How long does a balance transfer take?
Discover what to expect and how you can make sure the process runs smoothly.
If your outstanding credit cards and loans are difficult to pay down due to high-interest rates or multiple statements, a balance transfer credit card may help. By moving your existing debt to a card offering a low or 0% introductory APR, you can buy some time to pay down your debt without accruing unnecessary interest.
Applying for a balance transfer is relatively simple, but it can take a few weeks for any balance to transfer to your new account.
What is the application process for a balance transfer card?
Though the process of transferring a balance is relatively straightforward, timing and steps can vary among card providers and issuers. Here’s what you can expect with most banks and providers.
- Do an eligibility check. This will determine your chances of being approved for the card type. This is classified as a “soft” search and does not impact on your credit score. It’s important to do this first so you are not applying for credit cards you’re unlikely to be approved for.
- Apply online. Once you’ve determined your eligibility and which card you want to apply for, fill out the online application form. This is classified as a “hard” search and could negatively affect your credit rating if you aren’t approved.
- Approval. After submitting the application form, you should know in moments if you have been approved. Occasionally, your provider may request further information.
- Activate your card. Following approval, you should expect to receive your PIN and your card separately in the post within 5-7 working days. Once it arrives, you need to activate your card either online or via phone (depending on your provider’s instructions).
- Transfer your balance. Once your card is activated, your balance can be transferred. Many banks do this automatically after activation but your provider should give you instructions if you need to do anything else.
- Close your old credit card. Once your new balance transfer card is up and running, make sure to close your old card. You don’t want to risk running up any extra fees or charges when it’s not being used.
How long will I wait for a new provider to process my balance transfer application?
Applying for a new balance transfer credit card usually takes around 10 to 15 minutes, but most providers offer an online decision on your application within minutes. If you indicated on your application the balances to transfer, it could take up to two weeks for you to see the debt in your new account and your new card to arrive.
How long will it take to process my balance transfer?
|Institution||Number of days to process|
|Barclays Bank||By the next working day.|
|Capital One||Between 7-10 working days.|
|First Direct||By the next working day.|
|Halifax||By the next working day.|
|HSBC||Between 3 to 4 working days.|
|Lloyds||By the next working day.|
|MBNA||By the next working day.|
|NatWest||By the next working day.|
|Sainsbury’s Bank||Up to 10 working days.|
|Santander||By the next working day.|
|Tesco Bank||Between 1 to 3 working days.|
|Virgin Money||Between 3 to 5 working days.|
Be aware, if you make your balance transfer request in the evening or during a weekend, this could add a delay of a day or two to your balance being transferred as your provider won’t start processing it until the next working day.
If you don’t see your balance transfer applied to your new account within two weeks, contact your new card provider to confirm when you might expect it to appear. You can then begin the work of repaying your debt before the promotional period ends.
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How to avoid delays with your application
Generally, you will avoid roadblocks by knowing what the card provider you’re interested in requires and readying that information for your balance transfer.
- Do your research. Interest rates, one-time fees, transfer limits and introductory offers depend on your card provider’s terms and conditions. Compare your options to find a provider that meets your specific needs.
- Make sure you are eligible. In most cases, you must meet minimum income and credit requirements to be approved for a balance transfer credit card. Most providers don’t accept transfers from affiliates or subsidiaries, so make sure the balances you’re hoping to transfer are eligible. For example, balance transfers are not allowed between NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland since RBS is the credit provider for both.
- Gather balance details. To ensure a smooth application process, research what you will need to provide for each transfer. Most providers require:
- The provider and type of debt.
- The card or account number.
- The amount you would like to transfer.
- The issuing provider’s name.
- Maintain your accounts. If you have fallen behind on payments or you owe a large balance, especially one that’s a result of a cash advance, your card provider might consider you a risky applicant. If you’re worried about approval, consider taking time to manage your spending and payments before applying.
Balance transfers to a new credit card can help minimise your interest fees while you’re consolidating your debts. But while applying for a balance transfer is simple, how long you will have to wait until you see those balances in your account varies by provider.
Before you sign any application, compare your balance transfer card options to find the strongest introductory period you’re eligible for.
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