Can You Keep Doing Balance Transfers to Pay Off Debt?

You can keep transferring credit card balances if you continue to qualify for new balance transfer cards. But it might not be the best strategy for paying off debt.

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Updated June 13, 2024
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It’s possible that you can keep transferring credit card balances for years if you continue to qualify for new balance transfer credit cards and those cards have high enough credit limits. This could help you avoid interest charges on existing debt for a longer period of time by taking advantage of multiple 0% introductory annual percentage rate (APR) offers.

But you have to consider the balance transfer fees as well as how opening new credit cards and carrying high balances might negatively impact your credit score.

Let’s explore how you can keep transferring credit card balances and why you might or might not want to.

In this article

Can you keep transferring credit card balances?

Yes, you can keep transferring credit card balances if you continue to qualify for new balance transfer credit cards and those cards have high enough credit limits to cover the transfers and balance transfer fees.

There’s typically no requirement on how many times you can transfer a balance. This means you could have a potentially endless cycle of continuously transferring a balance from one credit card to another.

It’s a legitimate strategy for using credit cards to help pay down debt while avoiding interest charges, but it might not make sense in every situation.

Reasons to transfer credit card balances

More time to pay off credit card debt

The primary reason you might want to keep doing balance transfers is to give yourself more time to pay off credit card debt.

For example, a balance transfer card might have a 0% introductory APR offer on balance transfers for 15 months. This means you could transfer the existing debt to that card and not have to pay any interest on the balance for 15 months. Not having to worry about interest charges could give you the extra room you need to pay down your debt more quickly.

Let’s say your original transfer was for a balance of $10,000, and you managed to pay off $5,000 before the 0% intro APR period ran out. Rather than now having to deal with high interest rates on your remaining $5,000 balance, you might consider opening another balance transfer credit card.

You could then have another 0% APR intro period to pay off the remaining $5,000 balance without having to worry about interest charges. Note that you would have to qualify for another credit card in this scenario.

Improved credit utilization

Your credit utilization ratio is how much credit you’re using of your total available credit. You typically want to stay below 30% of your credit utilization or your credit score could go down. Your credit utilization can also be considered on a per-card basis, or how much credit you’re using of an individual card’s total credit limit.

Opening a new balance transfer credit card could improve your overall credit utilization because you would have more total available credit. It could also help improve the credit utilization of multiple credit cards if you transfer multiple balances to your new balance transfer card.

For example, you might have two credit cards:

  • Credit card 1: Has a $5,000 credit limit and a $4,000 balance. That’s 80% credit utilization.
  • Credit card 2: Has a $10,000 credit limit and a $6,000 balance. That’s 60% credit utilization.

Your total available credit is $15,000, and you’re using $10,000 of it. That’s about 67% credit utilization.

Let’s say you transfer both balances to a balance transfer credit card with a $20,000 card limit. Your two original credit cards would now have no credit utilization, and your overall credit utilization would be under 30% ($10,000 balance / $35,000 total credit = 0.2857).

But keep in mind that in this scenario, the credit utilization on your new credit card would be 50% because you’re using $10,000 of the $20,000 available credit. So even though your overall credit utilization is below 30%, you’re still over 30% on your balance transfer credit card. Which could still have a negative impact on your credit score.

Reasons not to transfer credit card balances

Balance transfer fees

Most balance transfers have fees, which are often 3% to 5% of the transfer amount, or a $5 to $10 minimum.

Here are a few examples of what that looks like:

  • 3% fee on $5,000: $150 balance transfer fee
  • 5% fee on $2,500: $125 balance transfer fee

It might not be worth doing multiple balance transfers if the amount you could potentially save on interest charges is less than what you have to pay in balance transfer fees. This is often the case if you have a small balance that you’re likely to pay off in the next few months.

Low credit score or other relevant factors

You typically need at least a good credit score of 670 on the FICO scoring model to qualify for credit cards with excellent balance transfer offers. It might not be worth considering a strategy of doing multiple balance transfers if you don’t think you’ll be able to qualify for additional balance transfer credit cards.

Cycle of debt

It could make sense to do continuous balance transfers if you aren’t able to completely pay off your debt during the first 0% intro APR promotional period. But it likely doesn’t make sense to continue doing balance transfers if it’s just a way to make minimum payments and just move your debt around without having to completely pay it off.

This could cause you more issues with debt down the road, especially if you’re opening multiple credit cards and have more access to credit. In many cases, it makes sense to simply take advantage of one balance transfer card and pay off your debt as much as possible during its introductory period.

Negative impact to credit score

A balance transfer or multiple balance transfers with different credit cards could negatively impact your credit score by:

  • Having multiple hard inquiries on your credit report
  • Increasing the credit utilization on your balance transfer card
  • Decreasing the average length of credit history across all your credit accounts

How to find the best balance transfer credit card

Here are some factors to consider when looking at balance transfer credit card offers:

Length of 0% intro APR period

The longer the 0% intro APR period, the more time you have to avoid interest charges on your transferred balance. And that’s potentially more time for you to pay off your debt before the promotional APR ends and the rates skyrocket.

It’s common for 0% intro APR periods to range from 12 to 18 months.

But the Wells Fargo Reflect® Card, for example, has one of the longest intro APR offers available, providing 0% intro APR for 21 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers (then 18.24%, 24.74%, or 29.99% Variable).

To make the most of a balance transfer credit card, make high enough monthly payments to pay down your entire balance by the end of your intro APR period. This will likely be more than the required minimum monthly payment.

Here is our round-up of cards with the longest balance transfer periods

Balance transfer fees

Balance transfer fees typically cost at least $5 to $10 minimum, or 3% to 5% of the transfer amount. In some cases, you might qualify for a lower transfer fee if you do a balance transfer soon after new account opening.

For example, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® has a balance transfer fee of: $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater in the first 60 days.

Annual fee

An annual fee is something you have to pay on certain credit cards each year to be a cardholder. Fortunately, many balance transfer credit cards have no annual fees.

Rewards

Not all balance transfer credit cards provide rewards, meaning you can’t use them to earn points, miles, or cash back. But some do offer valuable rewards that you earn on all eligible purchases.

For instance, the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card provides unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, making it an easy card to use on your everyday expenses if you want to earn cash back.

Benefits

Certain balance transfer credit cards provide helpful benefits in addition to a 0% intro APR offer. This could include purchase or extended warranty protection for eligible purchases.

Or, in the case of the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card, protection of up to $600 for eligible cell phones that are stolen or damaged, minus a $25 deductible.

Alternatives to balance transfers

Some alternatives to balance transfers include:

  • A personal loan
  • A home equity loan or line of credit (HELOC)
  • Creating a payoff plan

It could make sense to get a personal loan, home equity loan, or HELOC from a lender for debt consolidation if it’s a lower interest rate than your existing credit card debt. But rather than continuing to pay loads of interest or deal with balance transfer fees, it might make more sense to create a payoff plan to eliminate your debt once and for all.

This could include using the debt snowball or avalanche methods for ways to help you focus on paying down your debt one balance at a time.

If tackling your debt seems overwhelming, we recommend using budgeting apps to help simplify things. For example, many budgeting apps provide tools to see all your expenses and income in one place. This could make it easier to discover areas where you can cut costs so you have extra funds to put toward your debt.

You could also combine these methods. For example, you could consolidate your high-interest credit card debt with a personal loan and then use the debt snowball method to pay down your other balances (e.g., student loan or car loan) until you’re debt free.

FAQs

Can you continuously do balance transfers?

Yes, as long as you qualify for new balance transfer cards and those cards have sufficient credit limits to accommodate the balance transfers and fees. Other than these restrictions, there’s technically no limit to how many balance transfers you’re allowed to do.

But transfer fees and the potential negative impact to your credit score might be reasons to avoid doing multiple balance transfers.

Does it matter how much the balance is?

Yes, you can only transfer a balance up to the credit limit of the credit card where you’re moving the debt. This means if your new balance transfer card has a $5,000 limit, you could do a balance transfer of up to $5,000.

But balance transfers typically include balance transfer fees, so you have to add the fee into the total amount you want to transfer. Let’s say your new balance transfer card has a $5,000 limit and charges 3% for balance transfers. You would be limited to transferring about $4,850 after accounting for nearly $150 in balance transfer fees.

Can you transfer balances to friends?

Possibly, but it depends on your credit card issuer and what they allow. You typically can’t transfer a balance to someone else without their permission, and some credit card companies might not allow you to do a balance transfer to any credit card that’s not in your name.

Do multiple balance transfers hurt your credit?

A balance transfer has no direct impact on your credit score. But doing a balance transfer could indirectly affect your credit score by:

  • Increasing your credit utilization ratio with a high balance
  • Decreasing the average age of your credit accounts, including credit card accounts
  • Having a hard inquiry on your credit report from opening a new credit card

Bottom line

You can keep transferring credit card balances to take advantage of 0% intro APR offers if you continue to qualify for new balance transfer cards. But it might not be worth paying multiple balance transfer fees and potentially affecting your credit score.

If you’ve done the math and you can save money by doing multiple balance transfers, it’s time to find a credit card that works for you. Check out our recommendations for the best balance transfer cards to get started.

Extra Long Intro APR on Purchases & Qualifying Balance Transfers

4.9

Wells Fargo Reflect® Card

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Benefit from a long introductory APR period on purchases and qualifying balance transfers

Annual Fee

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Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®, is credit cards specialist. For over a decade, he's leveraged credit card points and miles to travel the world. His expertise extends to other areas of personal finance — including loans, insurance, investing, and real estate — and you can find his insights on The Washington Post, Debt.com, Yahoo! Finance, and Fox Business.