Key takeaways

  • You can save on interest payments by transferring debt to a balance transfer card that features a 0 percent intro APR.
  • In addition to transferring credit card debt, some balance transfer cards allow you to transfer personal loans, auto loans, home equity loans, and student loans.
  • Not all card issuers allow you to transfer all sorts of debts, and they will typically not allow you to transfer card debt within a family of cards from the same issuer.
  • If you don't pay off your transferred debt before the promotional period ends, you will be on the hook for higher interest payments.

If you’re tired of paying high interest rates on your credit card debt, a balance transfer credit card could be a powerful solution. Balance transfer cards allow you to move debt that is subject to a high annual percentage rate (APR) to a new card with an introductory 0 percent APR.

However, credit card debt isn’t the only debt that you can transfer to other credit cards. Many card issuers allow you to transfer personal loans, as well as auto, home equity loans and student loan debt, too. Doing so could help you save thousands of dollars in interest. But if you can’t pay off that debt before those introductory offers end, you could face even higher interest payments.

This is why anyone considering transferring large chunks of debt to credit cards should take the time to craft a plan for how they’ll pay them off. Here’s what you need to know about the types of debt you can transfer to a credit card, as well as how to set yourself up for success with a payment plan.

Acceptable debts you can transfer to a credit card

Most people consider balance transfer cards when looking to transfer high-interest credit card debt, but it is possible to transfer other kinds of debt. So, what debts can you transfer to a balance transfer card? Here’s a quick rundown of the different account balances you may be able to transfer to a balance transfer card, depending on the issuer.

Credit card debt

According to a recent Bankrate survey on credit card debt, 49 percent of credit card holders carry a balance from month to month. If you’re one of those people, using a balance transfer card to get ahead of your interest payments may be a good option.

The average credit card interest rate is currently hovering above 20 percent, but this is just the average. Your individual interest rate could be much higher depending on the credit card you have and your personal credit. A reprieve from paying interest for over a year or more could give you the breathing room you need to pay off your credit card debt in full.

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Keep in mind: One point to note is that card issuers generally won’t allow you to transfer credit card debt from within their own card family. This means you can’t shuffle your debt from a card issued by Bank of America to another Bank of America card, for example.

Auto loans

Most card issuers allow you to transfer auto loan debt, too. As an extra benefit, when you transfer auto loan debt to a balance transfer credit card, you’ll officially be paying off the lender servicing that loan. This means you’ll get the title of your car earlier than you otherwise would have.

However, this is where the distinction of “can” and “should” comes into play with balance transfer cards. Can you transfer auto loan debt? Absolutely. Should you? Well, that depends on whether you can pay off the transferred amount before that 0 percent offer ends. 

That’s because auto loans generally come with lower interest rates than credit cards. You don’t want to swap a low interest rate with a much higher one when your new credit card’s regular APR kicks in on your remaining balance.

Personal loans

Can you transfer the balance of a personal loan to a balance transfer card? Possibly. The answer to this question depends on the credit card issuer. For example, you can balance transfer a personal loan with Bank of America but not American Express.

Again, the bigger question here is, should you balance transfer a personal loan? The interest rates on personal loans are generally lower than those you get with a credit card, although they may be higher for borrowers with poor credit or fair credit. If you’re in these groups, moving your debt to a credit card with an intro APR offer could save you money on interest.

However, if you have good credit, you’ll likely have a better interest rate on a personal loan than a credit card. If you’re confident you can pay off the balance during your balance transfer card’s intro APR period, then paying no interest is certainly better than whatever low interest rate your personal loan charges. But if life throws you a curveball and you can’t pay the card balance off in full, you could wind up paying more in interest than you would have if you left your personal loan in place.

Student loans

While transferring student loan debt to credit cards is possible, it may not be the best financial decision. Federal student loans come with protections such as repayment plans and forgiveness programs; you’ll lose these protections if you transfer that debt to a credit card. However, if you’re carrying private student loans with higher interest rates, moving them to a balance transfer card with a low introductory APR can give you a window of opportunity to pay down your remaining debt without incurring interest.

Home equity loans

If you’ve taken out home equity loans to cover the costs of a kitchen remodel or other home improvement projects, you can also transfer this debt to a credit card. However, there is a catch.

Since renovations are so expensive, home equity loans tend to be large. It’s rare to find a credit card with a large enough credit limit to transfer your entire home equity loan. However, if you’ve paid down enough of your loan or have a relatively low home equity loan to begin with, this might be feasible.

Debts you can transfer to a balance transfer card, by issuer

Many issuers allow you to transfer different types of debt to a balance transfer card as long as it’s not from an account with the same issuer, although these policies may vary. Here is a list of what is generally allowed by each issuer, but it is important to consult the issuer about your options prior to attempting to make a balance transfer:

Credit card balance Personal loan balance Student loan balance Auto loan balance Home equity loan balance
American Express
Bank of America
Capital One
Wells Fargo

The bottom line

If you want to transfer loan debt to a credit card, it is important to choose a balance transfer card and an issuer that will allow it. Just remember to be smart: You can save plenty in interest by transferring loan debt to a card with a 0 percent interest rate period, but if you don’t pay that debt off in time, you may actually end up paying more in interest in the long run.