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 may allow you to skip interest payments temporarily. The best balance transfer credit cards offer a 0 percent introductory APR period, which gives you a set period of time to pay down your balance with no interest. Not only will you save on interest payments, but you can put the money you would have spent on interest towards paying down more of your debt.

Word of warning: 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 usually take between 7 and 10 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 when transferring from some banks. It’s a good idea to confirm with your lender 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
American Express 5 to 7 business days
Bank of America Up to 2 weeks
Capital One About 10 business days
Chase Up to 21 days
Citi Up to 21 days (possibly longer with some banks)
Discover 7 to 10 days
Wells Fargo 7 to 21 days

Keep paying your bills

Remember, a balance transfer won’t happen overnight. It can take as little as a week for a balance to be transferred or upwards of three weeks. Until the transfer is complete, you need to make sure you’re still making any necessary payments on your old credit cards or you may rack up interest charges and late fees for missing payments. Double-check that you have a $0 balance on those old accounts before you stop making payments on them.

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 keep on top of 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 Citi® Double Cash Card, your transfer will be complete when the $1,000 is debited from your Citi Double Cash 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 double-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 been posted to the card account yet, leaving them with an unexpected balance on their old credit card.

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.

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, keep a close eye on your balance transfer credit card account to track your balance transfer process. If your balance transfer has not been 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.