American Express Balance Transfer Offers?

Q: I wanted to apply for an American Express card but I’ve had trouble finding their balance transfer offers. Am I missing something? Are they offering any for 2016?

american express logoA: Several years ago during the Great Recession, American Express, a advertising partner, experienced significant credit losses and subsequently shied away from offering balance transfer options to consumers for a few years. Luckily, they righted the ship and came back into the market with a number of offers on their various cards last year.

It’s also a good sign (for the economy, anyway) that the other big money-center banks that issue credit cards like Citi, Chase and Bank of America are back to their old ways of tempting consumers to transfer balances with free money offers. Back when banks actually had a tangible cost of funds these types of offers represented a loss leader strategy that was justified if the account became profitable down the road. But, for the past few years banks have had almost free money given to them by the Fed and they can turn around and offer it to consumers without taking any hit to their profit margins.Go here to see the current offers: Featured balance transfer cards for 2016

While we’re on the topic, here a few things you will want to keep in mind when doing a transfer…

  • Always make payments on time. I know this is common sense but I figure a friendly reminder never hurts. The last thing you want is to lose out on that long offer because of making multiple late payments.
  • Remember you can’t use 0% interest credit card offers within the same bank. For example, even if there were some nice AmEx balance transfer offers available, you still would not be able to use them if the balance you’re transferring comes from another AmEx card.
  • Expect to pay balance transfer fees. I hate to say it but as we all know, fees are the name of the game when it comes to banking these days. When you transfer a balance, expect to almost always pay a fee of 3% (sometimes more) of the amount. This is why it’s so vital you pick an offer that’s long, so you can avoid paying this fee multiple times. There is one offer in the market that doesn’t charge a transfer fee if you move your balances in the first 60 days – the Chase Slate card.
  • High balances on an AmEx may not be the best idea, regardless. A number of members on Credit Card Forum reported having their credit limits cut in past years when they carry a balance using too much of their AmEx card’s credit limit (like more than 50%). So if you do go with an AmEx transfer offer you might keep this in mind, even though it may no longer be an issue.

Check out these 0% balance transfer cards

Last edited February 2016

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Stephen, read the fine print on those checks. I have one right next to me. On the bottom of the first page it reads:
“After using this offer to transfer a balance, you’ll pay interest differently. Here’s an example: Let’s say you transfer $1,000 with this promotional offer. No matter how else you use your card, that part of your balance has a 0% APR for 6 months. Then you make a $100 purchase with your card. Purchases are charged 20.9% APR the month after you begin carrying a balance. If you pay the entire $1100, you will not pay any interest charges.”

The 0% (which isn’t really 0% because they apply a 3% transaction fee on the balance transfer) only applies to the balance transfer amount. If you do a balance trasfer in May and take your family out to dinner in June, you’ll pay full interest on that TGI Friday’s purchase despite the fact that you hold a separate balance with AMEX treated at a discounted interest rate.

Disclaimer: I don’t work for or even particularly like any credit card companies or their shady, deceptive tactics, but like many out there I have come to rely on them as a financial tool. The key is to always read the fine print.

Matthew O'Brien

I had an agreement with American Express from about 5 years ago to go with permanent 4.99% on all balance transfers for the life of the transfer. I called them up to transfer another balance and they said no offers are available. So much for what I understood to be a benefit of having the card, apparently they can turn it on and off whenever they want.

I wish I had that orginial contract. Heck, my account page still shows 4.99% on all transfered balances. Something stinks in Stinkville.

They also cut my credit limit right when I needed it most about 6 months ago. I’ve since paid the balance off and feel good about not using them anymore.

American Express are thugs and if you are looking for a place to take your money and business I would look elsewhere. I will say this, their customer service people are very polite and professional while telling you to go for a long walk off of a short pier.

Hello, former banker here. You misunderstood the offer. They were agreeing to lock in the 4.99% on balanced you made at that time only. So if you transferred $5,000 five years ago it would still be at 4.99% today as your paying it off (like you state it is).

No bank offers a card that has a constant interest rate ongoing for balance transfers over time. That is to say, no bank says “here’s a card, if you transfer a balance in 2019 here’s what the rate will be.” This isn’t them being dishonest…they have no idea what the cost of loaning you money will be years from now.

So I don’t sound like a shill, what did stink in stinkville (ha) formerly is that many banks included a loophole in those locked-in transfer balances. Before 2010, if you missed one monthly payment by one day, AmEx (and any bank) would have had the right to take away that promotional rate. So your $50 payment doesn’t go through (even if a problem on their end) and BAM, that 4.99% was now at 29.99%. This is, fortunately, now illegal, as part of the law that President Obama signed in 2010 to end these shenanigans. Your 4.99% is now protected, although it’s not likely you’ll see an offer like that come around again any time soon.

Watch out for American Express 0% interest checks. They will immediately start charging interest, at their high rate if you use the card for anything after writing one of those checks. They charge a fee for the initial checks PLUS they charge interest but advertise the offer as 0% interest.