Is a balance transfer card right for me? 8 points to consider | finder.com
Is a balance transfer credit card right for me

Is a balance transfer credit card right for me? Key considerations

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Understanding the guidelines of the balance transfer process

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. We’ve compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions we get from users in hopes that it will make your debt consolidation journey easier.

Our pick for balance transfers: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

  • $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).
  • 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.99% to 25.99%.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Promoted

How a balance transfer works

Balance transfers are pretty straightforward. The goal of a balance transfer is to get open balances from one or more credit cards onto a new card. Usually this is done to consolidate debt or get a lower APR. The most difficult part of the process is comparing your options to see what solution and which provider will benefit you the most.

Once you’ve found a card that you’d like to transfer your debt to it’s time to get the process going. 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.

Is a balance transfer right for me?

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

  • Interest rates. 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.
  • Amount of debt. To transfer the whole balance from one or more accounts you’ll have to qualify for a high enough credit limit.
  • Introductory period. Some balance transfer cards offer a low or 0% APR for a certain length of time when you first transfer. Promotional periods can range from 6 months to 18, which can give you time to pay down your newly-transferred balance.
  • Overall savings. Balance transfers can come with fees. Usually they range from 3–5% of the amount being transferred. Aside from the fee the APR, introductory period and your budget should be considered when you’re calculating potential savings.
  • Spending habits. Keeping your old cards open will make for a lot of freed up credit. Temptation can build, so take your self control and shopping proclivities in mind.
  • Where your debt is. Open balances in multiple locations can potentially get consolidated into one place and make repayments easier to manage.
  • Credit score. Your ability to qualify for the card is also something to keep in mind. Getting another card with a high interest rate may not be the best solution.

How much can you transfer?

Some banks will allow a minimum of $100, some $500. In terms of maximums, it depends on the institution. Some institutions don’t put a maximum on how much you can transfer, though this can sometimes sit between 75%-100% of your approved credit limit.

Confirm what the minimum and maximum transfer amounts are by checking your relevant product disclosure statement. Generally speaking you can transfer up to 90% of your approved credit limit.

Credit Limit70%80%90%95%
$2,500$1,750$2,000$2,250$2,375
$5,000$3,500$4,000$4,500$4,750
$7,500$5,250$6,000$6,750$7,125
$10,000$7,000$8,000$9,000$9,500
$12,500$8,750$10,000$11,250$11,875
$15,000$10,500$12,000$13,500$14,250

Compare balance transfer credit cards

Updated November 19th, 2018
Name Product Filter values Introductory Balance Transfer APR APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases Annual Fee Minimum Credit Score
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 25.99% variable)
14.99% to 25.99% variable
$0
680
Earn a $150 bonus statement credit after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 25.99% variable)
14.99% to 25.99% variable
$0
680
Earn up to $250 back. Earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 or more in purchases with your new card within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn an additional $100 back after you spend an additional $6,500 in purchases within your first 12 months. You will receive the cash back in the form of a statement credit. Rates & Fees
0% for the first 12 months (then 14.99% to 25.99% variable)
14.99% to 25.99% variable
$95
670
Earn $200 bonus cash back after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 13.99% variable)
13.99% variable
$0
670
A low, variable APR on purchases, balance transfers and cash advances.
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.99%, 18.99% or 24.99% variable)
14.99%, 18.99% or 24.99% variable
$0
670
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees.
0% for the first 18 months (then 12.99%, 16.99% or 20.99% variable)
12.99%, 16.99% or 20.99% variable
$0
670
An 18-month 0% Intro APR period on both purchases and balance transfers, plus zero foreign transaction fees, makes this is a strong well-rounded card. See Rates and Fees
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 16.99% variable)
16.99% variable
$195
740
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 16.99% variable)
16.99% variable
$495
670
Mastercard Black Card members receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 16.99% variable)
16.99% variable
$995
740
Earn points every time you spend. Luxury Card enhances your purchasing power by providing you with one (1) point for every one dollar ($1) you spend. Every purchase gets you closer to the rewards you want.
9.95% for the first 6 months (then 17.99% fixed)
17.99% fixed
$39
300
Borrow up to $10,000 and get your credit score back on track.
8.90% to 25.90% variable
$0
670
This card offers the same low rate for purchases, cash advances and balance transfers.
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 25.99% variable)
14.99% to 25.99% variable
$0
670
Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
0% for the first 15 months (then 16.99% to 25.74% variable)
16.99% to 25.74% variable
$0
670
Jumpstart your financial fitness! 60 day introductory balance transfer offer, save on interest, and get your free monthly credit score.
0% for the first 15 statement closing dates (then 14.99% to 24.99% variable)
14.99% to 24.99% variable
$0
740
Transfer high rate balances and save on interest with an introductory $0 balance transfer fee for the first 60 days your account is open. After that, the fee for future balance transfers is 3% (min. $10).
0% for the first 15 months (then 16.99% to 25.74% variable)
16.99% to 25.74% variable
$0
670
Earn 1.5% unlimited cash back for each dollar spent.
0% for the first 12 statement closing dates (then 15.24% to 25.24% variable)
15.24% to 25.24% variable
$0
720
Earn more cash back for the things you buy most.
NASA Federal Platinum Advantage Rewards Credit Card
NASA Federal Platinum Advantage Rewards Credit Card
7.9% for the first 90 days (then 11.9% to 17.99% variable)
11.9% to 17.99% variable
$0
670
Enjoy perks and save money while gaining points that never expire with every purchase.
10.99% for the first 6 months (then 24.99% variable)
24.99% variable
$0
580
2% Cashback at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus 1% cash back on all other credit card purchases.
20.99% variable
$25
300
Establish credit history - with responsible use you may be upgraded to an unsecured credit card.
21.99% variable
$39
300
Help establish, strengthen - even rebuild your credit
20.99% variable
$29
300
Establish your credit and reap the benefits. Get worldwide purchasing power and flexibility as you work to build or re-establish your credit history.
24.99% variable
$0
300
Take control and build your credit with responsible use.
Aspire Platinum Mastercard®
Aspire Platinum Mastercard®
0% for the first 6 billing cycles (then 8.9% to 18% variable)
8.9% to 18% variable
$0
580
We'll help you score major savings with a 0% introductory APR* on purchases and balance transfers for 6 months.
1.99% for the first 6 monthly billing cycles (then 11.99% to 21.99% variable)
11.99% to 21.99% variable
$0
670
1% cash back to the nonprofits, K-12 schools, colleges and religious organizations of your choice.
22.97%, 24.97% or 26.97 variable
$39
580
Get unlimited 1.5 cash back on every purchase with no limit on how much you can earn, and no changing categories.

Compare up to 4 providers

Which banks can’t I balance transfer to?

You generally can’t transfer your debt from a balance with the same bank. There are also some institutions that you can’t transfer between, this is generally because the providers are owned by the same institution. Check who you can and can’t transfer between using the link below.
Which banks am I able to transfer my balance to and from?

What is the revert rate of my balance transfer?

Your low or 0% balance transfer rate will only last for the length of the promotional period, after which it will revert to either the much higher interest or cash advance rate.

Usually the cash advance rate is higher, but you should check regardless because you could stand to collect around 20% in interest on your remaining balance. To confirm what your provider will revert the rate to, please click the link below.
What rate does my balance transfer revert to?

Do interest free days apply?

Many credit cards that you just transferred your balance to will not have any interest free days until you’ve paid off the full balance. This means that you shouldn’t really use it unless you’re prepared to pay a higher interest rate.

If your old credit card has a reasonable purchase rate, it might be worthwhile to use that one instead and pay it off as quickly as you can. However it’s important to focus on paying the balance you’ve just transferred first.

How long does a balance transfer take?

This depends on the financial institutions involved. It usually takes about two weeks to complete, but as soon as the deal is approved by the bank your balance transfer period begins. When you’ve received your new credit card in the mail, assume that the balance transfer period has started a week beforehand.

It’s important to remember that your balance transfer period doesn’t start from the date you receive the credit card. It’s important to start repaying your debt as soon as possible, because the promotional period starts from the moment your balance transfer is completed, so you’ll want to take advantage of the full offer if possible.

Do late payments affect the promotional balance transfer rate?

The promotional rate is effective for the entire period offered and is not usually affected by other rates on the credit card (e.g. late payments, cash advances etc). Check with your provider if you’re unsure.

Should I cancel my old credit card?

An annual fee and no intention to use the card indicate that it may be a good time to close it. Any open balances on your old credit cards should be paid off as soon as possible and they should be cancelled to eliminate the chances of any other fees or charges. In the event that you keep the card as a backup for purchases, make sure it has a low purchase rate and you can repay it in full each month to avoid building up debt again.

However, it is good for your credit score to have a long relationship with a card. Only keep the card open if there’s no annual fee and you aren’t tempted to use it.

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.

Adrienne Fuller

Adrienne Fuller leads the publishing team at finder.com. She has one goal: to deliver the accurate and transparent information she wishes she had when she made some of life's important financial decisions. When she's not helping folks save money, she's hiking with her two Catahoulas around her home in San Diego.

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US Credit Card Offers

Important Information*
Deserve® Classic Card
Deserve® Classic Card

APR

24.49
variable

Annual fee

0 For the first year
More info
Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™
Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™

APR

16.74
variable

Annual fee

995 For the first year
More info
First Access Visa Card®
First Access Visa Card®

APR

29.99
variable

Annual fee

75 For the first year
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Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card
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23.9
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