When you're trying to get financially stable, tackling credit card debt is a great place to start. One smart way to manage debt is to transfer it to a credit card with a lower interest rate, at least for an introductory period. When you pay less on interest, more of each payment can go toward reducing your debt. Some banks even offer credit cards with no balance transfer fees, which are also known as free balance transfer cards. Compare several features on each card to decide which one to get.
Call the credit card company to find out what interest rate you will get on the card, both during the introductory period and after it ends. Advertisements typically list the lowest possible rate, but if your credit score isn't great, you'll probably get offered a higher rate when you apply. Cards with lower ongoing rates are ideal if you can't pay off the whole balance during the introductory period.
Compare the length of time the introductory annual percentage rate, APR, will last. Sometimes it is better to get a card with a balance transfer fee and a longer introductory period instead of a card with no fee and a short introductory period.
Check whether each card has an annual fee. Even if there is no balance transfer fee, you could be paying an annual fee not only when you open the card, but each year thereafter. Prioritize cards with no annual fee versus those that have a fee -- if you plan on keeping the card for many years. And remember that having cards for a long time can help your credit score, which will be a big plus when you apply for a mortgage.
Read the fine print to determine whether the introductory interest rate on each card applies to purchases, as well. If it doesn't apply to purchases, you won't want to use the card for new purchases during this time because this part of the balance will accrue interest. In this situation, only what you pay above the minimum payment will go toward paying the part of your balance that is accruing interest. Paying more interest is the last thing you want with this new credit card.
- U.S. News & World Report: The Skinny on No-Fee Balance Transfer Credit Cards
- FOX Business: Are Free Balance Transfer Credit Cards Good for Indebted Consumers? Read more: http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2012/04/12/are-free-balance-transfer-credit-cards-good-for-indebted-consumers/#ixzz1sEFJTpIE
- After transferring the balance off your old credit card, use it only for everyday spending and pay it off every month. You want this balance transfer strategy to reduce your debt, not increase it.
- Failing to make your minimum payment on time could cause your low introductory interest rate to skyrocket to a ridiculously high penalty rate. Play it safe by setting up an automatic payment from your checking account every month.