When it comes to debt consolidation, a balance transfer credit card can be a valuable tool. Most credit cards in this niche give you a 0 percent APR for a limited time, which can help you save money and pay down debt faster. Not only that, but consolidating debt with a balance transfer card can help you simplify your finances, and you can get access to valuable consumer protections and potentially even rewards on your spending.
Still, the details can get murky when it comes to the types of debt you can transfer to a credit card. For example, can you transfer a personal loan to a credit card? And what other rules might limit your ability to consolidate debt with different issuers?
While balance transfers can work for different types of debt, this guide explains which debts you can transfer and which ones you’ll have to pay down another way.
Types of debts that can be transferred to credit cards, by issuer
Before you initiate a balance transfer, you should understand the rules for each card issuer. We’ve broken down the details on balance transfers with major credit card issuers below:
American Express doesn’t accept balance transfer requests for amounts less than $100, and some reports show that Amex will only let you complete a balance transfer in amounts up to 75 percent of your credit limit or $7,500, whichever is less. Also, note that it could take up to six weeks for your Amex balance transfer to process, although it could take as little as five to seven days.
When it comes to the type of debts you can transfer to an American Express credit card, you are limited to credit card debt from other card issuers.
Bank of America
According to Bank of America, they may send only part of your requested balance transfer amount to your creditors if the amount you request exceeds the available credit you qualify for. A Bank of America balance transfer can also take at least two weeks to process, and you’ll need to be diligent about making payments on all other accounts during that time.
Fortunately, Bank of America lets you transfer a broad range of debts to their credit card products, including credit card debt, personal loans, student loans, auto loans and more, provided they are held by another card issuer or lender.
Barclays offers several credit cards with preferential balance transfer terms, which you can utilize to consolidate and pay down debt. You have the option to transfer debt from Visa, Mastercard and American Express credit cards from other issuers, although Barclays says they have the right to decline balance transfer requests for any reason.
Also, be aware that balance transfers can take up to four weeks to process. Further, Barclays says you can transfer other types of debt to your balance transfer card (i.e. personal loans, student loans, auto loans and more) by calling the number on the back of your card when you receive it.
Capital One lets cardholders initiate balance transfers up to the amount of their available credit, and they allow transferred balances from other credit cards, personal loans, student loans and auto loans. Balance transfers through Capital One can take up to 14 days to process, with the speed depending on whether they receive your request electronically or by mail.
Chase sets a balance transfer limit of $15,000 within any 30-day period and states it can deny your balance transfer request if your account is past due or over the limit, if you request more than the maximum amount allowed or for any other reason.
Note that, while Chase balance transfers may process within a week, it could take up to 21 days to see your balances fully transferred to your new account. With Chase, you can only use a balance transfer credit card to consolidate debt from other credit card accounts.
Citi lets cardholders transfer debts from other credit card issuers, as well as personal loans, student loans, home equity loans, payday loans and more. Further, Citi balance transfers can take up to 21 days to complete.
With Discover credit cards, you can consolidate debt carried on credit cards from other issuers, and you can transfer any amount up to your total available credit line. You can only make balance transfer requests with Discover on accounts that list you as an account holder, and you may only receive part of your requested balances transferred depending on the credit limit you can qualify for.
Wells Fargo lets you use their balance transfers for credit card debt with other issuers, personal loans, student loans, auto loans and home equity loans, and you can request a Wells Fargo balance transfer up to your available credit limit. Note, you may not be eligible for introductory balance transfer terms if you have opened a Wells Fargo credit card within 15 months of the date of your application. This rule applies even if your old account was closed in good standing and with a $0 balance.
Fees associated with transferring debt to credit cards
While some balance transfer credit cards waived balance transfer fees in the past, the majority of balance transfer offers charge an upfront fee based on the debt amount you want transferred. While most balance transfer credit cards charge a 3 percent balance transfer fee, many cards charge fees as high as 5 percent. Also be aware that a minimum balance transfer fee might apply, although it’s usually a nominal amount such as $5 or $10.
Other fees to be aware of include annual fees credit cards can charge, late fees, returned payment fees and over-the-limit fees. Also note that you’ll only qualify for an introductory APR for a limited time, after which you’ll be asked to pay the regular variable APR your credit card charges.
Common exceptions to be aware of
Transferring a balance from one credit card to another can help you save money and pay down debt faster, but there are situations where the fine print can ruin your debt consolidation plans. The following exceptions can make transferring balances more difficult:
You cannot transfer balances with the same card issuer
Most importantly, all major card issuers prohibit transferring debt among different credit cards they offer. This means that, if you have credit card debt on a Chase credit card, you’ll have to transfer balances to a card from another issuer like Citi or Barclays.
Also, be aware that the same rule applies to other financial products with the same institution and any affiliated lenders. Chase lays out this rule clearly on their website: “Balance transfers may not be used to pay other credit cards or loans issued by JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. or any of our affiliates.”
You have to get approved for the 0 percent APR offer
You should also know you need to get approved for the balance transfer credit card you want before you can count on this type of debt consolidation, and that the best balance transfer credit cards on the market today require very good or excellent credit.
If your credit score is less than stellar, you may have to consider balance transfer cards for poor credit instead.
You may only get part of the debt moved to your new account
When you read the fine print on balance transfer offers, you’ll find you may receive a partial balance transfer instead of the full amount. This depends on the amount of debt you want to transfer and if it’s more than the available credit you qualify for.
The bottom line
Before you try to transfer loans to credit cards, you should have a basic understanding of balance transfer rules with each card issuer. While some let you use a balance transfer credit card to consolidate other types of debt like student loans and auto loans, other card issuers make this an impossibility.
In the meantime, you should also compare balance transfer credit cards to find options with the best rates and terms. Fortunately, there are plenty of 0 percent APR credit cards out there.