In a recent Daily Dough newsletter (subscribe for free here), I asked if people consider cash bonuses in picking credit cards, bank accounts, and brokerage accounts. One reader responded with an interesting question of her own:
Nowadays with my credit card paying all my bills, I think twice before switching cards just for a temporary bonus. I only use cash-back cards and I magnify the benefits by filtering all bills through them. Is there a way to pay a credit card bill with another credit card?
The short answer is yes. You can pay a credit card with another credit card. But there’s a little more to it than that. So let’s start with what you can’t do.
Making Your Monthly Credit Card Payment
A credit card company will not accept payment via another credit card. For example, you can’t make your minimum monthly payment on say a Discover Card with a Chase credit card. Discover won’t accept that form of payment.
The reason has to do with fees. If Discover were to accept credit card payments, they would have to pay what are called interchange fees to the bank that issued the credit card and to the card network (e.g., Visa or MasterCard). Most retailers pay these fees as a cost of doing business. But most finance companies (e.g., credit card issuers, mortgage companies) won’t.
Getting Around the Rule–0% Balance Transfers
There are some special circumstances, however, where you can pay one credit card with another. The most common is with a balance transfer offer.
When you apply for certain cards, they will offer you a 0% balance transfer option. With these cards, they will effectively “transfer” your balance from one or more of your existing credit cards over to your new balance transfer card. And as an incentive, most of these deals won’t charge you interest on the transferred balance for some period of time (today typically 12, 15, or 18 months).
There are two balance transfer cards that offer particularly good deals. The first is the Discover it® – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer card. It offers one of the longest available 0% APR introductory rates, which lasts for 18 months. There is, however, a balance transfer fee equal to 3% of the amount of each transfer.
The second is the Barclaycard Ring™ MasterCard®. The 0% offer isn’t as long (currently 15 months). But there is no balance transfer fee if you initiate the balance transfer within the first 45 days of card membership.
Getting Around the Rule–0% on Purchases
This approach takes a little more work, but is ideal if you’re not interested in a balance transfer. Several cards offer 0% not only on balance transfers, but also on purchases. As with transfer deals, these zero percent offers typically last for six to 18 months.
You use the card as you normally would, but you won’t pay any interest on your balance during the introductory period. You’ll still have to make a minimum monthly payment, but it all goes to the principal balance, not interest.
With a 0% on purchases card, you can charge purchases you’d normally pay cash for each month. Then take the cash you would have spent and pay down your existing high-interest cards. The result is similar to a balance transfer, although it occurs purchase by purchase rather than all at once.
The advantage is that you avoid a balance transfer fee. Note that many of the balance transfer cards linked to above also offer 0% on purchases. If you like this approach, consider our list of the best credit cards available this year.
So yes, you can pay one credit card with another credit card. But it does take some work. The upside is that you can take advantage of 0% offers at the same time.
I’ve saved the worst approach for last. Most credit cards allow you to take a cash advance. The limit is often lower than your card’s credit limit. But a cash advance would enable you to use the money to pay on another credit card.
But it’s a bad idea. A credit card cash advance is very expensive for three reasons. First, credit cards often charge a fee for a cash advance. The fee is often based on a percentage of your cash advance. So the more you get, the more you pay.
Second, the interest rate on a cash advance is often higher than a card’s regular APR. Finally, interest begins to accrue immediately. There is no grace period on a cash advance.
So while a cash advance is one way to pay a credit card with another card, it’s not one we recommend.