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How to Transfer a Credit Card Balance to Another Credit Card

Quick takeaways:

  • Transfer your existing credit card balance(s) with the highest interest rates first, if your new credit limit allows

  • Be sure to note any balance transfer fees and intro Annual Percentage Rate (APR) promotions

  • Read the fine print and complete your balance transfer within the certain number of days, usually 90, after opening the account

If you have several thousand dollars of credit card debt, it can be hard to pay down your balance. High interest rates can make you feel stuck, but the good news is that many balance transfer credit cards offer low introductory interest rates and can help you pay off high-interest debt faster, saving you money and affording you greater peace of mind.

What is a balance transfer?

A balance transfer allows you to take existing balances from one or more credit card accounts and transfer that debt to a new credit card with a lower interest rate. Some balance transfer cards even offer a 0% introductory APR for a limited time.

Do balance transfers hurt your credit?

If you transfer balances between your existing cards, your credit score likely won’t be impacted, but applying for any credit card can have an impact on your credit (either good or bad). Balance transfers can help you improve your credit by helping you pay down your credit card debt faster. It’s important to pay down your balance as quickly as possible to limit any negative impacts to your credit score.

How to transfer a credit card balance

Step 1: Check your current balance and interest rate

Before you open a new credit card to transfer balances to, it’s important to know your current balance and interest rate so you can understand how much you’ll save and how quickly you can pay down your debt. A balance transfer is a great tool, but it’s not a magic solution.

Ultimately, you want to find a credit card that has a credit limit high enough to hold all your debt, and an interest rate lower than your current card. This will help you save the most money over the introductory promotional period.

Step 2: Choose the right credit card for you

Here are some important questions you’ll want to answer for yourself while choosing a credit card for balance transfers:

  • How long will the introductory APR last? Most often, the promotional period is somewhere between 6 and 18 months.

  • How much time will you have to transfer your existing balance once you open the new card?

  • What kind of balance transfer or annual fees will you be charged, and how are they calculated? Fees are typically between 3–5% of the amount transferred.

  • How long will it take for the balance transfer to be processed?

Make sure you don’t miss any payments on your existing accounts while waiting for your balance transfer to be processed.

Step 3: Apply for a credit card

Choose a credit card based on the information you learn about the promotional period, balance transfer offer, annual fees, credit limit, rewards, etc. Remember that applying for a balance transfer credit card may impact your credit score, and you’re not guaranteed to be approved.

Step 4: Transfer the balance to a new credit card

Follow your credit card issuer’s instructions and be sure to transfer your existing credit card balance to the new card within the permitted time limit. For example, some credit cards will only apply their promotional 0% interest rate to balances transferred within the first 60 days. Take note of when your introductory APR will end and what your variable APR will be thereafter.

Pay off your credit card debt

After your transferred balance goes through, you’ll see your balance on your new card. Now that you have secured a lower interest rate, really commit to paying off your credit card debt as much and as quickly as possible. Make your payments on time; even one late payment may end your intro APR period early.

If you couldn’t transfer all your balances to your new card, remember to continue making at least the minimum payments on existing accounts that weren’t consolidated.

Utilize your balance transfer to your advantage. Pay off your debt as much as possible and make a plan to avoid accruing more debt in the future. Once your debt is paid down, you can also plan to contribute more to a savings account to help meet your financial goals.

Questions? Ready to apply?

Santander experts are always available to answer your questions about anything from account opening to online banking, or to help you start the credit card balance transfer application process. We can help you find the best balance transfer card for you today!