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How to Transfer a Credit Card Balance in 5 Simple Steps

Gather information about your debt, call the issuer of the card you're transferring it to — and then make a plan to pay it off.
June 25, 2014
Credit Cards
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If you’re carrying debt on a high-interest credit card, you might be considering a balance transfer. After all, this will save you money on finance charges and help you pay off your debt faster.

But what are the logistics involved in moving a balance from one card to another? The Nerds will walk you through the process below:

1. Get educated about balance transfers

Balance transfers are a good opportunity to save money on interest, but there are a few quirks to this debt payoff technique that aren’t commonly discussed. Be sure you fully understand and are comfortable with them before taking the next step:

  • Transferring a balance often comes with a fee of 3% of the amount you’re moving onto the new card. Be sure to factor this in when you do the math to determine whether a balance transfer is right for you.
  • The interest-free period on your new card won’t last forever. Most cards only give you 6-15 months at 0%.
  • After your 0% APR period is up, you’ll have to start paying interest on your remaining balance, so know the ongoing APR of the card you’re moving your debt to.
  • If you miss a payment during the 0% APR interval, your deal will likely be canceled, and you’ll have to start paying interest right away.
  • Most balance transfer deals are only available to those with very good credit. If your score is sub-par, you might have better luck transferring your debt to a card with a low ongoing APR.

2. Apply for the balance transfer credit card

Now it’s time to find and apply for the card you’ll be transferring your balance to. There are lots of offers on the market, so we’ve rounded up the best balance transfer offers to make the search a little easier.

Aim for a low balance-transfer fee (or no fee) and a long 0% APR promotion.

As you’re comparing cards, be sure to pay special attention to the length of the 0% APR period and the balance transfer fee. Ideally, the card you pick will have a low fee (or perhaps none at all) and a long 0% APR promotion.

Additionally, figure out how much you’ll need to pay each month to eliminate your debt before the interest-free period is up – doing so means you’ll be squeezing the most value out of the balance transfer. If the payments are too high with one card, look for another with a longer 0% APR interval.

Looking for a credit card? Tell us what you would most want your card to do.

Once you’ve found the card that’s right for you, complete the online application and sit tight for a response!

3. Gather your information

Once you’ve received your 0% APR card, it’s time to gather the materials required to transfer the balance. Specifically, you’ll need the account information for the card you’re moving the debt from and the exact amount you want to transfer.

4. Place the call

Now it’s time to call the 0% APR card’s customer service center. Explain that you’d like to transfer a balance onto your new card, then provide them with the information you just gathered.

After that, your job is done – they’ll get in touch with your old credit card company and move the balance you specified onto your new card. This can sometimes take a week or two to complete, so be patient!

5. Make a plan to pay off your debt

Escaping the stranglehold of sky-high interest rates is something to celebrate, but it’s no time to rest on your laurels.

Pay your balance quickly and use a budget to help avoid future credit card debt.

Follow the Nerds’ tips below to create a detailed debt payoff plan; this will ensure that your balance will be gone before the 0% APR period is up:

  • Create a budget – Make a strict spending plan that accounts for a hefty payment toward the 0% debt. Then follow it!
  • Eliminate extras (for now) – You should have already calculated the amount you need to pay each month toward your 0% APR card to get rid of the balance before interest starts accruing. But consider that your “minimum” payment – paying more will get you to debt-free faster. Cut unnecessary expenses for now to free up extra cash.
  • Track your spending – The best way to make a budget work is to keep tabs on your spending, so don’t let a dollar go untracked.
  • Keep going – Even after your 0% card is paid off, keep up with budgeting and tracking your spending. That way, you won’t have to worry about credit card debt in the future!

The takeaway: Once you’ve found the right card, transferring a balance is pretty easy. Just be sure to pay it quickly and take steps to avoid credit card debt in the future!