A balance transfer is when you take the balance on one credit card and transfer it to another card with a lower interest rate. The most common use of balance transfers is to open a new credit card with an introductory rate or a lower interest rate than your existing accounts have and transfer the balance to save money on your interest payments. Doing a balance transfer is a great way to reduce your overall debt and lower your monthly payments. According to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s 2019 Consumer Credit Card Market Report, the average debt amount transferred in 2018 for those with excellent credit scores was $5,453, followed by $4,136 for those with good credit scores and $2,845 for those with fair credit scores. According to our study, the average interest credit card rate is 15.10%. And according to Finder, a balance transfer is worth it when the money saved on interest outweighs any balance transfer fees. Let’s see whether it will benefit you.
There are some facts about balance transfers that you need to know if you plan to use a balance transfer to save money.
If you are transferring a balance of $10,000 from a card with a 15% interest rate to a card with no interest for one year, you are effectively reducing your interest by 15% for an entire year and paying an initial 3% (or $300 in this case). This is obviously a smart move if you think you can pay off the balance or the majority of the balance within one year.
There are obviously cases in which this would not be a smart move. For example, if you can pay off the whole balance within a few short months, you may save more money by paying off the balance in full than incurring the 3% balance transfer fee.
You can transfer the balance of your car loan, furniture loan, or just about any other monthly installment loan. You would take a check from the credit card issuer and send it to your creditor for the loan. Most people believe that you can only balance one credit card to another, but that is incorrect. However, only certain banks give you the option to cut a check, while many do require you to go from card to card, so you have to do your homework on this.
Make sure to read the fine print on this issue. Those balance transfer introductory offers can be great, but be careful not to spend any money on that new card without knowing if you will have to pay interest on the purchase.
Banks are looking for this type of activity. If you are opening new accounts often and transferring high balances, banks will definitely see you as a risk. You might think it would be a great idea to keep opening a new card every year with a 0% interest rate and keep transferring the balance, but it would not be wise in the long term. Balance transfers are best for those who want to pay down their debt aggressively.
Not only would you have to pay a late fee, but this would also completely defeat the purpose of having performed a balance transfer. Definitely ensure that you set up an auto-payment schedule when you get your new card. You would not want to transfer a balance to a 0% interest rate card to make one late payment and go right back to paying 15% interest like you were on the old card. This would be especially painful if you also got hit with the standard 3% fee. Ouch!
You receive an attractive offer in the mail from your bank. A 0% balance transfer to a new credit card! You get excited because you have a large balance paying exorbitant interest rates. But alas, you cannot transfer the balance because banks do not allow balance transfers within the same institution.
There is no law preventing this behavior. The real reason that banks don’t allow this is quite simple, really. Let’s think about why banks would make such an offer to someone. They offer an enticing 0% interest rate for 15 months to get you to move your debt to their bank. They can only hope that you will not pay off your debt and that by the end of the 15 months, you will start paying the interest on the debt that you still have left, or even that you will make some purchases with your new card.
In many cases, the banks win in this scenario because people often do one of two things after transferring a balance:
Doing either of these things makes you a bad situation, the borrower.
If you keep transferring the balance, eventually, the banks will catch on and stop you from doing it in the future by not approving your applications. This will put you right back at square one, and you were paying transfer fees all along.
If you spend more money on that card, you will end up owing more money and increasing your debt. You will have to pay interest on this debt, and you have now defeated the purpose of doing the balance transfer, which was to try to save money and lower your overall debt, wasn’t it?
Balance transfers can be a beneficial method of tackling credit card or other types of debt. They can help you save money on interest rates and ultimately help you pay off your debt faster and effectively. However, it would help if you use caution when using this tactic. There are many ways that you could potentially harm yourself further by not paying attention to the fine print, both literally and figuratively. Take the time to research and understand what balance transfers are all about, and make sure that you know exactly what you are getting from a bank before you apply for one. Once you get approved, make sure to follow these rules so that you can pay off that old debt and save hundreds if not thousands of dollars in the meantime. Your wallet will thank you, and so will your spouse.