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Maximizing Your Balance Transfer Cards

Getting your hands on a balance transfer credit card is not hard to do - as long as your credit is in any kind of reasonable shape. There are offers for balance transfer credit cards everywhere - you get them in your mail box, in your email box, from telemarketers over the phone, in newspapers, on television and even in the magazines you read. But setting the marketing deluge aside, balance transfer credit cards happen to be one of the most appealing aspects of the credit card business for consumers. They allow many people to take advantage of much lower interest rates and less finance charges on outstanding card balances. So when it comes right down to it, balance transfer credit cards offer a substantial opportunity for consumers to save money, if they are used wisely, of course.

On top of that, balance transfer cards also provide ample opportunity for cardholders to lower their debt to credit ratio, yet another significant credit advantage. In short, if you choose this type of credit card wisely, you will find substantial benefits in having and using them. In fact, virtually any credit card you apply for can be used for a balance transfer.

But any credit card offer has “fine print” that you will want to pay close attention to, whether it’s a balance transfer credit card offer or not. This article will tell you what to look for in order for you to get the best deal out there.

Length of Initial Offer

Since the length of the initial offer is typically the primary reason for getting the card, you need to know exactly how long you have to be able to enjoy the 0% interest on your balance transfers. The time frame for the 0% balance transfer rate will most certainly vary from card to card. Some cards now might even give you an unspecified time period of “up to 15 months” - depending on certain factors. The most credit worthy consumers will qualify for the longest time periods on balance transfers. Other balance transfer offers will typically provide an initial offer period of anywhere between 3 and 12 months.

Balance Transfer Timing

Some balance transfer credit cards will allow you to make balance transfers at any time within the initial offer period, and get the specially offered rate. This is increasingly rare, however. Other balance transfer credit card offers will allow you to make a balance transfer for 0% interest, but only at the time of application. Although you could make other balance transfers on these cards, you will not be able to take advantage of the 0% interest. So be sure to understand when the balance transfer must be made to take advantage of the best rate available on the offer.

Balance Transfer Fees

While many balance transfer credit cards allow you to make your transfers for free, other cards will charge you a percentage of the amount transferred. This fee could be as high as 4% - 5%. Make sure to find out before you actually fill out the application if any balance transfer fees will apply. Try to find balance transfer credit card offers that do not charge transfer fees. And when filling out the card application, be sure that you take the time to double-check that your personal information is correct. Incorrect or incomplete information could cause a delay, and you may get stuck with a late fee on the other card before your balance transfer actually takes effect.

Regular Purchases

Many balance transfer credit cards will only allow the 0% APR on the balance transferred while all subsequent card purchases will incur the regular APR. Often times, the regular APR on card purchases for balance transfer cards is significantly higher. Although highly unlikely, you might be able to find a balance transfer card that applies the 0% APR to both balance transfers as well as purchases. Most often, however, the 0% APR will apply only to the balance transfer, and all other purchases will incur finance charges if not paid in full with each billing period.

Rates After The Introductory Offer

Every credit card has an interest rate - this is one way the credit card issuers earn their keep. But be sure that you know when and how that higher interest rate “tiers” might kick in. The one thing in particular that might cause your introductory interest rate to disappear early is a late payment, or falling behind in payments. So, if you think that you may have an occasional problem in this area, make sure that you instead secure a card offer with as low of an ongoing APR as possible, in lieu of any attractive balance transfer offer. Nothing will take the excitement of a balance transfer credit card away faster than having the APR kicked up to a higher interest rate on a large card balance as the result of a late or missed card payment. It is a most unpleasant experience to deal with. So, avoid it at all costs.

Getting a good balance transfer credit card can be an ideal way to reduce your debt burden if you are presently paying high rates of interest on your current card balances. While balance transfer credit cards can provide you an opportunity to save substantially, make sure that you pay particular attention to the length of the balance transfer APR offer, the requisite timing of the balance transfers, any applicable balance transfer fees, as well as any applicable higher APR’s that may apply as the result of a late card payment.

So while paying particular attention to these factors, anyone can benefit from the significant credit advantages and benefits that balance transfer credit cards have to offer.



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