At a Glance
Balance transfer fees are pretty standard in the marketplace. While it’s never great to pay more on your purchases, the small fees associated with moving debt around can be well worth the money you’ll save by avoiding being charged the market rate.
In this article, you’ll learn:
What is a balance transfer fee?
Balance transfer fees are small fees, typically 3% – 5% of the credit card or loan balance you’re moving from one account to another. The fee may also be a fixed rate of $5 – $10, depending on the issuer’s terms and conditions. Fees are automatically charged once you initiate a balance transfer and will only accrue additional interest if your balance isn’t paid off in full before the promotional rate expires.
How does a balance transfer fee work?
Each card issuer will have its process, but generally speaking, this is how it works.
First, look for cards that have a promotional 0% APR for balance transfers, or check your current cards to see if any of them have a promotional rate. You’ll most likely need to use another issuer as most cards won’t let you use a promotional rate for a balance you already carry with the bank (i.e. Chase to Chase wouldn’t be an option, but Chase to Citi might).
Compare: Balance Transfer Credit Cards
2. Initiate balance transfer
Once you’ve found the right card you’ll need to initiate a balance transfer. To do this you’ll need your credit card number that has a balance and the amount of money you’re looking to transfer. You can only transfer as much as your credit line has available, less any balance transfer fees.
3. Wait for balance transfer approval
Most cards will initiate the transfer automatically, but it may take 5 – 7 business days for your account balances to change. Keep paying on your old card until the balance transfer is completed. Otherwise, you may get hit with a late payment fee and see your credit score go down.
4. Pay down the balance
Once the balance transfer is complete it’s time to get serious about getting out of debt! Mark the time your promotional rate expires; it’s typically the closing date of the month your rate will end, and create a strategy for paying the card off before then. After the promotional period ends, you may need to pay the prime rate on any outstanding balances your card is carrying, but check your cardholder agreement to be sure.
How to negotiate balance transfer fees?
Most balance transfer fees will be automatically applied to online applications or requests, but you may be able to negotiate the fee by speaking with a customer service representative on the phone or in a branch.
1. Check credit score
First, know what bargaining options you have. If you have a longstanding relationship with the issuer and a good FICO score, it’s more likely your balance transfer fee will have some wiggle room.
2. Compare other offers
Next, see if any competing issuers have a better rate that you can show as a potential counteroffer. Even if this doesn’t work, you’ll still have a list of alternative options you can apply for that give you a better deal.
3. Do the calculations
Most balance transfer fees will range from 3% – 5%, so crunch the numbers to see how much you’ll save if you were able to get your fee a few percentage points down. If it’s only a few bucks, it might not be worth the effort, but saving a few hundred could be the fuel you need to fight a little bit harder to get what you want.
4. Contact the issuer
Now that you have a strong argument with evidence for why you deserve a better rate, it’s time to contact the card issuer. Be polite but firm and explain that you’re looking for a more competitive balance transfer fee than what their website is offering. State your case and ask if there’s any better promotional rate they can offer. If they say they don’t have the power to do so, feel free to ask for a supervisor. Again, remain polite and calm. If they say no, remember that you’ve got a list of more competitive offers you can go to instead.
How to avoid a balance transfer fee?
The best way to avoid a balance transfer fee is to look for a card with a $0 promotional fee. You can also try to negotiate with the issuer’s customer service department to see if they’ll waive or lower the fee.
How to find the right balance transfer card
Balance transfer cards are always popular and usually readily available on the market, so it’s important to check around and see which offers are best for your situation.
1. Check your credit score
The more competitive offers will usually be available for those with good to excellent credit scores. If your score is under 700 you may want to try to boost your score before applying to get the best deals possible.
2. Consider credit cards with no balance transfer fees
Balance transfer cards with 0% APR and $0 transfer fees aren’t always available, but it’s still worth checking to see what’s around before you pick a specific card. All cards will have their rates and fees listed on the card detail page or in the cardholder agreement, which you can check before applying.
3. Balance transfer calculator
You’re most likely looking for a balance transfer card so that you can get some breathing room on your outstanding debt, so it’s always a good idea to crunch the numbers and see how much you’ll need to pay on your new card. Check the transfer fees by using a balance transfer calculator to help you determine how much of your credit line will be eaten up by fees and if that will be an issue for trying to get all of your debt moved to a 0% APR card.
A 3% balance transfer fee is usually on the lower end of the range card issuers will charge so it’s a good rate. However, check around first to see if any cards are offering a $0 fee instead.
You may be able to get your balance transfer fees waived if you speak with a customer service representative before applying. However, balance transfer fees are typically an industry standard, so you might not be successful at getting all the way down to $0.
Use a balance transfer calculator to help you quickly calculate how much the percentage will equate to in cold, hard cash.
Check the card detail page, it’s typically where you’ll see a runover of the card benefits and a button where you can begin the application. If it’s not listed, there should be a link to the cardholder agreement or rates and fees document. Both will explicitly lay out the interest rates and fees your balance transfer will receive.