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Things to Look Out For When Shopping for Balance Transfer Cards

All credit cards are not created equal – not even close.
You definitely want to pay attention to the terms and conditions of balance transfer offers so that you can find the best card for your needs. Here are common features and what you should be paying attention to.

1. Promotional period, or introductory period, is the period of time in which the promotion is valid. So, if you have a 0% introductory APR offer, that 0% interest doesn’t last forever. It may last 6 months, 12 months, or if you’re lucky, 18 months. The longest one I’ve seen in the U.S. in recent years is 21 months. After that, the regular APR kicks in, which is often quite high. You want to have paid off your debt in full by the end of the promotional period.

Of course, the longer the better, but cards with longer promotional periods often offset the generous promotional period with a high balance transfer fee. They’ve got to get their money somehow!

2. Balance transfer fees are fees that most cards charge in order to do a balance transfer. They usually range from 3-5% of the total amount that you are transferring, which isn’t outrageous, but it’s significant. If you’re transferring $5,000 worth of debt, you could pay an upfront fee of $250. If the fee is less than the amount of interest you’d pay over the course of the promotional period, it’s still worth it.

There are a small handful of cards that have balance transfer offers with no balance transfer fee. These are ideal, but they often have a shorter promotional period. The Chase Slate is considered one of the best balance transfer cards because it incurs no balance transfer fee and has an introductory period of 12 months, which is not the longest, but fairly generous.

3. Transfers between the same issuer are typically not allowed. So you want to apply for a balance transfer card from a bank other than the one where you’re currently carrying debt.

For example, if your debt is on your Citi ThankYou card, don’t apply for the Citi Simplicity balance transfer offer, because the balance transfer will be rejected.

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.

6 Comments

  • How can you help someone who’s
    Majority of debt is already written off and in collections?

    And what are some solutions to catch up on your HOA Fees when they been set to an Legal Debt Collection Agency, who’ s placed a
    Lien on your Home?

    I have already paid $804.00 towards the Total bill of $1120.00.
    Now there telling me it’s $1120.00,
    Including the attorney fees!
    With this plan I will lose my home!

    I am disabled and struggling to keep this up! I have already sent a letter explaining my situation and emailed & faxed to my Case Manager. My home is only 4 yrs. old, and I was only 3 years behind $600.00 + there Legal Fees!

    So, my request was to pay off my pass due without the Legal Fees. Within two minutes they answered,
    declining my request!

    Can you please send any suggestions to help me keep my Home ?

    Sincerely ,
    Jeanine Thomas

  • I have a question: if you have taken out a consolidation loan and want to take advantage of the 0% by transferring to a credit card can you do this?

  • The big question is why do people even need to rack up such huge debt ? Habits are hard to change. Transfer, sure, but the odds are that the debtor will wind up owing yet another balance sooner than later.

  • have 2/3 cards I would like to transfer to a no/low interest card. unfortunately I cannot get any company to give me a large enough balance to transfer them. their reasoning is that I already have too much debt load…

    • Pay then in small chucks up to what you are allowed at the maximum amount then do another balance transfer. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

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