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Best balance transfer credit cards
Save money and pay off credit card balances faster by using a zero balance credit card
Are you tired of paying over 19 percent interest on a credit card you’ve had for a while? You may feel like you are only paying interest and the balance doesn’t seem to move. This situation is frustrating. If you have decent credit, you may be able to pay off this high-interest card using a zero-interest balance transfer card.
Balance transfer credit cards offer a 0% introductory rate for a limited time. With this type of card, you transfer debt from high-interest cards to a zero-interest card to give you the opportunity to pay off the debt interest-free.
After the introductory period, which is often a year to 18 months, a standard interest rate begins to apply. The standard rate you will receive depends on your creditworthiness. Since these cards offer good terms, including no annual or monthly fees, they require a fair to good credit rating with a credit score of roughly 650 or more.
If you have good credit, it’s smart to use one of these cards to pay off an interest charging account quickly. They can help you save money if you use them carefully.
Best balance transfer credit cards compared
When comparing balance transfer credit cards, we considered how long the introductory rate lasts, the standard interest rate and balance transfer fees. You should be aware that some cards provide a window in which you can perform balance transfer transactions. Not all cards do this, but you should look to see if this is listed in the terms.
|This card offers 3% cashback in a category of choice, 2% at grocery stores, and 1% on all purchases. It also offers contactless cards, FICO scores, and overdraft protection.|
|Introductory Interest Rate||0% for 12 months|
|Balance Transfer Fee||$10 or 3% of each transaction|
|Offers a $200 bonus, 5% cashback on groceries, 3% cash back at restaurants, and more. Cashback rewards do not expire.|
|Introductory Interest Rate||0% for 15 months|
|Balance Transfer Fee||$5 or 5% of each transaction|
|This card allows you to pick your due date and provides contactless cards. It also offers customized alerts and it supports digital wallets.|
|Introductory Interest Rate||0% for 18 months|
|Balance Transfer Fee||$5 or 3% of each transaction|
|This card comes with roadside assistance, overdraft protection, alerts, travel accident insurance and cell phone protection.|
|Introductory Interest Rate||0% for 18 months|
|Balance Transfer Fee||$5 or 3% of each transaction|
Understanding the fine print in balance transfers
While translating legal language into “what it means to you” is not always easy, you have to trudge through the fine print to understand the terms of your new card. You should carefully review your credit card agreement before you accept the card. Being familiar with the terms of the card can also help you avoid additional fees.
• 0% APR period or introductory rate
The introductory period is how long the zero-interest period lasts. Most cards provide at least six months. But the best offer terms of up to 18 months, which gives you a long time to pay your balance transferred debt.
• Balance transfer fees
This is the fee charged for balance transfer transactions. Usually, credit card companies charge a flat fee or a percent of the balance moved, whichever is more. The fee is usually about 3%-5% or $3-$5, whichever is more. It is a one-time fee.
• Annual fees
Some cards charge an annual fee for services. However, balance transfer cards often do not charge this fee since they require applicants to have a “good” to “exceptional” credit rating.
• Terms of agreement
This is the fine print of the credit card agreement. The terms will outline the charges associated with the card and your obligations.
• Welcome offer
Many credit card issuers offer a “welcome offer” to help entice people to apply for and use their cards. A common offer is a cash reward for those who use and pay off a certain balance within a certain amount of time. Such as $50 cash if the cardholder charges and pays off $1000 within three months.
• Transfer limit
Some may limit how much debt you can transfer to the new card. It may also limit how much time you have to perform the balance transfer transactions.
Balance transfer pros and cons
As with all things in life, there are upsides and downsides to balance transfers. Fortunately, most of them are within your control. If you are careful about how you use the card, you should avoid the cons.
|Balance transfer Pros||Balance Transfer Cons|
|Lowers the amount paid to interest||Balance transfer fees|
|Consolidates payments||More debt if you don’t pay it off in time|
|Provides rewards and incentives||Interest rate goes up after introductory rate|
Even if you pay off your high-interest card with a zero balance card, you still need to be mindful of tending your credit. And, it would be best to lock away the paid off card and not use it at least until your new balance is paid off. Many make the mistake of paying off a card and charging it back up again. Don’t make that mistake. Continue to monitor your credit score and strive to keep your creditworthiness high.
Pay your cards twice a month (at least). Payment history accounts for 35% of your credit score so a healthy payment habit will set you up for a strong credit history. Multiple payments also help ensure that you avoid late payments and perhaps pay more than the minimum due. Simply divide your balance owed (or what you can pay) by twice and pay off in the middle of your payment cycle and then at your balance due date.
— Russ Nauta, Owner CreditCardReviews.com
How to do a credit card balance transfer
Paying off the high-interest card is not as simple as paying off one credit card with another. In most cases, you need to request a “check” from the new creditor to pay off the old card’s balance. Or, provided that you have your credit card pay-off information, you can call the new creditor and arrange the pay-off by phone.
Frequently asked questions
1. What is the minimum credit rating to get approved for a balance transfer card?
Creditors can decide what credit rating they are going to accept. However, you’ll generally need a fair-good credit score of over 650 to be approved for one of these credit cards. You may even need a higher score. FICO scores are also expected to be within a similar range of 680-700 or higher to be approved.
2. Do debt transfers help or hurt my credit rating?
If you pay off the transferred debt and don’t add more debt, no. If you don’t manage to pay off the transferred amount or add to your debt, you may find yourself in trouble.
3. Can I transfer other types of debt?
You will need to ask about this. Some will allow you to transfer other types of debt, such as a car or personal loans. However, most will not allow you to transfer debt from one of their own credit cards. For example, you cannot transfer debt from a Wells Fargo card to another Wells Fargo card.
4. Should I keep my balance transfer card after I pay it off?
If the card offers good terms and doesn’t charge an annual fee, it may be worth keeping after you pay it off. It can help your credit rating to have available credit that you are not using. This keeps your “credit utilization” low.
5. How long does a balance transfer take?
Generally, transfers take about a full business week. However, some balance transfers may take longer. Make sure to watch the transfer carefully in case you need to make a payment on the old card before the transfer completes.
If you have good credit and are looking to save a bit of money, a balance transfer card can help you do that provided that you pay off the balance within the introductory term. Another option for you may be a personal loan if you need longer terms or cannot qualify for a 0-interest card.
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