Balance transfers don’t hurt your credit, but transferring a balance can indirectly cause credit score damage. When you apply for a balance transfer credit card, it will generate a hard inquiry on your credit report, causing a slight dip in your credit score. If you transfer a balance to an existing credit card account, however, there is no hard inquiry and no credit score damage.
Balance transfers don’t hurt your credit score directly. But when you apply for a balance transfer credit card, it will generate a hard inquiry on your credit report, causing a slight dip in your credit score. If you transfer a balance to an existing credit card account, however, there is no hard inquiry and no credit score damage as a result. A balance transfer could still result in high credit utilization, though, and even allow you to rack up more debt than you can afford, if you’re not careful. Both of those things can hurt your credit score.
So, the act of transferring a balance itself won’t affect your credit, but it will indirectly alter several key components of your credit profile, from utilization to the age of your accounts. These changes might lower your score a bit in the short term. But over time, interest savings and the ability to pay off your debt faster should make transferring a balance a net positive for your credit score.
Here is how a balance transfer could hurt or help your credit:
- Balance transfers can take up to three weeks, or be completed in just a few days, after you make a request or apply for a card. Transfers to new accounts may take longer than existing accounts. Continue making payments on your original account in the meantime to avoid hurting your credit score.
- If you apply for a new balance transfer card, the resulting hard inquiry will likely cause a slight dip in your credit score for up to 12 months.
- Adding a new balance transfer card will reduce the overall age of your accounts, which can have a slight negative impact on your score.
- Keep an eye on how the transfer affects your account’s credit utilization. Making a transfer will usually add 3%-5% to your debt due to balance transfer fees. If your utilization is over 30% of your credit limit, that’s not good for your score.
- If you leave your old credit card(s) open, adding a new card will reduce your utilization ratio across all accounts, assuming no additional spending. The utilization on the card you transferred the balance from will drop, and it will increase on the card you transferred the debt to.
- Balance transfer cards often have 0% introductory APRs. This gives you the chance to pay off your balance faster, since the full amount of your payments will go to the principal rather than interest. This is good for your score long-term.
Balance transfers won’t hurt your credit by themselves. But they affect other elements of your credit that could bring your score down a little temporarily. Still, the benefits will outweigh the negatives in the long run, as long as you plan to repay most, if not all, of your balance during your card’s low introductory APR period.
Where people get into trouble is trying to use a balance transfer to support unsustainable spending habits, thinking 0% balance transfer credit card offers are always available. They’re not, and learning that the hard way is a very expensive mistake. So make sure to use a balance transfer calculator to make a payment plan.