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What is a balance transfer fee?


If you’re conducting your first balance transfer, you might not know that there’s generally a fee attached — which we call, unsurprisingly, a balance transfer fee.

A balance transfer fee tends to be 3%-5% of the total amount transferred. That’s along with other limitations on balance transfers like an amount limit, plus the rule that same-issuer transfers — for example, transferring debt on one Citi card to another Citi card — generally aren’t allowed.

But how do credit card balance transfer fees work, and what do you need to know about them before conducting a transfer? Here’s your complete guide.

How does a balance transfer fee work?

Balance transfer fees typically come out to 3%-5% of the total amount you transfer and usually have a minimum fee of $5-$10. The fee is charged by the issuer you’re transferring the debt to.

Since the entire point of a balance transfer is to save money with lower interest rates, you’ll want to weigh the amount you’d be saving on interest versus the amount you’d be paying in transfer fees whenever you’re considering a balance transfer.

There are a number of balance transfer credit cards with a 0% introductory transfer fee, which can also come alongside a 0% introductory annual percentage rate and other perks. Unless you get a card with benefits like this, you’ll want to make sure your theoretical balance transfer will save you money at the end of the day.

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What would be a good balance transfer fee?

The cost of a balance transfer fee varies based on the terms set by your credit card company and the amount of debt you transfer. Typically, this fee ranges from 3% to 5%, depending on the issuer.

While 3% is on the lower end of typical transfer fees (aside from an introductory 0% offer), it all depends on the amount you’re paying in transfer fees versus the amount you’d pay in interest if you didn’t transfer the debt. While balance transfers are typically less than whatever amount of interest you’d pay on a card, it’s not always a guarantee that that’s the case.

Can you avoid balance transfer fees?

To avoid balance transfer fees, the most reliable method is to check if any balance transfer cards are available that completely waive the fee. Alternatively, you may find cards offering introductory balance transfer fee promotions.

It’s important to note that the $0 transfer fee may apply only within a specific period, so it is crucial to read the terms carefully and determine when you need to request the balance transfers for the offer to be valid. Typically, this window falls within the first few months after receiving the card.

Bottom line

When conducting your first balance transfer, it’s possible to be unaware of the accompanying 3%-5% fee. Balance transfers can be a useful way to save money on your next high-interest payment, but you’ll want to make sure it makes financial sense to pay the transfer fee instead of the interest on your original card.


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