What Is a Credit Card Balance Transfer?
A balance transfer allows you to move your debt from one credit card to another. Find out how they work and why they can be useful
Ever feel like those minimum payments just aren’t cutting it? Or maybe you’re having trouble remembering the payment due dates for all your credit accounts? A balance transfer might be something to think about.
A balance transfer lets you move unpaid debt from one or more accounts to a new or different credit card. It could help you consolidate debt or get a lower interest rate, which could help you pay off your debt faster. Interested? Read on to learn more.
What Kinds of Debt Can Be Transferred to a Credit Card?
Balance transfers are often used for transferring debt from one credit card to another. But you might have other options.
For example, Capital One lets you transfer balances from credit cards, personal loans, student loans and car loans. But like many lenders, Capital One doesn’t allow debt transfers from different internal accounts.
How Can a Balance Transfer Help?
Wondering whether it’s worth getting a card that lets you transfer a balance? Here are some of the advantages of having one.
A balance transfer could be a way to pay down an existing balance at a lower, more manageable interest rate. That’s because credit card companies may offer you a reduced rate on transferred balances for a limited time. If you’re opening a new credit card, this is known as an introductory rate. If you’re transferring a balance to an existing credit card, it’s called a promotional rate.
You might also choose a balance transfer to help you keep track of your finances. If you have multiple credit cards or loans, you also have multiple payment amounts and due dates to keep straight. But if you consolidate that debt onto one credit card account, you only have to worry about one payment.
Saving on Interest
Perhaps the biggest benefit of a balance transfer is the ability to save money on interest. For instance, let’s say you transferred the debt you owed to a new credit card, and that new card has a lower APR for the first 18 months. Paying off the balance before the reduced rate expires could potentially save you a significant amount in interest.
Things To Know About Balance Transfers
A credit card balance transfer could result in your paying less interest and simplifying your finances. But if you want to get the most from yours, here are some things to keep in mind.
Factor in Fees
Banks may not offer balance transfers for free. They might charge you a flat fee or a small percentage of the transferred amount. For example, moving a balance of $5,000 with a transfer fee of 4% would cost you $200. To benefit from a balance transfer, your savings on interest should outweigh what you pay in fees.
Know the Terms
Promotional and introductory interest rates must by law last six months but could be longer. After that, the standard APR applies. Sometimes it can be higher than the rate you were paying before the transfer.
Not all credit card balance transfers are the same. There may be other terms and conditions that impact your decision to transfer a balance. For example, you might not get a grace period on new purchases with some balance transfer cards. Capital One cardholders, though, can avoid interest on new purchases after transferring a balance by paying the “Interest Saver Payment” identified on their statement by the due date each month.
Mark Your Calendar
It’s useful to note key dates on your calendar, such as when your balance transfer took effect, when your promotional period ends and when monthly payments are due.
Also, you’ll want to keep making payments on the account you transferred from until you get confirmation that your debt has transferred. Balance transfers aren’t immediate, so this can help you avoid missing a payment. If you’re considering canceling your old card, be sure you consider how it might affect your credit score.
How Does a Credit Card Balance Transfer Work?
When you’re applying for a balance transfer credit card, here are some general steps you might take:
- Check your current interest rate. You’ll have a better idea how a balance transfer credit card might help you if you know where you’re starting from. For example, you’ll be able to look for one with a lower or even 0% introductory APR.
- Consider a card that lets you transfer a balance. Some lenders let you apply online or over the phone. You’ll be asked for information, including name, address, Social Security number and income.
- Initiate the balance transfer. Your application could be approved immediately, or it might take several days to hear back. If you’re approved, you’ll provide the details of the account you want to transfer from and how much of the debt you want to transfer.
- Wait for the transfer to go through. For Capital One cardholders, it might take three to 14 days, depending on whether the transfer is made electronically or through the mail.
- Start paying down the balance. If you have 0% introductory APR, you won’t have to worry about the interest for a set period of time. So, if you have nothing else on the card, you can put 100% of your payments toward your original debt. And that could help you get out of debt faster.
You also may be able to use a card that lets you transfer a balance for new purchases. But be sure to think about how you use it. There may not be a grace period or promotional interest rate for those purchases. And you’ll have to pay interest until the whole balance is paid off. New purchases will also add to your overall debt.
And no matter how you use your card, be sure to pay on time every month. Getting behind on payments could result in late fees and hurt your credit.
Compare Low Introductory Rate Cards
A balance transfer can be really helpful in decluttering your finances. Consolidating your debt to a new credit card with a lower interest rate may also save you money on interest—and a few headaches. Knowing the pros and cons of a balance transfer can help you maximize the benefits. And if you decide it’s right for you, you’re ready to start comparing low introductory rate credit cards.
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We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.