We’ve all seen credit card solicitations promising a balance transfer with low or zero interest on the amount transferred for a specific period of time. People have several reasons why they transfer their balances, sometimes for convenience or potential financial savings, but it can be unclear how long the actual transfer will take. Let’s talk about how balance transfers work, the types of balance transfers, how long the process usually takes, and when it isn’t a good idea to utilize a balance transfer.
What are the Different Types of Balance Transfers?
Balance transfers fall into several categories; beyond credit card balance transfers are bank account transfers and refinance balance transfers.
Credit Card Balance Transfers
Often, credit card companies allow their cardholders the convenience of transferring a balance from another card. You might transfer your balance to another card to consolidate the balances and only make a single payment. Another reason could be that a card has offered you a promotional balance transfer with a very low-interest rate for some time, saving you on interest charges. If you want to make your credit card debt more manageable or have an opportunity to cut your interest rates, a credit card balance transfer might be right for you.
Bank Account Transfers
Many of us have multiple accounts with our banks. You might have a checking account, a savings account, and another checking account to separate expenses. Regardless of how many accounts you have, you may need to transfer from one to the other.
Refinancing Debt Balance Transfers
Occasionally, you might come across an opportunity to take a loan or other borrowed funds and refinance them at a much lower interest rate. All of your debt could be moved to one loan with a single payment, which is often called debt consolidation. A refinance has the potential to be an excellent financial move. The new loan replaces old credit accounts at potentially more favorable terms. The terms could be more favorable if your credit score has increased since you took out your original credit accounts. Often, the loan amount will pay some cards, and the rest will directly deposit into your account.
How Does the Balance Transfer Process Work?
A balance transfer is moving the debt from one credit account to another. Commonly, you’re not allowed to transfer a balance within the same company but to a competing company. You’re often allowed to transfer from a credit card account to a loan or another credit card. Commonly the transfer will specify that you provide the information, including the account numbers, expiration dates, CIV codes, and the card issuer's name. In a period, the card will be paid the amount to be transferred, which will show on the other account. Other times, the company doing the balance transfer will send you checks that you use to pay the other credit accounts. The amount you pay with that check will be added to the account under which the balances are consolidated.
How Long Does a Balance Transfer Take?
It can vary tremendously. Transferring a credit card debt to another card could take from a few days to several weeks although they are typically done within five to seven days. If a payment is due to the other card before then, it would be wise to pay it and not risk a late payment. Paying from a debt consolidation loan could also have the same time frame but commonly happens much faster. Moving funds from a savings account to a checking account is often instant. Remember, the account you are consolidating your debt to has to send a payment to the account being paid off and have it approved and posted before it’s official.
How To Track Your Balance Transfer’s Progress
It’s not straightforward to track the status of a balance transfer, and no online meter tells you where it is in the process. The primary indicator that the transfer has occurred is when you see the balance of a transferred account change by the amount you’ve transferred. If you log into the account online and see that the balance now says “zero,” that means a balance transfer of the total amount has occurred.
What To Do if Your Balance Transfer Is Delayed
As much as we’d wish that everything in the world happened as fast as posting a social media update, that’s not the case with balance transfers. Often, they might take longer than we planned. If it has been over 21 days since the balance transfer was initiated, call the card issuer that you’re transferring to and see what the hold-up might be. Keep making the payments on your existing accounts until the transfer is complete so as not to incur late fees or have your credit impacted. The worst that can happen is that you end up with a small credit with the card issuer you’re paying off and get that refunded.
When is a Balance Transfer Not a Good Idea?
A balance transfer isn’t always beneficial. If the amount transferred is minor and there’s a fee to make the transfer, that fee might exceed what the normal interest would cost you. Another instance would be transferring a balance and maxing out the limit on the other credit card. While your credit utilization rate is generally based on your total credit limits versus the amount of credit used, the utilization rates of individual cards do matter. Another time the transfer could be a bad idea is when you want to consolidate balances, but by doing so, the interest rate on the transferred balance increases.
Think About a Balance Transfer First
A balance transfer could be a huge benefit or a drawback depending on costs, timing, and interest rates. If you are considering transferring a balance, it’s essential to. but don’t neglect to monitor the timeline and ensure accounts are paid on time if they haven’t yet transferred.