money·3 min read

Is a Credit Card Balance Transfer Right For You?

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Design: theSkimm | Photo: Getty Images
May 24, 2022

Rollovers aren’t just for your 401(k). They can help if you’re trying to save money on high-interest credit card debt, too. Think: credit card balance transfer. 

What’s a credit card balance transfer?

It’s when you move your credit card balance to a new card. And it’s a move that could mean lower interest rates. Which would mean more of your payments will go to the balance, rather than interest. That makes it a good option for anyone looking to pay off their debts ASAP.Plus, you might get better perks with the balance transfer card. Think: cash-back rewards.

How does it work?

With two simple steps:

Apply.

If you’re interested in a balance transfer, search for a card with a low APR. Then, you’ll need to contact the issuer and apply. Heads up: This will probably be a hard inquiry on your credit report. Which could temporarily drop your credit score, but probably just by a few points.

Transfer your balance.

This part is pretty easy, and can usually be done over the phone or online. Psst…you’ll need to have your credit card info handy to complete the transfer.

How long does a balance transfer take?

Balance transfers don’t happen overnight. Be prepared to wait anywhere from a week to a month for the process to be completed. The exact time frame depends on the card issuers you work with.

And that’s it? 

Almost. You have to pay off the debt next. And try not to make too many new purchases on your new credit card. Because adding to your existing balance means accruing more interest — not great, even at a lower rate.

Oh, and those lower rates are usually only available for a limited time. So you should clear the transferred balance before your rate goes up again to make the most of this money move. And to make it worth the balance transfer fee.

What’s a balance transfer fee?

The credit card issuer will probably charge a fee to roll your debt over. It’s usually a percentage of the balance you’re transferring. Hint: Expect to be charged between 3-5% of the balance, or up to $10, whichever is greater.

Wait. Can I do a balance transfer with bad credit?

The short answer is: possibly. But it may not be worth it. If your credit score isn’t in good shape, you could end up with a higher interest rate. Or you might only qualify for a secured credit card, which would require a cash deposit. And it might be a better idea to put cash directly toward paying off your credit card debt.

theSkimm 

Credit card balance transfers are one way to help eliminate credit card debt. But only if your credit score is up to par. And you’re serious about paying it off ASAP. Otherwise, a balance transfer may not be worth it.

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