Generally, banks won’t let you transfer a balance from one card to another from the same issuer. Here’s why and what alternatives you have to pay off card debt at a lower interest rate.
Taking advantage of a 0% APR promotional balance transfer offer can make your financial life easier if you’re able to consolidate credit card debt at a lower rate.
While transferring a balance might seem simple enough, you could hit a snag when attempting to transfer amounts from one card to another at the same bank. Banks have rules for this process and these tips can shed some light on what you need to know when choosing your next balance transfer card.
See related: Best 0% intro APR credit cards
Balance transfers within the same bank: 5 things to know
Why banks don’t allow balance transfers at the same bank
When you transfer a balance, you’re moving the amount you owe on one card to another card. The receiving card could be one you already have or a brand-new account that you open to take advantage of a low promotional rate.
Banks make money through a combination of interest and fees. For instance, you might pay a $95-plus annual fee for your card that the bank gets to collect each year. If you carry a balance at the regular APR, the bank also benefits from the interest you pay.Which is why, in a nutshell, banks typically don’t allow you to transfer balances between cards at the same financial institution.
“There’s no law preventing it, it simply isn’t beneficial to banks,” says Carey Zielke, personal finance expert at Realities and Dreams.
“Zero interest balance transfer offers are used to attract new customers,” says Zielke. “You’re already their customer and they’re already making money off interest on your existing credit card.”
That leaves the bank with little incentive to allow you to shift that balance over to another card where you’ll pay no interest on the balance through the promotional period.
John Pham, founder of The Money Ninja, says the balance transfer fees banks charge, which can range from 3% to 5%, typically aren’t enough to offset any lost interest by allowing you to switch to a card with a lower rate.
“It’s not so much a risk to the bank, but in their eyes, you’re likely not a profitable customer for them,” says Pham.
There’s no exception for business credit cards
The rule, which is one you may or may not see spelled out in your card’s terms and conditions, applies to transfers involving both personal and business credit cards.
So, for example, if you have a balance on a Chase Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card, you wouldn’t be able to transfer that amount to a Chase Freedom card. Or if you had a balance on an American Express® Business Gold Card you wouldn’t be able to transfer it to The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express.
But you could still transfer a business credit card balance to another business card at a different bank. You could also opt to transfer the balance to a personal card at another bank.
The caveat with transferring business debt to personal cards is that carrying a balance can affect your personal credit score, since it changes your credit utilization ratio.
You could try working around the rules by transferring a balance to a card at a different bank, then transferring it back to your current bank. But the downside there is twofold: your credit score gets dinged with each new inquiry and you pay double the balance transfer fees.
Shop around for other balance transfer offers
It’s disappointing to come across a 0% balance transfer promotion that you can’t qualify for because it’s issued by your current bank. That’s when you have to look around to see what else is available.
Rick Orford, founder of finance blog Surplus Academy, says to consider the APR and fees first, then continue checking the fine print.
“The best balance transfer offer has no annual fee, a 0% APR and a 0% to 2% balance transfer fee,” says Orford.
Next, look at how long you’ll have to pay down your transferred balance with no interest. Zielke favors choosing the card with the longest promotional period.
“The longer you have with zero interest, the better to maximize your ability to pay it off before it ends,” he says.
When considering offers, look at how much you want to transfer. You need to be sure that the card you’re applying for can offer a high enough credit limit to accommodate the full transfer amount. Orford recommends trying to negotiate with the card issuer to get a higher credit limit if necessary.
Balance transfer offers: options to consider
If you’re looking for card recommendations, here a few to consider:
|Card Name||Balance Transfer Offer||Fees||Other Card Perks|
|Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express||0% introductory APR for the first 15 months, then a regular variable APR of 14.49% to 25.49%.||$0 balance transfer fee for balances transferred within the first 60 days of account opening. $0 annual fee.||Earn 2 points per $1 at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 in purchases per year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. Earn a 20% points bonus when you use your card 20 or more times in a billing cycle. Terms Apply.|
|Discover it® Balance Transfer||0% introductory APR for the first 18 months, then a regular variable APR of 13.49% to 24.49%.||3% introductory balance transfer fee through (up to 5% on future balance transfers, see terms). $0 annual fee.||Earn a 5% cash back bonus each quarter on selected spending categories, up to $1,500 in purchases, after activation. Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.|
|Chase Freedom||0% introductory APR for the first 15 months, then a regular variable APR of 16.49% to 25.24%.||3% introductory balance transfer fee or $5 minimum for the first 60 days of account opening. After that, 5% or $5 minimum. $0 annual fee.||Earn a 5% cash back bonus each quarter on selected spending categories, up to $1,500 in purchases. Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.|
|BankAmericard® credit card||0% introductory APR for the first 18 billing cycles for balance transfers made within the first 60 days. After that, a regular variable APR of 14.49% to 24.49%.||3% balance transfer fee or $10, whichever is greater. $0 annual fee.||No penalty APR. 0% introductory APR also applies to purchases.|
|Citi® Double Cash Card||0% introductory APR for the first 18 months. After that, a regular variable APR of 15.49% to 25.49%.||3% or $5, whichever is greater. Balance transfers must be completed within the first four months to qualify for the introductory APR. $0 annual fee.||Earn 1% cash back when you make purchases. Earn an additional 1% cash back as you pay them off.|
What to do when a balance transfer doesn’t work
Whichever card you choose, have a plan for paying the balance off before the end of the agreement to avoid getting stuck with interest charges, says Orford.
But what if you’re denied for a balance transfer?
You could try a consolidation loan instead, says Zielke. The catch there is that you likely won’t find a 0% APR on a personal debt consolidation loan. Before you throw in the towel completely on getting a better deal on your card’s APR, reach out to your bank.
“If you don’t qualify for a balance transfer, one option you should consider is to call your current credit card company and ask for a lower interest rate,” says Pham.
Banks can sometimes do this as a goodwill gesture for customers with solid credit and a good account history. “It might not be as low as what you’re looking for, but it will reduce the total interest you’ll pay over time,” says Pham.