How to transfer a balance to a Discover 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

Discover balance transfer guide

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It seems like an easy decision: Your existing credit card balance has grown too large, and the interest rate attached to it is too high. This combination makes paying off that debt a challenge. It’s why transferring your debt to a new Discover credit card looks like an obvious solution.

But there are potential pitfalls. Discover does charge a fee for balance transfers. And any offers of zero percent interest do come with limits.

Here is everything you need to know about transferring a balance to a Discover credit card.

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

Discover balance transfer options

Discover offers several credit cards that come with balance transfer offers.

Discover it® Balance Transfer card

  • Balance transfer fee: 3 percent of the amount of each transfer.
  • 0 percent promotional period: 18 months.
  • Regular APR: See Discover it Balance Transfer card review.
  • Worth noting: 0 percent APR on purchases for six months. Enroll every quarter to earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in various categories throughout the year. Earn 1 percent cash back on general purchases.

Discover it® Cash Back card

  • Balance transfer fee: 3 percent of the amount of each transfer.
  • 0 percent promotional period: 14 months on both balance transfers and purchases.
  • Regular APR: See Discover it Cash Back card review.
  • Worth noting: Enroll every quarter to earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in various categories throughout the year. Earn 1 percent cash back on general purchases.

Discover it® Chrome card

  • Balance transfer fee: 3 percent of the amount of each transfer.
  • 0 percent promotional period: 14 months on both balance transfers and purchases.
  • Regular APR: See Discover it Chrome card review.
  • Worth noting: Earn 2 percent cash on restaurant and gas station purchases on up to $1,000 in combined spending per quarter. Earn 1 percent unlimited cash back on general purchases.

Discover it® Miles card

  • Balance transfer fee: 3 percent of the amount of each transfer.
  • 0 percent promotional period: 14 months on both balance transfers and purchases.
  • Regular APR: See Discover it Miles card review.
  • Worth noting: 1.5 miles per dollar on general purchases.

See related: Discover cash back calendar

What to know about Discover balance transfers before applying

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

  • Balance transfers do take time. Discover says that it will usually take at least 14 days for your balance transfer to close.
  • You are not allowed to transfer a balance from one Discover card to another Discover-branded card.
  • You can transfer any amount, but this amount must be less than the credit limit on the Discover card to which you are transferring your debt.
  • If you try to transfer an amount greater than your credit limit, Discover will process a transfer for less than what you requested.
  • Keep making your payments on your existing credit card balance until you are sure that your balance transfer has closed.

How to improve chances of approval for a balance transfer

Want to boost your odds of qualifying for a balance transfer? Focus on your three-digit credit score.

Lenders and financial institutions look carefully at your credit score when deciding whether to grant you credit.

If your credit score is high, the more likely you are to qualify for a balance transfer. If it's high enough, you might also qualify for a lower interest rate with your new Discover credit card.

This will become important after your 0 percent offer expires and the rate attached to your new card adjusts to its permanent level.

Lenders in general consider FICO scores of 740 or higher to be strong ones. But Discover officials don't divulge what credit scores they look for when determining who qualifies for credit and balance transfers.

"While we can't get into the specifics of our underwriting, credit scores do play an important role," said Geeta Chandan, marketing director at Discover.

Chandan said that Discover offers its Credit Scorecard tool online, both to those who already have Discover credit cards and those who don't.

This tool provides consumers with FICO credit scores at no charge. It also highlights the factors that determine consumers' credit scores and tips on how consumers can improve or maintain their credit.

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

How to initiate a balance transfer on a Discover credit card

If you already own a Discover 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.
  • You can also initiate a balance transfer by phone by calling Discover at 1-800-767-7339. You can start a balance transfer request on your phone in another way, too, by using Discover’s mobile app.

If you are applying for a new Discover credit card:

  • Start a credit card application for one of the balance transfer cards that Discover 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 whatever credit limit Discover grants you on your new card, but you won't know that limit until after approval.
"No matter how many times people do a balance transfer, when their income always falls short of their expenses, they will always owe money."

How to make a balance transfer work

Balance transfers can make financial sense, but only if you first get your spending under control. If you continue to make purchases with your card that you can't pay off in full at the end of each billing period, a balance transfer won't provide long-term financial relief.

Jill Emanuel, financial coach with Fiscal Fitness Phoenix in Gilbert, Arizona, said that she often recommends that clients take advantage of 0 percent balance transfer offers. But she also works with these same clients to develop new spending habits that lessen their chances of running up even more credit card debt.

Part of Emanuel's strategy? She helps clients develop an emergency fund that they can dip into to cover life's unexpected emergencies.

"This way, when these 'whammies' hit, there is no need to add more to the credit card balance," Emanuel said. "They have the money in savings and can pay for it right away."

See related: Smart balance transfer: Do the math, change spending habits

Allan Liwanag, who runs The Practical Saver blog from Lexington Park, Maryland, said that a balance transfer also won't help if you consistently spend more than you earn. That's why he recommends that consumers draft a household budget listing their monthly expenses and income.

With a budget in place, consumers can determine how much they can afford to spend each month on everything from paying down existing debt to eating out to travel.

"No matter how many times people do a balance transfer, when their income always falls short of their expenses, they will always owe money," Liwanag said. "Often times, people are uneasy with the idea of figuring out their financial situation. They might blame their credit card debt when in reality their income doesn't support their expenses."


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Updated: 11-20-2018