A balance transfer is the transfer of debt owed on a credit card or loan to another line of credit. Usually, balance transfers only make sense if you transfer a balance from a higher interest rate to a lower one. It can take up to six weeks for your debt balance to transfer from one issuer to another.
A balance transfer can be a great strategic financial move for you, but balance transfers aren’t as quick as you might think. You are likely to have to wait several days to several weeks to see your transfer completed. This article will help you to be informed and responsible when executing a balance transfer.
Keep reading to learn more about bank transfers, how long they take, how you can check their status, and what you can do to make sure you are in good standing with your bank during the process.
What is a balance transfer?
A balance transfer is the transfer of debt owed on a credit card or loan to another line of credit. Typically, balance transfers only make sense if you transfer a balance from a higher interest rate to a lower one. You can use balance transfers to pay down or pay off balances on higher-interest cards and other interest-bearing credit accounts or loans.
To pay down higher-APR credit card debt
People with credit card debt can strategically open balance transfer credit cards with 0% APR (annual percentage rate) introductory offers and then transfer balances to those cards. This allows them to pay down their high-interest debt with debt taken out at a (temporarily) lower rate. When done right, a balance transfer can save you money on interest charges.
To pay down other high-interest debt
Such credit card balance transfers are the most common type of balance transfer. But they are not the only type. A balance transfer is simply the transfer of debt, of any kind. It is possible to transfer debt to a credit card from student loans, personal loans, auto loans, or home equity lines of credit. Of course, it all depends on your particular circumstances.
For now, let’s walk through the basics.
How to get and use a balance transfer credit card
While timing varies, the credit card balance transfer process is pretty straightforward. Credit card issuers have individual specific terms and conditions when it comes to opening a balance transfer card. However, the general steps are as follows:
Steps to get and use a balance transfer card
- Choose your credit card
- Apply for the credit card online
- Initiate the balance transfer process
- Track the progress of your balance transfer
Let’s look at these steps in more detail.
1. Choose your credit card
First, you will want to find a balance transfer credit card that has a lower APR than your current card. Ideally, you should look for a credit card with a 0% APR offer. Usually, these introductory offers are short-term — ranging from 6 to 18 months — and they can come with requirements.
Be aware of any changes in APR, credit limits, or fees that you can expect during your introductory period or the time in which you will attempt a credit card balance transfer. Importantly, make sure you can qualify for whichever credit card you choose. SuperMoney can help you choose the right balance transfer credit card depending on your circumstances.
2. Apply for the credit card online
Applying for a balance transfer card is usually a simple process. Go to the desired credit card issuer’s website and confirm that you understand the terms. Then follow the instructions provided to apply. Card issuers will ask for up-to-date information such as name, address, Social Security number, and income, so be sure to have those on hand.
3. Initiate the balance transfer process
You can transfer balances to new accounts or existing accounts. Make a balance transfer request by calling your credit card company or going to their website. You may need to complete a balance transfer application, which may require some of that personal information mentioned before.
Some issuers will send confirmation of the application acceptance via mail. Visit their website or call their customer service department to find out how you will be notified. You can also visit your accounts online to double-check.
Keep in mind that you will likely incur a balance transfer fee as a part of this process. Check with your card issuer to determine the amount of money owed to pay this fee. After your balance transfer request is authorized, the balance transfer process is in motion. The balance transfer is complete when your balance shows as a debit on your new credit card account.
4. Track the progress of your balance transfer
Balance transfers vary through credit card companies. It is important to keep track of your transfer. Depending on your circumstances, the timing of the transfer could be important to avoid late fees or additional interest on your original credit card account.
You can easily check the status of your transfer through either your old account or your new account. On your new account, the status of the debit charge in the amount of the transfer will show as pending until completed. On your old account, you will see that your original credit card issuer has received the funds when the transfer is complete.
Anxious sorts may wish to check on this every couple of days until both accounts show that the transfer is completed. More patient types who like to let kettles come to a boil unwatched may prefer to check less frequently.
How long does a balance transfer take?
Regardless of your financial institutions, expect a several-day wait for the processing and completion of the balance transfer. There are no strict regulations for how long a bank transfer should take. However, most transfers take somewhere between 2 and 21 days, with some card issuers estimating up to six weeks. Transfers to new accounts can take longer than those to existing accounts.
Below you can find a list of major credit card issuers and the average length of time you can expect to wait for a balance transfer:
- Discover: 4–14 days
- Wells Fargo: 3–21 business days
- Capital One: 3–14 days
- American Express: 5–7 days, up to six weeks
- Chase: 7–21 days
- Bank of America: 2–14 days
- Citi: 2–21 days
These estimates may change, and financial institutions are not required to uphold them. Yours and the issuers’ unique circumstances will dictate the timing. If you are concerned or curious, you can always call customer service for more information.
Remember to keep making payments as required. Missing a normal credit card payment could lead to late fees or a drop in your credit score.
What if the balance transfer is taking longer than the issuer-predicted time frame?
If there appear to be a delay in your transfer, you can call your lender or bank to get an update. You may need to try both the lender for your old balance and the new card issuer to find out when funds will be applied. If there is a delay because of lacking information you can provide, they will let you know. Otherwise, it may be out of your hands.
Some banks and lenders offer to expedite for an additional fee. In most cases, there won’t be anything you can do to speed it up once the transfer is being processed. As mentioned before, the best things you can do are to keep up with your payments and check both accounts regularly, such as every couple of days.
Why do balance transfers take so long?
Transfer time frames and the reasons for them vary from one financial institution to another. There are a few things that tend to make balance transfers take longer. Balance transfers take longer when transferring to a brand new account because there are more authorizations and regulatory processes to go through than with an existing account. Also, sometimes banks and other lenders will write paper checks to one another, which can take time to send and process.
How long does it take to transfer balances from one card to another?
You can safely expect a balance transfer to take from a week up to six weeks. If it takes less time, you will be happily surprised!
How long does a balance transfer take in the U.K.?
In the U.K., balance transfers typically take 5 to 7 days, but sometimes up to three weeks.
Can a balance transfer be denied?
A balance transfer can be denied. Reasons for denial can include a low credit score, low credit limit, and transferring balances within the same financial institution. Read your issuers’ terms and make sure you are in good standing with them before initiating a balance transfer.
- A balance transfer is the transfer of a balance from one bank or lender to another. The new issuer pays off the balance to the original issuer, and you then owe the new issuer that balance. A balance transfer can save you money on interest rates and fees, although balance transfers often come with fees of their own. You can transfer a balance to a new or existing account.
- If you want to apply for a new balance transfer credit card, make sure you read through available offerings and choose one that has a lower APR than your original account. Be aware of any limitations on introductory offers.
- Once you initiate a balance transfer and it is approved, you can check both accounts every couple of days (less often if you are less concerned with rapid processing) to see if the transfer is completed or if there are any issues. Call your issuers’ customer services departments with any questions or concerns.
- A balance transfer can take as little as two days to as long as six weeks. It is important that, during this time, you continue to pay off any additional balances to avoid late fees or a hit to your credit score.
If this article hasn’t answered all of your questions, check out SuperMoney’s article on determining whether a credit card balance transfer is a good idea for you. This article should help you decide if you want to do a balance transfer to credit card or not.
View Article Sources
- How long can I keep a low rate on a balance transfer or other introductory rate? — Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- How to transfer your balance to SECU — SECU of Maryland
- CFPB Bulletin 2014–02…: Marketing of Credit Card Promotional APR Offers — Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- What is a balance transfer fee?…. — Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- A Complete Guide to Balance Transfer Credit Cards — SuperMoney
- Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards — SuperMoney
- Consumer Credit Card Industry Study — SuperMoney
- How to Choose a Balance Transfer Credit Card — SuperMoney
- Is a Credit Card Balance Transfer a Good Idea? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Deciding — SuperMoney