How Long Do Balance Transfers Take?

A credit card balance transfer can take between a few days and a few weeks. Different banks or card issuers have different balance transfer policies, so check with your financial institution to learn exactly how long a transfer will take for you.

How do balance transfers work?

Typically, to make a balance transfer, you will contact the card issuer taking on the debt and provide them with account details and the amounts you would like to transfer from other cards or lenders. Once approved, the card issuer will add the requested balance transfer amount to your card and will pay off the debt on the other accounts. In some cases, banks or card issuers will provide you with a balance transfer check so you can pay off your balance directly.

Most balance transfers come with a fee, which is either a set amount or a percentage of the amount you transfer (typically whichever is higher).

When do balance transfers make sense?

A balance transfer can save you money on interest if:

  • The balance transfer card has a lower intro rate than your existing card or loan.
    Balance transfers can make sense if you can reduce your interest rate (also known as annual percentage rate, or APR). Aim to find a balance transfer credit card with a low intro rate, such as these balance transfer cards from Citi.
  • You can pay off the transferred balance before the new balance transfer card's interest rate goes up. While balance transfer cards often come with low introductory rates, these rates expire after a certain amount of time. While you still have the introductory interest rate aim to pay down your debt as much as possible. When the introductory period ends, you’ll start accruing interest at the regular rate.
  • The fee charged for the transfer does not cancel out your interest savings. Banks generally charge fees for balance transfers. Do the math to be sure this fee doesn't wipe out what you can save in interest charges.
  • How long does it take to process a balance transfer?

    Citi takes between 2 and 21 days to process balance transfers and you can expect a similar range for most credit card companies that accept balance transfers.

    Strategies to streamline the balance transfer process

    Most of a balance transfer happens behind the scenes; that is, between banks or card issuers. Still, you can take steps to facilitate balance transfers. Here's what you can do to make a balance transfer land as fast as possible:

    Understand your credit profile

    If you're applying for a new balance transfer credit card, it's helpful to know your credit score before you shop around. Your creditworthiness, along with other factors like your income, help card issuers determine whether to approve you for a card. With this information in mind, research which balance transfer cards you’re likely to be approved for.

    Look at your pre-selected offers

    Another way to assess your eligibility is to consider any pre-selected balance transfer offers you have received online or in the mail.

    Budget the transfer against your balance transfer limit

    Your card issuer won't let you transfer more than your card's balance transfer limit, which is determined by your available credit on the card and may be less. Find out how much you are allowed to transfer before you request a balance transfer.

    Gather your financial information

    When you submit a request for a balance transfer, you'll need the name of the company to which you owe the debt, your account number and the amount you want to transfer. Having this information in hand helps ensure you have what you need to submit your request.

    What to do if your balance transfer is taking longer than you expect

    If a requested balance transfer is taking longer than expected, your first step should be to contact the bank or issuer that provided your balance transfer card.

    You may also want to contact the company from which you are transferring a debt to confirm that the bank or issuer of the balance transfer card has contacted them.

    Disclosure: This article is for educational purposes. It is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and is not a substitute for professional advice. It does not indicate the availability of any Citi product or service. For advice about your specific circumstances, you should consult a qualified professional.

Additional Resources

  • Utilize these resources to help you assess your current finances & plan for the future.

  • Learn how FICO® Scores are determined, why they matter and more.

  • Review financial terms & definitions to help you better understand credit & finances.