Transferring a Credit Card Balance

By Andrew Medvedev

Are you staring at that attractive advertisement for switching credit card companies by transferring your balance from one card to another? While many of these offers are truly great deals, balance transfers and card-switching is not something to jump into, eager as you may be. You need to do your homework first: Do enough research and investigating in order to determine whether it in fact is worth it or a good idea to make the transfer.

First, find out if it is in fact worth it. Generally speaking, these attractive advertisements and super credit card deals advertise very low introductory rates if you transfer your current balance from an existing credit card onto this new one. You can stumble upon these offers anywhere—online, in the mail, on a flyer or via a telephone call from credit card company salespersons—and you need to determine how great these deals really are, or if you’ll just end up paying much more in fees and interest in the long run.

Read the fine print. Read everything. Read it through several times so that you make sure you understand what it is saying. It may appear to be a bunch of financial jargon that you might not think is very important, but the truth is, this information is valuable and critical to your decision in whether or not you make the big switch. Call the credit card company and ask any questions you might have. If the deal is solid and they want to make a sale, generally they should be able to help you out in any way.

What do you need to find out about the deal? Here is an example. Let’s say that the advertised introductory rate is 6% (a low rate) on credit card B if you transfer your balance from credit card A, where you currently rack up an APR of 18% (a standard rate). You come across another offer, showcasing credit card C with an introductory rate of 9%. At first glance you may think, “Well, let’s go with credit card B—it’s the obvious choice here.” However, after reading the fine print, you discover credit card B’s special rate only last six months, and afterward the APR is 20%, whereas credit card C’s higher rate lasts for a year and the interest rate after that is 18%, the same as yours on credit card A.

In other words, you have to factor in a lot of variables when making the decision to switch your balance from one credit card to another. Besides comparing the introductory rates being offered, the length of the offer and what the regular interest rate is, you’ll also need to take into account balance transfer fees, annual fees, late fees, and other miscellaneous fees, as well as whether the teaser rate applies to balance transfers only or also purchases, among other considerations.

Something else to keep in mind is that you may not actually qualify for the special rate being offered, depending on your credit history and credit rating. Before you make the big plunge, make sure you know exactly what you, yourself, will be getting. There may also be other conditions. For example, some credit card companies may penalize you for one late payment and take you off the introductory rate onto their regular rate, which may be higher than your current card’s rate.

However, many credit cards with these introductory rates offer great deals for people interested in switching credit cards and transferring their balance over and can be more than worth it. The important thing is to do your research, read the fine print and ask questions to determine which credit card and deal is the right one for you.

Once you’ve selected the right credit card offer, the next step is to fill out the balance transfer application form completely and accurately. Then, make the minimum payment on your original credit card while you wait for the balance transfer to go through. When it has gone through, the new company should send you a notice, after which you’ll need to verify the transfer with your old company so they can send you a zero-balanced billing statement. Finally, cancel your old card since you don’t need it anymore—it will also save you some temptation.

[Contact the author for permission to republish or reuse this article.]

Home      Recent Articles      Author Index      Topic Index      About Us
2005-2017 Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc   ▪   privacy statement