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This article was last updated Jun 22, 2020. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.
When cash is tight and you are struggling to pay for food and rent, your credit card bills may be the last thing on your mind. In fact, to tide you over until you can get more cash coming in, you may even wonder if you can pay your credit card bill with another credit card.
While you can’t use one credit card to make a credit card payment on another, there are ways to use your card indirectly to come up with the cash you need.
- Get a cash advance
- Transfer your balance
- Alternatives to using a credit card
- Which is right for you?
Cash advances and balance transfers are two ways to tap your credit lines to pay your other credit card bills. While each option can provide a quick infusion of cash, they also come with some risk. For example, with each option, you will amass more debt and if you are not careful, you may even see a negative impact on your credit score.
To help you overcome a cash shortfall and pay your credit card bills, we’ll review your options, including cash advances and balance transfers. We’ll also suggest other alternatives for coming up with the cash you need and help you determine which option is best.
Get a cash advance
A cash advance is a loan taken out against the credit limit on your credit card. Instead of using the card to charge something, you basically turn your line of credit into cash that can be deposited into your bank account or used for any other purpose. However, the amount available for a cash advance is typically less than your overall credit limit. For example, if your credit limit is $5,000, you might have $1,200 available for a cash advance.
Once you have the cash, you are free to use it as you want so it’s up to you if you want to take the money and use it to pay another credit card bill.
How to get a cash advance from a credit card
There are a number of ways to get a cash advance from a credit card.
- Perhaps the easiest way is to get the cash advance from an ATM. However, you would need a personal identification number (PIN) to access your credit card account. If you don’t have one, contact your credit card issuer to get one.
- You can also get a cash advance at certain banks. You will likely need to bring a driver’s license or other form of identification along with the credit card you will be using to get the cash advance. Your card issuer may be able to tell you which banks will issue cash advances, or you can call your local bank and ask if you can get a cash advance there.
- Some credit card issuers will issue convenience checks, which are blank checks that can be treated as cash advances. Convenience checks can be used just like any other check to pay someone, pay off another bill or even deposit money into your checking account. However, the payment is drawn from your line of credit rather than your bank account. Also, convenience checks may come with fees or higher interest rates (see below). Contact your card issuer before you use one to make sure you understand any and all implications of using a convenience check.
Best cash advance credit cards
If you’re thinking about getting a cash advance, some cards may be better to use than others.
For example, the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card is a good choice to have in your wallet if you think you may be taking out a cash advance. Not only does it charge no fees for cash advances, but the annual percentage rate (APR) charged on cash advances is not significantly higher than the APR charged on regular purchases (17.99% variable). PenFed membership is required, however.
Another card that charges relatively low cash advance fees is the PNC Premier Traveler® Visa Signature® Credit Card. With this card, you would pay only a $5 cash advance fee. Also, the APR for cash advances is the same as that for purchases at 17.49% variable.
Drawbacks of cash advances
While a cash advance could get you out of a tough financial spot, know that there are some downsides to consider first.
- Many card issuers charge fees that can range anywhere from 1% to 5% of the amount borrowed when you take out a cash advance. While that can be fairly insignificant depending on how much you withdraw, know that interest will be assessed immediately as there is no grace period with cash advances.
- If you use an ATM to withdraw a cash advance, you may also have to pay ATM withdrawal fees.
- Another drawback is that card issuers typically charge a higher APR on cash advances than they do for regular charges made on the credit card. For example, you might have a 12.99% APR for regular charges and a 14.99% APR for the cash advance balance.
- Finally, if you take out a cash advance to pay a credit card bill, you are adding to your debt load. Not only will you have to pay more to dig yourself out of the hole, but you may hurt your credit score by using a higher percentage of your available credit.
Transfer your balance
A balance transfer is an offer by a card issuer inviting you to move a credit card balance from one credit card to another.
In an ideal situation, a balance transfer can help you save money because they often come with promotional 0% APRs or low-interest rate APRs for a specific period of time. By moving your balance to a card that charges less interest, you may be able to pay off credit card debt faster.
Transferring some or all of the balance would also, in effect, be a way to pay a credit card bill if you don’t have enough cash on hand.
However, it’s important to know that balance transfers are typically not free. Balance transfer fees typically run 3% to 5% of the transfer amount, however, know there are cards that don’t charge a balance transfer fee.
How to do a balance transfer
You can typically complete a balance transfer via telephone or via the new card issuer’s website. If you call the customer service number of the card you are moving the balance to, you will be asked for information on the creditor you are moving the balance from, such as the account number and the amount of debt you are transferring. Have the same information handy if you initiate the balance transfer online.
Some card issuers will send you balance transfer checks. In this case, you simply use the check to pay the card issuer you are transferring the balance from or you can write a check to yourself, deposit it and pay the card bill from your checking account.
There are a few important things to keep in mind:
- When you transfer a balance from one card to another, continue to make payments on the old card until you know the balance transfer has been completed. If you don’t, you may be assessed late charges.
- Most card issuers will not allow you to transfer balances from another card from that same issuer. Instead, balances must be transferred between cards issued by different banks.
- Balance transfers are typically only available for a limited amount of time, so you must act within the timeframe specified, or else the balance transfer offer may no longer be available.
Best balance transfer credit cards
Since there are fees associated with transferring balances, it literally pays to look for a card that charges low or no fees.
The Chase Slate® is one that stands out from the crowd if you are a new customer because it charges a balance transfer fee of $0 for the first 60 days that your account is open, after that, either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Another card worth considering — particularly if you’ll need a lot of time to pay off the balance — is the Citi Simplicity® Card. The introductory APR is 0% for 18 months on balance transfers, giving you nearly two years to make a dent in your debt without paying interest on the amount transferred. After that, an APR of 14.74% - 24.74% (variable) will apply. Note that the card charges a fee of Balance transfer fee – either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater..
Drawbacks of balance transfers
In addition to the fees that typically come with balance transfers, there are other downsides to consider.
- You may find yourself in even more debt, particularly if you use the balance transfer card to charge new purchases. It’s important to note that any new purchases made will not be subject to the promotional rates that apply to the balance transfer.
- Also, transferring a balance to another card could leave you with your entire card limit available on the original card. If you don’t have your spending under control, you could be tempted to run that credit card up again.
- If you don’t pay off the balance during the promotional APR period, the interest rate will revert to the APR assigned to your account. Be careful because you may find yourself paying a higher interest rate on the new card after the promotional period than you were paying on the original card.
Alternatives to using a credit card
While cash advances and balance transfer offers give you a way to use a credit card to pay another credit card bill, those are not your only options. Other solutions may be a better fit for your situation.
A personal loan from a bank or credit union may be a better choice particularly if you think you’ll need a few years to pay off the debt. With a personal loan, you have a structured repayment term, so you’ll know from the start when the debt will be paid off. While the promotional APR on a credit card may be lower than the APR for a personal loan, once the promotional period ends, the loan would likely have the lower rate. However, you have to get approved for the loan and if your credit score is low, you may not be offered the most competitive interest rates. You also may have to pay fees such as an origination fee.
Peer-to-peer lending services may be another option to check out. These loans aren’t issued by your bank, but rather by investors who lend money for a profit. As with personal loans from a bank, you must apply for the loan. You’ll have a structured repayment term, which may give you the motivation you need to pay off the entire balance once and for all. However, the interest rates will likely be higher than that of a promotional credit card rate, which could be as low as 0%.
Borrowing money from family or friends is another way to get money needed to pay your credit card bill. Apps like CashApp and Venmo can make it easy to collect money from loved ones who want to help you since the money can be deposited right into your checking account. However, borrowing from family members and friends comes with the risk of damaging your personal relationships if you are unable to pay the money back when your loved one wants it.
Which is right for you?
Only you can know which option fits your particular situation, but there are a couple of things to consider to guide your decision.
For example, consider how long you think it will take you to pay off the debt. If you think you can pay the entire balance off during the time allotted by a balance transfer offer, you could save money by choosing that option. However, if you think it will take you longer than the promotional period to pay it off, a low-interest loan that lets you make structured payments might be better.
Also, consider your spending habits and how much control you have over them. If running up credit card balances is a problem for you, and you tend to carry a credit card balance more often than not, the personal loan or peer-to-peer loan might be the best option, but only if you put your cards away and stop adding to the balances.