How to calculate if a balance transfer is worth it
Transferring your balance to another card often comes with fees of either 3% or 5% of the amount transferred, with a minimum of $5 to $15. Some credit cards have no balance transfer fees, which makes them an ideal option if paying off your debt is your only objective. Because you’ll likely pay a fee, consider these two questions to calculate if the balance transfer will be worth it:
- How much is the transfer fee?
Calculating the transfer fee is straightforward: First, check your card’s pricing table and find the cost for a balance transfer. Then calculate the amount you’ll pay based on how much debt you plan to transfer and the card’s listed balance transfer fee. For example, if you want to make a $2,000 balance transfer and the fee is 5%, your fee is $100. Provided the card has no annual fee and you pay off your entire balance before the intro APR expires, your cost could be limited to just $100.
- How much interest will I pay if I don’t make the balance transfer?
Calculating your interest is a little more complicated, and the math can be a little convoluted. Also, the ultimate cost you’ll pay depends on how long you choose to carry your debt. We recommend using a credit card repayment calculator to make calculating easier.
When all is said and done, you’ll want to pick the option that lets you pay less. But to make the math even easier, consider using our balance transfer calculator.
Balance transfer calculator
Use our balance transfer calculator to find out how much you could save by making a transfer and if it will be worth it.
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.
- Click Calculate to see your savings.
Should I get a balance transfer credit card?
If you want to save money on your existing debts, a balance transfer credit card could be a great way of cutting interest out of your debt payments. Here’s a quick rule of thumb on whether or not you should get one.
You should get a balance transfer card if…
- You’re paying interest on existing credit card debt.
Credit card interest can cause your debt to snowball. A balance transfer credit card lets you “pause” interest to catch up on payments. Transfer your balance to the card and accrue no interest for a specified period — typically 12 to 21 months — while you pay off what you owe.
- You want to consolidate debt from multiple sources.
If you’re paying off debt from multiple sources, you could make things easier by transferring all of your balances to one card. Now you can focus on one payment each month. Just keep an eye on your credit limit for balance transfers.
- Your existing debt isn’t too great.
The maximum amount of debt you can transfer to a balance transfer credit card is determined by the credit limit of your balance transfer card.
- Your current intro APR is about to expire.
The goal is to pay off your debt before the intro APR expires, but if this isn’t the case, it might make sense to transfer your debt again to a different card. Though watch out for transfer fees.
You should use a different debt relief option if…
- You don’t have great credit.
The balance transfer cards with the longest intro APR or best terms tend to require good to excellent credit. If you have poor credit, you may not have many great options.
- You have a large amount of debt.
If you have more than $10,000 in debt, you might not be able to fit it all onto one balance transfer credit card.
- You can’t pay off your debt within the intro APR period.
If you can’t pay off your debt within the allotted intro period — usually 12 to 20 months — you might want to consider a longer-term debt solution.
What are the pros and cons of a balance transfer credit card?
There are two types of balance transfer credit cards: rewards credit cards and cards with a long 0% intro APR period on balance transfers. The benefits and drawbacks vary based on your card choice.
- Lower interest. Avoid paying interest on your debt, so you can pay it off faster.
- Consolidate debt. Instead of paying multiple issuers, you can keep things simple by paying just one issuer each month.
- No annual fee. Pay off your debt faster by minimizing fees. Most credit cards with 0% intro APR period on balance transfers have no annual fee.
- Potential rewards. If you go with a rewards credit card, you can earn cash back on your purchases after you pay off your balance transfer. You’ll often have a shorter intro APR period, however — between six and 18 months.
- Potential signup bonus. Earn a bonus upon signup if you get a rewards credit card. Balance transfer cards without rewards don’t come with a signup bonus of any kind.
- Balance transfer fees. Most cards charge between 3% and 5% of the amount you transfer. But you can find some credit cards with no balance transfer fee.
- Balance transfer amount limits. Card issuers limit your balance transfer amount either up to the size of your credit line or up to a certain amount, typically between $5,000 and $15,000.
- Balance transfer restrictions. You can’t make balance transfers from accounts within the same bank or within affiliated financial institutions.
- Interest on unpaid balances. Fail to pay off your balance during the 0% intro APR period and you’ll accrue interest on your outstanding balance. Making a repayment plan is paramount to avoid paying interest.
Compare balance transfer credit cards
If you’ve done the math and determined you will benefit from a balance transfer, here are some cards to consider.
We update our data regularly, but information can change between updates. Confirm details with the provider you're interested in before making a decision.
Key considerations for completing a balance transfer
- How much you can transfer. Some banks allow a minimum of $100, others may set the minimum at $500. In terms of maximums, it depends on the institution. Typically the maximum sits either up to 100% of your approved credit limit or up to a certain amount — say $5,000 or $15,000.
- Which allow balance transfers. You generally can’t transfer your debt to a card with the same bank. Cobranded cards and shop cards may not be transferred to some providers. For example, you can’t transfer a balance from a United℠ Explorer Card to a Chase card because it’s issued by Chase.
- The revert APR. Your low or 0% intro balance transfer rate only lasts for the length of the promotional period, after which it will revert to a much higher interest rate.
- How long a balance transfer takes. The time it takes for a balance transfer to complete is two weeks on average. The balance transfer intro period may begin as soon as a bank approves your account, though some don’t start it until the transfer is complete.
If you’re looking to pay off your debt faster and without interest, a balance transfer credit card is a great option if you’re eligible. But if your credit score isn’t good, or your debt is larger than you could fit on a balance transfer card, you might consider a debt consolidation loan.
To learn more about all of your credit card options, compare other credit cards and find the right fit for your needs.
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