How To Make Credit Card Balance Transfers [Bank-by-Bank]

Balance Transfer

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A balance transfer is of the most useful benefits you can get with a credit card. And with credit card interest rates as high as they are, having at least an awareness of balance transfers and the value they can provide in consolidating high-interest debt is a decision that can potentially save you thousands of dollars.

If you have seen a credit card rate and fees sheet before, you’ve seen that the APR for credit card balances can range anywhere from 10% to 40%! If you don’t or can’t pay off every credit card statement in full, you can avoid gigantic interest charges by leveraging balance transfers.

But how do balance transfers work? This step-by-step guide is dedicated to providing you a high-level overview of how balance transfers work, how you can save money with balance transfers, and the step-by-step process of what to expect when you perform a balance transfer.

This article will be comprehensive, so let’s begin!

What Is a Balance Transfer?

A balance transfer is a process of moving debt from 1 credit card to another.

It’s important to note that this is not the same as reallocating or shifting credit limits. A balance transfer occurs when you move purchases and other debt, typically from a high-interest credit card to a low-interest credit card.

For example, if you have $5,000 in outstanding balances with a credit card with a 25% APR, then performing a balance transfer to a card with a 0% APR can save you $1,250 every year, minus any balance transfer fees.

In almost all situations, you won’t accumulate any points, miles, or rewards when you perform a balance transfer since it doesn’t count as a purchase.

How Does a Balance Transfer Work?

When you apply for a credit card, you may request balance transfer checks. Balance transfer checks look a lot like the checks you’d see from your checking account — except they are used specifically to transfer debt from a different credit card to the account for the card you applied for.

There are 3 key costs related to balance transfers:

  • Credit card annual fee
  • Balance transfer fee
  • Balance transfer APR

The credit card annual fee is simply the fee charged every year for holding a particular credit card. The balance transfer fee is a one-time cost for moving the debt from 1 credit card to another, typically a percentage of the transferred balance. The balance transfer APR is the ongoing interest rate that will be charged on the balance, typically an annual percentage of the transferred balance.

In essence, credit card companies are happy to send you balance transfer checks because by moving a balance to the credit card account, the company can start making money off of it.

In many cases, though, you can actually avoid fees and interest if you read the fine print of a credit card you’re applying for. Many credit cards offer very attractive balance transfer fee structures, including 0% introductory APR for up to 24 months, a 0% balance transfer fee, and a $0 annual fee. This is one of the ways you can access temporary fee-free, interest-free credit!

Is It a Good Idea to Do a Balance Transfer?

Just like almost everything else in this world, using a particular instrument responsibly can be a financially advantageous move. On the flip side, you could potentially get hit with even higher fees and charges if you don’t properly perform balance transfers.

In general, most people will take advantage of balance transfers when they decide to apply for a credit card offering 0% introductory APR on balance transfers. Numerous cards offer this, but you’d only want to move forward with a balance transfer if you feel that you would be able to repay the debt before the introductory period ends.

If you are confident you can pay off your transferred balance by the end of the introductory period, you’d effectively have access to interest-free credit! If you end up kicking the can down the road, however, you could get hit with additional balance transfer fees, plus a high APR on your balance transfer.

Hot Tip: Don’t delay your balance transfer request after opening your new credit card. You usually only have 60 to 90 days to request a balance transfer and qualify for the introductory balance transfer APR and fees.

How to Make Balance Transfers With the Major Banks

Every credit card issuer has a different process, rules, and guidelines in place to perform balance transfers. And with these rules changing frequently, it can quickly become overwhelming.

That’s why we’ve split up the step-by-step guide by each major credit card issuer!

For example, American Express doesn’t actually send out any balance transfer checks — instead, balance transfers can only be done 100% online. Meanwhile, many other banks offer physical balance transfer checks to their cardholders.

So, we’ll be looking into each bank’s detailed policies to equip you with the most headache-free way to perform balance transfers.

American Express Balance Transfers

American Express
American Express. Image Credit: First Class Photography via Shutterstock

American Express is one of the world’s largest points and rewards juggernauts. But did you know that it has a seamless way of performing balance transfers?

You can perform balance transfers for credit cards only, not auto loans, student loans, home loans, or any other debt that isn’t a non-American Express credit card.

American Express takes approximately 5 to 7 business days on average to process balance transfers. However, in extreme situations, it may take up to 6 weeks, so you should at least pay the minimum amount on your cards until the balance transfer shows up on your other lender’s statement.

And, remember, balance transfers aren’t guaranteed — American Express reviews your account in detail and may decline your balance transfer request. American Express typically also has a minimum of $100 for each balance transfer.

You can submit a balance transfer request for an existing card by following these steps:

  1. Visit American Express’s balance transfer website subpage.
  2. Log into your online account.
  3. Provide information about the card you’re transferring the balance from, including your account number and the balance transfer amount.
  4. Complete the process online.

If you’re applying for a brand-new Amex card, you’ll want to submit all this information in the card application:

  1. Fill out the application as usual.
  2. You’ll be given the option to perform a balance transfer from an existing card — choose this option.
  3. You’ll be prompted to provide the information from the card you’re transferring the balance from.
  4. Submit the finalized application with all the pertinent information.

Bank of America Balance Transfers

Bank of America
Bank of America. Image Credit: MariaX via Shutterstock

Bank of America is one of the world’s largest credit card issuers. And with tons of fantastic credit cards to choose from, you can begin to imagine why Bank of America is a favorite of many consumers.

Just like American Express, Bank of America offers balance transfers online only. Bank of America offers attractive balance transfer promotions, particularly with its $0 annual fee credit cards.

Typically, you’ll only qualify for a 0% balance transfer offer on a new cardmember application promotion whereby you submit balance transfer requests within 60 days of opening your Bank of America credit card account.

You won’t be able to transfer balances from a Bank of America credit card to another Bank of America credit card. As always, Bank of America will evaluate your overall profile before approving your balance transfer. Of course, you can’t transfer a higher balance than your total credit limit on your Bank of America card.

Bank of America processes balance transfers in 14 business days or less, but you’ll want to keep making at least the minimum payments on your other credit card until the balance transfer is processed successfully.

Just like American Express, you can either request a balance transfer when you initially apply for a Bank of America card or when you already have a card in-hand.

Here are the steps to follow if you’re initiating a balance transfer on a new Bank of America card application:

  1. Start filling out the online credit card application form.
  2. During the application, you’ll be asked if you want to perform a balance transfer from another card. Choose this option and provide the information for your old credit card and enter the balance transfer amount.
  3. Submit the application, and if the credit card is approved, you’re good to go!

The process changes slightly if you already have a Bank of America card set up:

  1. Log into your online Bank of America credit card account.
  2.  On the dashboard area, click on the credit card account.
  3. Under the overview account summary, click on the tab that says Transfer Balance or Get Cash.
  4. Fill out the information and submit the request.

Barclays Balance Transfers

Barclays
Barclays. Image Credit: David Franklin via Shutterstock

Barclays is a British multinational bank with a U.S. subsidiary called Barclays US Consumer Bank. Barclays US Consumer Bank is what most cardholders know as the issuer of popular products like the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® or the Choice Privileges® Visa Signature® Card.

With Barclays, there are actually 4 ways to request balance transfers: upon initial credit card application, online, via phone, or by receiving targeted offers in the mail.

With Barclays, the minimum and maximum balance transfer amounts are $100 and $20,000, respectively. Also, you can only transfer personal balances to personal cards; similarly, you can only transfer business balances to business cards.

You can’t transfer a Barclays credit card balance to another Barclays credit card. If you request a balance transfer that exceeds the amount of credit extended to you, Barclays will automatically process the balance transfer up to $250 below the available credit.

Balance transfers may take up to 4 weeks to process, and it is advised to continue to pay each creditor until the balance transfer actually appears on the statement as a credit.

Generally, your balance transfers must be posted within 45 days of the new account opening to qualify for the promotional APR. Considering that it can take up to 4 weeks for a balance transfer to process, you’ll want to immediately request your balance transfer if you’re pouncing on an introductory balance transfer offer.

Here’s how to request a balance transfer in a new card application:

  1. Fill out the card application as normal.
  2. Towards the end of the application, you will see a Balance Transfers section.
  3. Enter the full number of the credit card account you’re transferring from, and the requested balance transfer amount.
  4. Submit the application.
  5. If you’re approved, your balance transfer will be sent on the tenth day after your card has been mailed.

Here’s how to request a balance transfer on an existing credit card:

  1. Log into your online Barclays card account.
  2. Click on the button that says Balance transfers offers under the Services menu.
  3. Enter the credit card account number and the balance transfer amount.
  4. Submit the request.

Here’s how to request a balance transfer over the phone:

  1. Call the number on the back of your card.
  2. Once connected to a live representative, explain that you’d like to request a balance transfer.
  3. Provide any other card details or verification information to proceed with the request submission.

You can also receive targeted balance transfer offers and checks in the mail.

  1. If Barclays has selected you for a special balance transfer offer, it will send you a letter in the mail, along with a few balance transfer checks.
  2. Use these balance transfer checks payable to your old credit card company (not Barclays).
  3. Your old credit card will be credited with the balance transfer amount, and your Barclays card will have the balance transferred to it.

Capital One Balance Transfers

Capital One
Capital One. Image Credit: Trong Nguyen via Shutterstock

Capital One doesn’t usually offer introductory promotions for balance transfers at an attractive rate — instead, you’ll sign up for a card, and then sometime later, Capital One will send you a targeted balance transfer offer via email or directly to your online account.

Capital One uses both balance transfers and cash advances interchangeably, so just remember that if you’re reading through one of its rate and fees documents.

Capital One offers balance transfers either at the credit card application or via a targeted offer you receive later on.

As is always the case, you can’t transfer a balance higher than your available credit limit.

Notably different, however, is the allowance of transferring balances from other loan instruments, including personal loans, student loans, and auto loans to your Capital One card. You can’t transfer a Capital One account balance to another Capital One card.

Balance transfers are typically done within 3 to 14 business days, depending on whether it is done online or via mail. As always, you’ll want to continue making payments until the balance transfer appears on the other lender’s statement.

When you initially apply for a Capital One credit card, you’ll need to follow these steps to get your balance transfer checks:

  1. Fill out the Capital One card application as normal.
  2. Towards the end of the application, just above the e-communications disclosure, you’ll see a question that says, “If offered, would you be interested in blank checks to use for cash advances?
  3. If you’re interested in balance transfer checks being sent to your address along with your credit card, you’ll want to answer Yes.
  4. You’ll receive your balance transfer checks, which you can make payable to any eligible lender.

If you’ve already created your Capital One online account, you’ll want to follow these steps to perform a balance transfer:

  1. Log into your online Capital One account.
  2. Click More Account Services.
  3. Under Offers and Upgrades, click the button that says Transfer a Balance.
  4. You’ll see all your balance transfer offers available.
  5. Choose the 1 you’d like and click Select Offer.
  6. You can either request the balance transfer online or via a No Hassle Check.
  7. Enter the account you’re transferring the balances from as well as the transfer amount.
  8. Submit the request, and you’re all set!

You can also request a balance transfer over the phone:

  1. Call the number n the back of your card and get connected to a live representative
  2. Provide the other lender’s credit card, along with the amount you’d like to transfer to your Capital One card
  3. The balance transfer will be submitted, but keep monitoring your card balances in the meantime.

Chase Balance Transfers

Chase bank night exterior
Chase. Image Credit: Philadelphia Sign

Chase offers the capability to perform balance transfers, but its card offerings no longer include an attractive introductory balance transfer structure.

If you want a low balance transfer offer, you’ll have to wait to become targeted for it.

Balance transfer requests can’t exceed $15,000 within any 30 day period, and you can’t use balance transfers from a Chase account to another Chase account.

Most Chase balance transfers are processed in a week or less, but it may take up to 21 days in some rare cases. You can only request balance transfers either by logging into your online account or calling the number on the back of your card.

You’ll notice that new cardmember applications don’t have a section for balance transfer requests upon card approval, so you’ll have to access your Chase online account or call the customer service center.

Here’s how you can access balance transfer offers online:

  1. Visit Chase’s homepage.
  2. In the top-right corner, click Sign in to access your online Chase account.
  3. Once logged in, click the hamburger menu icon on the top-left ().
  4. Click Pay & transfer under Accounts.
  5. Click Card balance transfers.
  6. Choose the card you’d like to perform a balance transfer to.
  7. Enter the other card account information and the requested balance transfer amount.
  8. Submit the request.

Here’s how you can perform balance transfers over the phone:

  1. Call the number on the back of your card.
  2. Request a balance transfer from the live representative and provide both account details when prompted, as well as the balance transfer amount.
  3. Submit the request, and continue monitoring your accounts for the balance transfer to be processed.

Citi Balance Transfers

Citibank
Citibank. Image Credit: DW labs Incorporated via Shutterstock

Citi offers some of the most attractive balance transfer credit cards and promotions in the business.

With multiple balance transfer-friendly credit cards, here are the major takeaways for Citi’s balance transfer rules.

First, you can virtually pay any type of debt with a Citi balance transfer, including your mortgage payment, home equity loans, other credit card balances, store credit cards, auto loans, personal loans, small business loans, payday loans, title loans, cell phone bills, medical bills, utility bills, and other statements.

Citi’s balance transfer period is quite generous as well — typically, you’ll see that your balance transfer APR is valid for balance transfers completed within 4 months from account opening. This is at least double the normal period of 45 to 60 days.

It takes at least 14 days after your card account is opened to process any balance transfers. Until then, continue to make payments as needed until you have confirmed this balance transfer has been received.

Your entire balance transfer, including any fees, must be less than the available credit limit.

Here’s how to submit a balance transfer request on your online account:

  1. Visit Citi’s homepage.
  2. Enter your User ID and Password to Sign On.
  3. On the top banner, hover over Payments & Transfers.
  4. Click Balance Transfers under Transfers.
  5. Click View Available Balance Transfer Offers.
  6. Select the card you’re transferring the balance to.
  7. Fill out the request form, including the total amount to transfer, the account number, and the creditor’s name and address.
  8. Submit and monitor the request.
    • You can monitor the request by visiting the Balance Transfers section in step 4 and clicking View Balance Transfer Status instead of View Available Balance Transfer Offers (step 5).

You may also receive targeted balance transfer offers in the mail. To take advantage of this, simply follow the instructions outlined in the letter.

Lastly, you can request a balance transfer over the phone:

  1. Call the number on the back of your card.
  2. Mention Balance Transfer to the automated prompt.
  3. Once you’re connected to a live representative, you’ll request a balance transfer.
  4. Provide any information necessary, and submit the request.

Bottom Line: Citi’s balance transfer credit cards and terms are very generous — with a long balance transfer APR period, attractive terms, and an easy process, it’s no wonder Citi tends to attract applause for its balance transfer programs! 

Discover Balance Transfers

Discover
Discover. Image Credit: Jarrett Homan via Shutterstock

Discover is one of the credit card companies that often flies under the radar. Discover offers a simple rewards structure designed to appeal to the mass market. Plus, its cards don’t have any annual fees.

Discover offers balance transfers, and it often also has attractive balance transfer promotions.

You can request balance transfers over the phone or online, and each balance transfer takes at least 14 days after the new card is opened to process. After that, most balance transfers are processed within 4 business days.

You can only submit a balance transfer request up to the available credit for your account, including any fees. You can use balance transfers to pay for a variety of transactions, including credit cards, store cards, gas cards, auto loans, medical bills, etc.

You can’t perform balance transfers from a Discover card to another Discover card, which is to be expected.

To perform your balance transfer online, simply follow these steps:

  1. Visit Discover’s homepage.
  2. Log in using your User ID and Password.
  3. In the top banner, hover over the button that says Manage.
  4. Click on Balance Transfer under Credit Options.
  5. Select your balance transfer offer.
  6. Select Pay off a credit card or loan.
    • You can also get balance transfer checks by clicking the button below the form that says Request Balance Transfer Checks.
  7. Enter the transfer amount and any additional information.
  8. Read and review the terms before submitting the balance transfer.

To request a balance transfer over the phone, follow these steps:

  1. Call the number on the back of your card.
  2. Inform the agent that you’d like to do a balance transfer.
  3. Provide your Discover card account number and the name and account number for the other lender.
  4. Provide the balance transfer amount and submit the request.

HSBC Balance Transfers

HSBC
HSBC. Image Credit: MDart10 via Shutterstock

HSBC offers some great rewards credit cards in addition to some very attractive balance transfer promotions for other credit cards.

As a general rule of thumb, your balance transfers must be posted within the first 60 days after account opening to qualify for the introductory balance transfer APR.

Your balance transfer amount must be less than your available credit limit, including any balance transfer fees. If your balance transfer is greater than your available credit limit, HSBC reserves the right to cancel the request or process the request at a lower amount.

Your account must be open for at least 14 business days to process any balance transfer requests. You cannot make balance transfers to any other HSBC loans or credit cards.

There are 4 ways to perform balance transfers: during the card application, online, using balance transfer checks, or over the phone.

Balance transfers take approximately 7 to 10 business days to process. In the meantime, you’ll want to make sure to pay your other lenders until you can confirm the balance transfer has been completed.

You can request balance transfers at the time of your new card application:

  1. Fill out the application as normal.
  2. You’ll be prompted with questions about whether you’d like to request a balance transfer.
  3. Provide the card number, the name of the lender, and the transfer amount.
  4. Submit the application, and if approved, your balance transfer request will be submitted.

Here’s the process for online balance transfers:

  1. Visit the HSBC U.S. website.
  2. Click Log On in the top-right corner.
  3. Log in with your HSBC credentials.
  4. Click My Accounts.
  5. Choose your credit card on the left side.
  6. Click View Details.
  7. Click Accept and Proceed to be redirected to the credit card website.
  8. Click on Services-Balance Transfers.
  9. Review the balance transfer offers available and fill out the form with the required information.
  10. Submit the transfer.

You can also request balance transfers to be done over the phone as follows:

  1. Call the number on the back of your card.
  2. Once you’re connected to a representative, inform them that you’d like to perform a balance transfer.
  3. Feed them with the balance transfer information, including the amount transferred and the other lender’s account information.
  4. Submit the request.

Synchrony Bank Balance Transfers

Synchrony Bank
Synchrony Bank. Image Credit: madamF via Shutterstock

Synchrony Bank is known for offering a slew of store cards. And while most Synchrony Bank cards don’t offer balance transfers as an option, there are a few, such as the Sam’s Club® Mastercard® and the Verizon Visa® Card.

If you’d like to perform a balance transfer, simply follow these steps:

  1. Call the number on the back of your card.
  2. Request a balance transfer and provide the representative with any information needed to perform the balance transfer.
  3. Wait for the balance transfer to process.

U.S. Bank Balance Transfers

U.S. Bank
U.S. Bank. Image Credit: Sundry Photography via Shutterstock

U.S. Bank offers several attractive rewards credit cards, but did you know that U.S. Bank also offers one of the best, if not the best balance transfer APR credit cards in the world? It’s called the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card, and you can get a 0% introductory balance transfer APR for a whopping 20 months!

When you perform balance transfers, the introductory APR typically applies for balances transferred within 60 days of account opening. Balance transfers take up to 14 business days to complete, and you will get a letter from U.S. Bank confirming that each account has been paid after you request a balance transfer.

The maximum you can transfer, including any balance transfer fees, is the credit limit available to the U.S. Bank account.

To submit a balance transfer, you can follow these steps:

  1. Log into your U.S. Bank Online account.
  2. From the My Accounts page, click on the U.S. Bank credit card you’re transferring balances to.
  3. Hover over the Take Action menu on the left, and choose Request a Balance Transfer.
  4. Choose your offer and fill out the information necessary to request your balance transfer.

You can also request a balance transfer over the phone:

  1. Call the number on the back of your card.
  2. Tell the customer agent that you’d like to request a balance transfer.
  3. Provide the credit card and balance information to complete the transfer request.
  4. Submit the request and check your mail and correspondence to confirm the transfer has been processed in 14 days.

Wells Fargo Balance Transfers

Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo. Image Credit: Rob Wilson via Shutterstock

Wells Fargo offers some of the best balance transfer-friendly credit cards in the world. To be specific, Wells Fargo offers a grace period of 120 days after account opening to request balance transfers under the introductory APR structure!

Your balance transfer amount including any fees must be less than the total credit limit of the card you’re transferring to.

You can transfer almost any kind of debt to your Wells Fargo card, including other credit card balances, personal loans, home equity loans, auto loans, etc. Like all other banks, Wells Fargo balance transfers can only be made from non-Wells Fargo lenders.

You can request a balance transfer online, over the phone, or during the credit card application process.

Here are the steps for requesting a balance transfer online:

  1. Visit Wells Fargo’s homepage and log into your account.
  2. Under the Accounts banner and Manage Cards section, click the button that says Request Balance Transfer.
  3. Fill out the information to submit the balance transfer form, including the creditor name, credit card number, and the balance transfer amount for the non-Wells Fargo card.
  4. Submit the transfer and wait for the request to be processed.

Here’s what you need to do to submit a balance transfer over the phone:

  1. Call the number on the back of your Wells Fargo card.
  2. Ask the representative to assist with a balance transfer request.
  3. Feed them the appropriate information to submit the balance transfer request.

Final Thoughts

Balance transfers can be an incredibly useful feature of your credit card. With lots of balance transfer offers circulating in the credit card ecosystem, it can often feel overwhelming to pick out the best offers.

What’s more is that each bank offers a different set of policies, including but not limited to, balance transfer fees, balance transfer APR period, the maximum allowed balance transfer time, and much more.

Overall, if you can keep your head straight by reading the terms and conditions closely and carefully tracking any balance transfers, you can end up saving hundreds or even thousands of dollars in high interest that you otherwise would have paid.

Balance transfers can save you a ton of money if used properly. If not, you’ll be fees on top of fees and interest! Now, you have the most detailed guide on how to perform balance transfers on a bank-by-bank basis!


Frequently asked questions

Is it a good idea to do a balance transfer?

It depends.

If you understand the terms and conditions and participate in the best balance transfer offers/promotions out there, you could put yourself in an advantageous position and save big on high-rate interest. If you can get a $0 balance transfer fee, 0% balance transfer APR, and a $0 annual fee card, then there’s not much downside.

Just be sure to pay it back within the balance transfer APR promo period!

How does a balance transfer work?

Balance transfers shift debt from 1 account to the other.

In simplest terms, a credit card balance transfer takes an existing balance (typically on a high-interest rate credit card) and moves it to another card with a lower interest rate, ideally 0%.

This process buys you time to pay back the balance without accruing as much interest.

Do balance transfers affect your credit score?

They don’t affect your credit score directly because the amount of debt does not change. Therefore, your credit utilization may not change.

In many instances, it makes a lot of sense to avoid interest accrual via balance transfers!

Is it bad to do multiple balance transfers?

It’s not inherently bad to do multiple balance transfers. Just be wary of the rates and terms of each balance transfer you do.

Remember that you must always make minimum payments while you’re waiting for balance transfers to process.

Is there a downside to balance transfers?

The downside is that if you don’t pay off your balance before the 0% promotional period is over, you’ll get hit with interest charges. You’ll end up paying fees on top of interest!

What happens to my old credit card after a balance transfer?

Nothing happens. You still need to make minimum payments and maintain a positive credit relationship with them, unless you decide to close the card.

Stephen Au

About Stephen Au

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Stephen has been privileged to enjoy many premium cabin products and 5-star hotels. A petroleum engineer by trade, Stephen caught the travel bug in college when he traveled to Asia several times. After 2 years of continual promotions, Stephen quit his safe and secure career path in favor of entrepreneurship.

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