Step by Step Guide to a Balance Transfer

Recommended Balance Transfer Cards are at The End of This Guide.  

Step 1. Balance Transfer Basics

A balance transfer means you move your high-interest balance from one credit card to another with a 0% intro interest period. Some cards offer a year or even longer of 0% interest, which can save you hundreds of dollars in high-interest charges.  That gives you breathing room to pay down your debt, with no new interest charges piling up on that balance.

  Current Credit Card New Balance Transfer Card
Debt $5,551* $5,551*
Interest Rate 17% APR 0% intro APR for 15 months

That gives you 15 months to chip away at your balance with no interest payments piling up. If you pay $370.07 per month during the 15-month promotional APR period you would save an incredible $1,551.65 in interest and pay off your balance in full.

*Consumers have an average credit card balance of $5,551 according to Experian’s 2016 State of Credit report.

Consolidate multiple cards. A balance transfer is a great opportunity to consolidate your debt onto one card. If you have balances on a couple of cards, including store credit cards, you can consolidate them onto your new balance transfer card with a 0% intro APR. Having just one credit card bill each month can be easier to manage.

Good tip: Once your account is open, you may be able to transfer other types of debt too, including car loans using checks from the bank that issues the credit card.

Step 2. Apply for A Balance Transfer Credit Card

Great offers. There is a balance transfer war right now among the banks and they are fighting for your business. There are offers with ultra-long 0% intro APR and some cards waive the balance transfer fee if you start the transfer within a certain time.

To help you choose the best balance transfer card consider these features:

  • Length of the 0% interest period. How long do you need to pay off your debt?
  • Balance transfer fee. Some cards charge a 3-5% balance transfer fee. That means if you transfer $5,000 in debt from one card to another with a 3% fee, you will pay $150 to do that. While that may sound like a lot, it can be a smart move and save you hundreds of dollars in interest. 
  • Annual fee. No-annual fee cards are the most cost-effective way to get out of debt.
  • Cash-back. Some cards offer cash-back rewards that you can use to pay down your debt faster.

Step 3. Confirm the Transfer Is Complete

The transfer could take 7-14 days to complete. Continue to make your payments on the other credit card until you see that the balance has been paid. That way you can avoid late fees.

Step 4. Say Goodbye to High Interest Debt

Applying for a balance transfer credit card is the first step to right your financial ship. Once you have been approved for your new card, take full advantage of your 0% introductory balance period to chip away at debt using these tips below.

  • Take stock of your monthly expenses and make a budget. Are there areas you can trim?
  • Be careful about your spending. Just because you have a 0% intro period on balances (and maybe on purchases too), it’s not a free pass to spend.
  • Make it a goal to pay off as much as you can of your balance before the 0% period ends.
  • Pay your bill on time. If you pay late you could lose your introductory 0% rate.
  • Balance transfers won’t close your old credit card account. If you keep it open, lock it away in a drawer and don’t rack up new charges.

We've done the research. These are the top balance transfer offers:

Discover it® - 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer

If you need more than 15-months to pay down your debt, this is a great choice. What makes this card special is the unique combination of cash-back, long 0% APR and one of the lowest go-to purchase rates available. This card offers valuable cash back rewards that you can turn around and use to pay down your debt faster. Start with a generous intro APR of 0% for 18 Months on balance transfers, with no annual fee. Earn a blockbuster sign-up bonus with this cash-back card that gives you a dollar-for-dollar match on all the cash you've earned at the end of your first year. You could turn $200 into $400 with Cashback Match™. This card also delivers high on-going cash back rewards. Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like, restaurants, ground transportation and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate & 1% cash back on all other purchases. Finally, this card earns top ratings for its go-to purchase rate. Once the introductory interest period ends, this card offers one of the lowest regular purchase rates available for a balance transfer card. That's important if you don't pay off your debt in the intro period. There is a 3% balance transfer fee, but the big cash-back rewards could easily cover that and leave money in your pocket to help pay down your balance.

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

If you would like some help paying down your debt, this is an easy to use cash-back rewards card that will pay you twice. Start with a generous intro APR of 0%* for 18 months on Balance Transfers*. Earn cash back twice on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy and 1% cash back as you pay for those purchases. You can use those cash-back rewards to pay down your balance faster. If your credit isn't perfect, this is a good choice for you as it is aimed at people with Excellent, Good. The balance transfer fee is 3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum. But the industry-leading cash-back reward level could easily cover that fee if you use this card for new purchases. There are no categories to keep track of, no caps on cash back and no annual fee, with this simple but powerful card.

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

When it comes to 0% intro APR period, longer is better. This card offers the longest intro APR with an incredible 0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers*. That could save you hundreds of dollars when compared to high interest charges. Take almost two years to pay down your balance without worrying about new interest piling up. Here's an example: Let's say you have $5,000 in credit card debt accruing 20% interest and can make a $250 payment each month. You would end up paying over $1,100 in interest charges. With the Citi Simplicity card, you will have an amazing intro APR of 0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers*, which lets you pay down your balance interest free. This is the classic no-hassle credit card. It's the only card with no late fees, no penalty rate, and no annual fee. The long intro APR period easily makes up for the balance transfer fee of 3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.

Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card

Take control of your finances with the Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card. This no-annual fee card gives you a long 0% for 18 months on balances transfers. If you only make the minimum payments on high-interest credit card debt, it could take years to pay it off. Using a card like this means every cent you pay during the intro period will go toward paying down your balance. Wells Fargo is one of the few card issuers to offer generous cell phone protection. This card offers up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card. This card is gives you all the tools you need to get out of debt.

Apply now for a balance transfer credit card. This is a powerful first move to help you break free from high interest debt. Feel good about taking this positive financial step forward! See all balance transfer options here. 

*Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

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Picture of Norma Childs

By: | Aug 27, 2017

I would love to apply for the balance transfer card and get rid of 4 cards.

Picture of Margo McElroy

By: | Aug 16, 2017

Is there a no fee balance transfer card?

1 Reply

By: CompareCards | Aug 25, 2017

The Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® is an excellent option if you're looking for a credit card with no balance transfer fee!

Picture of Wendy Maynes

By: | Aug 13, 2017

My credit card won't accept third party checks that are used as pay off on balance transfers, what are my other options? Solution?

1 Reply

By: CompareCards | Aug 14, 2017

Many banks and credit card issuers will not accept 3rd party checks as a form of payment because the number of people involved in the transaction creates high risk. Instead, try having the check written directly to you. If that is not an option, try cashing the check with an institution that will accept them (although this may be hard to find) and then using the money to pay off your balance.

Picture of Chad Vanloo

By: | Aug 13, 2017

Be prepared though people , some of these transfer cards will also have limits , often the limit is less than you owe , so you may not be able to transfer all of your debt

Picture of Tom Baker

By: | Aug 12, 2017

I was looking at Wells Fargo Platinum card to do a balance transfer. In the small print, it said I had to have an instrument of consumer credit with Wells Fargo, aka a credit card. When I looked at their Cash Wise and American Express cards, I found the same requirement. So, does this mean you have to have a credit card from Wells Fargo before you can get a credit card from Wells Fargo?

1 Reply

By: CompareCards | Aug 14, 2017

The requirement to be the account holder of a Wells Fargo consumer credit product is in reference to the ability to get your free FICO score - you do not have to have a Wells Fargo credit card in order to apply for one of these cards, but you must have a Wells Fargo credit card in order to get your free FICO score.

Picture of Linda Ahne

By: | Aug 12, 2017

my credit score is in the mid to high 600's I would like to transfer a balance of 7,000.00 to a zero percent card for at least a year. What do you recommend ??

1 Reply

By: CompareCards | Aug 14, 2017

With fair credit, your best bet is most likely the Discover it® Cashback Match™ card. with this card, you enjoy 0% APR for 14 months on both purchases and balance transfers. Depending on the balance transfer limit they approve for you, it may be hard to transfer all $7,000 onto this card, but it has the best offer for customers with fair credit.

Picture of Jennifer Lambert

By: | Aug 1, 2017

How does balance transfer work? When I make payments on my cc accounts they say they do not except cc payments. So how does it transfer?

1 Reply

By: CompareCards | Aug 3, 2017

Balance transfers are when you transfer an outstanding balance from one credit card to another. It can help you catch up on debt or consolidate all of your balances to make payments easier to keep track of. This is also great for cards with intro balance transfer APR offers, but there is still usually a balance transfer fee of around 3% on most cards. Balance transfers are different from making payments to one credit card account from another credit card because, instead of paying off your balance from one card with another card, you're transferring your entire outstanding balance from one card onto another. Most issuers do not allow you to simply pay off one credit card with another, but they will allow balance transfers onto different cards (which involves the 3% fee). The key is to find a card that fits your credit score and has a solid intro balance transfer APR offer - check out some of your options here.

Picture of Victor Caraveo

By: | Jul 12, 2017

If I do a balance transfer, can I keep my old credit card open, or do they close it automatically?

1 Reply

By: CompareCards | Jul 28, 2017

When you transfer a balance it is not likely that the card you transfer a balance from will close automatically. The account will probably remain open and simply show a zero balance.

Picture of Helenisa Coutinho

By: | Jul 9, 2017

I like American Express everyday blue cash

Picture of Loretta Cross

By: | May 15, 2017

I am looking for a balance transfer card with low interest rate and no fee for balance transfer!

2 Replies

By: CompareCards | May 17, 2017

Three credit cards that might interest you are the BankAmericard Credit Card, Barclaycard Ring Mastercard, and the Chase Slate card.

By: Carol Stepp | Jun 25, 2017

Get one with no interest and no fee for 21 months. Listed here on Comparecards.


These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.