Credit card balance transfers can take as little as three days or as long as six weeks to complete. How long your transfer takes will vary depending on your credit card issuer and a number of other factors, including whether you’re opening a new account with an issuer, how you apply for the transfer and how your existing creditors accept payment.

We’ve reviewed how balance transfers work with some of the major credit card issuers to give you an idea of how long you can expect to wait, along with some tips on what you can do to ensure things go smoothly.

See related: The basics of a balance transfer

How credit card balance transfers work

Balance transfers generally require good to excellent credit, but once you qualify, the process is fairly simple: You just need to provide your new creditor with the account number for your existing balance and how much you want to transfer. Once your transfer goes through, you’ll make payments to your new creditor.

That said, each issuer handles balance transfers in its own way. Some will send payment directly to your old creditor, while others will give you balance transfer checks that you must fill out and send in yourself. Some only handle balance transfers by mail, while others allow you to complete the process online. Additionally, your new creditor may approve the full transfer amount or only a portion, depending on your credit limit and their own transfer limits.

Put simply, which issuer you use and how your issuer handles balance transfers will have a marked impact on how long the process takes.

How long does a balance transfer usually take?

Most credit card companies will give you a sense of what to expect before you apply, but there’s no way to know in advance exactly how long a balance transfer will take, so you should be prepared to wait at least a couple of weeks for the transfer to be approved and completed.

This chart should give you a general idea of how long a balance transfer will take with each issuer:

Credit card issuer How long a balance transfer takes
American Express 5 to 7 days on average, but can take up to 6 weeks
Bank of America Up to 14 days
Capital One 3 to 14 days
Chase 7 to 21 days
Citi 2 to 21 days
Discover 4 to 14 days
HSBC 7 to 10 business days
Wells Fargo 5 to 7 days on average, but can take up to 10 days

For more detailed information about how to do a credit card balance transfer with each issuer, check out our comprehensive guides.

How to do a balance transfer, by credit card issuer:

  • How to transfer a balance to an American Express credit card.
  • How to transfer a balance to a Bank of America credit card.
  • How to transfer a balance to a Capital One credit card.
  • How to transfer a balance to a Chase credit card.
  • How to transfer a balance to a Citi credit card.
  • How to transfer a balance to a Discover credit card.
  • How to transfer a balance to an HSBC credit card.
  • How to transfer a balance to a U.S. Bank credit card.
  • How to transfer a balance to a Wells Fargo credit card.

Can you speed up a balance transfer?

As you can see, each issuer handles balance transfers a bit differently, and much of the process is out of your control. While you can’t exactly determine how long it will take for your balance transfer to go through, there are a few steps you can take to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Keep the following balance transfer tips in mind:

  • Balance transfers to new card accounts take longer. If you’re transferring your balance to a new card account, you should expect it to take a bit longer than if you’re transferring to an existing account. Discover, for example, says that transfers to existing accounts are typically processed within four days, while transfers to new accounts can take up to 14 days.
  • Applying online saves time. As you might expect, submitting your balance transfer application online instead of sending a physical application through the mail should shave at least a few days off your wait time. Additionally, many issuers offer online tools that will help you track the status of your balance transfer.
  • Apply for a balance transfer when you apply for a new card. Many issuers will let you request a balance transfer at the same time that you apply for a new credit card. If you have a large balance to transfer, however, and want to see how high a credit limit you’re offered before you start the transfer process, you may choose to wait until you’re approved for the card. In that case, just be sure to initiate the transfer as soon as you get the information you need.
  • Waiting too long can cost you. Most cards that offer a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers or a 0% balance transfer fee require you to complete your transfer within a set period of time to take advantage of the promotional rate. If you don’t complete the transfer in time, you could end up paying a ton in added balance transfer fees or miss out on months of zero-interest payments.

Balance transfer credit cards with no transfer fee

What if my balance transfer is taking longer to show up than expected?

If it’s been more than a few weeks since you submitted your balance transfer application and you haven’t seen funds post to your account or gotten any other updates, don’t hesitate to call your issuer and check on the status of your transfer. They may be able to tell you what’s holding things up and give you an idea of how much longer you can expect the transfer to take.

While you wait, it’s critical that you continue paying at least the minimum on your existing credit cards and send all payments to your original creditor. You’ll know for sure it’s safe to stop making payments when your original account shows a balance of $0. Failing to keep up with payments while you wait for a balance transfer to complete could lead to late fees and damaged credit. Indeed, if your credit takes too big of a hit, it could even disrupt the transfer.

Next steps

If you’re carrying credit card debt and looking to save on interest, transferring your balance to a new card is probably a smart move. Not only will you “stop the bleeding” caused by mounting interest charges, but you’ll also get a chance to chip away at your balance and hopefully pay off or substantially reduce the amount you owe.

That said, with so much variance between issuers and transfer methods, there’s no way to know exactly how long a balance transfer will take. You can get a sense of how long you’ll have to wait from your credit card issuer, but instead of worrying about that timeline, focus on what’s in your control: Apply as soon as you can, keep a close eye on your transfer and continue to make payments on your existing cards. This way, you can at least be sure you’re saving money and protecting your credit in the meantime.