Transferring a credit card’s balance to a new card requires getting the new card provider to approve the transfer. The process begins when you submit a balance transfer application. While a typical balance transfer may process in up to seven days, some card providers say it might take up to 21 days. Transferring debt from multiple credit cards to a single card (debt consolidation) is also possible.
Look for a suitable balance transfer card.
Identify the balances you wish to transfer.
Request for a transfer and wait for the decision.
How to Do a Balance Transfer on a Credit Card
Learning how to transfer a credit card balance to another card requires understanding the intricacies of the process. Once you do, carrying out a balance transfer becomes rather straightforward. Aspects that need your attention include:
1. Selecting a balance transfer card
Make a selection based on whether you might benefit more from getting a card with a time-based 0% APR offer or one that comes with a low regular APR. If you’re getting a 0% APR balance transfer card, check the duration of the promotional period and the APR that applies once the promo period ends. Also take note of any balance transfer fees, annual fees, APRs on purchases and added features.
2. Selecting the balances to transfer
If you wish to transfer balances from multiple cards, select the ones with the highest APRs first. Remember that the total amount you transfer needs to remain less than the available credit limit of your new card.
3. Initiating the balance transfer process (in time)
Depending on the issuer of the card to which you wish to transfer a balance, you might be able to begin the process online or over the phone. Typical details you need to provide include the name of the card, the name of its issuer and the desired transfer amount. If you get a new card with a 0% APR offer on balance transfers, you might need to initiate the process within a stipulated time frame to make use of the offer. For instance, the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card’s 0% APR on balance transfers applies only on balances transferred within 60 days from account opening.
4. Waiting for a decision
Your card provider holds the right to approve or deny your request for a balance transfer. Reasons for denial may include waiting for too long after getting a new card, wanting to transfer more than your available credit limit or trying to transfer a balance from a card issued by the same card provider.
5. The actual transfer
Once a card provider approves a balance transfer request, it may pay the credit card issuer mentioned in your application automatically or send you a check. If you receive a check, you need to send it to your old card’s issuer on your own.
How Long Does a Balance Transfer Take?
The time it takes for a credit card balance transfer to go through depends on the card issuer that’s responsible for handling the transfer, either directly or by sending you a check. Balance transfers usually go through in five to seven days, although they may take longer. Irrespective of the card provider handling your transfer, you may expect to find out the estimated turnaround time in advance.
- Citi states that it takes “between 2 and 21 days to process balance transfers.”
- According to Chase, it processes most balance transfers “within a week, but in some cases it can take up to 21 days.”
- Balance transfers from American Express usually take 5 to 7 days, but in some cases, they may take up to 6 weeks.
- Capital One says it generally takes 3 to 14 days to process balance transfers.
MoneyGeek Expert Tip:
Choose a balance transfer card based on the length of the 0% APR offer, balance transfer fees, annual fees, regular APRs and added perks. MoneyGeek experts have narrowed down on the best balance transfer cards by relying on the company’s unique ranking methodology.
Can You Transfer Multiple Balances?
If you have outstanding balances on multiple credit cards, you may want to consider consolidating this debt by getting a single balance transfer card. However, the maximum amount you may transfer cannot exceed the available credit limit of your new card.
For example, if you get a balance transfer card with a credit limit of $10,000 and use it to make a $1,000 purchase, your available credit limit drops to $9,000. However, this is not the exact amount you may transfer from other cards because you also need to account for balance transfer fees.
Assume that your new card charges a 3% balance transfer fee. If you wish to transfer $5,000 from one card and $4,000 from another, you will need to pay balance transfer fees amounting to $270, which adds to your new card’s starting balance. To complete these transfers for the entire amounts on both cards, you will need an available credit limit of at least $9,270 on your new card.
The effect of multiple transfers on your credit utilization ratio
Carrying out multiple transfers to a single credit card may affect your credit score by increasing or decreasing your credit utilization ratio (the percentage of the amount you’ve borrowed from your total available credit).
Assume that you wish to transfer $3,000 from a card with a credit limit of $5,000 and $2,000 from another card with a credit limit of 10,000. If these are your only two cards, your credit utilization ratio is 33.33%. If you transfer the total amount to a new card with a credit limit of $10,000 and close both your old accounts, your credit utilization ratio increases to 50%. However, if you keep all three accounts active, your overall credit utilization ratio drops to 20%. From a creditworthiness point of view, this number should be at 30% or lower.
Keep in mind that credit utilization is also affected by individual card balances. Although your overall credit utilization may be low, if the utilization on one card is high, that may negatively impact your credit score. Pay down this card’s balance quickly to improve your credit.
MoneyGeek Expert Tip
Because most balance transfers do not happen immediately, it is important that you continue to make payments on your current balances until you confirm that the balance has been transferred. This helps you to avoid late fees and penalty APRs on your existing accounts. — Lee Huffman, credit card expert at BaldThoughts.com
Other Questions You May Have About Balance Transfer Cards
Go through answers to other commonly asked questions about how to do a balance transfer so that you’re well prepared if you decide to carry out the process.
Does a balance transfer happen automatically?
A balance transfer does not happen automatically. You need to apply for a balance transfer. Upon approval, your new card provider might pay your old card provider directly or send a check to you. If you receive a check, you then need to forward it to your old card provider.
How do you ask for a balance transfer?
You need to submit a balance transfer application that is subject to approval. Depending on your card provider, you may initiate the process online or over the phone.
How long do balance transfers take with Chase?
Most balance transfers with Chase process within a week. However, it may take up to 21 days in some cases.
Can you do balance transfers online?
Most issuers of balance transfer cards let you initiate the balance transfer process online.
How do I know if my balance transfer was approved?
If your card provider sends transaction-related notifications via email or text messages, you may expect to receive one when your balance transfer is approved. You may also receive a letter confirming the balance transfer. Alternatively, you may log in to your card provider’s online platform and check the status of your balance transfer request at any time.
Why would a balance transfer fail?
A balance transfer might fail if the amount you wish to transfer exceeds your available credit limit, if you initiate the transfer after the time period mentioned in a balance transfer offer or if you’re trying to transfer a balance from a card issued by the same card provider.
Is it bad to do multiple balance transfers?
Transferring balances from multiple credit cards to a single card to consolidate your debt might work well if you have a concrete payment plan in place. Hoping to transfer the same balance repeatedly over time by using different balance transfer cards with 0% APR offers is fraught with risks. For instance, your applications for new cards and balance transfers remain subject to approval.
Now that you know how to transfer balances on credit cards, determine if going down this road might work well for you. If you think you might benefit from getting a balance transfer card, look for one based on factors such as eligibility criteria, duration of intro APR offers, regular APRs, balance transfer fees and annual fees.
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