Key takeaways

  • A 0 percent APR balance transfer offer can help you pay down debt faster and avoid interest charges during the introductory period.
  • Each issuer has a different timeline for balance transfers, and you should keep making payments on your card balance while the transfer is pending.
  • After your balance transfer goes through, make sure you don’t have any remaining balance or interest charges on your old card.

A balance transfer occurs when you move a balance from one credit card to another, and this process typically takes about five to seven days. But a word of warning: Some credit card issuers can take 14 or even 21 days to complete a balance transfer.

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 an introductory 0 percent 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 toward paying down more of your debt.

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 to a new balance transfer 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. Also, keep in mind 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 seven and 10 days. However, if you’re transferring a balance to an existing account, it only takes seven days to process. Chase and Citi both advise cardholders that balance transfers could take up to 21 days to complete, with Citi noting the process might take even longer when transferring from some banks.

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 (possibly up to 6 weeks)
Bank of America Up to 2 weeks
Capital One Up to 10 business days
Chase Up to 21 days
Citi Up to 21 days (possibly longer with some banks)
Discover 7 to 10 days
HSBC 7 to 10 days
Wells Fargo Up to 14 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 to track its progress. Here are some steps to take in order to stay on top of a balance transfer:

1. Initiate the balance transfer over the phone or online

You can initiate a balance transfer online in a matter of minutes. You will need to provide some personal information such as your name, address and Social Security number.

2. Look for the balance to be debited from the transferred account

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.

3. Check for any lingering balances on the original account

You’ll also want to double-check your original credit card after your balance transfer has finished processing 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 a few purchases haven’t been posted to the card account yet, leaving them with an unexpected balance on their old credit card.

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 or no pending purchases before you stop making payments on them.

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 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.

Details on the balance transfer process by issuer

A balance transfer can look a bit different depending on which credit card issuer you’re dealing with. We’ve outlined the balance transfer process by issuer so you can get 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 the 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 it up. And remember, keep making payments on your original credit card until your balance transfer is complete and your original card shows a balance of $0.