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When you transfer a balance on your credit card, you're essentially moving your debt from one card to another, often to take advantage of lower interest rates. But what exactly happens during this process, and what are the implications for you and your credit score?

In the following sections, we'll explore how balance transfers work, what happens to your old card after a transfer and what are some key considerations before making a balance transfer.

  • Credit card balance transfers don't automatically close your old card; what happens to the old card is up to you.
  • Closing or keeping your old card open after a balance transfer can impact your credit score and should be decided based on your financial habits.
  • Understanding the terms of your new card, such as the length of the promotional period and balance transfer fees, is crucial to manage your debt effectively after a balance transfer.

What Happens After You Do a Balance Transfer?

After successfully transferring a balance to another credit card, your old card doesn't automatically close. It remains open and active, just minus the debt you've moved to the new card. If you still have charges, fees or interest on your old card that weren't included in the transfer, you'll need to keep paying these off on time.

The transfer usually works like this: your new credit card issuer pays your old one directly or gives you a check to do it yourself. You should keep paying your old card until its issuer confirms the balance has been paid. If you're late or miss a payment, you might have to pay extra fees, which could hurt your credit score.

The starting balance on your new card will include any balance transfer fee. So, if you moved $7,500 and there's a 5% fee, you'd start with a $7,875 balance. Be sure to make all payments on time because missing one can cancel your 0% APR introductory offer.

Ultimately, what you'll do with your old card depends on your financial habits. Whether you keep or close it can influence your credit score and overall financial well-being.

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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

Questions to Consider Before Canceling Your Old Card

Before you decide to cancel your old card after a balance transfer, it's essential to consider a few things. Here are some questions to guide your decision-making process:

  • What is the impact on my credit score? Remember that closing a credit card could lower your credit score, as it might increase your credit utilization ratio. If your credit score takes a dip, it could be more challenging to secure loans or other credit cards in the future on favorable terms.
  • Will I need this credit card for future needs? Consider your future credit needs. If you anticipate needing another credit card in the future, keep your old one open, especially if it has favorable terms.
  • Am I losing out on rewards? Many credit cards offer rewards and benefits. If your old card has a rewards program that you frequently use, closing it could mean losing those benefits.
  • Does this card carry any annual fees? If your old card carries a high annual fee, closing it could be beneficial, especially if you're not actively using it. But if your old card has no annual fee, its potential benefits come at no cost to you.

Consider these questions carefully before making your decision. Remember, the goal is not just to consolidate your debt but to create a sustainable financial plan for your future.

Pros and Cons of Canceling Your Credit Card After a Balance Transfer

When you've transferred a balance to a new credit card, one of the decisions you may face is whether or not to close the old card. Let's explore the advantages and drawbacks to guide your decision-making process.


  • Simplified Financial Management: Having fewer cards can make tracking your payments and overall financial picture easier. Closing the old card means one less account to monitor, which can simplify your budgeting process.
  • Reduced Temptation to Spend: An empty card can be a temptation. If you're worried about racking up new charges and slipping back into debt, closing the account can help eliminate this risk.
  • Decreased Fraud Risk: Any open credit card account, even ones you're not actively using, can be a target for fraud. Closing the account can reduce this risk and give you peace of mind.

MORE: Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards in 2023


  • Possible Credit Score Impact: Closing an account could negatively impact your credit score. It can increase your credit utilization ratio (the amount of credit you're using compared to your total available credit) and shorten your credit history, both important factors in credit scoring.
  • Potential for Future Credit Needs: If you close the card now and need to open another in the future, you might not get the same favorable terms as before. Your new card could come with a higher APR, especially if your credit score has decreased in the meantime.
  • Reduced Credit Flexibility: Closing your old card after a balance transfer may reduce your overall credit flexibility. An extra credit card can be useful in emergencies or for unexpected costs, giving you a safety net when needed. It also lets you enjoy different perks and rewards from different credit card companies.

Things to Do After a Balance Transfer

Once you've transferred a balance from one credit card to another, there are several steps you should take to ensure you're managing your debt effectively:


Understand Your New Card's Terms

First, make sure you fully understand the terms of your new card. This includes the length of the promotional period, the APR after the promotional period ends, any balance transfer fees and the minimum payment required each month.


Develop a Repayment Plan

Create a plan to pay off your transferred balance before the promotional period ends. This might involve setting up automatic payments or budgeting a specific amount each month toward this debt.


Keep Track of the Promotional Period

Mark your calendar with the end date of the promotional period. It's vital to be aware of this date as any remaining balance will accrue interest at the higher, regular rate after this period.


Manage Your Old Card Wisely

Decide what to do with your old card. If you choose to keep it open, use it responsibly to avoid accumulating more debt. If you close it, understand the potential impact on your credit score.


Monitor Your Credit Score

Regularly check your credit score and report to ensure all the information is accurate and to see how the balance transfer is impacting your credit over time.

Remember, a balance transfer can be an excellent tool for managing credit card debt, but it requires careful planning and discipline to maximize its benefits.

Next Steps

When you transfer a balance on your credit card, your old card isn't automatically closed—it's up to you to decide what happens next.

While closing it can simplify the management of your finances and reduce the temptation to spend, keeping it open may help maintain your credit score. Ultimately, the choice depends on your individual financial habits and goals. So, consider your options carefully to make a decision that's best for your financial future.

FAQs About What Happens After a Balance Transfer

Want to know more about what happens after a balance transfer? We've answered some common questions about the topic to help clarify this process and its effects on your credit management.

About Grace Pilling

Grace Pilling headshot

Grace Pilling is passionate about empowering readers to make informed financial choices to support their best lives, not a company’s bottom line. Prior to joining MoneyGeek as a senior content manager, Grace was a senior editor at and Bankrate, where she focused on teaching people how to use credit cards wisely.

*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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