It can be stressful juggling multiple credit cards and trying to stay on top of your payments, especially when each card has a different interest rate. Luckily, a credit card balance transfer can simplify your finances and save you money.
All you have to do is apply for a low-interest credit card and then follow a few simple steps. Read on for more helpful tips about balance transfers.
What Is a Credit Card Balance Transfer?
A balance transfer is when you take the balance of one or more of your credit cards and move the money you owe to a different card. It’s a form of debt consolidation that lets you manage your finances more easily.
Advantages of a credit card balance transfer include:
- You can reduce the number of credit card payments you have to make each month.
- You can likely get a lower annual percentage rate (APR) so more of your payment goes towards the balance, not interest.
- You can likely save on fees.
How a Balance Transfer Works
Credit card balance transfers are common and straightforward. Here’s an example of the steps you might follow:
- When you apply for a new credit card, you should indicate to the card issuer that you want to do a balance transfer.
- You can transfer the entire balance of all your cards, or choose a chunk of your debt that has a high APR.
- Give the card issuer the details of your old credit card account(s).
- Your new card issuer will pay off your old balance(s) on your behalf – just make sure you cover any pending charges or outstanding fees that might go through the next month.
- Start making monthly payments on your new card.
When You Should Do A Balance Transfer
You might want to consider a credit card balance transfer if:
- You’re struggling to keep up with multiple credit card payments.
- You’re in danger of missing payments and incurring late fees.
- Your card(s) are maxed out.
When You Shouldn’t Do A Balance Transfer
It might be best to wait to do a balance transfer if:
- Your credit score means you can’t get a card with a lower APR than what you have now, or you can’t get approved for a new card.
- You have to pay a balance transfer fee that will cost you more than what you’ll save.
- You know you need to use your new card to make a lot more purchases – so you’ll quickly run up another large balance, instead of paying down your debt.
Note: If any of these situations apply to you, you could talk to a credit union representative about the best way to get your finances in shape.
What to Look for in a Balance Transfer Card or Offer
To get the maximum benefits from your credit card balance transfer, be sure to shop around for the best offer that suits your needs.
Many cards offer a low introductory interest rate so be sure to check the time period and see if you can commit to paying off your entire debt during that time. For example, the low-interest period might be six to 12 months, or even longer.
APR on Purchases
Find out if the low introductory APR also applies to purchases in that period. If the purchase rate is higher, you should aim to make no purchases until you’ve paid off your debt.
APR After the Intro Period
Make sure the APR you’ll get after the introductory period is reasonable. If you have an outstanding balance and plan to use your card for new purchases after that time, you don’t want to be hit with a higher rate than you had with your old card(s).
You need to find a credit card with a limit that will cover your balance transfer without being maxed out. Transfer your debt with the highest APR first. Be sure to leave a good amount of available credit on your new card so your credit score is not affected by your credit utilization ratio.
Look for a card with no balance transfer fee and no annual fee. Find out about any other fees (foreign transaction fee, cash advance fee, etc.) and choose the card that best suits your needs.
How to Manage Your Card After a Transfer
A credit card balance transfer is a chance for a fresh start. With a little planning and goal setting, you can ensure that you never end up in the same place – or a worse place – than before.
Here are a few tips for managing your credit card responsibly:
- Work out your monthly budget and try to trim your expenses so you can focus on paying down your debt.
- Aim to pay off the balance on your new card within the low interest introductory period.
- Try not to make new purchases on your new card, or any of your old cards, until your balance is paid off or significantly lower.
- Set reminders so you never miss a payment due date – this will save you from late payment fees, plus it will keep your credit score moving in the right direction.
- Consider keeping your old credit accounts open with a zero balance to boost your credit score.
Ready to Do a Credit Card Balance Transfer?
If you’re ready to get started, be sure to check out a few different balance transfer credit card offers so you are aware of all of your options. Keep in mind that the purpose of a balance transfer is to help solve your debt, so it’s a good idea to take the time to run the numbers.
When comparing lenders, you might find your local credit union has just what you need and can offer great rates with friendly service. Click below to find out more!