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What Debts Can You Transfer to a Credit Card?

Sept. 26, 2016
Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards
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Moving debt to a low-interest credit card or balance transfer card seems like a good solution for those trying to climb out of the debt hole. The Nerds are often asked what debts people can transfer. Auto loans? Student loans? Other credit cards? Because the answer varies by issuer, it’s an important piece of information for those trying to choose among balance transfer cards.

We checked with the eight largest credit card issuers for their policies on what debts cardholders can transfer to their cards. Here’s what they say:

IssuerRules for transfers
American Express
  • Only balance transfers from accounts in the customer's name, requested within 30 days from the date of account opening, will be approved.

  • Customers can't transfer balances from any account issued by American Express or any of its affiliates.

  • Additional card members may not request or authorize balance transfers.

  • Customers' balance transfer requests may be declined if any of their American Express accounts are not in good standing.

  • No transfer will be processed if: (1) any requested transfer is less than $100; (2) the total amount of all requested transfers exceeds the lesser of $7,500 or 75% of your credit limit; or (3) charging the requested transfers to the customer's card account would cause the total account balance to exceed the credit limit.
Bank of America®
  • Customers can transfer balances from any credit cards, personal loans, student loans, auto loans or home equity loans from lenders other than Bank of America®, as well as gas cards, retail and department store cards.

  • Affiliate credit cards issued by Bank of America® include: MLB, World Wildlife Fund, Alaska Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Bass Pro Shops, AAA.
  • New applicants can transfer any credit card debt from cards in the Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover networks.

  • Customers cannot transfer balances on cards issued by Barclaycard to another Barclaycard.

  • Existing card members who are eligible for a balance transfer can transfer any loan, including credit card, personal, home equity, student and auto.
Capital One
  • Customers can transfer balances from other credit cards, personal loans, student loans and auto loans.

  • Customers can't transfer a balance from another account issued or acquired by Capital One or any of its affiliates or subsidiaries. That means you can't transfer balances from any other credit card issued by Capital One including, but not limited to, cards branded with Kohl’s, Sony, GM, BuyPower Card, Union Plus and Teamster Privilege.
  • Customers can transfer only credit card balances.

  • Customers can't transfer balances from any other account or loan issued by Chase Bank USA, N.A. or its affiliates.

  • Affiliates include United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, British Airways, Marriott, Hyatt, Disney, AARP.

  • Customers can't transfer more than $15,000, including fees and interest.
  • Customers can transfer credit card debt, personal loans, student loans, auto loans and home equity loans.

  • Customers can't transfer balances from other accounts issued by Citibank, N.A., or its affiliates.

  • See Citibank's list of affiliates.
  • Customers can't use balance transfers to pay any Discover accounts, and transfers don't earn rewards.

  • Customers can transfer any amount, up to their credit available for transfers, which may be less than their total credit line.

  • If a customer's balance transfer requests will exceed the available credit, Discover will process the transfers for less than the amount requested, in the order requested.

  • Customers can make balance transfers only to accounts that list them as an account holder.
Wells Fargo
  • Customers can transfer credit cards, personal loans, auto loans, student loans and home equity loans up to the available credit limit.
  • Customers can't transfer an existing balance on any account issued by Wells Fargo or any of its affiliates, including any Wachovia account.

The long reach of affiliates

No credit card issuer lets you transfer debts among its own products. You can’t transfer a balance from one Citi card to another, for example, or from a Wells Fargo personal loan to a Wells Fargo credit card. Additionally, many banks issue credit cards on behalf of other brands, such as airlines, hotels and stores, and the same restrictions apply to accounts with issuers’ affiliates. For example, Chase is the issuing bank for the United℠ Explorer Card. If you had a balance on that card, you couldn’t transfer it to a different Chase card.

Before choosing a card for balance transfers, make sure you know the affiliate relationships involved. For example, Citi, through its Department Store National Bank subsidiary, issues cards for scores of retailers. (Click the link in the table above to see just how extensive that reach is.) If you want to transfer a balance from, say, a high-interest Macy’s card, you shouldn’t bother looking at a Citibank credit card.

About those student loans …

If you’re facing a mountain of student loan debt — or any type of installment debt — getting a lower interest rate sounds awfully tempting. However, you need to be realistic about whether you can actually pay off that debt while the low or 0% interest period lasts. If you can’t pay off the entire balance, you may wind up paying retroactive interest on the whole thing. And the ongoing interest rate you pay on a credit card will almost invariably be much higher than what you’re paying on a student loan, auto loan or mortgage. Also take into account the balance transfer fee. Most credit cards charge 3% to 5% of the balance you’re transferring, so a $5,000 student loan would cost you $150 right off the bat.

Issuers won’t let you transfer a balance above your credit limit on the card, and some may have a ceiling on how much you can transfer, which could be lower than your credit limit. If you’re new to credit, most likely your credit limit isn’t going to be high enough to cover your student loans, or they might exceed the issuer’s limit.

To help manage your student loan debt, consider consolidating and refinancing or negotiating an income-based repayment plan. For other debts that may exceed the credit line on a new credit card, consider bundling your credit card debt into a personal loan. A personal loan won’t have a 0% interest rate, but its rate will be lower than the high interest you’re probably paying on your credit cards now. Consolidating your credit card debt in a personal loan will also create a timetable for you to get out of debt.

Ellen Cannon is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @ellencannon.