Balance transfer Q&A: “Can you pay off someone else’s credit card with a balance transfer?”
People often wonder if they can use a balance transfer to pay off another person’s credit card, and vice versa.
The good news is that it can be done, and in a number of different ways, which we’ll explore below.
Some credit card issuers will allow you to pay off another person’s credit card debt using a regular old balance transfer, though you may need to add them as an authorized user on the balance transfer credit card first.
How It Works
Generally, you just need to know the other person’s credit card number, credit card issuer, and the amount they’d like to pay off. Then a balance transfer payment is made on their card and the balance is moved to your designated credit card.
So say your spouse has a credit card balance of $5,000 with American Express and you want to pay it off and move it to your own balance transfer credit card. You’d simply input your husband or wife’s credit card information when completing the balance transfer request.
Of course, their debt has to come from a different credit card issuer other than American Express because it can’t be from the same bank, just like a traditional balance transfer where you’re paying off your own debt.
Tip: It may be wise to call a representative from the credit card issuer you’re transferring the balance to in order to facilitate the process and avoid any hiccups. After all, they may be wondering why you want to pay someone else’s credit card bill.
Don’t just assume you can pay off another person’s credit card or you might waste a lot of time (and money)!
Once your request is completed, you’ll be responsible for the balance transfer amount going forward, as it will be under your name, so make sure trust is established between you and the other person.
Also note that taking on their debt will increase your credit utilization, which could lower your credit score initially. However, as you pay it down (and hopefully off in full) your score should rise back up over time.
Balance Transfer Checks Are a Solid Solution Too
Another simple (and perhaps easier) method to pay off another person’s debt via a balance transfer is by using balance transfer checks.
Balance transfer checks, which work similar to credit card balance transfers, allow you to write a check to anybody for any purpose.
You can make one out to an individual, who in turn can cash the check and use the proceeds to pay off their credit card(s).
Spouse’s credit card balance: $2,500
Credit card APR: 29.99%
Credit score: poor
Balance transfer offer: 0% APR for 12 months
In this example, your spouse would be paying roughly $750 in finance charges annually, or just over $60 monthly (I’m using simple math here).
If the $2,500 balance were paid off using a balance transfer or a balance transfer check that took advantage of the 0% APR offer, the new credit card debt (including 3% balance transfer fee) of $2,575 wouldn’t accrue interest for a full year.
Their credit card balance would be $0 and you’d have $2,575 in new debt tied to your good name (and to your credit history). But it would mean some serious savings for your spouse or family member.
Keep in mind that if you open a new credit card account, you might see your credit score fall temporarily for opening a new credit card and taking on excess debt.
However, if you pay it off and stay current it shouldn’t be a substantial ding, and could actually help your credit over time.
Relieving your spouse of their outstanding credit card balance will also help their credit score over time, as they will have more available credit and a history of paying off large amounts of debt.
So hopefully everyone wins!
Use an Existing Card to Pay Off Another Person’s Credit Card
Finally, there’s also the option of executing a balance transfer using an existing credit card…assuming it’s the best deal out there.
You don’t have to open a new credit card. Just do a quick check to see what the issuers you already do business with have to offer. They might have something competitive/comparable to other offers out there.
Avoiding a new credit card account can be a plus for your credit age (how old your accounts are collectively) and it might be faster and easier to accomplish than applying for a new balance transfer credit card.
Tip: You can pay off multiple balances with one balance transfer offer if your spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, relative, etc. has multiple high APR credit card balances.
But as previously mentioned, make sure you trust them and are in full agreement to execute the balance transfer to avoid any disputes down the road.
And check to see if the credit card issuer will actually let you transfer someone else’s credit card balance to your account before you proceed.
In summary, balance transfer checks are probably the easiest, fastest, and most reliable method as they don’t require a new account to be opened and you can simply cash them and use the proceeds to pay off the person’s debt.
*Policies will vary among credit card issuers, so be sure to call them first to get all the details to ensure a smooth transaction!