What Is a Balance Transfer Check?

Updated: March 21, 2024

Updated: March 21, 2024

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A balance transfer check is a check issued by your credit card company that allows you to shift debt from one account to another. These checks are similar to regular checks, but instead of drawing funds from a bank account, they draw from your available credit limit. You can then use the funds to pay off or reduce debt on one account, and it will be added to the account you draw from.

Today, balance transfer checks are less common. Transferring balances online or over the phone is more common and typically faster. Still, some card companies issue balance transfer checks. For example, you can request Chase balance transfer checks and make it out to yourself.

View these checks as a strategy for managing or reducing high-interest debts rather than a form of short-term loan. However, remember that the lower rate is usually a promotional offer and can increase after a specific time frame.

  • A balance transfer check allows you to move existing debt from one credit card to another, typically at an introductory or promotional interest rate.
  • You can use a balance transfer check to consolidate different types of debts to your credit card as long as they're below your credit limit.
  • Balance transfers can make your financial situation worse if you don't pay them off before the introductory period ends.

How to Use a Balance Transfer Check

If you’re a Citi account holder, you may get balance transfer checks occasionally. If you own a Chase account, you may have to specifically request a balance transfer check. Either way, there are two ways you can use it:

  • Write the balance transfer check to yourself. This is especially useful if you plan to use the proceeds to pay multiple debts or if your lender doesn’t allow balance transfers. For example, since Apple Card doesn’t allow balance transfers (as payments may be classified as “non-conforming payment”), you can use the proceeds to pay for your balance.
  • Write the check to someone else. Another way to use a balance transfer check is to name the creditor as the payee. This way, the payment will automatically get posted once the check has cleared.

With credit cards, you can do the balance transfer online or by calling your card issuer.

With a balance transfer check, you’ll have to write the payee and the amount. You’ll then need to call your card issuer to activate the check and let them know you plan to use it. Before finalizing, ensure you fully understand the terms of your balance transfer offer, including the fees, interest rates and promotional period to help you avoid any unexpected charges or rate changes.

Always account for the time it takes for the check to clear. In addition, just like with balance transfers, higher interest rates kick in after the introductory period.

Balance Transfer by Check vs. by Phone or Online

A balance transfer check essentially works just like a typical balance transfer: they both have a low introductory APR offer, they charge a fee for the transfer and regular APR applies once you’re past the introductory period.

A balance transfer check gives you more freedom when it comes to using the balance transfer funds. If you make it out to yourself, you can use it to pay for anything, not just debt. The increased flexibility is a double-edged sword — if you don't use it responsibly, you risk making your financial situation worse.

A balance transfer credit card does not give you that flexibility since you will indicate which accounts you want to transfer balances from when you apply. On the other hand, you may get a balance transfer card that offers a 0% introductory rate on new purchases or lets you earn points for new spending.

Balance Transfer Checks Are Not Convenience Checks

It’s more uncommon in the age of ATMs, but credit card companies sometimes send convenience checks to their cardholders. A convenience check is different from a balance transfer check and is treated as a cash advance.

When you write and cash a convenience check, you're not just borrowing against your credit limit but essentially withdrawing cash directly from your card issuer. Since it is considered a cash advance, your “loan” is subject to higher interest rates with no grace period.

Banks Offering Balance Transfer Checks

Credit card issuers have different policies when it comes to balance transfer checks. Citi issues balance transfer checks from time to time, while other card issuers grant them upon request. For example, if you want a Chase balance transfer check, you will have to put inaour request. Wells Fargo has Balance Transfer SUPERCHECKSTM. However, you’ll have to check the fine print to be sure you’re getting a balance transfer check and not a cash advance.

American Express, Discover and Capital One do not issue balance transfer checks; all balance transfers are requested over the phone or online.

If you want to get a balance transfer check, call your card issuer to check if you’re eligible. Once you have the check, read the fine print and ensure you get a balance transfer check, not a convenience check.

How to Qualify for a Balance Transfer Check

The eligibility requirements for balance transfer checks can vary per card issuer, but there are some common criteria that many issuers consider:

Maintain Good Credit

You usually need a good or excellent credit score to get balance transfer checks with good terms.

Stay Current on Payments

Make sure your payments are up to date and you're not over your credit limit. If you've been late on payments or maxed out your card, it might be harder to get these checks.

Credit Card Company

Each credit card company has its own rules for balance transfer checks. Some might offer them all the time, others only during special deals.

Customer Loyalty

Sometimes, these checks are part of special deals for certain customers. If you spend a lot, have been with the company for a while or are just really profitable for them, you might get these offers.

Who Should Get a Balance Transfer Check

Deciding if a balance transfer check is right for you depends on your own needs and circumstances:

You Have a High-Interest Credit Card Debt: If you're carrying a balance on a credit card with a high interest rate, using a balance transfer check to move that balance to a card with a lower rate can save you money on interest, especially if you can pay off the balance during the introductory low-interest period.

You Want to Consolidate Multiple Debts: If you have multiple sources of debt, such as several credit card balances and loans, using a balance transfer check can help you consolidate these debts into one account. This can simplify your finances and potentially reduce the amount of interest you pay.

You have a Large, Upcoming Payment: If you're facing a significant upcoming expense and can obtain a balance transfer check with a low or 0% introductory rate, it might be a sensible way to manage this expense. However, this is only advisable if you're confident you can pay off the balance before the introductory rate expires.

If you want to use a balance transfer check, read the fine print, as not all balance transfer checks give you the same benefits as a balance transfer credit card, like a 0% intro APR period. You’ll end up paying interest once you’ve completed your balance transfer. If you decide to transfer a balance, you can also do so online or over the phone.

Opting Out of Balance Transfer Checks

If you're receiving unsolicited balance transfer checks from your issuer, you have the option to opt out of these marketing offers. To do this, contact the issuer directly through phone, email, online or regular mail — use the customer service number on your card for guidance.

You can also log into your online card account and follow the instructions there to opt out of these offers.

FAQ About Balance Transfer Checks

You might still have some questions about balance transfer checks. We've compiled a list of frequently asked questions to guide you toward making the right decision.

Can I use a balance transfer check to deposit into a checking or savings account?
What happens if I don’t use the balance transfer check?
Are balance transfer checks and convenience checks the same?
Does using a balance transfer check affect my credit score?
Is there a limit to how much I can transfer with a balance transfer check?
Are Balance Transfer Checks similar to Balance Transfer Credit Cards?

About Doug Milnes, CFA

Doug Milnes, CFA headshot

Doug Milnes is a CFA charter holder with over 10 years of experience in corporate finance and the Head of Credit Cards at MoneyGeek. Formerly, he performed valuations for Duff and Phelps and financial planning and analysis for various companies. His analysis has been cited by U.S. News and World Report, The Hill, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and many other outlets.

Milnes holds a master’s degree in data science from Northwestern University. He geeks out on helping people feel on top of their credit card use, from managing debt to optimizing rewards.

*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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