A balance transfer is a credit card transaction that involves using a card to pay a debt owed to another lender in order to move the debt to the balance transfer credit card. The main purpose of a balance transfer is to get a lower interest rate, save money and repay the debt sooner.
Key Things to Know About Balance Transfers
What It Is: A balance transfer moves an existing debt to a credit card.
Benefits: A balance transfer can get you a lower APR and/or more time to pay a debt off.
Types of Balances Transferable: This depends on what your issuer allows, but may include balances from credit cards, auto loans, student loans, mortgages, HELOCs, small business loans and payday loans.
How Long It Takes: A balance transfer typically takes around 15 to 25 days to process. During that time, you should continue making payments on your original debt.
Introductory APRs: The best balance transfer credit cards have introductory 0% APRs for as long as 21 months. If you pay your balance in full during that time, you owe no interest.
Fees: Some credit cards charge a balance transfer fee, which gets added to the balance you owe. This fee is typically either 3% or 5% of the amount transferred, but some cards have no balance transfer fee.
Balance transfers don’t hurt your credit score directly, but transferring a balance can indirectly cause credit score damage. When you apply for a balance transfer credit card, for example, 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. A balance transfer could still result in high credit utilization, though, and allow you to rack up more debt than you can afford to repay. Both of those things can hurt your credit score.… read full answer
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.
How Balance Transfers Can Help or Hurt Your Credit Score
Credit Inquiries Hurt: 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.
Lower Account Age Hurts: Adding a new balance transfer card will reduce the overall age of your accounts, which can have a slight negative impact on your score.
Increased Utilization Hurts: 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.
Missed Payments Hurt: If you don’t continue to make payments to your original creditor while the balance transfer is being processed, your credit score will suffer. 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.
Reduced Utilization Helps: 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.
Low Interest Helps: 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.
Less Debt Helps: A balance transfer can help you reduce your debt load. That’s important because how much debt you owe is a key ingredient in your credit score. The less, the better, since people with little-to-no debt are in a more stable position financially.
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.
A balance transfer does count as a payment to the original creditor to which you owed the balance. The issuer of the balance transfer card will submit payment to the old creditor for the amount of the transfer. Once the first monthly statement comes for your balance transfer card, you will need to begin making payments to that card’s issuer.… read full answer
Balance transfer timelines vary by issuer. It can take as few as 5 to 7 business days for American Express balance transfers and as many as to 14 business days for balance transfers with Bank of America, Capital One, US Bank and Wells Fargo. You should continue to make at least the minimum payment to your original creditor until the balance transfer posts to the new account. If a balance transfer posts after your old card’s due date and you didn’t submit a payment by then, you may be charged a late fee. Any additional payments you make will be deducted from the balance you transfer.
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