What You Should Know about Balance Transfer Credit Cards

By Leni Parrish on August 30, 2009

With so many people getting stuck in debt, credit card companies are finding new ways to make their offers more attractive. By introducing balance transfer credit cards, they can invite more cardholders, even if these people already own credit cards from other issuers. In fact, those who apply for a balance transfer credit card often own multiple credit card accounts.

As its name suggests, these credit cards offer 0% interest on balance transfers so a cardholder can move over all unpaid charges to this card and continue paying them off without incurring the monthly interest rate. If you currently have unpaid debts, should you get a balance transfer credit card?

With the right strategy, a balance transfer card can be a great tool for eliminating your unpaid dues. But before you go ahead and sign up for a new credit card with a balance transfer offer, here are some things you should remember about them.

Transferring charges is not free. Balance transfer transactions are often charged with a flat rate fee plus a percentage of the amount you transferred. This means, you will get extra fees each time you transfer a balance. Therefore, you should find a card with the lowest transfer cost possible.

Zero percent interest is never permanent. This promo may run for a good 6 to 12 months but after that, remember that regular rates will apply. Hence, you need to know what exactly the regular rate would be after the introductory period. Choose one with a reasonable rate that lasts.

Balance transfer cards are not for bad credit. If you have a problem with your credit history, then you may not be eligible for this credit card. Balance transfer credit cards often require outstanding credit history or high credit score to ensure timely payment. Before sending your application, be sure to check your credit report first to see if you qualify.

You need to beat the clock. After transferring over your balances to your zero interest card, you should work on paying off those charges while the 0% APR applies. It is wise to set your repayment plan right from the beginning so you know exactly when you can finish paying off your debts. Give yourself some space before the introductory period ends. Ideally, you should finish paying off all your transferred charges at least a month before the regular rate returns.

Self-discipline is a must. Using a balance transfer credit card would be senseless if you will continue charging new purchases to your account. Focus on paying off your debts and limit your spending. Always be conscious about your repayment responsibilities to avoid uncontrolled debt.

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