What is a balance transfer fee?

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A balance transfer fee is a fee that’s charged when you transfer credit card debt from one card to another.

It’s usually around 3% to 5% of the total amount you transfer, typically with a minimum fee of a few dollars (often $5 to $10). The fee is charged by the company that issues the credit card you transfer the debt to.

A balance transfer can help you take advantage of lower interest rates — a move that can save you money on interest charges. This can be a great tool to pay down debt. But it’s important to weigh how much you’ll save on interest payments against how much you’ll pay to complete the transfer if there’s a fee.

Keep reading to learn about the potential costs of a balance transfer, as well as some different options you may have.

How does a balance transfer fee work?

If you’re approved for a balance transfer card, you may have a certain amount of time to transfer your outstanding credit card debt onto the new card to take advantage of an introductory offer.

Timing can play a big part in how much you pay to transfer a balance. The card you’re transferring your debt to may charge a balance transfer fee. But there are cards that waive the balance transfer fee if you make the transfer within a certain time frame.

A great way to save money with a balance transfer is with a card that offers…

  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers
  • $0 intro balance transfer fee
  • No annual fee (which can be a cost factor if you’re getting the card just for the balance transfer)

Unless you get a card that ticks all of these boxes, you’ll have to do some math to make sure this balance transfer can actually help you save money.

How much can balance transfer fees cost?

It all depends on the terms set by your credit card company and the amount of debt you transfer.

Say you want to transfer a $2,000 balance to the Citi® Double Cash Card . The card charges a balance transfer fee of 3% (minimum $5) of the transferred amount (whichever is greater). This means your balance transfer fee would come out to $60. For a $12,000 transfer, your fee would be $360.

From our partner

Citi® Double Cash Card

From cardholders in the last year

See Details, Rates & Fees

Bottom line

If you’re looking to transfer your current credit card debt to a new credit card, make sure to factor in a few details first. Look for a card with a low balance transfer fee. Or even better, look for one with none at all, at least during the introductory period.

Ultimately, each credit card will have unique terms and requirements. Be prepared to shop around. Taking time to find the best balance transfer card for you can be worth the hassle.

About the author: Sarah C. Brady is a San Francisco–based financial consultant, workshop facilitator and writer. In addition to writing for Credit Karma, Sarah writes for Experian, LendingTree, Magnify Mo… Read more.