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11/10/07

Should you Transfer your Credit Card Balance?

A credit card balance transfer is when you take the balance on one credit card and pay off that balance with another credit card. The balance on the first card is thus effectively transferred onto the second credit card. Why would anybody do such a thing? Put simply, people do this to save money on interest rates. However, there are some dangers that can defeat the purpose of a credit card balance transfer.

As I stated, people transfer credit card balances in order to save money on interest rates. If you have a credit card that has a 23% interest rate and another card with a 15% interest rate, why not transfer the balance on the 23% interest rate card to the credit card with the 15% interest rate? You will save money and you will only have to make one payment instead of two.

The first problem that people run into is that sometimes a credit card does not have enough available balance in order to receive the transfer. Therefore, if you need to transfer $500, but only have $300 available balance on the card to which you want to transfer, obviously you cannot transfer the whole amount. I would caution transferring $300 of the $500 because then you will have one card “maxed out.” This will negatively affect your credit score, and could lead to trouble with fees (over the limit fees) down the road.

The second problem people face is that sometimes they transfer a credit card balance to a card with a teaser rate. You might see a credit card that advertises a 0% interest rate for six months on all credit card balance transfers. You may think, “This is great!” However, you have to check the fine print. Most of the time, the interest rate after the six month introductory period changes from 0% to 20%+. Make sure that the default interest rate is lower than the current interest rate on your credit card or else the whole purpose for transferring your credit card balance will be defeated.

Third, make sure that there are no fees associated with your balance transfer. You should not have to pay additional money for transferring money. If the credit card to which you want to transfer your balance wants to charge you a fee, find another credit card.

Balance transfers can be a benefit. Avoid the teaser interest rates with sky high default interest rates. Additionally, if you conclude that a balance transfer will save you money, make sure that the card to which you transfer has a noticeably lower interest rate. It is a waste of time to transfer from a 22% interest rate credit card to a 20% interest rate credit card. If you use balance transfers effectively, you could literally save thousands of dollars.

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