How many times can you transfer a credit card balance?
When you’ve come to the end of your current 0% period and you haven’t repaid your entire debt, any outstanding balance will start to accrue interest at your card’s standard rate. But you’re not out of luck – you may have the option of moving it to another card with a low or 0% introductory rate on balance transfers.
There’s technically no restriction on the number of times you can transfer your credit card balance, but there are a couple of issues to be aware of.
Seven factors to consider before applying for a second balance transfer
Balance transfer fees Most balance transfer deals involve a balance transfer fee. The typical fee is 2% to 4% of the amount you want to transfer, which is deducted from your remaining credit limit. There are deals on the market where you won’t be charged a balance transfer fee, although you won’t find these offers on the very longest 0% periods. Think about how much you can afford to pay each month, and how long it would take you to clear your balance. If you don’t need an ultra-long 0% period, then try for a no-fee balance transfer deal.
Transfers within the same banking group. To be eligible for a balance transfer promotion, you’ll normally need to transfer your debt to a credit card from a different banking group. For example, you can’t balance transfer between RBS and NatWest as they’re both part of the same group. This isn’t always the case, but it only takes a moment to quickly check the card issuers minimum eligibility criteria.
Eligibility requirements. Every credit card has a list of application requirements that you need to meet to be eligible to apply. UK residency, a minimum age limit and minimum income can all factor into your eligibility. See our guide on how to ensure your balance transfer application is successful for more tips on how to improve your likelihood of approval. Have your circumstances changed since you last applied for credit? It’s not guaranteed that you’ll get as good a deal as you’ve had in the past.
Soft searches. Look to see if the card that you’re interested in offers an “Eligibility checker” or “Fast check” tool – these run a soft search based on a few select details that you provide, and will give you a clear indication of your chances of getting approved for the card, and, in most cases, the rate you’d be offered (not all applicants get the advertised representative APR) and an estimate of your credit limit. Every full application for credit is recorded on your credit report. Applying for too many credit cards can hurt your credit score because each application triggers a hard inquiry, which has a slight (and usually short-lived) negative impact on your credit score
Balance transfer limits There’s likely a minimum and maximum amount you can transfer. The minimum amount may be as low as £50 and differs among lenders. The maximum balance transfer amount varies depending on the card issuer, and is usually expressed as a percentage of your credit limit. For example, you may be able to use up to 95% of your approved credit limit toward a balance transfer.
Other card features. It’s also important to consider other costs and benefits that might come with a new credit card. Annual/monthly account fees are rare in the balance transfer market, but it’s still worth double-checking for these. If you might not clear the debt before the end of the 0% period, then consider the card’s standard rate of interest. If you’re going to use the card for purchases too (or would simply like to have the option), then is it worth considering a card which also has a 0% deal that applies to purchases as well as balance transfers? You might even be able to score a card with a few tasty perks included, such as fee-free spending overseas, or the opportunity to earn rewards.
Desirability. Finally, bear in mind that if you consistently use credit cards without incurring any interest or fees, then ultimately, it’s possible that you might become a less desirable customer to card issuers.
How to make a second balance transfer
Follow these steps to transfer your debt from a credit card with a promotion that’s about to end to a second balance transfer credit card.
Make sure you’ve paid off as much as you can before the end of the balance transfer promotional period.
Compare balance transfer credit cards on the market and carefully consider the length of the promotion and any fees on the card to determine which deal would benefit you most.
Double check the eligibility requirements by reading our balance transfer credit card reviews.
Apply for a balance transfer credit card and enter your current credit card details when prompted by the online application.
Keep in mind that your second balance transfer will be subject to the credit card provider’s lending criteria. This includes a credit check that will show your previous applications and current credit accounts — meaning they’ll see when you applied for your first balance transfer card.
Joe's second balance transfer
Joe used his credit card for purchases and to pay important bills and ended up with a debt of £7,000. He applied and was approved for a balance transfer to a new card with a 0% intro rate on balance transfers for 18 months. In the six-month promotional period, he paid his debt down to £4,000.
Now that the balance transfer deal is over, the remaining £4,000 will accrue interest at 22% variable. Instead of paying the high-interest rate, Joe decides to apply for a new credit card that also offers a 0% intro rate for 12 months on balance transfers and waives the balance transfer fee for transfers made within one month of account opening.
He’s approved for the new card, with a credit limit of £5,000 and a balance transfer limit of 95% of this. Joe spends the next 12 months throwing all of his extra money onto the debt, and clears his balance before the 0% period expires.
Joe monthly payments on the second balance transfer card have gone purely toward paying off his debt, so he hasn’t paid any additional costs. Clearing his debt over 12 months on his old card at 22%, he would have paid approximately £490.
Having cleared his card debt, Joe closes his account an takes out a rewards credit card, to make his spending go a little further.
What to do with older accounts
Just because you’ve decided to transfer the balances of your credit cards to a new balance transfer credit card doesn’t mean your old accounts will automatically close. In fact, you may not want to close them just yet. This is because both your credit utilisation rate and the age of your credit cards can positively or negatively impact your credit score. On the other hand, having to pay a high annual fee on a credit card you’re no longer using can be frustrating. Learn more about what to do with your older accounts with our page on managing your balance transfer credit card.
Why is my credit limit important?
If you accepted the maximum credit limit available when you applied for your first balance transfer credit card and your financial situation hasn’t changed, the credit limit on your second balance transfer credit card could be lower than the first. The maximum amount you’re allowed to transfer depends on your credit limit, so a lower limit may prevent you from transferring your full debt.
Mistakes to avoid when opening a second balance transfer
If you decided to go ahead and open up a second balance transfer credit card, watch out for these pitfalls:
Waiting to make your balance transfer. Most balance transfer credit cards require you to make the transfer within 30 or 60 days of opening your account. Waiting too long to transfer your debt over could mean missing out on the intro rate period entirely, or else shortening the period where you’ll enjoy interest-free payments.
Using your balance transfer credit card for purchases. You opened up a second balance transfer card in order to pay off your debt faster by paying less in interest. Using your card to make purchases completely contradicts your goal of debt consolidation. Moreover, balance transfer credit cards often charge a high interest on purchases. Depending on the terms and conditions of your card, your repayments may automatically go toward the debt that’s accruing the least interest. This means your repayments will go toward your balance transfer debt while any new purchases accrue interest at a high rate.
Making a late payment. If you make a late payment, you’ll usually lose out on any months you had remaining in your 0% introductory period. The easiest way to avoid this is by setting up a direct debit.
Not making a payoff plan. Since the goal with opening up a second balance transfer credit card is to pay off your debt before the 0% promotional period ends, make a plan to pay off your balance before the intro period is over by looking into how much you’ll need to pay each month.
Make sure you weigh all of the factors above before you jump on a second balance transfer credit card to avoid interest charges. Remember that any balance transfer card you apply for will be subject to approval and recorded on your credit report, so it pays to do your research first.
Frequently asked questions
Most balance transfers are processed within 7 to 10 days after getting approved for the card, though this can vary among providers. Reach out to your specific credit card issuer to see how long you can expect the transfer to take.
Ideally, you should do this at the time of your application. If not, then reach out as soon as you find out that you’ve been approved for the credit card. This way, you can make sure your balance transfer is complete within the time period your issuer requires and can start taking advantage of the intro rate as soon as possible. You’ll usually be invited to request the transfer as part of the application process.
Yes, it’s possible to find a 0% balance transfer card where you won’t have to stump up the transfer fee. However, the very longest 0% periods on the market invariably come with a balance transfer fee. Card issuers that dominate the balance transfer market, like Barclaycard, offer a range of balance transfer deals, from ultra-long, high-fee balance deals, to mid-length, mid-fee deals, to lower-length, no-fee deals.
Chris Lilly is a publisher at finder.com. He's a specialist in credit-based products including business and personal loans, mortgages and credit cards, and is passionate about helping UK consumers make informed decisions about their borrowing. In his spare time Chris likes forcing his kids to exercise more.
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