Is a balance transfer right for me?

Understanding the balance transfer process and whether it's right for you.

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A balance transfer is a great way to pay off your existing credit card debt at a much lower rate, but these deals are restricted by many terms and conditions.

Is a balance transfer a good idea?

Several factors may influence whether or not you would benefit from a balance transfer card.

  • Is your interest rate making it difficult to pay down your balance?

    When interest rates are high enough to make it nearly impossible to pay down your principal a balance transfer may be a good idea to get a better rate.

  • Can you qualify for a high enough credit limit?

    To transfer the whole balance from one or more accounts you’ll have to qualify for a high enough credit limit.

  • Is the intro period going to be long enough?

    Some balance transfer cards offer a low or 0% intro APR for a certain length of time when you first transfer. Promotional periods can range from six to 21 months, which can give you time to pay down your newly-transferred balance.

  • How much will you actually save?

    Balance transfers can come with fees — usually from 3% to 5% of the amount being transferred. The fee, intro and revert APRs, introductory period and your budget should be considered when you’re calculating potential savings.

  • Can you keep from spending more?

    Keeping your old cards open will make for a lot of freed up credit. Temptation can build, so you’ll need to keep that urge to shop in line.

  • Is your credit score good?

    Your ability to qualify for the card that’s right for your situation is also something to keep in mind. Getting another card with a high revert rate or an intro that’s not long enough may not be the best solution.

How a balance transfer works

Balance transfers are fairly straightforward. The goal of a balance transfer is to move one or more debts onto a new credit card. Usually, this is done to consolidate debt or get a lower APR.

To start a balance transfer you’ll need to gather your current account information, including the amounts you want to transfer, the bank name, routing number and account number.

You’ll give the information you’ve gathered to the new credit card provider and the transfer will get started. During the time of the transfer, you’ll have to continue making your regular monthly payments. Transfers can take anywhere from a few business days to a few weeks depending on all parties involved.

How much you can transfer

Some banks will 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 between 75% and 100% of your approved credit limit.

Confirm what the minimum and maximum transfer amounts are by checking your relevant product disclosure statement.

Credit Limit70%80%90%95%

Which banks you can transfer your balance to

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.

What the revert APR is

Your low or 0% intro balance transfer rate will only last for the length of the promotional period, after which it will revert to a much higher interest rate. If this rate is higher than your current one, it may not be worth transferring the balance if you can’t pay the balance off before the intro APR period ends — though this also depends on what the balance transfer fee is.

How long a balance transfer takes

This depends on the financial institutions involved. It usually takes about two weeks to complete. The balance transfer intro period may begin as soon as your account is approved, though some providers don’t start it until the transfer is complete.

Our pick for a balance transfer card

Citi Simplicity® Card

  • No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee... Ever
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from date of first transfer. All transfers must be completed in first 4 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • If you transfer a balance with this offer, after your 0% Intro purchase APR expires, both new purchases and unpaid purchase balances will automatically accrue interest until all balances, including your transferred balances, are paid in full
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • 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.
  • Stay protected with Citi® Quick Lock and $0 liability on unauthorized charges
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Compare balance transfer credit cards

Updated March 31st, 2020
Name Product Amount saved Balance transfer APR Balance transfer fee Recommended minimum credit score Filter values
Citi Simplicity® Card
0% intro for the first 21 months (then 14.74% to 24.74% variable)
$5 or 5% of the transaction, whichever is greater
With an intro APR of 21 months, this card has one of the longest balance transfer offers on the market. Plus, no late fees and no annual fee.
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
0% intro for the first 21 months (then 13.74% to 23.74% variable)
$5 or 5% of the transaction, whichever is greater
Get one of the best balance transfer intro APR promotions available. Plus, access Citi Entertainment℠ to purchase tickets to concerts, sporting events, dining experiences and more.
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
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 months to pay off transfers.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
0% intro for the first 15 months (then 12.99% to 23.99% variable)
$5 or 3% of the transaction, whichever is greater
Earn a $150 bonus statement credit after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Rates & fees
Citi Rewards+℠ Card
0% intro for the first 15 months (then 13.49% to 23.49% variable)
$5 or 3% of the transaction, whichever is greater
Get rewards on gas and groceries with no annual fee. Ideal for everyday use, it's the only card that rounds purchases up to the nearest 10 points.

Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

How much you can get out of a balance transfer card depends on your specific financial situation. Be sure to take your time while researching companies and solutions to find the one that best meets your needs.

Getting out of debt can feel like an endless cycle, but you may be able to take great strides forward with planning and patience.

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