Key takeaways

  • Balance transfer checks are a way to transfer credit card balances from one issuer to another with a lower interest rate.
  • These checks may come with fees and may not offer the same benefits as balance transfer credit cards, so read the fine prints to understand all the terms and fees.
  • Opting out of balance transfer checks can be done by contacting the issuer directly.

Many people carry at least one credit card balance from month to month. In fact, a 2023 Bankrate survey indicated that 49 percent of cardholders carry this type of revolving debt — and that percentage has risen over the past few years, with only 39 percent of cardholders carrying a balance in 2021.

Since so many people are dealing with outstanding credit card balances, many major credit card issuers give you the option to transfer these balances from one issuer’s card to a card with a different issuer and a lower interest rate. Today’s best balance transfer credit cards come with at least 12 months of 0 percent introductory annual percentage rate (APR), allowing you the opportunity to pay down your transferred balance before it starts to accrue interest.

A few credit card issuers also offer balance transfer checks, which give you the option to complete your transfer with a paper check instead of requesting a balance transfer online or over the phone. Balance transfer checks can help you pay off credit card debt, but they don’t always come with the same perks as a balance transfer credit card — and they may come with higher fees or interest rates.

Let’s take a closer look at how balance transfer checks work, how to request them and whether using them to pay off debt is a good idea.

What are balance transfer checks?

A balance transfer check is a paper check provided by a credit card issuer that lets you transfer a balance from one credit card to another credit card with a different issuer. Credit card companies sometimes issue blank transfer checks so their customers will move an owed balance from a competitor’s credit card to their account.

However, not all credit card issuers offer balance transfer checks. In fact, balance transfer checks have fallen out of popularity in recent years. Since so much of our day-to-day banking experience takes place online, balance transfers have moved online as well. That said, a few issuers still make balance transfer checks available to cardholders — and many issuers still allow you to request a balance transfer over the phone.

How do balance transfer checks work?

Balance transfer checks work a lot like a typical balance transfer you’d perform between a regular credit card and a balance transfer card. But instead of you making a direct online transfer from the card with debt to the balance transfer card, you’ll write a check from the corresponding card against the card with debt so you can pay off that card’s balance. Also, the amount you transfer cannot exceed your balance transfer card limit. This means the balance you transfer to your credit card cannot take you over your total credit limit on that card.


Money tip: You can’t always transfer up to your full credit limit. Some issuers will cap the amount of your credit limit you can use for balance transfers.

Let’s consider this example: Credit Card A comes with introductory 0 percent APR balance transfer checks. You decide to use one of your balance transfer checks to pay off a $1,000 credit card balance you’re currently carrying on Credit Card B that has a high APR. You make your balance transfer check from Card A out for $1,000 and use it to make a payment against Card B. At that point, Card B’s balance is cleared out — but Card A has $1,000 added to its balance (plus any associated balance transfer fees) since you just used a balance transfer check to borrow $1,000 from Card A to pay off Card B.

That’s how a balance transfer check can help you consolidate your debt and manage your credit card balances. If Credit Card A offers lower interest rates than Credit Card B, transferring a balance to Credit Card A could save you a lot of money in interest charges.

Take the time to do the math with our credit card balance transfer calculator to determine the amount of time you’ll need to pay off your debt.

Balance transfer checks vs. convenience checks

In addition to balance transfer checks, some credit card issuers offer convenience checks. These checks allow you to write a check against your available credit and deposit the check wherever checks are accepted — in your own bank account, with a retailer or utility provider and so on. However, convenience checks are treated like credit card cash advances and often come with extremely high fees and interest rates.

In some cases, a credit card issuer may offer you a check that can function as either a balance transfer check or a convenience check, depending on how you deposit it. If you use the check to transfer a balance from one card to another, it becomes a balance transfer check. If you write the check to someone else or deposit the check into your bank account, it is treated like a convenience check — even if you use the money to pay off your credit card balance. To avoid unexpected fees, read the fine print and, if in doubt, contact your issuer for clarification.

Considerations before using a balance transfer check

Both balance transfer checks and balance transfer credit cards often come with balance transfer fees. This means you’ll pay a fee for every balance you transfer, often in the form of a percentage of the transferred balance. Most balance transfer credit cards charge between 3 percent and 5 percent, which means you’ll pay between $30 and $50 in fees for every $1,000 you transfer. Balance transfer checks can have significantly higher balance transfer fees than balance transfer cards, so it’s important to consult the fees section of your credit card agreement before using them.

Another reason to read the fine print before using a balance transfer check is to find out your balance transfer APR and whether you’ll get to take advantage of any introductory APR promotions. While the best balance transfer credit cards offer a 0 percent intro APR on balance transfers for a year or more, not all balance transfer checks offer the same benefit. If your balance transfer checks don’t include a 0 percent intro APR period, you’ll start paying interest on your balance as soon as it’s transferred.

You should also make sure you’re dealing with a balance transfer check and not a convenience check, which allows you to take out a cash advance against your credit card. While you can use a cash advance to pay off credit card debt, convenience checks typically come with high APRs and significant cash advance fees. Knowing the difference between a balance transfer check and a convenience check can help you avoid making an expensive mistake.

Even if your balance transfer check offers a 0 percent introductory interest rate, that doesn’t mean the same promo APR applies to your purchases. Be sure to check specifically for a card with a 0 percent intro APR on purchases if that’s what you need.

Which issuers offer balance transfer checks?

Each credit card issuer has its own method of issuing balance transfer checks. Some credit card issuers, such as Citi, may send balance transfer checks to eligible cardholders. Other issuers, such as Bank of America, may allow you to request balance transfer checks. Wells Fargo offers SUPERCHECKS that can be used as convenience checks or balance transfer checks, and Capital One can help you fill out an electronic check which will transfer the funds to another credit card account. U.S. Bank offers balance transfer checks during various promotions

If you’re interested in obtaining balance transfer checks, it would be best to contact your issuer to confirm they’re currently being offered and to see if you’re eligible. It may be easier to complete a balance transfer online or over the phone, so make sure to consider all your options.

If your balance transfer check offers benefits on par with today’s best balance transfer credit cards, then using it to consolidate debt and pay off old balances can be a good idea.

On the other hand, balance transfer checks that come with high fees and high balance transfer APRs are rarely your best choice — especially because there are likely many balance transfer credit cards that may be available to you that will offer lower fees and better terms.

Balance transfer checks aren’t your only option for paying down credit card debt. If you’re not interested in using a balance transfer check or balance transfer card to pay off debt, you might want to consider other popular debt repayment methods, such as using a low-interest personal loan to pay off your credit card or working with a credit counseling service to learn how to create a budget, consolidate your debts and more.

If you’re interested in more debt guidance, check out our credit card debt resources to discover how you can better manage your debt, and also refer to our debt repayment calculator.

How to opt out of balance transfer checks

Some issuers will keep sending balance transfer checks from time to time, even if you haven’t specifically requested them. If you don’t want to get these checks, you can choose to opt out of such marketing offers.

Do this by contacting the issuer directly — either by phone, online, through email or regular mail. Your card should have a customer service number on it. Use that contact information to follow up with a customer service representative and inform them of your preference. You could also look up your card account online and follow the information available there to opt out of marketing offers.


  • Although you can deposit a balance transfer check directly into your checking account, your credit card issuer will likely treat the check like a cash advance. In this case, you could get stuck paying higher fees and interest rates than you might have been charged if you’d used the check to transfer a balance from one credit card to another.
  • A balance transfer check should take roughly two business days to clear. This is about the same amount of time it takes for a standard check to clear. However, it may take your credit card issuer a few more business days to apply the transferred balance to your account. Most balance transfers take five to seven days to fully complete, although some transfers can take between 14 and 21 days to finalize.

The bottom line

Balance transfer checks can help you consolidate your credit card debt and pay off old balances — but not all offer the same terms as the leading balance transfer credit cards. Make sure the check you want to use for a balance transfer is not a cash advance convenience check that carries a much higher rate than a regular balance transfer check. That’s why you should verify the interest rate before you use a balance transfer check. In some cases, using a balance transfer check to pay off debt will be less cost-effective than applying for a balance transfer credit card.