Can I Use One Credit Card to Pay Off Another?

For direct monthly payments, typically no. But you can do a balance transfer in which you move high-interest debt to a new card with a lower APR.

Claire TsosieAugust 20, 2020
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Can I Use One Credit Card to Pay Off Another?

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Paying your credit card bill with another credit card in an instant, fee-free way generally isn't possible. If you're looking to earn more rewards or carry debt more easily, don't count on this option.

And while it's possible to pay a credit card indirectly with a cash advance — for example, by using a different credit card to get cash at an ATM — doing so would be extremely expensive and inefficient, making it a poor choice.

But there's at least one way you could potentially use one card to pay off another and come out ahead: You could do a balance transfer, essentially moving debt from one card to another. Rules and restrictions apply, though.

When transferring a balance: Yes

You can save money on interest by moving debt from a high-interest credit card to one with an introductory 0% APR offer or low-interest promotion on balance transfers, then paying it off at a lower rate.

With some exceptions, credit cards generally charge balance transfer fees of 3% to 5% of the amount transferred. Balance transfers aren't instant, either; they can take weeks to go through. Also, they generally don't earn rewards.

For cards with long 0% intro APR periods for balance transfers and low or no balance transfer fees, check out NerdWallet's best balance transfer credit cards.

While the exact process for balance transfers can vary widely, here are the steps you generally have to take when working with major issuers:

1. Apply for a card with an introductory 0% APR offer on balance transfers or use an offer on a card you already have. To qualify for the best offers, you generally have to have good or excellent credit (typically, FICO scores over 690). Something to keep in mind: Same-issuer transfers generally aren't allowed. For example, if you want to transfer a balance from a Chase card, you can't transfer it to another Chase card.

2. Initiate the balance transfer. If you're doing this online or by phone, you'll need to provide information about the debt you're looking to move, such as the issuer name, the amount of debt and the account information.

Sometimes, balance transfers can also be initiated using convenience checks, or the checks issuers send you in the mail. Before using one, though, read the terms to find out if it will count as a balance transfer and what your interest rate will be.

3. Wait for the transfer to go through. Once the balance transfer is approved, which could take two weeks or longer, the issuer will generally pay off your old account directly. That old balance — plus the balance transfer fee — will show up in your new account.

4. Pay down the balance. When that balance is added to the new card, you'll be responsible for making monthly payments on that account. And if you pay it down during the introductory 0% APR period, for example, you could potentially save a bundle.

For direct monthly payments: No

Paying monthly credit card bills with different credit cards generally isn't an option. Don't expect to earn easy points and miles in a never-ending cycle or quickly buy yourself more time to pay off debt this way.

Credit card issuers usually require you to pay credit card bills with a bank account when you're making payments online or over the phone. You'll have to provide information like an account number and routing number — and you can't just substitute a credit card number instead.

In part, these restrictions exist because issuers want to limit their risk. A customer who pays one credit card with another may be more likely to default on payments.

After getting a cash advance: Yes, but it’s a bad idea

It's possible to use your credit card to get cash out of an ATM, then use that money to pay off another card. But such a transaction — a cash advance — typically comes with high fees and interest rates, making it an incredibly expensive way to get fast cash.

It's also not the way to go if raking in rewards is your goal. Cash advances generally don't earn rewards. And even if they did, the high fees and interest charges associated with them would likely eclipse the value of any benefits you might earn.

Can't pay your minimum? What to do

When money is tight, not having the option to pay one credit card with another might leave you with the lingering question of how to cover your minimum payment — especially when your credit card payments are taking a back seat to bad-things-will-happen-if-you-don't-pay-them bills, such as rent, car payments and child care.

If this is the case for you, here's where to start.

  • Assess your situation. Review your credit card accounts and overall budget. Knowing the amounts owed, the interest rates and how much you can afford to pay each month can help you get a better idea of how serious your cash shortfall is and help you decide how to prioritize each bill.

  • Communicate with your creditors. You may qualify for a credit card hardship program, which might lower your monthly payments and provide temporary relief. This could be a good way to go if your money trouble is temporary and you think you can pay down your balance with more time or adjusted terms.

  • For chronic money trouble, consider other options. If you're constantly struggling to pay the minimums and feeling overwhelmed by debt — for example, if your debt (excluding a mortgage) is greater than 40% of your income and you see no way to pay it off within five years — bankruptcy might be your best option. Consider consulting with a bankruptcy attorney to review your situation.

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