How long does a balance transfer take?

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A balance transfer is when you move a balance from one credit card to another. If you’re trying to reduce your credit card debt and pay it off as quickly as possible, a balance transfer is a great way to pay down old debt without paying interest. The best balance transfer credit cards offer a 0% introductory APR period, which gives you a long window to pay down your balance with no interest.

However, balance transfers take time to process. If you are used to credit card transactions clearing your account in a single business day, you might be surprised to learn that it can take between a week and a month for balance transfers to complete. Here’s what you need to know about how long balance transfers usually take, as well as what to do if your transfer is taking longer than anticipated.

How long does a balance transfer usually take?

Balance transfers are not instantaneous. If you transfer a balance onto a new credit card, expect it to take several days for the balance transfer process to complete.

There are no hard-and-fast rules stating how long credit card companies have to complete a balance transfer, the way there are rules about how quickly credit bureaus should lift a credit freeze. This means that balance transfer processing periods vary by lender and bank.

Discover, for example, tells cardholders that balance transfers on a new credit account will process in 14 days—but if you’re transferring a balance onto an existing account, it only takes 7 days to process. Chase and Citi both advise cardholders that balance transfers could take up to 21 days to complete, with Citi noting that the process might take even longer with some banks. Check with your lender to see how long your balance transfer might take.

So how long does a balance transfer take? Let’s look at how long the transfer process can take with a few major credit card issuers.

Credit card issuer Time frame to transfer a balance
Discover 7 to 10 days
Chase Up to 21 days
Citi Up to 21 days (possibly longer with some banks)
American Express 5 to 7 business days
Capital One About 10 business days

How to track your balance transfer’s progress

If you want to know whether your balance transfer is complete, check your credit card account. Some lenders provide an option for you to track your balance transfer’s status online, which makes it easy for you to track its progress.

When your balance transfer has been authorized and processed, it will appear as a debit on the card to which you transferred the balance. In other words: if you transfer a $1,000 balance from the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to the Discover it® Balance Transfer card, your transfer will be complete when the $1,000 is debited from your Discover it Balance Transfer credit account (a balance transfer fee applies).

Be aware that some credit cards may show a balance transfer as “pending” before the process is complete. In that case, your balance transfer is in progress—but it is not yet finalized.

You’ll also want to check your original credit card after your balance transfer has finished processing, just to ensure there isn’t any remaining balance on the card that needs to be paid off. Sometimes people assume they’re transferring the entire balance on their credit card without realizing that a few purchases haven’t posted to the card account yet.

What to do if your balance transfer is delayed

If your balance transfer appears to be taking longer than it should, contact your balance transfer credit card’s customer service department. Remember that it can take some balance transfers close to a month to finish processing, so give your balance transfer some time before assuming there’s a delay.

You might also consider calling the customer service department of the credit card that you transferred the balance from. They might be able to give you some insight into how much longer you’ll need to wait before your balance transfer is complete.

You should also continue making payments on your original credit card until the balance transfer process is complete. Make sure you make at least the minimum payment on time every month to avoid late fees and protect your credit score.

Tips on how to do a balance transfer

Once your application for your balance transfer credit card is approved, you can start the process to transfer the balance. How each lender conducts their balance transfer process can vary, but generally, you’ll have the option of choosing to start the process online or over the phone. If you’re planning on doing a balance transfer, here are a few handy tips that can make the process go smoothly:

Gather the right information

To conduct a balance transfer quickly and efficiently, you’ll need to provide basic information about any credit cards you want to transfer to your new credit card. Make sure you have all of that information ready to help avoid any unnecessary delays.

Review online resources

It can also be helpful to review your credit card issuer’s online resources regarding their particular process before you get started so you know what to expect.

Act quickly

You’ll want to act quickly when doing a balance transfer because you’ll generally gain more benefits that way. For example, if your new credit card comes with a 0 percent introductory APR offer, you’ll want to transfer your old balances over as fast as possible in order to take full advantage of your introductory offer. The longer you wait, the more time you’ll spend paying interest on your old credit cards.

Get a head start

With some lenders, you can even begin the process of transferring your balances during the application process. If the credit card application asks you which balances you are planning to transfer to your new credit card, you may be able to provide your card information and start the balance transfer process right then and there.

Keep paying your bills

A word of warning, a balance transfer doesn’t happen overnight. In some cases, it takes a week for a balance to be transferred, but it can take as long as three weeks with some lenders. Until the transfer is complete, you need to make sure you’re still making any necessary payments on your old credit cards. Double-check that you have a $0 balance on those old accounts before you stop making payments on them.

How to do a balance transfer with different issuers

Conducting a balance transfer can look a bit different depending on which credit card issuer you’re dealing with. We’ve outlined how the process works with a few popular lenders so you can gain a better idea of what to expect before starting the balance transfer process.

The bottom line

If you want to pay off your credit card debt, a balance transfer can help you get the job done. Since balance transfers are not instantaneous, watch your balance transfer credit card account carefully to track your balance transfer’s process. If your balance transfer has not completed within 21 days, contact your credit card issuer’s customer service department to learn what might be holding up the transfer. Keep making payments on your original credit card until your balance transfer is complete and your original card shows a balance of $0.

The information about the Discover it Balance Transfer has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.