How Long Does a Balance Transfer Take?

Putting Your High Interest Rate Debt to Rest Won't Happen Overnight

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It can take anywhere from a few days to six weeks to transfer debt to a different card. 

The amount of time you can expect to wait for a credit card balance transfer will depend on the card issuers you’re working with and whether you’re opening a new card or transferring a balance to an older account. 

For New Cards Expect a 2- to 3-Week Wait

On average, a balance transfer on a brand-new credit card takes about two to three weeks from start to finish. So if you’re transferring a balance in order to reduce your card payments, don’t expect immediate relief. You may still need to make at least one more payment to your old lender before you can say goodbye for good. 

Some lenders will allow you to speed up the process by requesting a balance transfer as soon as you’re approved. 

But other lenders may ask you to wait more than a week after opening your account to even ask for a balance transfer. Alternatively, a lender may delay processing your balance transfer until 10 days after they’ve mailed your new card. As a result, it could take nearly a month or more after you’ve applied for a credit card for you to reap the benefits of a lower APR or consolidated balance.

Don’t forget to take into account the extra processing time when you’re budgeting your bill payments. If processing is slow, you may need to pay interest on your old account at least one more time before the transfer has gone through.  

Here’s a closer look at average processing times for some of the largest credit card issuers. 

How Long It Takes to Transfer a Credit Card Balance

Issuer Minimum Estimated Processing Time Maximum Estimated Processing Time Notes & Guidelines
American Express 5 to 7 business days Up to 6 weeks If you’re applying for a new card, American Express won’t process a balance transfer until 10 days after it has sent you your terms.
Barclays Up to 4 weeks 4 weeks If you’re applying for a new card, Barclays will process your balance transfer 10 days after mailing your new card.
Bank of America Up 2 weeks 2 weeks  
Capital One 3 days 14 days You need to wait 10 days after opening an account to request a balance transfer.
Chase 1 week 3 weeks If you’re applying for a new card, Chase will process your balance transfer 10 days after mailing it. But the balance could still take up to three weeks to appear in your account.
Citi 2 weeks 2 weeks  
Discover Within 1 week 2 weeks It will take up to two weeks to process a balance transfer on a new card. However, it may take less than a week to transfer a balance onto an existing Discover card.
U.S. Bank Up to 2 weeks 2 weeks  
Wells Fargo 1 to 5 business days Unknown  

Why Is My Balance Transfer Taking So Long?

It may not be your lender’s fault. Credit card balance transfers don’t just happen automatically when you request them. 

Lenders need time to process your request and, if you’re applying for a new credit card, determine whether you qualify for a balance transfer. Even if you’re approved for a card that advertises a promotional balance transfer offer, you may not be eligible for it. 

Once you’re approved for a balance transfer, your new card issuer will then need to coordinate the transfer with your old lender. That, too, can slow things down, because bank transfers aren’t necessarily instantaneous. Depending on the lender, it may take a few days or more for the funds to change hands. 

If you’re concerned about a slow balance transfer, wait at least a few weeks after your initial request to ask about it. If it’s been longer than the maximum processing time listed in your card’s terms and conditions, reach out to your new lender. 

What Happens to My Debt After I Request a Balance Transfer?

Your debt will remain with your old lender until the balance transfer has fully processed. As a result, you’ll still be on the hook for paying at least the minimum amount due until your new lender has sent a payment and your old lender has acknowledged it. 

Just because you’ve requested a balance transfer and the transfer is being processed doesn’t mean you can get away with skipping your bill for the month.

If your credit card bill is due and your old lender still shows you owe a balance, then you’ll need to pay at least the minimum amount due. Otherwise, you could wind up with late charges from your credit card issuer or, even worse, a delinquency on your credit report if you let the bill go unpaid for more than 30 days. If both lenders are showing a balance and asking for payment, then you may need to call both lenders to clear it up.  

Keep a close eye on your old account until you’ve confirmed that the balance has remained at $0 for at least a couple of billing statements. 

What If I Change My Mind After I’ve Requested a Balance Transfer?

You may be able to reverse it if you change your mind before the transfer has gone through. If it’s a new card, you can cancel your request within 10 days of receiving your new terms. However, some lenders offer an even bigger cancellation window. For example, Discover will allow you to cancel your transfer within 14 days of requesting it.  

Bottom Line

Be patient. It can take awhile for a transferred balance to change hands. But if you’re transferring your balance to save money, then it should be worth the wait.