The balance transfer process

How to move your existing credit card debt onto a new 0% interest credit card.

If your credit card debt seems to be constantly accruing interest, a balance transfer might just be the solution to your financial woes. Regain control of your mounting debt with a 0% balance transfer credit card and repay your debt faster without the burden of interest for a promotional period. Use this guide to find out how balance transfers work, the steps you need to take to request one and some tips to paying off your debt before the introductory offer ends.

What is a balance transfer?

A balance transfer is the process of transferring an existing debt from one or more lenders to a new credit card, usually with a low or 0% interest rate on balance transfers. While the 0% balance transfer interest rate may only be in place for six to 36 months, you can pay off your debt faster without the cost of interest for the promotional period. If you’re unable to repay your entire balance before the offer ends, any remaining debt will start to accrue the much higher purchase or cash advance rate. So, while you’re only required to pay the minimum repayment each month, it’s wise to pay as much as you can to clear your debt before interest applies.

The advantage of getting a new credit card for this purpose lies largely in the fact that many 0% balance transfer credit card promotions offer 0% interest rates on your transferred debt for a promotional period. As such, a balance transfer can save you a fair amount of money and help you repay your debts more quickly.
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Step-by-step guide to the balance transfer process

If you’re thinking of consolidating your debt by conducting a balance transfer, follow these four steps to understand how to compare your options, apply and pay down your debt with a 0% offer.

Step 1: Compare your options.

Since there are numerous 0% balance transfer offers on the market, it’s important that you research and compare them before deciding on the one that will best serve your needs. To make things easier, you can compare your options based on the following:

  • Introductory interest rate. Most balance transfer credit cards come with a 0% balance transfer interest rate, but some may come with a low but higher rate of say 6%.
  • Length of the introductory period. Balance transfer card promotions usually offer a low or 0% interest rate for a fixed time only. This introductory period usually lasts between 6 and 24 months.
  • Revert rate. When the introductory period ends, a revert interest rate will apply to your balance. This is usually a higher interest rate (such as the standard purchase and cash advance rate) and you should factor it into your calculations, especially in the event you are unable to repay your entire debt during the introductory period.
  • Balance transfer limit. There is a limit to the amount you can transfer, and this varies among credit cards. You can only transfer up to a percentage of your approved credit limit, such as up to 70–100%.
  • Eligible issuers and cards. Balance transfers are not usually permissible between credit cards issued by the same bank or card issuer. Check our list to learn which ones you can transfer your balance to.
  • Balance transfer fee. Sometimes you will be charged a one-time balance transfer fee for the balance transfer, up to 3% of your transferred amount. As this can be a substantial fee depending on the size of your debt, you may wish to look for a card with no balance transfer fee.
  • Other card features and fees. While you shouldn’t use a balance transfer card for purchases while you’re trying to pay down a debt, if you plan to use the card beyond the balance transfer offer, you should consider its typical features. These include the annual fee, purchase interest rate, cash advance interest rate, ATM fee, foreign transaction fee and other fees where applicable.

Step 2: Apply for a credit card and request a balance transfer.

Once you have chosen your new credit card, the next step is to make that application. Here’s an estimate of how long it can take to get your new credit card (usually within two weeks), but you can help quicken the process by ensuring that your application goes through smoothly. Make sure that you meet the following eligibility requirements and provide all the necessary information and documentation with your application:

Eligibility criteria
  • Age. You must be at least 18 years of age to apply for a credit card in Australia.
  • Income. Most cards have a stipulated minimum income requirement that begins at $15,000 yearly. Premium cards have much higher income requirements.
  • Residential status. Most cards require that applicants be Australian citizens or permanent residents, but some cards also cater for certain visa holders.
  • Credit history. All cards require that you have a good credit history and credit score.
  • Balance transfer. On top of the balance transfer limit, some cards may also impose restrictions around balance transfers, such as what type of account you can transfer a debt from, whether it is a joint balance transfer or a personal loan.
Important information and documents
  • Proof of identification. Typically, you will need to provide a copy of your driver’s licence or passport.
  • Proof of income and employment. You may be asked for recent payslips or income statements, as well as possibly an employment contract where relevant.
  • Proof of other assets. Apart from providing all relevant financial details of your assets, liabilities and expenses, you may also need to provide proof of any assets listed.
  • Balance transfer details. The card application usually includes a section for requesting your balance transfer. Since this section is very important for your balance transfer request, be sure to provide accurate details of your current loan accounts and the amount(s) you would like transferred.

Step 3: Close your old account.

While not mandatory, once you’ve received your new credit card and your balance transfer has been processed, it’s wise to close off your old account. Make sure that the balance has been successfully moved across by contacting your previous card provider, and then close your old account so that you don’t get hit with further maintenance or annual fees in the future. If you were unable to transfer your entire debt to the new card, you’ll need to pay off any remaining balances before you close the account. See our guide on how to cancel your credit card for tips on closing your card without hurting your credit score.

Step 4: Start paying off your debt.

Once your balance transfer is complete, you will have the length of your introductory period to pay down your balance. It is crucial that you make more than the minimum repayment each month to repay the entire debt before the revert rate applies. If necessary, seek free help for managing your debt.

Since the final goal is financial freedom, a balance transfer can give you a leg up in climbing out of debt without the burden of high interest. It will buy you some interest-free time to repay your debt, and ultimately save you money that would otherwise have been lost to interest fees. With some discipline and commitment, you too can be debt free in a matter of months.

Comparison of balance transfer credit cards

Rates last updated July 20th, 2018
$
% p.a.

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Name Product Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Purchase rate (p.a.) Annual fee Amount Saved Product Description
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.
Citi Clear Platinum - Exclusive Offer
0% p.a. for 24 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee
14.99% p.a.
$49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($99 p.a. thereafter)
finder Exclusive: Receive 0% p.a. for 24 months on balance transfers and a discounted annual fee in the first year. Plus, access to Citi World Privileges.
NAB Low Fee Platinum Card - Exclusive Amazon Offer
0% p.a. for 24 months with 2% balance transfer fee
19.74% p.a.
$90 p.a.
finder Exclusive: 10% cashback with amazon.com.au for 12 months (capped at $25 per month). Plus, 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 24 months.
HSBC Platinum Credit Card
0% p.a. for 22 months with 2% balance transfer fee
19.99% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
Offers a 0% p.a. for 22 months balance transfer, $0 annual fee for the first year and an annual fee refund each year when you spend $6,000.
St.George Vertigo Platinum - Online Offer
0% p.a. for 24 months with 1% balance transfer fee
12.74% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($99 p.a. thereafter)
Platinum card benefits including complimentary insurance, plus first year annual fee waiver and 0% p.a. for 24 months on balance transfers.
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 Velocity Points in the first 3 months and enjoy a discounted annual fee of $64 for the first year.
HSBC Low Rate Credit Card
0% p.a. for 20 months with 2% balance transfer fee
13.25% p.a.
$79 p.a.
Receive up to 20 months interest-free on balance transfers with a 2% BT fee. Also enjoy exclusive offers with the home&Away Privilege Program.
Citi Simplicity Card
0% p.a. for 15 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee
19.99% p.a.
$0 p.a.
Save with 5% cashback on eligible purchases (capped at $50 per month) for the first 90 days from approval. Plus, a 15 month balance transfer offer.
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)
Take advantage of 0% p.a. on balance transfers for up to 18 months. $64 in the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter), plus, bonus Velocity Points.
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.
Virgin Money Low Rate Credit Card
0% p.a. for 14 months
11.99% p.a.
$49 p.a.
Offers a $49 annual fee, up to $100 cashback when you make a purchase within 3 months and 0% p.a. for 14 months on balance transfers.
Citi Platinum Credit Card - 100k Bonus Points
0% p.a. for 15 months with 1% balance transfer fee
20.99% p.a.
$49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($149 p.a. thereafter)
Earn 100,000 reward Points, enjoy a long-term balance transfer offer, a discounted first year annual fee and complimentary travel insurance.
BankSA Amplify Card
3% p.a. for 36 months
19.49% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($79 p.a. thereafter)
Receive a 3% p.a. for 36 months balance transfer and earn Qantas or Amplify Points per $1 spent. Plus, enjoy a $0 annual fee for the first year.
BankSA Vertigo Visa
0% p.a. for 18 months with 1% balance transfer fee
13.74% p.a.
$55 p.a.
Enjoy a 0% p.a. for 18 months balance transfer offer. Plus, up to 55 days interest-free on purchases.
St.George Vertigo Visa
0% p.a. for 18 months with 1% balance transfer fee
13.74% p.a.
$55 p.a.
Enjoy a 0% p.a. for 18 months balance transfer offer. Plus, up to 55 days interest-free on purchases.
Bank of Melbourne Vertigo Platinum
0% p.a. for 24 months with 1% balance transfer fee
12.74% p.a.
$99 p.a.
Offers a long-term balance transfer, low ongoing purchase rate, complimentary travel insurance and access to a 24/7 personal concierge service.
St.George Amplify Card
3% p.a. for 36 months
19.49% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($79 p.a. thereafter)
Take advantage of 3% p.a. interest on balance transfers for 36 months. Plus, a $0 first year annual fee and Amplify or Qantas Points per $1 spent.
NAB Low Rate Platinum Card
0% p.a. for 6 months with 2% balance transfer fee
0% p.a. for 9 months (reverts to 13.99% p.a.)
$100 p.a.
Enjoy a 0% p.a. interest rate offer on purchases for 9 months and the protection of 7 complimentary insurances including overseas travel insurance.
American Express Velocity Escape Card
0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee
20.74% p.a.
$0 p.a.
Earn uncapped Velocity Points on purchases, pay $0 annual fee for life and take advantage of a 0% p.a. for 12 months balance transfer offer.
American Express Explorer Credit Card
0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee
20.74% p.a.
$395 p.a.
Receive 50,000 bonus Membership Rewards points, a yearly $400 Travel Credit and 2 entries per year to the American Express Lounge.

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Citi Clear Platinum - Exclusive Offer
Citi Clear Platinum - Exclusive Offer

Interest rate

14.99

Annual fee

99
Qantas Premier Everyday
Qantas Premier Everyday

Interest rate

19.99

Annual fee

49

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4 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    RobertJune 11, 2013

    My Credit Card Balance transfer was completed by the bank. But the card of the other bank where the money was taken did not show this information yet.It has been 1 day. How long does it take for the other bank to process the Credit Card Balance Transfer?

    • finder Customer Care
      JacobJune 12, 2013Staff

      Hi Robert. Thanks for your question. Please allow up to two weeks to complete the transfer of the balance. But realistically, it should be processed in a couple of business days. If it’s been longer than this, please get in touch with the lender directly to find out what’s happening. Jacob.

  2. Default Gravatar
    April 22, 2013

    Can I do a balance transfer to cover a personal loan. Thanks.

    • finder Customer Care
      JacobApril 22, 2013Staff

      Hi Pooja. Thanks for your question. Citibank allow you to transfer the balance of a personal loan to a credit card. You can compare Citibank accounts here. Jacob.

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