How does a balance transfer help you save money?

Information verified correct on September 29th, 2016

Balance transfer credit cards let you consolidate your debt and save on interest costs

If you’ve found yourself overwhelmed by debt, a balance transfer credit card could be a good way to consolidate your debt faster with a lower interest. These types of credit cards provide a promotional period of lower interest to help you regain control of your debts and save money. Learn the benefits and considerations below when choosing a balance transfer credit card, compare the balance transfer offers on the market and pay lower interest on your debt today.

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Balance Transfer Credit Cards Comparison

Rates last updated September 29th, 2016.

American Express Explorer Credit Card

10,000 Membership Rewards Bonus Points + 0% on balance transfers for 12 mos. Offer ends 30 Nov 2016

August 26th, 2016

HSBC Platinum Credit Card

$0 annual fee + 0% for 15 months on balance transfers offer extended until 31 December 2016

September 1st, 2016

Virgin No Annual Fee Credit Card

Balance transfer offer has been extended to 31 October 2016.

September 26th, 2016

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Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Purchase rate (p.a.) Annual fee Interest Saved
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Balance Transfer Offer
Offers 0% p.a. interest rate on balance transfers for 18 months to help you manage your existing credit card balance with a reduced annual fee in the first year.
0% p.a. for 18 months 20.74% p.a. $64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info
Westpac 55 Day credit card
Enjoy a balance transfer offer of 0% p.a. for 16 months, an introductory purchase rate of 1% p.a. for up to 12 months, plus a waived annual fee for the first year if applied by 11 October 2016.
0% p.a. for 16 months 1% p.a. for 12 months (reverts to 19.84% p.a.) $0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($30 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info
HSBC Platinum Credit Card
Receive a full annual fee refund and save $149 if you meet the $6,000 spend requirement. Enjoy a balance transfer offer and platinum card benefits such as complimentary insurances and concierge services.
0% p.a. for 15 months 19.99% p.a. $149 p.a. Go to site More info
Westpac Low Rate Card
A no frills credit card with an introductory rate of 0% p.a. for 18 months on balance transfers and 1% p.a. for 12 months on purchases.
0% p.a. for 18 months 1% p.a. for 12 months (reverts to 13.49% p.a.) $59 p.a. Go to site More info
NAB Low Rate Credit Card
The NAB Low Rate Card offers 0% p.a. on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. This card also comes with a low annual fee.
0% p.a. for 15 months with a one off 2% balance transfer fee 0% p.a. for 15 months (reverts to 13.99% p.a.) $59 p.a. Go to site More info
ANZ First Visa Credit Card - Exclusive Offer
Take advantage of this exclusive offer and enjoy 0% p.a. for the first 12 months on balance transfers and 0% p.a. for the first 3 months on purchases.
0% p.a. for 12 months 0% p.a. for 3 months (reverts to 19.74% p.a.) $30 p.a. Go to site More info
Virgin No Annual Fee Credit Card
Enjoy a long term balance transfer plus a $100 cashback offer (spend criteria applies) and never pay an annual fee for this card.
0% p.a. for 18 months with 2% balance transfer fee 18.99% p.a. $0 p.a. Go to site More info
NAB Low Fee Card
Enjoy a low introductory rate of 0% p.a. on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months.
0% p.a. for 15 months with a one off 2% balance transfer fee 0% p.a. for 15 months (reverts to 19.74% p.a.) $30 p.a. Go to site More info
American Express Essential Credit Card
Receive a $50 credit on eligible spend and get Smartphone screen insurance combined with a no annual fee for life card. Also enjoy a 0% p.a. balance transfer rate for 12 months.
0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee 14.99% p.a. $0 p.a. Go to site More info
Citi Rewards Credit Card - Platinum Card
A long term balance transfer offer with the Citi Rewards Platinum Card. Earn extra points on overseas spend and includes travel insurance.
0% p.a. for 24 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee 20.99% p.a. $199 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($249 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info
American Express Explorer Credit Card
Receive 100,000 Membership Rewards Bonus Points on eligible spend within the first 2 months of Card Membership. Also enjoy a $400 travel voucher and two complimentary airline passes per year.
0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee 20.74% p.a. $395 p.a. Go to site More info

What is a balance transfer?

A balance transfer refers to the process in which a cardholder transfers an existing debt from a credit card, store card or personal loan to another credit card in attempt to reduce their debt with a lower interest rate. Most introductory balance transfer offers allow new cardholders to pay little to no interest on the transferred balance for a promotional period (which can vary from card to card). When compared to the standard purchase or cash advance rate that these balance transfers usually revert to, cardholders can stand to make considerable savings in the form of interest.

how a balance transfer works

How does a balance transfer work?

Transferring a balance from an existing card to a new one is not a complicated process, though you’ll need to consider whether this is something you want to do before applying. Most cards required that you provide details of the balance transfer at the time of application, so make sure to have these details handy if you want to take advantage of the offer. Most credit cards pose some limitations on balance transfers, such as where you can transfer your balance from (this usually excludes transferring from cards within the same bank) and how much you can transfer (usually this is a percentage of the card’s credit limit).

If you provide all relevant balance transfer details at the time of application and have met the eligibility requirements, the balance transfer request should go through soon after your new card’s approval. Once balance transfers go through, cancelling existing accounts is your responsibility.

About the balance transfer application process

How can a balance transfer help me save money?

Not all balance transfer offers are the same, and they can vary in the following aspects:

  • Promotional balance transfer rate

    If you’re looking to consolidate your debt, start comparing balance transfer cards with low promotional rates. Rather than paying say 20% interest on your already growing debt, you can repay your balance faster and make significant savings with a low or 0% balance transfer promotional offer. Compare balance transfer credit cards with low promotional offers.

  • Balance transfer rate

    This is the promotional interest rate that transferred balances attract, which can be as low as 0% p.a. The lower the interest rate, the less you’ll have to pay in interest costs and the more you’ll save.

  • Time period

    The promotional time period for balance transfers can vary from one credit card to the next, and most such offers come with promotional interest rate periods in between 6 months and 18 months. If you’re comparing 0% credit cards, you’ll be able to save more interest if the promotional period is longer as you’ll have more time to repay your debt at the lower promotional rate without incurring interest.

  • Revert rate

    This is the interest outstanding balances from balance transfers start attracting once the promotional period ends. This can be the card’s purchase rate or its cash advance rate, and know that cash advance rates can be notoriously high. If you want to increase your potential savings, do your best to repay your balance before the promotional period and the revert rate ends. If you don’t think you’ll be able to repay your balance within this time, consider a card with a longer balance transfer period or a lower revert rate.

  • Pay more than the minimum repayment

    Even if your card has a 0% promotional balance transfer, you’ll still need to pay a minimum repayment each month. However, if you only pay the minimum repayment, you may be unable to consolidate your entire debt by the end of the balance transfer period. Even though you’ll be paying more each month, the savings you’ll make on interest in the long run will most likely surpass these costs.

How to use the Balance Transfer Calculator in 4 easy steps and learn how much you can save today

Step 1. Enter the total debt/outstanding amount you would like to transfer
Step 2. Provide the interest rate that you are paying on your existing debt (if you don’t have your interest rate on you, the average is around 18-20%)
Step 3. See the ‘Interest Saved’ column to find out which credit cards will save you the most money. Click on the ‘Interest Saved’ title to sort the cards in ascending or descending order of money saved
Step 4. Compare the credit cards available in the table provided to find the card that suits your needs. If you still want to find out more about a particular credit card, click the ‘More info’ link for a full review on the features and benefits.

BT calculator steps

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Money expert Michelle Hutchison answers the question, ‘What is a Balance Transfer?’

The balance transfer process made simple

The amount you can transfer over is limited by your credit limit, with most providers allowing a maximum transfer of no more than 90 – 95% of your credit limit.

If your request is approved your new card will take on the debts of your old cards and paying them off. Your old accounts won’t be closed automatically, so it’s your responsibility to call your lenders and request them to be closed. You then have the full promotional period to pay off your balance.

Once your balance transfer period ends the rate will revert to either the new credit card’s purchase rate or the cash advance rate, so it’s important to pay off this balance in full to avoid getting hit with substantial interest charges.

Case Study

Title

Bertha ended up spending $3,500 as unexpected expenses towards car repair using her credit card. Since the time of this transaction she’s managed to repay $500 of the principal amount, although she feels she’s paid a tidy sum as interest. Her card charges 20.99% p.a. as its purchase rate, and if she sticks to making minimum monthly repayments of two percent, she’ll end up paying more than $16,000 over a course of around 42 years.

If she ups her monthly payment to $151, she’ll end up paying $3,636, excluding fees, and she’ll manage to repay the money in about two years.

If she makes use of a card with a 2.5% p.a. balance transfer offer for 15 months and an ongoing purchase rate of around 13%, she could save over $500 during the 15 months period, and she would then start paying a low ongoing rate on the outstanding balance.

If, on the other hand, Bertha opted for a card with a 0% p.a. balance transfer rate for six months and a low ongoing rate of 11.99%, she could save around $250 as interest during the promotional period, and more after the promotional period ends.

Bertha, in both scenarios, not only saves on interest during the promotional period, but also after it ends because the new card’s ongoing interest rate is noticeably lesser than that of the previous card. If, as per the second example, Bertha can manage to pay $500 per month towards her new card, she can pay off the entire $3,000 before the promotional period expires without paying any interest.

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What are the pros and cons of a balance transfer?

Balance transfers have positives and negatives just like any product. Here’s some of the advantages and disadvantages to consider:

Pros

  • Save on interest. If you manage to pay off the entire outstanding balance before the promotional period comes to a close you don’t have to pay any interest, and even if you end up with an outstanding balance at the end of this period you can still save in the form of interest.
  • Pay your debt sooner. Since you don’t have to pay any interest for a given time period, your balance does not build over time, and this enables you to pay it off sooner.
  • Get a better credit card. Opting to go the balance transfer way gives you the opportunity to look for a new card that suits your needs better than your existing card.
  • Repeat the process. If you have an outstanding balance from a balance transfer at the end of the promotional period, you can consider applying for a new card and repeating the balance transfer process. Bear in mind, though, that every application for credit leaves a mention on your credit file.

Cons

  • No interest-free days. As long as you have an outstanding balance from a balance transfer on your account, you cannot make use of your card’s interest free days on purchases.
  • Revert rate. This can be a particular problem if you have to start paying the card’s cash advance rate on outstanding balances when the promotional period ends, because cash advance rates are typically high.
  • Balance transfer fee. Some cards require that you pay a balance transfer fee, which can be in between one to three percent of transferred balances.
  • Lost rewards. If you’re closing a rewards card account, you stand you lose all accumulated reward points. In such a scenario, try to redeem your points before you close the account.
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What else should I consider?

Before you apply for a new credit card to transfer a balance from an existing card, consider the following.

  • Is there an introductory offer? If the card you’re applying for does not have an introductory balance transfer offer, it might not lead to significant savings, whereas a card with a promotional offer would charge considerably lower interest.
  • What is the revert rate? If the revert rate is high, and if you don’t pay the entire balance before the promotional period comes to a close, you can end up paying more interest than you might expect.
  • How much can I transfer? Most credit cards come with minimum and maximum limits for balance transfers. The minimum can be in between $200 and $500, and the maximum can be 50%, 80% or even 95% of your new card’s credit limit.
  • Where can I transfer from? You cannot, in all likelihood, use a credit card to transfer a balance from another credit card provided by the same credit card provider. Some might have other stipulations as well, so it’s ideal to check before you apply.

Transferring balances from one credit card to another is not a new concept, and a number of Australians take this path. You, too, can save considerably in the form of interest if you go this way, but you have to make sure you stick to the rules. Applying for the first such card that comes your way is definitely not a good idea, and the ideal starting point is comparing your options well.

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Frequently asked questions

Once I complete a balance transfer do I have to close my old account or can I keep using it?

Once the balance transfer is complete, keeping the old credit card account open or closing it is your prerogative.

How long does a balance transfer request take to go through?

This essentially depends on how much time your existing card provider takes to process the payment, and in some instances it can take seven to 10 business days.

Can I earn reward points on balance transfers?

No, you cannot. Rewards credit cards generally don’t offer any reward points on balance transfers or cash advances.

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9 Responses to How does a balance transfer help you save money?

  1. Default Gravatar
    Rachael | February 23, 2015

    Myself and my partner have had an application denied and we didn’t even get to submit any of our personal financial details so we requested that re-assessment of the application with the payment details and we can’t work out why we have been denied. All they told us is we don’t meet their requirements. We currently have a credit card that we want to transfer the balance to a period of interest free. We have only applied the once. Do you have any suggestions on how we go about getting a credit card, without getting marks against our credit rating if we were to get further denials ?

    • Staff
      Jonathan | February 24, 2015

      Hi Rachael, thanks for your inquiry!

      It would be best to directly visit a bank branch for credit inquiries. Please see this page for recommendations on improving your chances on main credit criteria. It may also be beneficial to request a copy of your credit file, you can find out more about how to request a free copy on this page.

      Cheers,

      Jonathan

  2. Default Gravatar
    Nick | December 5, 2014

    If you balance transfer from an existing credit card do you have to close it down or can you continue to use that card?

    Thanks

    nick

    • Staff
      Elizabeth | December 5, 2014

      Hi Nick,

      Thanks for your question.

      You aren’t required to close your previous credit card account, whether or not you close it will be up to you.

      I hope this has helped.

      Thanks,

      Elizabeth

  3. Default Gravatar
    phantomm | June 5, 2014

    People need to remember that if they take a balance transfer from a card that also has normal purchases on it and they are unpaid, the lender credits payments to the interest free amount first while the balance of purchasers continue to accrue interest.

    So the benefits may not be as much as they would hope for.

  4. Default Gravatar
    Ben | May 26, 2014

    Say I have a home loan and I manage to get a credit card with a high limit (let’s say $20k), draw that as cash and pay $20k off my home loan and then balance transfer this $20k to another credit card with 0% interest is this all OK, will the banks stop this from happening, what am I missing.

    When the interest free balance transfer period ends I just redraw my home loan (or move money from the offset account) and pay the credit card off and close it, seems like I could save about $1000/year in interest or more if I could do it with a bigger credit card limit transfer.

    I’d obviously not buy anything on the credit card with the $20k balance transfer amount on it to avoid paying interest and just get another one for normal expenses which I pay off each month

    • Staff
      Shirley | May 28, 2014

      Hi Ben,

      Thanks for your question.

      One of our money experts, Rob Dawson answers a similar question in this article. It’s likely that the banks will identify this and may decline your credit applications.

      Cheers,
      Shirley

  5. Default Gravatar
    Neil | May 24, 2013

    Once a transfer has taken place, how long between banks does it take to reflect the transfer. I.E. My new card now has a -$8000 yet my old card still has +$8000 outstanding.
    Thanks

    • Staff
      Jacob | May 24, 2013

      Hi Neil. It depends on how long it takes for your old card issuer to process the transfer. Lenders say that you should allow up to a week for the transfer to go through; however, in my experience, it was processed in a couple of days. Jacob.

Credit Cards Comparison

Rates last updated September 29th, 2016
Purchase rate (p.a.) Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Annual fee
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Balance Transfer Offer
Enjoy a 0% p.a. balance transfer offer for 18 months and also earn 2 bonus Velocity Points in the first 3 months on everyday spend.
20.74% p.a. 0% p.a. for 18 months $64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info
ME Bank frank Credit Card
Enjoy a low and consistent interest rate on purchases and cash advances, combined with no annual fee.
11.99% p.a. $0 p.a. Go to site More info
HSBC Platinum Credit Card
Receive a full annual fee refund and save $149 if you meet the $6,000 spend requirement. Enjoy a balance transfer offer and platinum card benefits such as complimentary insurances and concierge services.
19.99% p.a. 0% p.a. for 15 months $149 p.a. Go to site More info

* The credit card offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of credit cards CreditCardFinder.com.au has access to track details from and is not representative of all the products available in the market. Products are displayed in no particular order or ranking. The use of terms 'Best' and 'Top' are not product ratings and are subject to our disclaimer. You should consider seeking independent financial advice and consider your own personal financial circumstances when comparing cards.

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