What is the limit for a balance transfer card?

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A balance transfer is a popular debt relief tool that can help you save money as you pay down outstanding balances. By moving your debts to a new credit card with a 0 percent introductory APR period, you can give yourself the breathing room needed to pay off debt once and for all—or at least faster than you would otherwise.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know for certain the card transfer limit you’ll receive until you get approved. That means you could potentially apply and be approved for a balance transfer credit card that doesn’t accommodate the amount of debt you want to transfer.

If you’re in a cycle of transferring lingering balances to a new card every few years, know that you’re most likely dragging out your journey to becoming debt-free. Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to set yourself up for a successful balance transfer and ensure you get just the right balance transfer limit to manage your debt.

High-limit balance transfer credit cards

For cases where you’re looking to move a large balance, look for a credit card with a high credit limit—though this aspect of cards isn’t always readily displayed by issuers—and an extended introductory 0 percent APR period.

Anything between $5,000 and $10,000+ can be considered a high credit limit. Yet, these limits are most often seen from more premium cards like the Citi Prestige® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®. For your typical balance transfer credit card, you can expect minimum credit limits of around $500.

Here are a couple of Bankrate’s top picks for high-limit balance transfer cards:

Discover it® Cash Back

The Discover it Cash Back not only provides a rewards structure of 5 percent cash back on rotating categories each quarter (up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1 percent—activation required), it also comes with balance transfer offer.

There’s a 14-month, 0 percent introductory APR on both purchases and balance transfers (11.99 percent to 22.99 percent variable APR after) and a 3 percent introductory balance transfer fee. After the introductory period, the fee rises to 5 percent on future transfers (see terms).

One of the most premium features of the card is its Cashback Match™ welcome bonus: at the end of your first year, Discover matches all the cash back you’ve earned.

Though not explicitly stated by the issuer, rumored credit limits for the Discover it Cash Back sit above $10,000. According to Discover, if you’re not happy with the credit limit you receive, a few months of responsible card usage, followed by your own inquiry, may be enough to snag a higher limit.

Wells Fargo Platinum card

The Wells Fargo Platinum card is first and foremost a balance transfer card, offering an 18-month, 0 percent introductory APR on qualifying balance transfers and purchases from account opening (16.49 percent to 24.49 percent variable APR thereafter) for no annual fee.

What’s more, the minimum credit limit for those approved for the Wells Fargo Platinum is said to be $1,000, which is $500 more than the rumored minimum credit limit for some competing cards that offer 0 percent APRs for a similar time. Keep in mind the credit limit you’re approved for could be much higher depending on your income, your credit score and other factors.

While the Wells Fargo Platinum doesn’t have a rewards structure or welcome bonus, it does offer up to $600 in cell phone protection (subject to a $25 deductible) when you pay your monthly cell phone bill with the card.

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

Due to its lengthy introductory offer, the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card should also be on your list. This balance transfer card lets you enjoy 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 20 billing cycles, after which you’ll pay a variable APR of 14.49 percent to 24.49 percent. There’s no annual fee, although a 3 percent balance transfer fee (minimum $5) does apply.

In addition to offering the longest balance transfer introductory period on the market today, this card lets you pick your own credit card payment due date. You’ll also qualify for perks like a free credit score access, contactless payment options and cell phone protection with up to $600 in coverage.

How much debt can you transfer?

The exact amount you’re able to transfer depends on your card, but there are a couple of general rules of thumb to keep in mind.

Credit card providers typically determine the amount of debt you can move 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.

Also keep in mind that some card issuers 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.

Further, your monthly income, credit score and outstanding debt are weighed when deciding your credit limit. In order to get a top-end credit limit to increase your transfer capabilities, you’ll likely need a good or excellent credit score. Improving your credit score ahead of time may be in your best interest before applying.

It’s important to note that the balance transfer fee is often considered a part of your transferable balance, making your “true” limit slightly lower than you may have expected. 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?

If you’re juggling debt on multiple credit cards, you may be able to transfer debt from each of them over to your new balance transfer card. If you have widespread debt, however, don’t try to open up multiple balance transfer cards to circumvent your credit limit; doing so leads to multiple hard inquiries on your credit report and may hurt your credit score.

Also keep in mind that, generally speaking, you 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.

A final rule to be aware of has to do with the types of debt you can transfer. In most cases, you’ll be able to transfer credit card debt only when executing a balance transfer. Some options are more flexible and offer to consolidate auto loans and other categories of debt but they’re harder to find.

Tips on how to do a balance transfer

Before you gear up to transfer balances, you should know about the most important “do’s” and “don’ts” and the steps you can take to boost your chances for approval. The following tips can help ensure your balance transfer goes off without a hitch:

Check your credit score before you apply

The best balance transfer credit cards are mostly available to consumers with good or excellent credit, so it can help to check your credit score before you apply. Balance transfer cards for bad credit also exist, but their introductory rates and benefits aren’t nearly as good.

Know exactly how much debt you have

Make sure you tally up your debts from all of your credit cards before you get started with a balance transfer or apply for a new card. You’ll want to make sure you are able to transfer as many balances as you can while giving preference to debts with the highest interest rates.

Compare top balance transfer cards from each issuer

Spend some time comparing cards that offer 0 percent APRs on balance transfers for a limited time. As you do your research, keep in mind you’ll have to find a balance transfer card with a different issuer than the one with which you currently carry balances.

Keep making payments on all cards until your account balance shows $0

Make sure your balance transfer doesn’t cause undue harm to your credit score. One way to do this is by keeping up with payments on your old cards until all your balances have been transferred and each old account shows a $0 balance.

How to get a high credit limit

Card issuers look at multiple factors when deciding on the credit limit you can qualify for, yet one of the biggest is your income. That’s why you should make sure you list the entire income amount you are legally able to on your credit card application.

Fortunately, 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.

Alternatives to a balance transfer card

Before initiating a balance transfer, it’s vital to consider your other debt-relief options. Here are some of the best alternatives to consider:

Credit counseling

To avoid continuously transferring your debt and cycling through credit cards, consider seeking debt counseling or debt management services. If you pursue one of these routes, you’ll receive coaching and help with setting up a repayment plan to rid yourself of your outstanding balance.

Debt consolidation loan

If you have a considerable amount of debt to pay off, it’s possible a debt consolidation loan could work better than a balance transfer card. After all, personal loans can come with competitive fixed interest rates, fixed monthly payments and a set repayment schedule that lets you know exactly when you’ll become debt-free.

Debt snowball

Finally, you can also try to pay down debt the old-fashioned way. The debt snowball asks you to list your debts by how much you owe, then to pay as much as you can toward the smallest balance first while making minimum payments on the rest. Over time, you’ll pay off your smallest debts and “snowball” the payments you were making toward the next smallest debt. With enough time and work, you’ll eventually be left with your largest debts, one large debt and then none.

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 making sure your credit score is in good shape before you apply for a balance transfer card, and that you consider cards with the longest introductory offers out there.

With some research and planning, you can hopefully get approved for the card transfer limit you require.

The information related to the Citi Prestige® Card has been collected by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.

Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Author, Award-Winning Writer
Holly Johnson began her career working in the funeral industry, which may make you wonder why she works in personal finance now. Yet, the funeral industry taught the author everything she needs to know about the value of one's money and time. Johnson left the mortuary business a decade ago in order to explore her passion for personal finance and travel the world, and since then, she and her husband have built a debt-free lifestyle that has them on the path to retire very wealthy in their 40s. Holly's love of budgeting also led to the creation of her debt payoff book, “Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love."