How To Get Cash From Citibank Balance Transfers

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(Update: Since the Citi Diamond Preferred Card post generated some questions, I’ve updated this post for the new Citibank online interface. Even though I first wrote this way back in 2005, the steps are pretty much the same. Just be sure to note the dates of earlier comments.)

Citibank is the easiest issuer to get cash in the bank from if you have a 0% APR balance transfer available on the card. This is because they will write you a check for your balance transfer amount. The best part is Citi was smart enough to make this feature available online. Here is a step-by-step walk-through, complete with screenshots:

1) Get online access and log in to your credit card account.

2) View the specific card that has the balance transfer offer you wish to use. On the menu bar, go to Tools & Services > Request a Balance Transfer. Here is a screenshot:

3) Select an offer. You may have more than one, ideally you’d be looking for the longest duration offer with the least fees.

4) Get Your Money! Confirm your request balance transfer amount and fees due.


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  1. What credit score does one need in order to get these CCs? From privacy guard I have 677-693 scores. I have no CCs (only student loans + overdraft protection).


  2. Hello, I want to apply for the Citi Simplicity card, I see that you get a $100 gift card after making a purchase within 3 months, now what I’m trying to understand is the 0% balance transfer, do you have to do the BT at the time you are filling out the application?, or can you do it at another time and still get the 0% offer? As I understand it you should make the first purchase and pay it off before you do the BT, right? this way you don’t get hit with extra charges, pardon my ignorance on this subject, since I have never done a BT, or ever carried a balance, one final question say I do a balance transfer of $7000, and the offer says 12 months at 0%, now all I would have to do is pay the minimum every month until it’s all paid off in 12 months nd I won’t be charged nothing extra, right? just $7000 borrowed and $7000 paid back??

    Tanks in advance.

  3. For Tony B –
    You definitely want to pay off any balance before you do the 0% BT, otherwise that small balance will sit there and accumulate interest at the FULL rate (usually 11-25%, depending on several factors).

    To answer your second question: you have the gist right in that you can do a $7000 BT, and if the offer says 12 months at 0% then the minimum payment will do. Just two cautionary notes:1) it is good to ALWAYS pay more than the minimum payment (even if it is just $10 extra). Repeated payments of just the minimum payment set off red flags and actually can cause your credit score to drop. Throwing a little bit extra in the payment simply shows them that you have more money to put towards the bill if you need to.2) MAKE SURE you know when the 0% rate ends. If you miss paying off the balance by even just a few days, the interest charges can really eat up any savings you may make.

  4. SO how exactly is this good? You put money into your 4.0% Savings for 11 months and pay off the Balance Transfer?

  5. Jonathan, thanks for the step by step. I think lots of people want to try this but are scared (I am!) because we’re talking about thousands of dollars! Seeing the absolute step by step process is great — especially showing there is no human interaction (I feel like an operator might sniff out our plans — and while there isn’t anything illegal about it, it still feels shady!).

    BTW, were you able to “consolidate” credit lines (between the personal and business citi cards)like you were mentioning last week?

  6. Brent, you’re saying that paying minimum vs. minimum + n (n ~= $10) has different influence on one’s credit score. Where did you get this info from?

  7. Jonathan, have you ever had any trouble paying off the BT just a couple days before the offer ends? I know that some companies use relatively complicated interest calculations (e.g. average balance over multiple months), and I want to make sure I pay off everything in plenty of time. I also have some purchases sitting on the card, since they’re at 0% as well. Any advice? I’d just ask customer service if I trusted them… =)

  8. LSD – I don’t know for sure. If you do apply, the worst case scenario is you get rejected and take a temporary 5 pt hit to your score for 6 months. My guess is that you would get approved, but not for a very high limit due to your limited history. But you could still get the $100 gift card and start building that history (gotta start somewhere)

    – Yes, do the purchase first. Get the $100. Then request the BT as outlined above, whenever you want. I am usually pretty paranoid about paying it off early, I call the CSRs three times to see what they say is the last day to pay it off interest-free. I then pay it off before the end of the statement period before the earliest date given =)

    – I also pay above the minimum, but only by $1. I have no idea if this really helps, but I figure it won’t hurt. I have no idea of $5 or $10 or 1% more than the minimum makes a difference. I’d be interested also to see an documentation of this.

  9. Vlad – this is the consensus on FWF (and has been for years).

    While Experian, TransUnion, etc. don’t give out their formulas for calculating FICO scores, several knowledgable people on FWF (people that work for banks, etc.) have posted that the underlying principle is they like to see that you have the initiave to put more money towards a debt than the minimum required payment. This is especially true for CCs because the minimum payment per month is generally 1.5-2.5% of the total bill (sometimes less). Making only the minimum 150/mo payment on a 10,000 bill would make almost anyone nervious.

    This thread goes into as much detail as I’ve seen on the derivation of the score:

    A lot of it is speculation, but there is enough direct and anecdotal evidence to support the conclusion that a little bit extra does help keep your score up.

    Plus, tossing in an extra 10/mo is only going to cost you 120/yr and you REALLY aren’t going to make that much in interest off that money if you invest it (say maybe $5 for the year).

  10. Jonathan, I don’t think it will hurt you at all. I have 5 CCs right now, only use one for major purchases. For the other four, I always make a small purchase(like $5) every month. It Would change your credit report from “No Data” to “OK”, I don’t know if it really helps. SO, every month, I need to pay off the $5 thing for every cards, and it is the MINIMUM since it is not over $10 or $20. Will that hurt the score? I don’t think so.

  11. sillycat –

    When it matters to pay over the minimum is when you have an oustanding balance that you are going to carry from month to month. Paying off the entire balance each month, even if it is equivalent to the minimum payment, looks very good to CC companies.

  12. I think you’re all missing the fact that you’re playing with fire here. The best you can reasonably expect to do with this money is 7 or 8%, and that’s if you use it to pay off a variable rate HELOC or similar. If you’re putting this in a CD, it’s more like 4%. CC’s these days have all kinds of ways to trap you and if you fall into one of them, you’re look at a 30%+ hit. So, for example 5K used in a 1 yr CD will get you $204 (-taxes=$140/150?) at the risk of paying over $1500 in interest. Of course, if you realize you’ve fallen into a trap you can pay off the balance but in that case you’re going to lose half of the CD interest and still have to pay 30% interest from the start of the BT. In addition, this open balance hurts your credit score and could end up costing you money elsewhere (ie. you’re car breaks down and you have to pay a .25% higher rate on a new car loan). Seems like the risk/reward ratio is certainly not in your favor.

  13. I do not think you need to worry about credit score after you took out 20k BT. Your score will take a quite a dive anyway due to % utilization. If you care about the score (will take out a mortgage or a loan in a few months), do not take out the BT. Thus, I don’t see a reason to pay more than you have to. If you are using autopay, it would make sense to overpay a bit incase the CC company changes the terms. Which is also the reason you want the money to be very liquid, you must be able to repay the loan within 15-20 days.

  14. just to note.. you should do it before the specific BT offer expires.

    when it expires, you wont be able to do it online. it’ll give you a notice about no BT offers and give you a number to contact.

    something like that. hmm.

    sillycat’s idea of making small purchases to go from No DATA to “Ok” (or green, etc. depending on report) but a very detailed report that the creditors receive will show more detailed spending history on each account. I’ve seen more detailed consumer report with the past 3-4 monthly spending.. while some other credit report barely gives you any info.

  15. won’t a big balance transfer hurt your ability to rent a new apartment? in addition to the morgage issue? i know landlords run credit checks…

  16. It certainly *is* playing with fire — which is why we have Jonathan do it first. =) It is also why we talk about the issues involved in a forum like this. Basically, we are taking advantage of the rules, and exploiting them a way not intended. So, yes, you must be careful. With that being said, I know Jonathan has done this before, as have numerous other people. And for very minimal work, you can make several hundred dollars over the course of the year. But obviously, watch out for the pit falls, like the ones mentioned above.

    New question: for those interested in this, where do we think the best place to put the money is? I am thinking my Emigrant account (or other favorite high-yield savings account). CDs aren’t liquid enough and dont’t offer much better rates. But anyone really willing to play with fire and use the stock market and/or other medium???

  17. This is just my personal opinion, but I really don’t see it as playing with fire if you are careful and methodical about things. If a CC company requires you to pay back the balance early (which they CAN do under the terms of the balance transfer), they still have to give you 15-20 days to pay it off. That is MORE than enough time to get the money out of a savings account or break a CD and pay it back.

    My personal situation is that I have taken about 50k in 0% BTs out in the last 3 months. Over the span of 12 months at 4% APY that would net my wife and I an extra 2k. Not a huge sum of money mind you, but not chump change either. For us, the risk is low since we are already into a mortgage and own both our cars outright. Plus with rates inching upward that is just more “free” money in our pockets. At the beginning of the new year we are looking to double to triple that number to improve our yields.

    Miller – I’ve had my money in ED for the past 3 months (except for one month to try a 4-week T-bill). I’m in the process of setting up a new account at GMAC bank in their Money Market Savings account (thank you Jonathan). It is currently paying 4.3% APY and unlike ED you can write checks directly off the account (but you still have to stay under the 6 transactions per month limit that the government imposes on savings accounts). Unlike a lot of banks, you only have to keep $500 minimum in the account to avoid fees.

  18. You don’t pay your mortgage, you get in trouble. You don’t pay your rent, you get in trouble. You don’t pay your credit card bill, guess what, you get in trouble! =)

    If you can pay your bills on time, you can do this (if you want). If you can’t pay your bills on time, then please do NOT do this.

    I’ve moved twice in the last 18 months, and have had multiple landlord credit checks without a single question. They are looking for deadbeats, not people with credit card debt. Remember, the average American already has $8k of credit card debt. Renters may even have more, I don’t know.

  19. You can’t just be smart to be rich and successful. You also have to be BOLD. -RD

  20. Jonathan, does maxing out your card with a BT do any more harm to your FICO score than, say, taking out 95% of your credit line? Your score will take a hit due to high utilization in either case, but I wondered if the actual act of maxing out a card hurts your score. Thanks…

  21. Hey Jonathan, after the 12month period (when you’ve paid off that balance in full), do you just cancel the card and move on to another one? I’d think that would hurt your credit in the long run right? I’m not sure, but please let me know. Much appreciated!

  22. I just keep them open. It doesn’t really do anything very significant to my credit score, especially since I have so many cards already. I might even transfer the credit limit to another future card for a larger balance transfer amount.

  23. I got a bigger limit from Chase than Citi (I was going to use one for BT and one for regular purchases), so how would I get the cash into my account from Chase? Call them and ask for it?

  24. Does the Chase also have no-fee balance transfers? If so, just do a balance transfer to a Citibank card, and then request a credit balance refund online at Citibank’s website.

  25. No, they don’t. After I looked again, I found where it says there is a 3% fee. Nevermind.
    Why can’t they all be like Citi?

  26. I just want to thank you for the extensive how-tos regarding balance transfers, especially this one with the screenshots of the Citi website. I just received a new Citi Diamond Preferred Rewards card, bought a cheap item to get the initial $50 bonus, and moved my credit line from another Citi card. I’ll pay off the item on Monday and probably do the balance transfer on Tuesday. I’m looking forward to my first BT experience!

  27. Hey Jonathan, so there is no way to put the money directly into a savings (or even checking) account with Citi, huh? You have to transfer the money to old fashioned way?

  28. Anonymous says


    In your experience, have you had a delay with Citibank between the date the BT was approved, the check was issued and the date the check was deposited/cashed?

    I have called Citibank several times, and each tells me different things as to when the BT ends-I was just wondering what your experience has been.

  29. How does returning the bank transfer work, is the deadline very apparent, and is it possible to transfer it back online(from Emigrant Direct, HSBC, or ING account) or only check?

  30. Thanks so much for this advice. I just traded in my reward points for $92! I had forgotten about them. I’m going to put that check into my savings account @ 4.5% APR.

  31. Hi Brent (or anybody),

    When you did the BT from citibank as a check and deposit it to your savings account.

    Did it qualify as a BT and not a cash advance?

    aren’t BT only for payment to credit/loans?


  32. Mr. Z,

    In general, checks could be treated as both, you may hear the term “balance transfer checks” or “cash advance checks”.

    With respect to Citibank, they state clearly beforehand that it is a balance transfer, and it was also treated as a balance transfer after I got my check, with no cash advance fees.

  33. What if citibank finds out that the balance transfer was used in CD?
    Shouldn’t this be paid to some credit card/card loans etc?

  34. What if citibank finds out that the balance transfer was used in CD?
    Shouldn’t this be paid to some credit card/card loans etc ?

  35. john r. dees says

    got accepted for card want to tranfer balance from another card and dont want a check for the amount dont have a card or an account number yet i cant even find an 1-800 number to contact you this is the second mail ive sent you and still havent received anything and was accepted yesterday

  36. The ATT/Universal website appears to offer the ability to move your balance transfer electronically, directly to your bank account. But when I tried to do it, I got a message that they could not do an electronic transfer. Since my bank is plain vanilla and big, I called to ask what the problem was. The CR said they will do electronic transfers only to bank accounts from which the customer has previously made several credit card payments, using their “pay by phone” service. Apparently, the idea is that this prevents fraud. So my only option is to have a check mailed to me. Happily, the website states that “If the payment is made using a Balance Transfer check, Finance Charges will be assessed from the date the check is received by Citi for payment. “

  37. Jonathan,

    How do you approach it if your credit limit is not as much as you’d like for your balance transfer? Can you just request more than your CL or would you call and talk with a CSR letting them know that you’d like a credit limit increase? The reason I ask is I’d hate to type in an amount higher than my CL only to find out they charge me an over the limit fee but give me the money.

    In my case they’ve given me a 8K limit but I’d like to get a BT of 15K hence the CLI question?



  38. Is this still going on with Citi? Is it still this easy? Looking for an update as all the comments are posted pre 2009. I notice in this tightening of credit/recession you can’t find 12 month no interest anymore. Do you think it will ever come back?

  39. Not happy with an balance transfer that has a 3% charge. Back when they had a $100 limit or like Discover’s $0 charge it was worthwhile. But 3%?! No way. Just not worth it.

  40. I have 5 cards with an average of $15,000 available credit and 0% APR offers on each of 4 CITI cards and 1 Chase card. I need to tap these cards for a total of $7500 each month for about 6 months until my real estate is sold. My current FICO is 800. What is the best way to do it without red flags going off and my 0% offers and/or my credit lines being pulled?

  41. The new Citi Cards website is a POS. You cannot request a balance transfer from the main page, or a refund of a credit balance!

  42. @Gene – I just checked and I still see the ability to request a balance transfer under the new “Benefits & Services” menu. I don’t have a negative balance right now, that may be required before the option to get a refund of a negative balance becomes available.

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