Citi® Diamond Preferred® CardRead more
Compare balance transfer credit cards
Top 4 balance transfer eligibility factors
Even if you’re approved for a balance transfer credit card, you may not always be eligible for a balance transfer. Below is a list of the most important factors affecting your eligibility.
- Credit history and score
Your credit use, habits and history provide a record that allows credit issuers to see what you’re like as a potential lending candidate.
Are you someone with a long credit history? Do you typically make payments on time, or do you have loans in default? To an issuer, the answers indicate how you’ll behave as a future borrower.
The better your credit score and repayment habits, the more money a company will be willing to loan you. Higher credit scores also tend to mean that your credit limit will be higher and your interest rate lower.
- Amount and type of debt
The balances you owe on other accounts is another hard number that credit issuers consider.
In many cases, if you have a large balance it will be critical for you to have a good score to be eligible for the transfer. These factors will work together to prove to the lender that you will be able to pay off your debt balance.
The type of debt you have is another indicator of your ability to use credit responsibly. If you have a student loan or home equity line with low payments and low interest that you consistently pay on time, it offers a stronger case than having three store credit cards with maxed-out limits.
While carrying different types of debt won’t prevent you from being approved for a balance transfer, to issuers it is another reflection of your spending habits.
- Debt-to-income ratio
Your debit-to-income ratio compares two numbers — the total amount you owe and the total amount you make. This results in a number that indicates to an issuer how significant your debt is. It also shows how capable you are off paying off that debt.
Debt / Income = Debt-to-income ratio
For example, it you owe payments of $1,100 every month and your monthly income is $4,000, you’d calculate your debt-to-income ratio like this: $1,100 / $4,000 = 0.275.
That 0.275 means that 27.5% — or about a third of your income — goes toward your debts.
Debt-to-income ratio levels are typically broken down as follows:
- Under 15% = Good
- 15%–20% = Caution
- Over 20% = Danger
That puts the 27.5% ratio in the danger zone.
It may sound like we’ve covered income already. But while it’s covered in the debit-to-income ratio, it’s a significant factor on its own.
For instance, you may not have a large debt balance, but you could still be in a tight spot if your interest payments are high relative to your income.
Again, this factor is an indicator to a credit issuer of how well you will manage to repay your debt with your new balance transfer credit card.
Some credit card providers allow you to prequalify for their products. Prequalification doesn’t guarantee approval, but it can give you a better idea of if you’re a strong applicant.
Providers that offer prequalification include:
What should I do if my application for a balance transfer card is denied?
Call your card issuer and ask why they rejected your balance transfer request. If it’s because the transfer amount was too high, request another balance transfer with a lower amount. But if it’s another reason, like if your credit score was too low, for example, take time to remedy the issue.
What not to do if your balance transfer application is denied
Avoid applying for another card right away. Card issuers will see you request another card immediately after you receive your balance transfer card. They may interpret this as desperate action for credit and deny your application.
Will getting denied for a balance transfer ruin your credit score?
Assuming you applied only for one balance transfer credit card, and you were approved for the card but denied for a balance transfer — the balance transfer impact on your credit score should be minimal.
Balance transfer calculator
What to do when you get your balance transfer credit card
Once your application is approved, you can expect your new card to arrive within five to 10 business days. After that, it’s only a matter of activating your new card, which you can do online, over the phone or in person at a branch office. This step will initiate the balance transfer process, which can take several weeks to process.
Use this time to tie up any loose ends with your old credit card. Check your old account for any other fees that may have popped up, pay them off and consider closing the account to avoid any future fees.
Now that you’re ready to get started on this balance transfer application, take your time and follow the steps we’ve outlined. Finding the right balance transfer card and planning ahead will increase your chances of a successful application. Remember: when in doubt, always ask for help.
Frequently asked questions
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