Key takeaways

  • The amount you can transfer with a balance transfer credit card depends on your credit limit, which is determined by factors like your credit score and income as well as the issuer’s policies.
  • You can transfer debt from multiple credit cards to a balance transfer card, as long as it fits within your credit limit.
  • If you don’t get the credit limit you need, you can ask your issuer for a higher limit after using your card responsibly for a while, or you can apply for a different card.
  • Instead of getting a balance transfer card, you can consider alternative options for consolidating your debt, such as a personal loan.

Balance transfers can sometimes feel like a complicated process of finding a credit card with a high enough limit and wondering whether to transfer one existing balance or all of them. It becomes easier to make the right decision when you know what the balance transfer limits are.

When you have a large single balance or multiple smaller balances to pay off, you may be able to use the zero percent introductory APR of a balance transfer credit card to help you demolish chunks of debt and save money on interest. How much you can transfer depends on the credit limit on your new card, which your card issuer determines with factors like your credit score and income. You won’t know what your balance transfer credit card limit is for certain until you get approved, but you can still implement some tools and tips to make the most of it.

How much debt can you transfer?

More than ever, credit cardholders are looking for ways to manage skyrocketing debt balances. As of November 2023, 49 percent of cardholders carried a balance from month to month according to Bankrate’s debt survey — a 10 percent jump from 2021. With the average APR for revolving credit standing at 22.77 percent in the latest data from the Federal Reserve, it’s easy to see why transferring the most credit card debt possible is critical.

The exact amount you’re able to transfer depends on your card, your issuer and the credit limit you receive. Card issuers typically have rules surrounding the amount of debt you can transfer in relation to your credit limit.

Many issuers are generous, giving cardholders the ability to transfer their full credit limit, but in some cases, your transfer limit may be capped at 75 percent of your overall credit limit. Some card issuers also have internal rules for balance transfers. Chase, for example, lets cardholders transfer only up to $15,000 to their cards within a 30-day period.

It’s important to note that a balance transfer fee is typically considered a part of your transferable balance, making your “true” limit slightly lower than you may have expected unless you have one of the best cards with no balance transfer fee.

For example, if you have a card with a $5,000 balance transfer limit and a 3 percent balance transfer fee, the most you’ll be able to transfer is about $4,850. That transfer amount plus the 3 percent fee brings your total to $4,495.50 and keeps you under the limit.

Be sure to read through your credit card agreement or talk to your issuer to determine if and how the balance transfer fee affects your limit.

How many credit card accounts can you consolidate?

You can consolidate as many accounts and balances as your credit limits and card issuers allow.

If you’re juggling debt on multiple credit cards, you might have a hard time figuring out the best way to consolidate your debt, though. There are actually two main ways you can consolidate credit cards: by consolidating the debt from multiple balances onto a balance transfer card and by consolidating two different credit card accounts into one.

When you move a balance from one credit card to a balance transfer card, the first credit card remains open, but its balance drops to $0. When you consolidate credit card accounts, on the other hand, you are merging two card accounts into one, meaning one card will close entirely and the other card will absorb its remaining balance, as well as its credit limit — if your issuer allows for that. Let’s break down the details of these two methods of consolidation.

Consolidating your balances onto a balance transfer card

If you have multiple credit cards, you may be able to transfer debt from each of them over to your new balance transfer card so long as you don’t go over your credit limit. If you have widespread debt that will surpass your credit limit, however, don’t try to open up multiple balance transfer cards to circumvent the issue. Doing so leads to multiple hard inquiries on your credit report and will likely hurt your credit score.

Also be aware of the types of debt you can transfer. In addition to credit card balances, most major issuers allow you to transfer various loan balances, including student loans, auto loans and even home equity loans. However, select issuers — such as American Express and Chase — reserve balance transfers for credit card debt only.

Lastly, keep in mind that you typically cannot transfer balances between different cards from the same issuer. For example, you cannot transfer debt from one Citi credit card to another Citi card.

Consolidating two or more credit card accounts into one account

While you can’t typically transfer balances from one card to another with the same bank, if you have debt across more than one card from the same issuer, you may be able to consolidate your accounts into one. Doing this will not only allow you to consolidate your debt, but will also allow you to get rid of cards you no longer want, such as one with an annual fee that you no longer want to pay.

To consolidate two or more accounts, you’ll have to start by calling your credit card issuer. They likely have rules over which cards you can and cannot consolidate, if any.

You can then ask them to consolidate your accounts — but make sure to specify that you want to maintain your credit limit. If you consolidate two cards with a $5,000 limit each but don’t also consolidate your credit limits, then you’ll go from having $10,000 in available credit to $5,000, which will impact your credit utilization ratio.

Combining cards won’t get you the same 0 percent APR period that a balance transfer card typically does, however. Plus, you might still be subject to a balance transfer fee during this process, so make sure you keep the card with a lower APR to help you save on interest payments.

How to find out your card’s balance transfer limit

You might find your potential credit limit for a new balance transfer credit card by pre-qualifying before submitting a full application. That way you know whether it’s worth your time to apply. Certain credit issuers have pre-qualification which tells you whether you’d be approved for their card without a hard credit check and sometimes provides your potential credit limit.

You’ll still have to submit an application once you land on a final decision, but pre-qualifying could save you some hard inquiries in the process. Instead of pre-qualifying through multiple credit card sites, you could use Bankrate’s CardMatch tool to get the best card offers delivered directly to you. This can give you a good idea of where you stand without having to officially apply.

You can also check the card’s terms and conditions to find information on the credit limit minimum or range. If you’re looking for the balance transfer limit on a card you already own, look in these two places:

  1. Your card’s overall credit limit
  2. The balance transfer fee

Your card’s overall credit limit is the maximum amount you can put on the card. That includes  everyday purchases, balance transfers or a combination of both. If you scour through the fine print and find no additional balance transfer restrictions, then you can safely assume you can transfer a balance up to your full credit limit — minus the balance transfer fee, of course.

You’ll find this information online in your issuer’s account portal and in your card agreement. If you can’t find it there, you can always contact your card issuer and have an associate provide you with more information.

Use your income to get a high credit limit

One of the biggest factors used to determine your credit limit is your income. So when you’re looking for a high-limit credit card, it’s important to declare the entire income amount you are legally able to state on your credit card application. The CARD Act of 2009 makes it legal to use your household income when applying for a credit card instead of just your own. This means you can list your own income and that of other household members, like your spouse, in order to qualify for a higher credit limit.

Learn more: Can I use my spouse’s income on credit card applications?

What to do when your credit limit is too low

Improving your credit score can help incentivize issuers to increase your credit limit. A better credit history gives issuers more confidence that you’re going to pay back what you borrow and allows them to loosen the reins on your credit limit. The following tips can help guide you through the process of increasing your credit limit:

  • It may be as simple as asking. Many credit card issuers allow their cardholders to ask for a credit limit increase online. You can also call the customer service line to ask a representative if you’re eligible for a credit limit increase. You will most likely have to update your income information, so if your income has dipped recently, it’s likely not a good time to ask. You’ll also want to ask whether your issuer will have to perform a hard credit inquiry before processing your request. Doing so could hurt your credit score.
  • Some credit card issuers give automatic credit limit increases after cardholders have established a history of responsible behavior. Paying your bill on time each month and managing your credit responsibly might lead your card issuer to raise your credit limit unprompted. Reporting an increased income or reaching certain cardholder anniversaries could also trigger this.
  • If your credit is in good shape and you have a strong payment history, you could be approved for a new credit card with a higher limit. This is especially important when considering a balance transfer credit card because it gives you more space to transfer debt. However, applying for another new card soon after getting approved for a card could signal added risk for card issuers and requires a new hard inquiry on your credit report.

If none of these options are right for you, it might be time to consider balance transfer alternatives. Debt management plans, payoff strategies or debt consolidation loans could help you dig your way out of debt even though it may not have the same zero percent APR offer.

The bottom line

Your balance transfer limit can vary depending on factors like your income, your credit score and how much debt you currently have. Your best bet is to make sure your credit score is in good shape before you apply and that you’re including all of your applicable household income in your application. The best balance transfer credit cards offer long introductory offers of 18 months or longer. With thorough research and planning, you up your chances of being approved for the card transfer limit you require.