Many consumers have a credit balance on at least one credit card and possibly more. Used wisely, credit can be a positive financial tool that lets you manage your cash flow, improve your credit score and handle financial emergencies.

One of the best ways to ensure you’re making good use of your credit is to be mindful of the cards you use, the balances you maintain, the rate you’re paying and any fees that might be tied to the card. If the balance on your cards is not helping you meet your financial goals, financial institutions offer balance transfers.

What is a balance transfer?

A balance transfer is the process of moving a balance from one credit card to another, or from a personal loan to a credit card.  You may also decide to transfer more than one balance to a different card to take advantage of an introductory offer and streamline your bills into one payment. When you combine more than one debt onto a single loan or line of credit, that’s often called a debt consolidation.

How does a balance transfer work?

A balance transfer lets you move the unpaid balance from one or more credit cards to a new credit card by using paper checks, online banking or even a mobile app to pay those outstanding balances.   

If you decide to transfer a balance to a credit card with an introductory annual percentage rate (APR) -- and you’re diligent about making payments -- you may be able to pay off your debt with minimal to no interest if you pay off the balance before the introductory period ends.

There is typically a fee to transfer the balance, so you’ll want to factor that into your potential savings. It’s typically a percentage of the balance or a fixed amount, and it’s added to your balance to be paid off.

What you should consider before deciding on a balance transfer.

Paying off one credit card with another has potential benefits and costs. Every person’s financial situation is unique so what may be a good choice for some is not the right path for others. Here are some pros and cons to consider:


  • Many balance transfer cards offer an introductory APR. Check the interest rates on the cards or loans you’re considering paying off to get a better idea how a balance transfer credit card might help you. If you have an introductory APR, you’ll pay that introductory rate on your transferred balance for the disclosed time period, and that could help you get out of debt faster.
  • You may improve your credit score. If your goal is to improve your score, one key is to use the balance transfer to reduce your overall debt — both in dollar terms and as a percentage of your available credit. Eliminating debt sends the kind of signals that result in better credit scores.
  • You could streamline your payments. If you combine several credit card balances onto a single card by transferring their unpaid balances, you can focus on a single monthly payment with one due date. That may make it easier for you to plan for – and remember – your payment each month. But remember that interest will accrue to any unpaid balance after the introductory period, so be mindful of the expiration date.


  • You may end up paying a higher APR. If you don’t pay off the full transferred balance before the end of the introductory period, you may end up paying more interest down the road. The rate after your introductory period may be higher than your original loan or credit card since most credit cards typically have higher interest rates than other loans or lines of credit. You should also confirm whether there are any pre-payment penalties if you’re paying off an installment loan.
  • You may negatively impact your credit score. While the transfer itself isn’t likely to impact your credit score, you may see a drop in your score if you transfer a balance without reducing your overall debt. Make sure you’re committed to paying off your balances rather than simply reloading those cards with new charges.
  • There may be fees associated with a balance transfer. Most balance transfers do come with a cost, as well as some limitations. Check all your balance transfer offer details to determine the balance transfer fee – typically 3% to 5% of the total transfer amount – as well as the limit on the amount you can transfer.  Even if you can’t transfer the entire balance of another, higher-rate loan balance, it may still be worthwhile to consider.

Which card should you use to transfer balances?

There are a number of factors you should consider before choosing which card to transfer your balances. If your primary objective is to save money on interest, you’ll want to shop for the lowest rate card. Some cards, including the PNC Core® Visa® Credit Card, offer a special rate for balance transfers.

Other cards offer you the benefit of cash back rewards, points that can be redeemed for merchandise, or even a specialty travel card that offers travel rewards.

You can compare the cards available through PNC here.