Key takeaways

  • While you can’t pay off a credit card with another credit card, you can move the debt to a balance transfer card.
  • For maximum benefits, make a debt payoff plan and aim to pay off your balance during the 0 percent intro APR period, which usually lasts between 12 and 21 months.
  • Be aware of balance transfer fees, which vary from card to card but usually range from 3 percent to 5 percent of the total transferred balance.

Debt is a reality that many of us have to face in our day-to-day lives. If you’re trying to pay off credit card debt that has gotten out of hand, using another credit card is generally not an option. However, there is a loophole — you could use a balance transfer credit card to help pay down your debt.

Now, whether or not getting a balance transfer credit card is the right solution for managing high-interest credit card debt is entirely up to you. But with the right 0 percent intro APR offer and a certain level of discipline, it could be a worthwhile option.

Why you can’t pay a credit card with a credit card

Paying off a credit card with a credit card simply isn’t possible. Credit card issuers tend to only accept the following payment types when you pay your bill each month: checks, electronic bank transfers and money orders. While this may be disappointing, it’s possible you may be able to use a balance transfer credit card to transfer a balance from one credit card to another credit card.

If you use this option, be sure to come up with a plan to pay down your debt and not accumulate more debt. If your debt becomes out of control, it will only cause more issues. Your debt will become harder to manage and pay off, and odds are, you’ll face high interest charges on your new credit card — much like the first credit card.

But with the right balance transfer credit card, you can transfer your debt and pay it down (or pay it off entirely) during a 0 percent intro APR period. These 0 percent intro APR offers typically last anywhere from 12 to 21 months, which could provide you with plenty of time to pay down your debt before the regular variable APR kicks in.

What to consider before transferring a balance

To get the most out of using a balance transfer card, you’ll want to look for cards that have no annual fees and offer cash back rewards. Here are a few other considerations to keep in mind:

  • Is there a balance transfer fee? Balance transfer fees typically range from 3 percent to 5 percent of the total balance you transfer to your new card. For example, for every $10,000 you transfer, you’ll need to pay an additional $300 or $500 in fees. If you are looking to transfer a much smaller balance, there’s typically a minimum charge in place, anywhere from $5 to $10. The balance transfer fee you’ll pay depends on which credit card you choose, so keep this in mind while you’re browsing for balance transfer cards.
  • When does the 0 percent intro APR offer end? To get the most out of your balance transfer card, ensure you can pay off the entire balance before the 0 percent intro APR period ends. Once this period inevitably comes to an end, your balance will start accruing interest at the variable rate. It’s important to know how long your offer lasts so you can create a plan to pay off your debt before the regular APR starts.
  • How will your credit score be impacted? Usually when we’re stuck with debt, our credit score is negatively affected. Paying off debt with a balance transfer card will also affect your credit score in a few ways. Applying for a new card will trigger an inquiry into your credit report, which will temporarily lower your score a bit. It will also drop your accounts’ average age. But a new card may also help to lower your credit utilization ratio, which may help your score to improve over time.
  • What will your new credit limit be? Unfortunately, when it comes to credit limits, there is no guarantee that you’ll be approved for an amount that’s sufficient for large balance transfers. If you’re looking to transfer a large balance and your credit limit falls short, you’ll be stuck paying off two balances.

How to pay off debt with a credit card

While a balance transfer card may be a tool to help you pay off debt, it’s not a magic solution. Paying off debt and keeping it under control involves a number of important steps. Here are some of the big ones:

Know how much you owe

When debt starts piling up, it’s often easier to ignore what you owe than to crunch the numbers. However, the first step to getting out of debt is knowing the full amount in black and white. So, sit down with all of your bills — car loan, medical bills, credit cards, etc. — and make a list of what you currently owe for each bill. Make sure you note any interest rates that will be added on as well (these are an important factor in paying off your debt).

Make a debt payoff plan

There are a variety of balance transfer cards out there that will offer you a 0 percent intro APR period to help you pay off the debt you’ve transferred. The best balance transfer cards offer 0 percent intro APR periods for 15 to 21 months, after which you’ll be responsible for any remaining balance plus added interest. Before transferring your debt, take the time to figure out how much you will need to pay each month to pay off the debt before your 0 percent intro APR offer ends. If you need some help crunching the numbers, try out our credit card payoff calculator.

Create a payment schedule

Once you’ve calculated how much you’ll need to pay each month to pay off your debt, make a payment schedule — and stick to it. Late fees will only add to your existing debt, so it’s important that you pay your bills on time. If you have the option, set up automatic payments to ensure consistent payments and help avoid late or missed payments.

Handle high-interest debt first

If you are dealing with debt from multiple places, handle your high-interest debt first. A balance transfer card’s 0 percent intro APR period will give you a chance to pay off that debt without having to worry about paying high interest for a while. For other debts, continue to pay your minimum payment each month until the high-interest debt is taken care of.

Use available tools

Paying off debt starts with knowing where you stand. Consumers can get a free copy of their credit report from or from any of the three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. Additionally, most banks provide free access to credit scores, which is an easy way to quickly check and monitor your current score.

Another tool that’s helpful for debt repayment is setting up account alerts for when payments are due. This is especially helpful if setting up auto payments is not an option.

Keep your options open

Balance transfer cards are helpful tools, but they aren’t for everyone. If your credit is not in a good place to add another card to your rotation, you may want to look at other options for paying off credit card debt. For instance, you could look into a debt management service to help you negotiate payment options with your creditors. Or you could pay off the credit card debt with a personal loan, as those loans may have lower interest rates than credit cards.

The bottom line

Paying off credit card debt feels amazing, and a balance transfer card can often be the key to getting there. However, paying off debt may not last very long if your spending habits don’t change. As you work to pay off your debt, also come up with a working budget for your current and future spending to keep your debt in check.