Balance Transfer Credit Cards Credit Cards

What Happened When I Tried to Pay Off $6,000 in Debt Using Balance Transfer Cards

Elizabeth Aldrich

The first time I heard that I could pay off my debt using balance transfer cards and not pay a penny in interest, I felt like I’d hit the jackpot. Unfortunately, balance transfer offers don’t always pan out the way they should.

I had racked up $6,000 in credit card debt after getting a raise at work and overestimating my newfound spending power. I realized I needed to stop spending and pay off that debt quickly, but the massive (25%) APR on my credit card was making it hard to progress.

This was when I discovered that some credit cards that offer a 0% APR on balance transfers for a promotional period of time, ranging anywhere from a few months to nearly two years. Perfect, I thought.

I did some research and settled on the Chase Slate, one of the most popular balance transfer cards. At 15 months, it doesn’t have the longest promotional period, but it’s still a generous amount of time. The best feature of the Chase Slate, though, is that it doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee if you make the transfer within the first few months, whereas almost all other cards charge 3%.

I was approved for the Chase Slate with a credit limit of $7,500. I immediately transferred over the $6,000 and breathed a sigh of relief. I could now make monthly payments and double down on my debt without accumulating any more interest…or so I thought.

In order to pay off my debt before the end of my promotional period, I would have to make monthly payments of $400. But, feeling relieved by my new interest free card, I decreased my monthly payments instead and only paid around $100 per month. Some months I only made the minimum payment. I liked having the extra spending money, and I decided to worry about paying it all off closer to the end of the promotional period.

Well, 15 months came fast, and as the end of my promotional period came, I had almost no money saved up to pay off my remaining debt. I scrounged up all the extra money I could for that month’s payment, which was about $800, knocking my balance down to $4,000.

It was time to come up with a plan B, and fast. I had 30 days left until the Slate’s high APR kicked in. I shopped around for a second balance card and found the Citi Simplicity. Now, this card does charge a 3% balance transfer fee, but the 0% APR period is a lengthy 21 months. Surely I could pay off my debt with that much time.

I applied for the Citi Simplicity card and was approved – things were looking up. Unfortunately, when I received my official approval letter from Citi Bank, I found out that I’d only been approved for a $2,700 credit limit, which wouldn’t cover the $4,000 balance on my Chase Slate. I had worried about not being approved for a second balance transfer card, given that my debt to credit ratio was still so high and I’d been making minimum monthly payments, but I hadn’t even considered that I might be approved but not receive a high enough credit limit.

About the author

Elizabeth Aldrich

Elizabeth Aldrich

Elizabeth is a freelance writer and “digital nomad” specializing in small business, entrepreneurship, career advice, real estate, travel, arts, and culture. She’s written for outlets as varied as Rawckus Music and Arts Magazine, Itcher Entertainment, Sweden Tips, Houzz, Hometalk, JobHero, Tico Times, and Eugene Weekly. Thanks to a three-year stint in a travel job, a knack for mining great deals, and credit card churning, she has not paid for a single flight since 2012, despite her constant travels. You can find her on Twitter @LizzieAldrich or her website, www.elizabethaldrich.com.

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