Completing a balance transfer might be easier than you think. Here's a quick rundown on how to make a balance transfer as smooth as possible:
1. Gather information
Decide which balance you'd like to transfer and gather all the information about that account: the account number, the name and address of the card issuer, the address where you send payments, and the amount you want to transfer. If you're transferring debt from multiple accounts, you'll need to collect details for each.
2. Compare your top picks
Choose a balance transfer credit card with a great low or zero-interest deal. Read through the terms and conditions and consider factors like the balance transfer fee and the ongoing APR that will apply after the introductory period ends.
Opt for cards with 0% intro APR on balance transfers
3. Apply for a new credit card
Apply for the new card by filling out an application online. It only takes a few clicks to apply online in the most convenient way. Have your personal info handy, as well as the information about the balance you are going to transfer. Once approved, you can request your balance transfer.
4. Initiate a balance transfer
Some card issuers allow you to apply for the balance transfer at the same time you apply for the new credit card. If applying online, there is usually a separate section where you can enter your existing balance information if this is the case. This option is good when the amount you want to transfer is small because you don't know what your credit limit is until you get approved for the card. Note, if you request to transfer more than the available limit, the balance transfer will more likely be declined.
5. Understand the terms and conditions
If you weren't able to apply for the transfer at the same time you applied for your new card, fill out an application as soon as you are approved and receive the new card. There is usually a time limit for making balance transfers, which may be anywhere from the first 30 days to four months after the account opening. Check with your bank and find out how much time you have to initiate a balance transfer after account opening.
6. Do a balance transfer fee math
Most balance transfer cards charge a balance transfer fee, usually 3% to 5% of the amount being transferred. This expense will have to be paid upfront on the amount transferred. Some cards don't charge a fee or will waive it during a promotional offer. Always remember to factor in a balance transfer fee when deciding whether to do a balance transfer. It may make more sense to transfer one large balance rather than several small ones, depending on how much the fee is.
7. Make timely payments
Continue making on-time payments to your old card until you get a confirmation that the transfer has posted. Usually, the transfer will post within one billing cycle, but it may take up to six weeks, so it's important not to miss a payment. If your payment ends up crossing with the transfer, and you overpay the card, your old card issuer will refund you. Better to overpay than risk a late payment.
Think twice before closing your old credit card account
8. Don't close your old credit card accounts
Do not rush into closing your old credit card account, even if it has a zero balance. Closing accounts shortens your credit history and lowers your total available credit, which can hurt your credit score. Eventually, you may not want to close your card, especially if it doesn't have annual fees.
9. Pay off your balance before the promotional period ends
Most balance transfer offers come with a limited-time introductory APR. To save as much money as possible on interest charges, pay off as much of your new balance as you can before the promotional rate expires. Once your promotional period is over, the regular APR for balance transfers will apply. If your card offers an introductory 0 ARR on balance transfers for 15 to 21 months, try to pay off your balance before the introductory rate ends for maximum savings.