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What is a balance transfer and how does it work?|

A balance transfer is when you move debt from one credit card to another credit card. This is done by moving a credit card balance from one card to a new card that typically has a 0% interest rate for a specific amount of time. By utilizing an intro 0% APR offer, you can save money on interest and put all of your payments toward the principal balance. Take note that most balance transfer cards charge a balance transfer fee, which is often 3% or 5% of the transfer amount.

~What credit score do I need for a balance transfer credit card?|

You generally need good or excellent credit to qualify for a balance transfer credit card. According to FICO, this means having a credit score of 670 or higher.

However, credit card companies look at more than just your credit score to determine your eligibility, so meeting the minimum doesn't guarantee approval. Card issuers may also consider your credit history, income, existing available credit and other factors to determine whether you qualify. It may be possible to get a credit card with a balance transfer promotion with fair credit, but it may not be a 0% APR, and you may also end up with a shorter promotion and a higher fee.

~Does a balance transfer affect your credit score?|

A balance transfer has little impact on your credit score since you are just moving your current debt from one card to another. However, due to applying for a new credit card, if the issuer does a hard credit inquiry your credit score could possibly ding your credit score. However the affect is minor and temporary.

~Is there a limit on balance transfers?|

The amount of debt that you can transfer will most likely be the credit limit on the balance transfer credit card. However, there are situations where card issuers may give you a lower balance transfer limit based on your creditworthiness, or a general limit for balance transfers that they have set themselves.

~How long does a balance transfer take?|

A balance transfer can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending on the credit card company, but they're typically done within five to seven days. Continue paying your credit card bill as usual until the balance transfer posts to your new card.

~Can I use the credit card after a balance transfer?|

If you have not used the full amount of credit on your balance transfer, any remaining amount of credit on the card can be used for making purchases.

~How to choose a balance transfer card|

To ensure that you get the best deal available, it's important to shop around and compare options from multiple credit card issuers. Here are some factors to consider as you narrow down your choices:

  • Length of promotion: If you have a lot of debt, prioritize cards with longer promotions. If you can afford to pay it off in a shorter time, though, you may have more flexibility with other card features.
  • Long-term goals: Some of the best balance transfer credit cards don't offer rewards, so once you pay off your debt, you may not get much value from the card going forward. If you want a card that offers long-term value, consider other features, such as rewards, travel perks and more.
  • Costs: Compare each card's balance transfer fee and how much that'll cost you based on how much you want to transfer. If you're unsure whether you can pay off the debt before the promotional period ends, also compare ongoing APRs.
  • Credit score: You may need good or excellent credit to get approved for a balance transfer credit card, so check your credit score to see where you stand and gauge your approval odds for the cards you're considering.

~Best practices for completing a balance transfer|

On the surface, balance transfers appear to be straightforward, but there are some key terms and conditions you'll want to understand before you apply for a card. Here's what to know:

  • You don't have to worry about retroactive interest. Some retailers offer promotional financing that requires you to pay off the balance in full before the promotion ends. If you don't, you'll be charged interest retroactively based on the original balance. Fortunately, that's not the case with balance transfer promotions. If you have a balance at the end of the promotional period, the card's regular APR will apply only to the remaining amount.
  • You can only transfer between different issuers. If you have a credit card with one card issuer, you won't be able to transfer your balance to another card offered by that same issuer.
  • There's a transfer window. Balance transfer credit cards often require you to request a transfer within a certain period after you open the account. If you miss the window, you may not get the 0% APR benefit.
  • Balance transfer fees can eat into your savings. Balance transfer fees, which are usually added to your new balance, typically range from 3% to 5% of the transfer amount. If you're considering a balance transfer card, check the fee and use an online balance transfer calculator to get an idea of whether the interest savings outpace the upfront fee enough to make it worth your while.
  • Your transfers may be limited. You can typically only transfer up to the credit limit on your new card, which won't be revealed until you apply and get approved. Additionally, some cards may set a hard limit for transfers regardless of the credit limit you qualify for.
  • You may not get a grace period on purchases. While our top choices offer intro 0% APR promotions on both purchases and balance transfers, that's not always the case. If you have a card that only offers an intro 0% APR on balance transfers, you may not get a grace period on any purchases you make with the card. In other words, interest will start accruing from the date of your transaction until you've paid off the balance transfer.