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What’s the Limit for Balance Transfer Cards?

A balance transfer could help you avoid interest charges, but there are limits to what you can transfer.

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A balance transfer credit card can be a valuable financial tool. You can use a balance transfer offer to avoid expensive interest charges while working to pay down a debt. But, there are important details to know about this debt consolidation strategy before you apply -- including transfer limits.

Most balance transfer cards have limits on how much you can transfer, making it difficult to consolidate all your debts with a single new card, particularly if you owe a lot of money.

Read on to learn how balance transfers work and what determines how much debt you can transfer at the start of the process.

What is a balance transfer?

A balance transfer moves your current debts onto a new line of credit with a lower rate, typically 0% introductory APR for 12 to 21 months. You’ll likely have to pay a balance transfer fee of 3% to 5% of the transferred balance -- but in most cases this fee is less expensive than continuing to pay interest on your debt.

For example, a 3% or 5% balance transfer fee breaks down to $300 to $500 for every $10,000 in debt you consolidate. However, avoiding interest for well over a year -- or often longer -- can lead to considerably more savings than this fee.

Some of the best balance transfer credit cards charge this balance transfer fee, and though you can find offers without a transfer fee, these offers tend to have shorter introductory periods or other limitations.  

Consider this example. Let’s say you have $5,000 in credit card debt at 24% APR and you’re currently paying $300 per month. At this rate, you’ll pay this debt off for 21 months before you become debt-free, but your interest charges will add up to $1,143.

Now imagine you transfer this debt to a card that offers 0% introductory APR for 21 months and agree to pay a 3% balance transfer fee. Your new balance starts at $5,150 due to the addition of the balance transfer fee, but you can pay the same $300 per month and pay it down in approximately 17 months with no interest charges.

How much can you transfer with a balance transfer card?

If you have a small amount of debt to consolidate, balance transfer limits may not get in your way. But If you have a lot of debt, you’ll want to consider balance transfer limits and how they might thwart your debt consolidation plans.

Factors that can impact your transfer limit include: 

  • Your credit limit: The credit limit you’re assigned when you apply for a credit card will typically impact how much debt you can consolidate. Your credit limit is determined by your credit score and other financial factors.
  • Balances already on your card: Any purchases you make with your card will also lower your available credit.
  • Lender-specific rules: Some card issuers limit how much debt you can transfer. For example, Chase limits balance transfers to $15,000 within any 30-day period regardless of your credit limit.
  • Balance transfer fees: Your balance transfer fee will come out of your credit line. So if you have a $5,000 limit and a 5% balance transfer fee, the most you’ll be able to transfer is $4,750.

If you have a high amount of debt you’re looking to consolidate, a balance transfer card might not be the best option, even if you have a high enough credit line. Unless you’re certain you can pay off the full debt before your introductory APR offer expires, a debt consolidation loan may be a better choice. 

A type of personal loan, debt consolidation loans typically offer a lower fixed interest rate than most variable credit card rates. This type of loan also usually comes with a longer repayment period, allowing you to stretch out repayment for several years, so you can keep your monthly payment lower and more manageable. 

Read more: Americans Owe Nearly $1 Trillion in Credit Card Debt. Here’s How to Get Yours Under Control

What determines your credit limit?

While lender rules on balance transfers can impact how much of your debt you’ll be able to consolidate, your credit limit also plays a role. There are multiple factors that can impact how much available credit you’re granted when you apply for a new credit card:

  • Your income: Card issuers look at your income to determine how much you can reasonably afford to pay back, and they calculate your credit limit with this information in mind.
  • Your credit score: Your creditworthiness and credit score will also play a role in how much available credit you can qualify for.
  • Your other debts: Credit card issuers will also consider other debts and amounts you owe, particularly when it comes to revolving debt like credit cards and other unsecured debts.
  • Card-specific rules: Some credit cards come with minimum credit limits you’ll be approved for. For example, Visa Signature cards come with a minimum credit limit of $5,000.

How to improve your credit score to get a higher limit

While you may not be able to control your income or card-specific rules regarding credit limits, you do have some power when it comes to increasing your credit score. If you’re angling to boost your score to qualify for a balance transfer card with the highest possible limit, consider these tips:

  • Pay your bills on time. Because payment history is weighed the most heavily, paying all bills early or on time is an excellent way to give your score the boost it needs. 
  • Keep your credit utilization low. The second most important factor that impacts credit scores is how much you owe in relation to your credit limits. You can keep credit utilization lower by paying off debt or by negotiating higher credit limits.
  • Become an authorized user on a healthy credit account. If you have a trusted family member with good credit who is willing to add you to their credit card account, doing so can add valuable reporting and depth to your own credit history. Any positive credit activity they have will be reflected onto you.

Balance transfer cards to consider

Although your balance transfer limit will vary depending on your credit score and other factors, if you’re interested in a balance transfer card, here are a few of CNET’s top picks: 

  • Wells Fargo Reflect® Card: The Wells Fargo Reflect provides cardholders an intro 0% APR on purchases and qualifying balance transfers for 21 months from account opening (then 18.24%, 24.74%, or 29.99% variable APR), with no annual fee. Balance transfers must be made within 120 days from account opening and there is a 5% balance transfer fee (minimum $5).
  • BankAmericard® credit card*: The BankAmericard offers an introductory 0% APR on purchases and for balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening for the first 18 billing cycles (then 16.24% to 26.24% variable). There’s no annual fee, either.
  • U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card: The U.S. Bank Visa Platinum also charges no annual fee, and cardholders get an intro 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 18 billing cycles (then 19.74% to 29.74% variable).

The bottom line

The limit for balance transfer cards can vary based on a wide range of factors. Not only will the balance transfer card you choose play a role, but so will your income, your creditworthiness and how much debt you owe.


To find the best balance transfer card for your needs, consider how large of a debt you’re looking to pay down and how much time you may need to do so. With some research and planning, you can consolidate your high-interest debts, pay them off faster and save some money along the way.

*All information about the BankAmericard credit card has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

Holly Johnson is a credit card expert and writer who covers rewards and loyalty programs, budgeting, and all things personal finance. In addition to writing for publications like Bankrate,, Forbes Advisor and Investopedia, Johnson owns Club Thrifty and is the co-author of "Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You'll Love."