What Happens When You Transfer a Balance on a Credit Card?

What happens to an old credit card after a balance transfer is basically up to you.

Advertising & Editorial DisclosureLast Updated: 11/18/2022
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Last Updated: 11/18/2022

A balance transfer gives you the ability to transfer debt from one or more high-interest credit cards to a card with an intro 0% balance transfer APR offer. Once a credit card balance transfer is complete, your new card’s issuer will either pay off your old card’s balance directly or write you a check so you may pay it off yourself.

Moving forward, you need to make payments toward the new card on time. Failure to do so may lead to the offer’s termination before the promotional rate expires.

Even if you pay off an old credit card’s outstanding balance completely, the account does not close automatically. Choosing to close the account may have a negative effect on your credit score.

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MoneyGeek’s Takeaways


Your old credit card account does not close automatically after a balance transfer.


You have the option of transferring less than the total balance of your old card.


Closing your old card after a balance transfer might affect your credit score.

Some of the links on this page will take you to one of our partner's sites, where you can compare and apply for a selected credit card.

What Happens to an Old Credit Card After a Balance Transfer?

A balance transfer does not lead to the automatic closure of your old credit card account even if you’ve paid off its outstanding balance completely. Whether or not it remains active is entirely up to you.

Bear in mind that closing a credit card account might affect your credit utilization ratio, which refers to the amount of credit you’ve used compared to your total available credit. It would also bring down the average age of your credit accounts. Both factors may have an adverse effect on your credit score.

If you’ve not paid off the entire balance, you need to continue making monthly payments until the balance comes down to zero.

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When looking for a balance transfer credit card, consider the introductory offer period and balance transfer fees, among other things. For example, U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card comes with a 0% APR for 20 months and a 3% balance transfer fee. Citi Diamond Preferred, while having the longest balance transfer offer at 21 months, charges 5% on balance transfers.


Compare Balance Transfer credit cards here.


Some of the links above will take you to one of our partner's sites, where you can compare and apply for a selected credit card.

Can You Use an Old Card After a Balance Transfer?

If you have an outstanding balance remaining on your old card after a balance transfer, making monthly payments will follow until you clear the debt entirely. This can be the case if your new card’s credit limit is less than the balance you owe toward your existing card. For example, say you have an outstanding balance of $10,000 on your old card and get a new card with a credit limit of $7,000. Even after transferring $7,000, you’ll still have an outstanding balance of $3,000.

You may continue using the card as before even if you’ve paid the entire balance. Closing the account might have a negative effect on your creditworthiness.

Does a Balance Transfer Close Your Account?

A balance transfer does not lead to the automatic closure of your old credit card account. If a balance transfer pays off your old card’s balance completely, you have the option of closing the account. However, you should close an old credit card account only after understanding the effect it will have on your credit score.

When Should You Close an Old Credit Card After a Balance Transfer?

You may want to close an old credit card after you transfer its balance to a new credit card under a few different circumstances.

  • If you are paying annual fees: Credit cards with annual fees tend to offer a range of benefits or higher reward-earning potential than no-annual-fee cards. If you feel you’re not using a card well enough to offset its annual fee, you may want to consider closing the account or downgrading to a no-fee card.
  • If there is no significant effect on your credit score: If you’ve established that closing your old credit card account will not have much of an impact on your credit score, you may decide to move forward.
  • If your ability to build credit (again) is at risk: If you think you might not be able to resist the urge to spend — thereby putting your ability to rebuild your credit at risk — after just having transferred a balance, canceling the old card might be in your best interest.
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If you’re interested in getting a balance transfer card, compare your options across factors such as the duration of the promotional period, regular APRs, annual fees, rewards and added perks. We’ve used our unique ranking methodology to narrow down the best balance transfer cards so that you may find one that works well for you easily.

What Happens After You Do a Balance Transfer?

After successfully transferring a balance to another credit card, your new card’s issuer will either transfer funds to your old credit card’s issuer directly or give you a check that you then need to send to your old card’s issuer. Once the old card provider receives the money, your balance is reduced accordingly.

Keep making payments toward your old card until its issuer confirms it has received funds from your new card’s issuer. Missing a payment or making a late payment may lead to additional fees and interest charges. It can also have a negative effect on your credit score.

If there’s an outstanding balance left on your old card’s account after the transfer is complete, you need to keep making your payments on time until you pay the balance off completely.

The starting balance on your new card will include any applicable balance transfer fee. For example, if your new card charges a 5% balance transfer fee and you’ve used it to transfer $7,500, you’ll need to pay $375 in fees. This will make the starting balance $7,875. It’s important that you make all your monthly payments on time because failure to do so may lead to the cancellation of the introductory balance transfer interest rate.

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Instead of closing your old credit card, keep it open to maintain your credit history and available credit. If the card charges an annual fee, consider downgrading it to a no-fee card if its perks aren't worth the cost. -- Lee Huffman, credit card expert at BaldThoughts.com

Other Questions You May Have About Balance Transfer Cards

Learn the answers to other commonly asked questions about what happens if you transfer credit card balances to determine if you might benefit from doing so.

Next Steps

Now that you know what happens when you transfer a credit card’s balance to another card, determine if you might benefit by getting a balance transfer card. If you do, look for one based on factors such as eligibility criteria, introductory balance transfer offers, fees and other perks.

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The editorial team at MoneyGeek endeavors to answer all your questions about how credit cards work, how to use them in the right manner and how to look for cards based on different features quickly and efficiently. To do this, its members stay up to date on the latest offers, news and changes in the credit card world.

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About the Author

Rajiv Baniwal has been writing about different financial topics for over 15 years. Meticulous in his research, he makes sure he provides accurate and up-to-date information. His areas of expertise include mortgages, personal loans, credit cards, insurance and international money transfers.

*Rates, fees or bonuses may vary or include specific stipulations. The content on this page is accurate as of the posting/last updated date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. We recommend visiting the card issuer’s website for the most up-to-date information available.
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