A good number of consumers seemed to get tripped up by credit card balance transfers and how they work.
As I’ve said before, credit card issuers don’t do a great job explaining how to use them. Instead, they simply bombard you with offers in your mailbox, inbox, and anywhere else they can think of.
So let’s set the record straight right now. You cannot execute a balance transfer within the same bank. And by bank, I mean credit card issuer.
If you’ve got a credit card balance with American Express, it can’t be balance transferred to another American Express card. Same goes for any other issuer.
Even if the credit cards are different, if they are from the same issuer you’re out of luck. So if you have a Chase Freedom card and want to transfer the balance to the Chase Slate card, it’s also a no-no. Don’t try it – you’ll just be wasting your time.
Let’s look at an example, shall we:
Citi credit card balance: $2,000
Citi credit card APR: 19.99%
Citi balance transfer offer: 0% APR for 21 months
Balance transfer fee: 3%
So you’ve racked up some credit card debt with Citi to the tune of $2,000. Knowing that you’re paying some serious credit card finance charges, you look into available balance transfer offers.
It’s not long before you discover that Citi has the longest 0% balance transfer offer, at a staggering 21 months.
Unfortunately, if you look at the fine print, you should notice that you cannot transfer your existing Citi credit card balance using a Citi balance transfer offer.
But that’s not very kosher, nor should you rely on that being a possibility as not all banks offer balance transfer checks.
Tip: You are able to transfer balances from Visa to Visa, or from Mastercard to MasterCard, as long as they are issued by different credit card issuers.
You may be wondering why you can’t execute a balance transfer within the same bank (or credit card issuer).
It’s simple really; why would a bank allow you to shuffle debt within their own bank to a lower interest rate? That would be like them taking your 20% interest rate and instantly lowering it to 0% for no good reason.
Banks only extend 0% balance transfer offers and agree to take on your debt in the hopes of making interest off you (once the APR resets higher) and gaining you as a customer for years to come.
If they already have you as a customer and are making money off you, why would they want to change that in any way? Especially if it decreases their profits in any way?
The short answer is they wouldn’t, which is why you don’t see banks offering to move debt within their own institution.
Fortunately, there are plenty of banks out there that offer balance transfers, so you should be able to find a suitable alternative, even if you had your eye on an offer from your current bank.
Just know that this is one of the many balance transfer pitfalls, especially if you’ve burned through a number of banks already while playing the balance transfer arbitrage game. Assuming you’ve got nowhere else to turn, consider simply asking your current card issuer for an interest rate reduction…it’s better than nothing.