Application Tips and Getting Cash From 0% Balance Transfers

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[This is Part 3 of an ongoing series about how to make money from 0% APR balance transfers.]

Before I start, someone said that it’s too easy with Citibank, and can I do an example with another issuer. Sure. Let’s run through it with the Discover More Card this time.

First, you do all the scouting and find the following:

Annual Fee: NONE

Balance Transfers APR: 0% until the last day of the billing period ending during May 2009*, then the standard APR for purchases

Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”) for Purchases: 0.0% until the last day of the billing period ending during November 2008;* then the standard APR, a rate between 10.99% and 18.99%**

BALANCE TRANSFER FEE: 3.0% for each balance transfer made under this offer, with a minimum of $10 and a maximum of $75.

Ok, no annual fee, 0% APR until May 2009 (as of this most recent update, perhaps even longer than 12 months) on balance transfers (note the specific wording though, also the exact date may be different depending on how long ago I updated this post). The balance transfer fee is 3% capped at $75.

This means if you transfer $7,500, then $75 is only 1% of that balance. Transfer $15,000, and that’s only a 0.50% fee, and so on. You can still make this up and create profit.

Application Process
Credit card applications are pretty much the same all around, but there are some things to note.

Housing Information
They always seem to ask if you rent or own, your housing payment, and how long you’ve stay at your address. Part of this is probably identity verification, and part of it is screening on their end. So I wouldn’t lie here because you think owning is better. Any mortgage should show on your credit report anyways. I both rent and move a lot, and I haven’t had any problems getting cards.

Employment Information
Same deal, tell the truth. I’m not sure about all companies, but often if you are a full-time student, credit card companies will be more lax with you and still give you a card even with low income.

Household Financial Information
This is important. And vague: Household Annual Income. This number is important. For one, most low-interest cards like this that target people with good credit have a minimum income requirement. It may not be that high but it’s there.

Second of all, it helps determine your credit limit. For the purposes of this activity, you want the highest credit limit you can get. In a way, I think it’s intentionally vague so they can offer you more credit (and earn more potential interest). So you want to say your household annual income is as big as possible. Include everything – your parents income, your roommate’s income, interest income, dividend income, money from grandma. If you can get into that next bracket, all the better.

In this case, Discover is upfront about it:

Except for full-time students, you must have a minimum annual household income of $15,000 to be considered for any Discover Card account. For highest credit line, please include all sources of annual household income.

There are two screens and 7 steps where you enter your information. Click on ‘Submit Application’ (don’t worry, it’s not the last page), and the next screen will ask you for balance transfer information.

Getting Your Money

As part of the application, they will ask you if you want to make a balance transfer, how much you want, and where you want it to go. They want your balances!

How much you want?
When requesting a balance transfer amount, I recommend for reaching for the sky. Ask for double or triple what your current limits are, or even higher. They won’t reject you for asking for too much, in the end they get to decide what kind of credit limit you can get. For example, if you just ask for $5,000, maybe they’ll just give you $5,000 or $7,000. But if you ask for $10,000, they may just give it to you as that means more guaranteed business for them.

When I applied for the Discover Miles Card, I asked for a $15,000 in balance transfers and got an $11,000 limit. I only had one Discover card a few years before this one, so I was pretty happy.

While you may want to ask for the balance transfer with the application to haggle a higher credit limit, other times you may want to put it off. This is so you can transfer some of the credit limits on your other cards within the same issuer in order to get a much higher limit. For example, if you got a $10,000 limit on your new AT&T/Citibank card and already had $10,000 on another Citi card, you could make it so that you had $19,000 on the new card and leave $1,000 on the old card.

Getting the Money Directly
Some card issuers may allow you to issue yourself a check for the balance transfer amount, or even deposit it electronically into your bank account with bank account and routing number. The latter is preferred since you’ll be losing potential interest while the check is in the mail and waits to clear. Two banks I have gotten direct checks are AT&T/Citibank and Chase, but this may vary. This is by far the easiest way to get your money.

Citibank is the easiest to get a check from. Click here for a step-by-step guide on how to request a balance transfer check online after you get the card.

If they don’t, then you’ll have to do it indirectly. This will require another credit card, and it doesn’t even have to have a balance. Let’s say you request a $10,000 transfer from Card A to Card B. Once approved, it will show up on Card B as a $10,000 payment, and you will now have a negative (credit) balance on card B. If you make a lot of purchases you could just use it up that way, but most people will have to ask for a credit balance refund in the form of a check.

It matters what card issuer you use for Card B. AT&T/Citibank is the easiest to transfer TO as well, in the fact that you can request it online directly and without even human interaction. Here is a screenshot of the menu option you should look for:

AT&T Citibank Screenshot

I’ve gotten negative balances even greater than my credit limit with Citi (ex. credit limit $5,000 and then goes to -$10,000 with a received transfer), with zero problems.

I have also done this with American Express by calling in. Sometimes they will make you wait for a few days to make sure the payment clears before issuing the check. Now, if you send a big fat payment to a card that you never use, they might become suspicious. I have sent it to my American Express Starwood card which I already use regularly as a rewards card, and they’ve never given me a hard time.

Do not send it to MBNA, they may reject the transfer. I have also reported some success with Discover in the past, but I am not so sure about Chase, Advanta, and others. If you do try one of these, it’s better to use a card that already has a balance on it to fly “under the radar”. Honestly, I almost always just use AT&T/Citibank, switching to a different Citi card sometimes if I do more than one a month. Last time I used American Express was mainly an experiment to make sure they still did it.

With my Discover Miles card, I sent $7,000 to Citibank and $7,000 American Express. American Express sent me a check for the overpayment after verifying the balance transfer with Discover, which ended up making their check arrive about 4 days later than Citibank’s.

Either directly or indirectly, you should have money now in the form of a check or online transfer.

Where do you put the money?
If you already have higher-interest loans, like a home equity line of credit or other credit card debt, you could just move it there.

Otherwise, I recommend putting the money into an FDIC-insured or similarly safe checking or savings account that is relatively liquid. Here are some online savings account options, and this is my current setup to maximize interest. One reason why is that you must still make the minimum payments on the card, with are usually about 2% of the principal. So on $10,000 that would about $200 a month, decreasing each subsequent month as you pay it down. The second reason is more practical – if somehow you make a late payment, you can minimize the damage by simply paying the entire balance off immediately. Even at 20% APR, if you can pay it off in a few days the damage won’t be devastating.

Of course, some people may place it into bonds, dividend-yielding stocks, or other investments. To each their own, but I would not take that kind of risk for short-term loaned money.

Next up: Setup and management of the balance transfer. How do you manage the payments and due dates?

Skip To Another Part
I. Introduction and Warnings About 0% Balance Transfer Offers
II. Scouting For 0% Balance Transfer Offers
III. Application Tips and Getting Cash From 0% Balance Transfers
IV. Setup And Management of 0% APR Balance Transfers
V. Best Pre-Screened No Fee 0% APR Balance Transfer Offers

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  1. Excellent post!!! I’m curious to learn about the timeline from Day 1 applying for credit card online, to the day you received the card, to the day you do the BT transfer directly and indirectly, to the day the check is received, to the day your check clears at your local bank, to the day it begins earning interest at a high yielding savings account. Is it within the first 30 days after the applying date that you start realizing interest on free money? Either way, sounds good!

  2. It varies, to be honest. You could be approved instantly, or they make ask for stuff like proof of address if you moved recently (like me). Then it takes a few days to process the balance transfer. If you do it directly via check, then it gets sent via snail mail, and then you deposit it, and so on. Doing it indirectly adds about a week, since they have to process that as well.

    Within 30 days? Depends on all of the above. If you get approved instantly, and you can do it directly into an interest bearing account, it can definitely be within 30 days. If you slack on mailing in an old utility bill, then it can take longer 😉

  3. You menton transfering credit line from one Citi Card to another. I tried doing that from Citi Diamond Rewards to Citi Professional and here is the response “We cant transfer credit lines between a professional card and a personal card”. Just to be sure that its their policy and not a piece of mind of the service professional answering the phone, I called again after a few days, a different service professional, and got exact same response.

  4. I can never get approved for any 0% balance tranfer cards…Guess a full-time college student who makes 16k a year with a credit score of 723 (2 yrs of active credit) is not enough…

  5. Anybody ever try transfering *TO* Discover? Or Chase?

    (Jonathan said above he only tried transfering to Citi and Amex.)

    * Discover Platinum
    * Chase Rewards Visa
    * Chase Business Mastercard
    * MBNA Mastercard

    I’m asking because I actually was just about to send my BT money to the MBNA card, but luckilly I caught Jonathan’s comment above that it won’t work. So, has anybody successfully gotten a check from a balance transfer TO Discover or Chase?


  6. just in case it wasn’t clear, the bulletted list above shows my options to transfer BT money to.

    (Sorry, typing too quickly, not coherent sometimes…)

  7. how does scheme affect ones credit history or rating?

  8. Thanks for the info.

  9. I’m pretty sure I have done a balance transfer to Chase successfully, but this was over a year ago.

  10. Hey Jonathan,

    Just wanted to let you know that I tried your methods and it definitely works. I made a balance transfer to an American Express account, and it was a simple process requesting a credit refund (there were no questions asked). I had to call a second time to follow up on my refund request, but I guess they were waiting for the check to clear from the transferring bank.

    Thanks for the great write up and for earning me a few extra buckaroos! 🙂

  11. Jonathan,

    It is interesting how we have both taken advantage of the 0% balance transfer offers in very similar ways. I have been doing this for about 18 months and will report about $1500 in interest for tax purposes for last year (just due to free money). I typically have between $40K and $70K at any one time. One Chase card recently provided me with a $40K credit limit. Obviously, I am (like you), extremely disciplined to pay on time (using Bank of America Bill Pay), have several reminders (keep the paper bill coming to your house, get e-bill reminders, put together a spreadsheet on when each payment has been scheduled and when posted, etc.). I would caution the average person from doing this unless you read all of Jonathan’s blog and understand it. Start small and with a single account.

  12. Wil Stunkel says

    I have a question for those of you who have been doing this a while. Have you ever tried to close an account for which at one time you had the BT rate only to “reopen” the account later (or applying for the same now closed card) and getting the same BT rate when you reopen? Just curious as it seems that only certain card issuers will do this regularly and it would seem like it’d be good to be able to maybe just “cycle through” different cards over time.

    I’ve definitely wanted to do this for some time now, but never did get around to actively looking for offers until reading your site. I definitely appreciated your Citibank online check request tip…didn’t know about it until I read it here. Makes life VERY simple!

  13. Sorry, I’m a little late to the party. I’ve just applied to Discover card and on the page where you can enter cc accounts for a BT. They also have a spot for “other loans” to do a balance transfer. I typed in a home equity line of credit acct and phoned to check to make sure it won’t be considered a cash advance. The rep said it wouldn’t, but kind of left me feeling unsure. Has anyone done a balance transfer to a HELOC loan?
    BTW, Thanks for all the info and step-by-step instructions.

  14. Cynthia – There is nothing to be sorry about, the party is still going strong 🙂 I’m pretty sure you’ll be fine, as long as the check isn’t written out to you. I’ve heard people pay off various other loans or even their business (with a different name) using that spot in Discover.

  15. Re: American Express

    American Express lets you do balance transfers via their website. There is no fee for the transfer (at least for me). I haven’t tried it, but I imagine you can just transfer the credit balance to another account.

  16. Wil Stunkel: I had an account with Chase that gave 0% for 15 months. As it was running out, I opened a second account with them for the same card and got 0% on the new card for another 15 months.

    I ran into a small snag when I tried to transfer the balance from one card to another–Chase would not transfer between accounts since they are the bank on both cards.

    It wasn’t a problem, though. I wrote a balance transfer check from the new account to myself and then wrote a personal check to pay off the original account.

  17. What do you do if you apply for a card and don’t get a high enough transfer limit that is useful? Do you just cancel the card? Thanks.

  18. Hi Jonathan,
    I have aquestion here. I have only one bank account of Bank of america. Now BoA is giving me a CC which whoose CL is about 15000. I have almsot completed the application but had a doubt while filling up the Balance transfer.If i choose a BT amount of say 12k to my Citi card and get the Check from them as shown/suggested by you…can i drop in that check intially in to my SAME BoA Account and then can open other savings account. Please let me know if it is problem to get the check from citi bank ( which is result of negative balance due to BT from BOA) and dropping it in BoA..Will BoA get to know about it .. will it be an issue..Let me know

  19. Also.. the terms and conditions says

    .”..Transfers are processed as cash advances
    as described in the Credit Card Agreement
    . Cash advances incur finance charges from the transaction date. ….”

    Does this mean BT are considered as Cash advance and even in INtroductory period they charge me for the BT ( which i thought of doing to my existing Citi Card)..Has any one used BoA for this O% APR money usage game…
    Let me know guys.. Thanks a lot

  20. Well wanted to let you know that I applied for a new chase credit card and also signed up for a Balance transfer. I asked them to transfer the Balance of 4500$( no balance transfer fee ) to my Amex Blue card which has no dues on it. When I called the Amex to send me the 4500$ cheque as it was Credit Balance , they said that it is against their policy and they might close the account. They said you made a payment into an account which had no dues. I wanted to know is their a way I can get that 4500$ without making a purchase and still keep my Amex Account. Amex giving me a hard time Please suggest suitable answer which I can present to the customer service.

  21. Will – No, I wouldn’t cancel the card, you’ve already applied and it won’t help the situation.

    Matt – I would need to see the rest of the terms, I can’t say with what you’ve told me.

    Ankur – Just buy some things on the AmEx and call again to reach another customer service rep. Say you made an overpayment and ask them what can be done about it. You don’t want to be blatant about it.

  22. Has anyone used HSBC for this? I’ve made payments to the card using HSBC Direct’s online interface: it looks like I could just as easily go the other way as the credit account lists in the from account list dropdown menu.

  23. Does wells fargo refund credit balances ?
    What is the limit one person can have on total balances (say $200K ?) outstanding on multiple credit cards ?

  24. Thanks for the great website!

    I just came across it (looking for a particular discussion on mutual funds???) when I started poking around and saw your net worth. I was immediately put off by your cc debt and then as I read further I was fascinated because I had no idea you could do a balance transfter to a credit card with no balance, or even to a checking account. So I decided to give it a try. I am a long-time fan of using credit cards simply for cash rewards, so thanks for the well-written step-by-step instructions I will attempt to earn $1k instead of merely $500 this year. Maybe more… You also got me interested in Treasuries, but for now it seems my bank is making more. But indeed, keep sharing the info, I have learned much.

  25. You had mentioned that you used AMEX for a balance transfer and that they will cut you a check if you have a positive balance. I called to get a check and they told me I would have to wait 7-10 days for a review? Was that your experience? I even called ahead of time to AMEX customer service and asked (wrote the name, time and date of the call so they can play back the tape) and the young lady on the phone checked for me, took a few minutes, and she said that they would in fact cut a check right away. That was on the 4/17, now that the money is there on 4/24, it doesn’t seem so.
    Let me know how this all worked for you.

  26. Well, here’s my follow up to the AMEX story. Just got a call from a representative wanting to know why I put money into my account and where did it come from. I told her and she got real snotty and told me that this was a very inappropriate use of my card and that I risked cancellation. Then she told me she would send me a check. I’m not sure if this person has any authority to suspend my card or not, probably just sounding off.
    FYI, I dumped this into my BLUE card, not the regular GOLD card. maybe because BLUE works like a traditional credit card and not like the green, gold and platinum cards? Don’t know.

  27. I signed up for the Chase card online and $15K on a balance transfer 10 days ago. My card came in the mail 4-5 days later but now still no money has been transferred. How long does it usually take? Thanks!

  28. You note that you have transferred among Citi cards. Their fine print includes “transfers may not be to another Citi account” (or words to that effect). Have you ever had a problem?

    I ask because I have a transfer coming due and the best cards out there are all Citi. I will look to see whether directing the BT to myself (in effect a cash advance) is possible.

    Thanks! Great site.

  29. Follow-up to the above:

    AH! Now I see–pay oneself first via check THEN re-pay Citi…

    Too late for that–looking for instant-decision BT CCs; may choose Disney ($50 fee, but on a $10k transfer, so…I guess I’ll swallow it); will keep another SFL card in the sockdrawer.

    Big on the cash-back: using HSBC Direct Rewards for 5% cash-back on EDP; HSBC Weekender for 2% on weekend purchases; Chase Rewards for 1% on all else…

    Using BT as a HELOC conversion…


  30. NeedNoWallet says

    I have also read at other forums that people transfer the balance to their “check cards”. Check cards are associated to their checking accounts and so the money goes directly to their checking account.

    Havent tried this myself, but is another way of getting the money into your account.

    Does anyone have experience with it ?

  31. Everyone I’ve heard try the check-card idea has had their money returned, often after a long period of holding the money. It might work for some banks, but I wouldn’t try it unless it’s with a small amount of money to test it out.

  32. Just got off the phone with Citibank. I was attempting to move a large portion of my credit limit on an account I’ve had for a long time to a new account with the zero-fee, zero-percent offer. After having three different reps attempt this, I was finally told that they will not approve any more limit transfers from an account with a balance transfer fee to an account without one. This was disapointing, but I guess they are catching on to this technique. Has anyone else ran into this?

  33. Can I overdraw from a Citi account? For instance, I have a $9 k balance on Citi, with a $15k limit, can I ask for $20? What happens if I get $20, does Citi bill me for overdrafting the set limit?

  34. Anthony,

    Maybe find a citi 0% BT card with a fee that is capped at $75 or so (make SURE it is capped!). You may lose a little profit, but it’s better than not getting any. One of my cards had a $75 fee, but as long as they give you a big enough transfer, the interest you earn pays for it. I have about $70k of 0% BT money earning 6% in my FNBO account. About $300 of interest earned per month! I love it!

  35. Hi,
    How is the AT&T universal platinum card? Can I do a BT using that card?


  36. You mean this ATT Universal card? Yes, that one also offers 0% for 12 months with no fee, and all ATT cards are run by Citibank, so it is easy to get money like any other Citibank card.

  37. Thats the one. Thanks.

  38. Jonathan,
    Which is better, Call them over the phone or fill the application online?


  39. I was wondering the same thing, call them over the phone or do it online. I personally like doing it over the phone, this way I can clarify and be sure to get the best offer they currently have.

  40. I applied for AT&T Universal platinum card and I got a initial credit limit of $3,600. I thought it was less and called the customer service to increase it to $15,000. The lady said since its a new card they need to do a hard check on my credit file. I said ok and they said something like they are sending me some mail to verify income. I have several cards but never had a income verification before? Do you guys are aware of this?


  41. I just applied for the Discover More card and got approved though i have no idea what kinda credit limit i will get.

    From reading your previous looks like i will have to do a “indirect” transfer to my checking account. But the problem is that i hardly use my Citi Premier Elite Card now since i stopped traveling…and i was going to transfer to that card because my other Citi card is maxed out (0 % BT in process 🙂 ) Will citi deny this transfer since this card is hardly being used?

  42. Jonathan
    I have 4 cards already. But all of them are old with good standing. I am planning to apply for few more for BT offers. I can handle more cards in terms of payment etc etc… but does it hurt to have more cards.

    I am not planning to buy house in 2 years. but my worry is even if i pay down all balances 3 months before i am shopping for mortgage still credit file will show a lot of new accounts (less than 2 years old) by then. does that hurt much or if they are in good standing it doesn’t matter (much).

  43. is your explanation of how to get the money indirectly from card A to B in error or mixed up? I guess I don’t understand. If i am transfering balance to card B why do I have a credit on card B?

  44. Just wanted to check before getting myself into trouble; has anyone had difficulty doing a BT to one card, then later using that same card to do a BT? I suspect a large surplus value followed by the request for money could start them asking questions.

  45. I have a BT offer from DiscoverCard sitting as I try to decide how to get the cash, rather than a true balance transfer. In the past, I’ve done “BT”s from (Chase and Citi, I think) CC accounts that had no balance, and then asked for a check on the resulting credit. However, I think that it took a while to get the checks. I’m now wondering about ordering the transfer from my Paypal MasterCard debit card account, which is treated as a credit card when I make purchases. If the transfer went through OK, I’d have the $ immediately available to transfer to my bank checking account. My concern is that DiscoverCard would know or discover that the account is a debit card account, and would either reject the transfer, treat it as a cash advance, and/or punish me by withdrawing the offer or card. I see in the above comments that Jonathan has mentioned that transfers from bank check cards have failed, according to what he’s heard from others. Since I don’t use a check card, I don’t know whether they are easily identifiable as such by their card numbers or names. Since my Paypal card is a MasterCard and has a 16 digit number just like a credit card, I don’t know that Discover would know that it’s a debit card. Has anyone tried ordering a BT from their Paypal debit card?

  46. Eric:
    Without re-reading Jonathan’s indirect method for getting the cash from a balance transfer, I think what might be confusing is the mix-up of the prepositions “to” and “from.” One orders a transfer of debt FROM one CC account TO another. If there is no debt in the account from which the transfer is ordered, the transfer is essentially one of credit, leaving a credit balance in which that credit card company owes one that amount of money. It’d be the same if one hugely overpaid one’s CC account. For instance, say one thought that he were paying off an account with a balance of $10,000, but he accidentally sent the payment to an account with a zero balance. One could leave that credit balance on the account and just let it slowly dwindle as one makes purchases with the card, or one could ask the company to send a check to pay off the credit balance. This may look confusing in writing, but if you think it out, you’ll see that it makes sense.

  47. Al,

    The company receiving the credit certainly doesn’t deny the transaction. However, some will balk (others have said MBNA before B of A bought it, and someone here said that AmEx gave him a hard time) when you ask for the money. As several have mentioned, apparently CitiBank isn’t a problem, and even has an option to ask for a credit balance check on its website. In the past, I believe that I have used Chase several times, and gotten the checks without a problem. The problem is that these banks could change policy on this at any time, so without a current confirmation, there is a chance of a hassle. Tell us what happened.

  48. Incidentally, apparently, Amex also has an online (somewhat hidden) balance refund option on their website.

    While viewing your statement, click “Dispute a Charge/Check Dispute Status” at the bottom. Then chose the option “I have a credit balance and I would like a refund.” I have yet to use it, but seems as easy as CitiBank.

  49. Does it make sense for me to transfer my $1000 balance on a 25.6% credit card (or 1500 as that is my credit limit) to my 7.7 % home equity line of credit? I would have $500 to put in a savings account or CD etc and save a little on interest also.

  50. grenosmom,
    Yes and No:
    Yes, it makes complete sense to transfer your $1000 balance from a 25.6% rate to a 7.7% rate. Instead of paying $256 in finance charges annually, you would pay $77.
    No, do not transfer out the additional $500, unless you can find a savings account or a CD that pays more than the 7.7% rate your HELOC is charging you unless your tax deduction for the interest will be greater than the interest you pay to use it.

    grenosmom Says:

    December 4th, 2007 at 8:34 am
    Does it make sense for me to transfer my $1000 balance on a 25.6% credit card (or 1500 as that is my credit limit) to my 7.7 % home equity line of credit? I would have $500 to put in a savings account or CD etc and save a little on interest also.

  51. FYI
    I applied for the Citi Home Rebate card and as you suggested waited to do a balance transfer until after getting the card, with the intention of moving my credit line from my other citi cards. However when I called customer service and requested for them to move my credit line from the other cards to the Home Rebate card they informed me that I could not transfer the line do to the special interest rate for balance transfers. The customer service agent was very infomative about the policy. He said any time you have 1.9% or lower promotional APR on Balance Transfers you can not Transfer you credit line from another card which do not have this promational APR.

  52. Thanks, Connor. Your experience illustrates how issuers can change policy at any time. B of A still allows moving credit line around to other accounts easily. Last year, I consolidated $100K into one account which had a 0% promotional rate. This month, I just moved $85K credit line from one B of A card to another with a promotional rate (my choice of 1% for 9 months or 3% for 12 months) with a credit dept. specialist’s approval and help. So, some issuers allow this.

  53. I’m going to try this using American Express as the CC company I’m requesting a check from. My question is: Has anyone used AM-EX yet? I see the exact screen and process as the commenter above mentioned, but when I get to the last screen before submitting it says American Express will launch an investigation on my behalf. Has anyone had the experience of them crediting the balance transfer back to the lender instead of directing the funds to the cardholder, via check or otherwise?

  54. Jason:
    I’d recommend NOT going with Amex as my experience is that they aren’t very happy to give credits like this. They attempted to call me to find out about why I had such a large credit balance and asked me to call back to provide more information (per the message the amex individual left me). I just called the normal 800 number and indicated that I’d gotten a call but hadn’t received my check. The CSR just told me he didn’t know why they held up my request, but that he would process it for me. I’m thinking I got lucky in getting it. Not sure if you’d have any serious trouble or not, but I’m not going to chance it again…especially when every week counts with interest rates so low.

  55. Very good posts. I have been doing the 0% APR game for 4 years now (since the BT charge was 35 max) (starting out at dollar amounts like yours) – happy to see that someone finally blogged about it. Last year I made $21K from balance transfers (with $17K as deferred income, i.e. not currently taxable) – having somewhere between 200K and 350K borrowed at any given time. When I do a BT for 60K or 70K, the 50-99 dollar BT charge doesn’t hurt much (and it is a tax deduction anyway).

    A bit about me, I am a single 30 y/o professional, who makes approx. 250K/yr, never missed a payment in my life, I live relatively frugally (with roommates who help pay for my mortgage on the house I own, bought a used luxury/sports car for cash, use coupons when available, use cc’s to get 5% or 3% back at gas, restaurants and 1.5% everywhere else, get 10x airline miles at restaurants, etc). I add approx. 150K-175K to my Net Worth every year which i keep detailed on spreadsheets – about 10% comes from cc BT’s. Also, I currently have 19 open credit cards (12 of them have $1,000 limit, 2 of them have a 20K limit – and I actually use those day to day but don’t use them for BT’s obviously, and I have 4 “active” BT cards that have limits between 50 and 95K each and sit in my sock drawer so i don’t mistakenly use them). i don’t close out credit cards because it hurts more to voluntarily close a cc than to keep another one “on the books.”

    A few things you didn’t mention that I have learned over the years:
    (1) if you have a “check card” from your checking account, you can sometimes have them do a BT to that card and it goes directly into your checking account. Also, ask them to send you a “Balance Transfer check” that you could just write to yourself (in case they won’t write you one directly).

    (2) I DISAGREE WITH YOU. NEVER request a BT right away during the application process. They might give you a $1,000 limit and then they BT $1,000 and then you have to pay the full 3% and then deal with the hassle of paying it off – not worth it unless you know you will get 10. Better to wait to see what happens.

    (3) ADVANCED TECHNIQUE 1 – Timing your BT’s. know your credit score and the effects on your credit of having a balance (even at 0%). I wait until my score goes back up over 700, then I hit 3 card applications at once before they can come back to nail my credit score down – this insures that i get them all to be approved. Also, if you have more than 50% of avail credit used, then it negatively impacts your credit score so ask for a higher credit limit even if you are not going to use it now (you may use it in the future, see below). Once you do the BT’s (especially at higher dollar amonts) it really really negatively affects your credit.

    (4) ADVANCED TECHNIQUE 2 – Shifting balances. Shift balances with credit issuers whom you have pre-existing relationship with. For example. I had 50K available credit on one Chase card after I paid off the previous 12 mo. BT deal. I saw a new Chase offer, made the application and they gave me 10K avail credit on the new card. I called Chase and said “leave 1K avail credit on Card 1 and move 49K credit to Card 2” – then I had 59K of available credit on Card 2 with the 0% deal. Next day I went to the bank and wrote myself a $58K check with the courtesy BT check that came with the new card. 12 months later, i did the same thing again adding another 10K to the deal.

  56. Have you done an indirect balance transfer to Citi lately? I would like to be sure the credit balance refund still works.

  57. Trifty Femme
    I have done two credit balance refund request with citi in the past two months it takes between a week and two weeks to get your check but other than that it is easy to get online and make the request without even talking to a CSR. Happy Transfering

  58. Citi recently “upgraded” their website and the Credit Balance Refund option is now nowhere to be found! Does anyone know if it’s still possible to get a credit balance refund check without talking to a CSR?

  59. I did a credit balance refund earlier this month before the website redesign, so I guess they still allow it. Just use the email function under Contact Us or call to request a refund check.

  60. JHF & John:
    I ran into a snag with HSBC where I BT $9000 from Discover to HSBC. It was an unusual amount for them and it took 2 months to get my check.

    Which cards do you use?
    Have you ever BT from card to card as opposed to writing yourself a check?

    Thanks in advance.

    Is AMEX suspicious when you BT $7,000 to one of their cards and you ask for the money back in a check?


  61. Hi

    I have done 1 year 0% APR cycle worth of 25k from last year.I am almost paid off 85% now and My FICO score is 750.I am planning to apply for similar to last year.(I am investing this money into different ways).Here is my question..I have own home and it’s value came down more than the loan amount.For example After I get 25k in balance transfer, in case if i do force close my home later will the credit cards company’s will change their 0% apr immediately? (Consider that I am paying minimum balance for each cards correctly)

    Any help will appriciated

  62. Has anyone ever applied for a CC with a 0% BT. Gotten the card. But they only let you do a BT and not to yourself. So you take another card. Get a cash advance. Then the next day use your 0% card to give them a BT for the full amount.

    Then everything seems legit and there is no problems or questions asked.


  63. Nevermind my previous question. The Citi website still has the Credit Balance Refund option in their Tools & Services menu, but it only appears if you actually have a credit balance. It doesn’t give you the option to directly transfer to a bank account, though (they are mailing me a check).

  64. Has anyone tried this using Bank of America as the CC issuer that the money is being transferred to? I have 2 active credit cards, but both have been acquired by BoA in the past year or so. If they don’t raise any issues, I’m going to use this technique to pay off a signature loan I have with a 10.55% interest rate!

  65. Hi–

    I transferred to my Amex card and a CSR called me 2 weeks later and said they would send the refund check, but that if I did it again they would cancel my account from “improper use.” Anyway, got the check this week, so all is good.

  66. Jeff,
    How long have you been with AMEX? I’ve been using them for about 2 years and my average balance is a little over $5K. I BT about $4500 and I did get any warning like that. I plan on doing another BT with AMEX, so your answer might help me out.


  67. Yes, I always use an American Express card that I use regularly (and send in payments regularly), and have received no such warning. It should mention that of course they don’t enjoy giving you a check – it doesn’t make them any money. I have tried to stay “under the radar” and have received multiple refund checks both from Citi and AmEx.

  68. Hi Jeff,
    I should be clear that I’ve been using my AMEX card as my primary card for the last 2 years and have an average balance of over $5,000 each month which I pay off in full. CS was very responsive and didn’t seem to discourage my activity. Perhaps my BT was close to my average monthly balance so it wasn’t suspicious.


  69. Just started this whole process, and found out today that Wells Fargo does NOT accept balance transfer checks from credit card companies, the teller told me that the checks take a long time to clear and many checks even expire before they clear. Went across the street to WaMu where i had no problems.

  70. Salman Khan says

    CITI will hold your deposits for upto 30 days if it finds more than one balance transfer coming to its account that has a $0 balance.

    They “investigate” whether the money coming in is from a genuine source since its a huge amount coming into a card that has no balance.

    So just have some balance before u initiate a balance transfer from a 0% card to CITI.

  71. All of the offers seem to have no maximum on the balance transfer fees now. Are there any good offers left??

  72. It might be worth it to check with cards you’ve used in the passed but are just sitting there unused. I’ve had several with Chase & Citi that will give me capped offers if I let them sit for 3-6 months after paying off a previous transfer. The caps aren’t always the best (sometimes $199 which is fine depending on your credit line)

    If you happen to be a member of USAA you can offers for no fee BTs for 0% for twelve months and you can use convenience checks for the offer. I’ve been able to use recurring BTs a couple of times in a row now after letting it also sit idle for a few months between BTs.

    If you’re just starting out…might be tough. You can always call in and see if they’ll cap it for you (might work better if you do business with the company already).

  73. I still get offers from banks with no balance transfer fees

  74. What banks, Marcus?

  75. Today I got one in the mail from Chase, a month ago from Citizen’s Bank (Subsidiary of RBS) and another one from WAMU. All three are fee free.

  76. I wanted to ask if anyone has done a BT by sending the money to the Citi card and refunding a credit balance. They have redesigned the website slightly, and the picture that Jonathan posted earlier for getting the credit balance refund is no longer current, there must be another menu option, although without and actual credit balance I can’t see it. Just wanted to confirm this way of getting cash from BT still works and where it can be requested online. Thanks!

  77. The option is still there (the menus just look sleeker), it just doesn’t show up unless you actually have a credit balance.

  78. I don’t understand something – let’s say you take out $15,000 at 0% interest. If you have to make a minimum payment of 2% each month (appx $300), you are losing money, are you not? Even if your money is earning 5% annually, that breaks down to under .005% monthly (which is 1/4 lower than the $300 per month you have to pay to your credit card). If you are paying a higher percentage rate monthly, how could you possibly make money? Then, to include inflation and taxes to savings account interest…

    Am I missing something?

  79. james – The $300 is paying down your loan principal. It is not a lost cost, it reduces what you owe. You could just pay it out of the $15,000 in the bank account. At the end, you pay back what you have left, and are all evened out. Meanwhile, you keep the interest.

  80. SavingEverything says

    Either way, these deals are becoming more and more rare. For example, all of Discover Cards now have “no maximum” and 4% balance transfer transaction fees. And, you get 6 or 9 months at promotional 0%, depending on your credit history. Citibank no longer has maximum limits on their balance transfer transactions. They all have 3% with $5 min. Chase may still have some balance transfer transaction fees at 3% with a maximum to either $75 or $99; but, they also plan to raise the balance transfer fees for some cards to as high as 5% in August 2009. Capital One credit cards with 0% APR BT have 3% fees, no max; or, no fee, but pay ~10+%. American Express credit cards recently raised their max limit; for 12 months, sadly the lowest i saw was 2.99%apy, have 3% BT fee upto $249 (it used to be $99). Bank of America credit cards, almost all, have 3% balance transfer fees, no max, but do have 0% apy for upto 12 months.

  81. Have you tried tranfering a balance transfer to you bank using your ATM/Visa number? Did it work?

  82. Hey Jonathan,

    Any idea if this still works with Citibank via the indirect method? Trying to do a transfer from Chase Slate card with 0% for 15 months with no BT fee. There is no longer a maintenance request tab when you log into Citibank. The replies are kind of outdated here so I thought I would ask. Thanks for your great blog, I’ve been reading it since 2007.


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