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How Long Does a Credit Card Balance Transfer Take?

Help pay down debt by learning everything you need to know about how long a balance transfer takes.

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Contributing Writer at Tally
June 10, 2021

A recent study found that roughly 41% of Americans have opened a balance transfer credit card at least once in their life. A balance transfer card is a potentially useful tool that allows you to pay down credit card debt more quickly by lowering your interest rate

If you currently have credit card debt, you may have some questions about balance transfer cards. What is a balance transfer card? How long does a balance transfer take

In this article, we answer your questions about balance transfer cards to give you a clear understanding of what they are and how they can potentially help you get out from under credit card debt

What is a balance transfer? 

A balance transfer is a tool used to move debt from one credit card to another. For this to be effective, the balance transfer card that you are transferring to must have a lower rate than the APR on your current credit card

Many balance transfer cards offer 0% APR for a promotional period. This means that you can pay off your balance without accruing any additional interest. 

How long does a balance transfer take

How long does a balance transfer take: Smiling man looks at his credit card while holding his cellphone

There are two ways to look at this question. One, how long does it take to transfer your balance from the existing card to the new credit card? Two, how long does it take to pay off a balance once you transfer it? We’ll answer the first question now and the second question below. 

The process of transferring an existing debt to a new card varies depending on the credit card issuer. Below is a breakdown of common credit card companies and how long it takes to transfer a balance: 

  • American Express: It typically takes five to seven days to transfer a balance. 
  • Bank of America: It can take two weeks after you open the new account to transfer your balance.
  • Capital One: The balance transfer happens immediately, but it can take up to 10 days to reach the creditor you’re transferring your balance from.
  • Chase: Typically, they process in seven days, though it can take up to three weeks. 
  • Citi Bank: At Citi, a balance transfer takes between two and 21 days.
  • Discover: Your account must be open for two weeks before you can begin processing a balance transfer. Once you initiate a transfer request, it takes four days to process.

You should keep paying your minimum payments on your existing card during the time of the transfer. Otherwise, you may lower your TransUnion and FICO credit scores due to the missed payment. 

How long does it take to pay off a balance transfer?

Once your existing balance transfers to the new card, you should attempt to pay the balance off during the intro period. It’s during this time that your APR is lowest. 

For instance, you may have a balance transfer card with a 0% introductory APR for the first 18 months after the account opening. There won’t be any interest charges to your credit card account during this time as long as you continue to make your minimum monthly payments on time

If you do miss a payment during the introductory time frame, your intro APR is likely to revert to the card’s standard APR (though this ultimately depends on your terms and conditions). 

So, in summary, you should aggressively pay down your balance during the introductory period of time. Once the initial time period for the balance transfer offer expires, you will lose access to your 0% interest rate, and your credit card company will begin charging you interest.

There is one other thing to consider when figuring out how balance transfers work. Most promo offers begin when the account opens. However, as we identified in the section above, the actual money may not transfer from your old account for a couple of weeks. This means you’re cutting into your promo period even though there’s technically nothing for you to be paying off on the new card yet. 

What are the benefits of a balance transfer? 

A balance transfer card can be a useful tool because it allows you to pay down debt without having to worry about interest if your promotional interest rate is 0%. Credit cards have compounding interest, typically with high APRs. 

By transferring from your existing accounts, you allow yourself to pay down balances without having to keep ahead of compounding interest. And, even if you don’t receive a promo APR of 0% on your balance transfer card, there’s a strong chance that the APR on the card is less than what you’re paying on your current credit cards. Again, this gives you a chance to reduce how much you spend in interest. 

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A balance transfer card can also give you a chance to build your credit score. By paying on time, your credit report will show a streak of good spending habits to lenders. You will also reduce your credit utilization ratio, which may boost your credit standing. 

A balance transfer card provides an opportunity to build good credit. With a good credit score, you are typically more appealing to lenders, allowing you to do things like apply for the best credit cards (like cashback credit cards) or a mortgage. 

What are the downsides of a balance transfer?

Though balance transfer cards can be advantageous, there are a few downsides to consider. The first is that there is usually a balance transfer fee, which is typically 3% to5% of the total transfer amount, depending on the financial institution

Let’s say that you transfer $5,000 from one credit card and $5,000 from another. If your intro APR is 0% and your balance transfer fee is 4%, it’ll add an extra $400 to your balance. So, the total amount that you’ll need to pay off is $10,400. 

Now, you won’t have to pay interest on this amount, as long as you make the payments during the introductory period. And, 4% is likely a lot cheaper than the high APR you were paying on your old card.

The other thing to consider is that your credit score may take a slight hit because the lender will need to run a hard inquiry to open your new card. The balance transfer card is indeed a new card, which means you’ll need to submit a credit card application. A hard inquiry may slightly lower your credit score. But, if you make timely payments, avoid late fees, and pay down your balance, your credit score will likely recover. 

Are there any alternatives to balance transfers? 

One viable alternative to balance transfers is Tally, which is a credit card payoff app. Tally extends you a line of credit1, which it then uses to pay down your credit cards. Tally pays down your credit cards in the most efficient way possible using the debt snowball method. 

Your credit cards are paid down automatically, which means you don’t have to think about making your minimum payments. Tally enables you to get out of debt in the quickest, most efficient way possible. 

Pay down debt with a balance transfer card 

A woman pays a bill with her credit card on her cellphone

A balance transfer card provides an opportunity to pay down credit card debt and improve your personal finances. By paying off credit card debt at a lower rate than the rates on your current credit card, you can reduce how much interest lenders charge you. 

Once you open a balance transfer card, you’ll want to try to pay off your balance during the introductory period. The process of the actual transfer from your old accounts to your new accounts may take a couple of weeks, and this time does count against your introductory period. 

If you prefer not to use a balance transfer card, look to Tally instead. Tally is a credit card payoff app that, much like a balance transfer card, helps you pay off debt. However, because it’s automated, there is much less management involved. Tally is an excellent option if you’re looking to get out of debt as efficiently as possible. 

1To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. The APR (which is the same as your interest rate) Will be between 7.90% – 29.9% per year, and will be based on your credit history. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.