Credit Card Balance Transfers 101

If you'd like to consolidate credit card balances or other types of loans, a balance transfer may be the solution you're looking for. Transferring multiple balances to a single credit card can simplify your monthly payments and potentially save you money on interest. This guide offers answers to the most common balance transfer questions.

A credit card balance transfer is where you move an existing credit card or loan balance to another credit card account. Usually, there is a fee to transfer a balance. Balance Transfer offers on credit cards typically feature a low introductory or promotional interest rate for a limited period of time. Importantly, these introductory or promotional rates are temporary. If the balance is not paid in full by the time the introductory rate ends, the unpaid promotional balance will accrue interest charges at the standard APR on the account.

If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including any balance transfers) by the due date each month or you have a 0% promotional APR on purchases.

Balance transfer fees vary from one credit card to another. Typically, the fee is a percentage of the transferred balance (such as 3% of the balance transferred) with a required minimum fee. Some credit cards have promotional fee waivers for a specific offer.

It depends on the offer. Promotional APRs must last for at least six months but some offers provide for a longer duration.

The amount of time it takes for a balance transfer to be completed depends on whether you're transferring a balance to a new or existing account and which credit card companies are involved. Generally, it can take anywhere from two to 21 days for a balance transfer to post to your account, although at some banks, it may take even longer.

You'll need to tell the credit card company the name of the financial institution, the account number, and the amount you want to transfer. How much you can transfer depends on your available credit. If you're approved for the transfer, the credit card company you're transferring the balance to will contact your old credit card company and pay off the balance.

Transferring a balance doesn't close your old account - it only pays portion of the balance transferred. After the transfer is complete you'll begin making payments on the transferred balance under the terms and conditions of the transfer offer.

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