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How to transfer a credit card balance

Our step-by-step guide to transferring a balance on your credit card

published: 06 April 2022
Read time: 5 minutes

Transferring a credit card balance can be a great way to cut interest repayments and clear your debt faster. Our guide explains more

Why would I make a credit card balance transfer?

A credit card balance transfer can be useful when you are struggling to pay off your current credit card balance and you’re being charged high rates of interest.

Instead you can switch the balance onto a new balance transfer credit card offering a low or 0% interest rate on transferred balances for an offer period – this can be for up to two years with the most competitive deals.  

You’ll then usually have a limited time to clear what you owe before the standard interest rate kicks in – which will be much higher.   

There is likely to be a one-off fee for making the balance transfer, which is often a percentage of the amount owed, such as 2% or 3% for example.

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What do I need to consider before I transfer a balance?

There are a few things to consider before you sign up for a new balance transfer credit card and make the balance transfer.

How long will the 0% period last?

If you’re taking advantage of a low or 0% interest rate on your new credit card to clear the debt, you’ll need to know how long the introductory period lasts before the interest rates rise. The ideal scenario is that you’ve cleared the debt by this time, so the longer the interest-free period the more leeway you’ll have to pay it all off. 

What fee will I be charged?

Balance transfers typically come with a one-off fee, which is a percentage of the balance you are moving. This fee is typically between 3% to 5%. Often the amount you’ll save in interest repayments will more than justify the fee. But work out the maths before you complete the balance transfer to ensure it makes financial sense.

How long do you have to transfer your existing balance?

It usually makes sense to use your balance transfer card as soon as it arrives – that way you can stop the high interest payments on your old credit card as quickly as possible. Many cards will stipulate that you must transfer any card balances to your new card within a certain time frame, such as the first three months or 90 days. Read the small print and be sure you fully understand the terms and conditions of the transfer.

Will I use the credit card for anything else?

Balance transfer cards are designed to help you clear your balance by providing low or 0% interest rates. But if you use the card for spending it could be expensive, with any new debt charged at a much higher rate. There are credit cards available that have appealing rates for transfer and purchases, but make sure you understand what you’ll be charged and why before signing up.

How do I transfer my credit card balance?

Once you’ve decided you will benefit from transferring your credit card debt to a balance transfer credit card, these are the steps to follow.

1. Apply for a balance transfer card 

Look for low or 0% deals and compare how long the introductory period lasts, plus any fees you’ll be charged for the balance transfer. Our eligibility checker can show you your chances of being approved for any deal – and searching won’t affect your credit score in any way. 

Take note of the terms and conditions. For example, you might not be able to apply for a balance transfer card from your existing credit card provider. When you’re happy with your choice, make the application. 

2. Request the balance transfer  

When your new card arrives, contact the new credit card company to start the balance transfer. You can usually do a balance transfer over the phone or online. You’ll need to provide account numbers of your old cards and tell your new provider how much of your balance you want to transfer (there may sometimes be a maximum limit you can transfer so again, check the T&Cs). It can take several days or even weeks for a balance transfer to be processed. Continue making payments on your old card until you get confirmation the transfer has gone through, so you don’t run the risk of being hit with late payment fees.

3. Clear your debt

With your transferred balance now on the new credit card, you can start paying off the debt . Ideally you’ll aim to clear the balance before the end of the low or 0% interest introductory period. Sometimes your credit limit on a new balance transfer card won’t be enough to cater for all your outstanding debt from other cards. If this is the case, you may wish to prioritise clearing the old card first – where the interest rates are highest. Keep up with the minimum repayments on all cards to avoid late fees and the possibility of having your 0% deal withdrawn. Keep a close eye on when the balance transfer card interest rate is due to rise back to the standard card rate.

Other useful guides

We have a range of helpful credit card guides which could help you with your new card decision:

What is a balance transfer card? How do credit card refunds work? How many credit cards should I have?  

Compare balance transfer cards with MoneySuperMarket?

Comparing balance transfer credit cards with us is quick and simple. Give us a few details about you and your finances and we’ll search the market to find the best deals to suit your needs. 

We’ll show you your chances of being accepted for different card deals so you can apply with greater confidence. Searching like this doesn’t affect your credit score in any way.

MoneySuperMarket is a credit broker – this means we’ll show you products offered by lenders. You must be 18 or over and a UK resident.

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