How to transfer a balance to an American Express credit card

Here's everything you need to know, including card options, fees, restrictions and tips for approval

Dan Rafter
Personal Finance Writer
Specializes in mortgages, credit and credit scores

American Express balance transfer guide

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You’ve run up too much debt on a credit card with a sky-high interest rate and making your monthly payments has become a challenge. You’re ready for a do-over. You think transferring that high-interest debt to an American Express credit card might be the right solution.

But there are limitations. American Express will usually charge you to transfer a balance and will limit how much you can transfer.

Here’s everything you need to know about transferring existing credit card debt to an American Express card.

See related: 6 steps to a successful credit card balance transfer

American Express balance transfer options

American Express offers several credit cards that come with 0 percent introductory balance transfer offers.

American Express Cash MagnetTM Card

  • Balance transfer fee: $5 or 3 percent of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • 0 percent promotional period: 15 months.
  • Regular APR: Variable of 14.99 percent to 25.99 percent. For more information, see American Express Cash MagnetTM Card review.
  • Worth noting: $150 welcome bonus after you spend $1,000 within the first three months. Earn an additional $100 back after you spend an additional $6,500 within the first 12 months. 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card

  • Balance transfer fee: $5 or 3 percent of each balance transfer, whichever is greater.
  • 0 percent promotional period: 12 months.
  • Regular APR: Variable of 14.99 percent to 25.99 percent. For further information, see Blue Cash Preferred® Card review.
  • Worth noting: $200 introductory bonus after spending $1,000 in the first three months. 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1 percent) 3 percent back at U.S. gas stations and select department stores, and 1 percent back on general purchases.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card

  • Balance transfer fee: $5 or 3 percent of each balance transfer, whichever is greater.
  • 0 percent promotional period: 15 months.
  • Regular APR: Variable of 14.99 percent to 25.99 percent. For more information, see Blue Cash Everyday® Card review.
  • Worth noting: $150 welcome bonus after making $1,000 in purchases in the first three months. 3 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1 percent), 2 percent at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and 1 percent everywhere else. No annual fee.

What to know about AmEx balance transfers before applying

There are limits to balance transfers with American Express credit cards, according to the company.

  • Don’t delay. After opening a new American Express card, you only have 60 days to request a balance transfer and qualify for 0 percent interest.
  • Be patient. American Express says it can take up to six weeks to close a balance transfer.
  • You are not allowed to transfer a balance from one American Express card to another American Express-branded card.
  • American Express can deny your request for a balance transfer. The company says it considers the creditworthiness of applicants when deciding on balance transfers.
  • Your interest rate could be high after the 0 percent offer expires. American Express says that once the introductory period ends, the interest rate for the aforemnetioned cards on any left-over debt from your transfer will be 14.99 to 25.99 percent variable, depending on your credit.
  • American Express will not accept balance transfers of less than $100. American Express won’t accept your transfer request if the total request exceeds your new card’s credit limit.
  • Keep making your payments on your existing credit card balance until you are certain that your balance transfer has closed.

How to improve chances of approval for a balance transfer

Freddie Huynh, vice president of credit risk with Freedom Financial in San Mateo, California, said that the most important factor in gaining approval for a balance transfer is your three-digit FICO credit score.

"Your credit situation will dictate what types of products and offerings are available to you," Huynh said. "The higher your score, the easier it is to qualify for good rates and products.”

Huynh said that most lenders and financial institutions consider a FICO score of 700 or higher to be a good one, while scores of 750 or better will usually qualify consumers for the lowest interest rates.

The challenge with consumers applying for balance transfers? They often have a large amount of credit card debt, which is why they are asking for a transfer. Having significant credit card debt can cause consumers' credit scores to fall. “So, first and foremost,” Huynh said, “I'd say to understand your credit situation before you apply for a balance transfer."

See related: How does a balance transfer affect your credit score?

How to initiate a balance transfer on an AmEx credit card

If you already have an American Express credit card:

  • Log in to your account and choose the "transfer a balance" option from your account page.
  • To start the process, provide key information about the card from which you want to transfer a balance, including your account number and how much you want to transfer.

If you are applying for a new American Express credit card:

  • Start a credit card application for one of the balance transfer cards that American Express offers.
  • During your application, you will be given the option to transfer a balance from an existing card. Select this option to proceed.
  • Provide basic information about your existing card and state how much you want to transfer. Remember that you won’t be able to transfer an amount greater than your new card’s credit limit.

How to make a balance transfer work

Stephen Newland, owner and financial coach with Atlanta-based Find Your Money Path, said that too often consumers complete a balance transfer and do little to then pay off the debt they've moved.

Once they're not paying interest on their debt, consumers lose their motivation to pay it off. They also look at a 12-, 15- or 18-month introductory offer period and lose their sense of urgency. There's the feeling that they can simply start paying down that debt next month.

But too often next month never comes, Newland said.

"It feels like you are doing something positive, but in reality, you are just moving the buckets around," Newland said.

Newland recommends to craft a household budget and adjust it every month. It should include a goal for how much transferred debt you'll pay off. If you do this, you'll be less likely to lose your motivation to pay down your transferred debt.

See related: Multiple balance transfers: a difficult debt payoff strategy

"You won't want to lose the internal drive pushing you to pay off that debt," Newland said.

Ideally, you'll want to pay off all the debt you transferred before the 0 percent introductory offer expires. But paying off even a portion of this debt should be considered a positive, Huynh said.

"The faster you can reduce debt, the better," Huynh said. "But if you can only reduce it by X percent, that is still a start. As long as you end that introductory period with a lower balance, that is a good thing. If it's just a matter of surfing from one card to the next? That's when you're not addressing your financial situation."


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Updated: 11-20-2018