woman browsing her laptop while holding a credit card

Can my balance transfer be higher than my credit limit?

Your balance transfer cannot be higher than your approved credit limit. So here’s what to do if you can’t move all your debt onto a new credit card.

When you apply for a balance transfer credit card, both the credit limit and the amount of debt you want to move are subject to approval. In some cases, you could be approved for a balance transfer credit card with a credit limit that is less than the debt you wanted to transfer onto it. While you could still get a balance transfer onto the new card, you’d also have a balance on your old card.

There are three main options you can consider if your balance transfer debt is more than the credit limit you're approved for on a new card:

  • Cancel the application. If you haven’t received or activated the card, you can call the issuer and ask them to cancel the application. There should not be any charge for this.
  • Cancel the card. You can cancel your new card at any time after it’s been activated. But make sure you do this before the balance transfer has been processed. Also note that if the card has an annual fee, you may need to pay it before the account can be closed.
  • Go ahead with the transfer. If you’ve got a balance transfer credit card with a competitive introductory 0% interest offer, then you may still want to use it to pay down whatever debt can be moved to the card. Just remember to budget for repayments on your existing card and, if possible, aim to pay off the debt that’s still being charged interest first to help keep your costs down.

So before you apply for a balance transfer credit card, it’s a good idea to think about what factors could lead to only part of your balance transfer being approved – as well as what to do if that happens.
credit card and mobile phone

Why would only part of my balance transfer be approved?

Here are some of the major elements that could influence your balance transfer outcome.

Credit history

Your credit history and credit score are assessed for both the credit card and the balance transfer. In some cases, your credit history could be acceptable for the card but not for a credit limit that would be high enough to support your balance transfer debt – particularly if you have a poor or bad credit score.

In Australia, a bad credit score is any number between 0 and 509. This score would usually indicate recent issues with managing debt. For example, you may have applied for a lot of credit in a short period of time, defaulted on an account or filed for bankruptcy.

As a general guide, you’re more likely to have success with credit applications if your credit score is within the Good, Very Good or Excellent brackets, which range from 622 to 1,200. These scores indicate you’re able to manage credit responsibly by making payments on time and avoiding issues such as default accounts or frequent applications.

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Income and employment

Credit card providers use details of your income and employment to help determine your credit and balance transfer limit. Earning a low income, only working casually or part-time and even changing jobs could all have a negative impact on your balance transfer credit card application.

However, it is less about the absolute numbers and more about how your income compares to your expenses. When you apply for a credit card, you will have to provide details of all of your sources of income as well as your expenses (rent or mortgage payments, childcare, groceries, etc). If you’re spending the majority of what you earn (or more), it will be looked upon less favourably than if you were saving every month.

How can I find out why my credit limit is lower than my balance transfer amount?

If you have been approved for a balance transfer credit card with a limit that’s lower than the debt you want to transfer, you can call the bank or credit card company and ask them for more information about this decision. While they may not be able to give you the full details, it could help you decide what to do next.

Existing debt

As well as your income, the amount of debt you already have can affect the credit limit you get on a new credit card. So even if you apply for a balance transfer because you want to pay down your debt, it could be difficult to get approved for the whole amount if what you owe is high with respect to your income.

But there is a silver lining: if you have existing debt, your creditworthiness can improve when you are making payments towards it. This is because your repayment habits indicate that you will repay what you owe.

Example: Is getting a partial balance transfer worth it?

Let’s say you owe $5,000 on a credit card with an interest rate of 19.99% p.a. and can afford to pay $400 off it per month. If you stuck with this card as it is, it would take 15 months to pay off the debt and cost you $653.35 in interest.

Now, say you’re approved for a balance transfer credit card offering 0% p.a. for 18 months but can only transfer $3,000. If you went ahead with the transfer, you could split up your $400 payment between the cards to help save on interest.

For instance, if you paid $300 per month off the card with the $2,000 debt and interest rate of 19.99% p.a., it would take around 8 months to clear the debt and cost you $137.91 in interest. During this time, you’d also be paying $100 per month off your new balance transfer card’s debt. So after 8 months, the balance on that card would be $2,200 and you’d still have 10 months of the 0% interest rate.

If you then continued to pay $400 per month on the debt, it would take you 6 more monthly repayments to clear the debt. So in this scenario, you’d enjoy a 0% p.a. interest rate on your $3,000 balance transfer for the whole time before you paid it off.

Even if you aren’t approved for the full $5,000 balance transfer, transferring the $3,000 you’re eligible to transfer to a new 0% p.a. card saves you $515.44 in interest and you’d be out of debt one month sooner.

What else do I need to know about balance transfers and credit limits?

Keep these factors in mind when you’re comparing credit cards or applying for a balance transfer, so you can find an option that suits your needs.

  • Applying for another card. If your balance transfer card is approved with a credit limit that’s lower than the debt you want to transfer, you could consider cancelling that card and applying for a different one. But keep in mind that applying for several cards in a short span of time can negatively impact your credit history and, in turn, may make it harder to get a balance transfer approved.
  • Maximum balance transfer amounts. Depending on the credit card, you could be able to transfer a maximum of 70-100% of your approved credit limit. So in some cases, you may not be able to transfer all of your debt even if it’s equal to, or more than, your approved credit limit.
  • Credit cards with high credit limits. There is a range of credit cards that offer high minimum credit limits of say $6,000 or $15,000 (subject to approval). If you have a lot of debt, you could look for balance transfer offers on one of these cards. Just make sure you meet the application requirements before you apply because these cards also typically require high minimum incomes.

While it’s ideal to get approved for your entire balance transfer, there are times when the debt you have could be higher than your card’s approved credit limit. So if that happens, make sure you weigh up your options to decide if the balance transfer will still suit your goals.

Compare balance transfer credit cards

Rates last updated November 17th, 2018
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Name Product Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Purchase rate (p.a.) Annual fee Amount Saved Product Description
NAB Low Fee Platinum Card - Exclusive Offer
0% p.a. for 25 months
19.74% p.a.
$90 p.a.
finder Exclusive: Take advantage of 0% p.a. interest for 25 months on balance transfers with no balance transfer fee.
Citi Clear Platinum Credit Card
0% p.a. for 14 months
12.99% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($99 p.a. thereafter)
Offers a 0% p.a. for 14 months balance transfer and $0 first year annual fee. Plus, insurance covers and Citibank Dining Program perks.
ANZ Low Rate
0% p.a. for 15 months
12.49% p.a.
$58 p.a.
Save with a 0% p.a. introductory rate on balance transfers for 15 months with no BT fee. Plus a low 12.49% p.a. interest rate on purchases.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Bonus Points Offer
0% p.a. for 18 months
20.74% p.a.
$64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
Earn up to 60,000 bonus points in the first 3 months and save with a $64 first year annual fee. Plus, a long-term balance transfer offer.
Citi Platinum Credit Card - Exclusive Offer
0% p.a. for 13 months
0% p.a. for 13 months (reverts to 20.99% p.a.)
$49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($149 p.a. thereafter)
finder Exclusive:
Save with 0% interest on purchases and balance transfers for 13 months (with no BT fee). Plus, a discounted $49 annual fee for the first year.
Suncorp Clear Options Platinum Credit Card - Online Offer
0% p.a. for 18 months
20.74% p.a.
$49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
Save with a 0% balance transfer offer and earn up to 60,000 Bonus Rewards Points. Plus, a discounted first year annual fee when you apply online.
Westpac Low Rate Card
0% p.a. for 24 months with 1% balance transfer fee
13.49% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($59 p.a. thereafter)
Offers a 0% for 24 month balance transfer option, first year annual fee waiver and a competitive purchase rate.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Exclusive Offer
0% p.a. for 6 months
0% p.a. for 14 months (reverts to 20.74% p.a.)
$64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
finder Exclusive: Save on credit card costs with half the annual fee for the first year and a 0% p.a. interest rate on purchases for 14 months.
Citi Simplicity Card
0% p.a. for 6 months
19.99% p.a.
$0 p.a.
Get 0% p.a. interest for up to 6 months on balance transfers with no BT fee. Plus, a $0 annual fee for life.
Virgin Money Low Rate Credit Card
0% p.a. for 14 months
11.99% p.a.
$49 p.a.
Offers a $49 annual fee, 10% cashback on purchases made in the first 3 months (capped at $100) and 0% p.a. for 14 months on balance transfers.
ANZ First Visa Credit Card
0% p.a. for 18 months with 2% balance transfer fee
19.74% p.a.
$30 p.a.
Get up to 18 months interest-free on balance transfers and save with a low $30 annual fee. Plus, up to 44 days interest-free on purchases.
Citi Rewards Platinum Credit Card - Online Offer
0% p.a. for 24 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee
20.99% p.a.
$49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($149 p.a. thereafter)
Earn reward Points per $1 spent, take advantage of a 0% p.a. for 24 month balance transfer offer, plus complimentary international travel insurance.
St.George Vertigo Platinum
0% p.a. for 26 months with 2% balance transfer fee
12.74% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($99 p.a. thereafter)
Offers a long-term balance transfer, $0 first year annual fee, complimentary travel insurance and access to a 24/7 personal concierge service.
HSBC Platinum Credit Card
0% p.a. for 22 months with 2% balance transfer fee
19.99% p.a.
$129 p.a.
Offers a 0% p.a. for 22 months balance transfer and an annual fee refund each year when you spend $6,000. Plus, 2 airport lounge passes every year.
NAB Low Fee Card
0% p.a. for 18 months with 2% balance transfer fee
19.74% p.a.
$30 p.a.
Receive complimentary purchase protection insurance, a 18 month balance transfer offer and special offers from Visa Entertainment.
Qantas Premier Platinum
0% p.a. for 15 months
19.99% p.a.
$299 p.a.
Get 60,000 bonus Qantas Points and a $300 Qantas Flight Voucher when you spend $4,000 within the first 90 days.
Citi Platinum Credit Card
0% p.a. for 12 months
20.99% p.a.
$49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($149 p.a. thereafter)
Earn 10,000 monthly bonus reward Points for 20 months (200,000 total), enjoy a 0% p.a. balance transfer offer, plus, a $49 first year annual fee.
St.George Vertigo Classic
0% p.a. for 16 months
13.74% p.a.
$55 p.a.
Get 0% p.a. interest for up to 16 months on balance transfers with no BT fee. Plus, a competitively low annual fee and purchase rate.
Bank of Melbourne Vertigo Classic
0% p.a. for 16 months
13.74% p.a.
$55 p.a.
Enjoy 0% p.a. interest for up to 16 months on balance transfers with no BT fee. Plus, a competitively low annual fee and purchase rate.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Balance Transfer Offer
0% p.a. for 18 months
20.74% p.a.
$64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
Save with a $64 first year annual fee and 0% p.a. balance transfer offer. Plus, receive a $129 Virgin Australia Gift Voucher each year.
American Express Velocity Platinum Card
0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee
20.74% p.a.
$375 p.a.
Receive 50,000 bonus Velocity Points and enjoy complimentary lounge passes, a domestic return flight and insurance covers.
ANZ Platinum Credit Card
0% p.a. for 18 months with 2% balance transfer fee
19.74% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($87 p.a. thereafter)
Receive a 0% p.a. for 18 month balance transfer offer and a $0 first year annual fee. Plus, complimentary overseas travel and medical insurance.
Bank of Melbourne Vertigo Platinum
0% p.a. for 26 months with 2% balance transfer fee
12.74% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($99 p.a. thereafter)
Offers 26-month balance transfer, $0 annual fee for the first year, complimentary travel insurance and access to a 24/7 personal concierge service.
BankSA Vertigo Classic
0% p.a. for 16 months
13.74% p.a.
$55 p.a.
Enjoy a 0% p.a. interest rate for up to 16 months on balance transfers with no balance transfer fee. Plus, a low variable purchase rate.

Compare up to 4 providers

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Amy Bradney-George

Amy is a senior writer at finder.com.au with more than 10 years experience covering credit cards, personal finance and various lifestyle topics. When she’s not sharing her knowledge on money matters, Amy spends her time as an actress.

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Citi Platinum Credit Card - Exclusive...

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