It only takes a few lapses in discipline or an unexpected tragedy to put you in serious credit card debt. But can you use a credit card balance transfer to help you get back on track?
Yes, as long as you keep these important considerations in mind:
Understand the Process
When you transfer your unpaid credit card balance to a card that has a lower interest rate, you pay off the balance of the first card with the new one. You’ll need to keep paying as much as you can each month on the balance of the new card, but since it charges less interest, your money goes farther, and you can get rid of your debt faster. Sometimes, you can even transfer the balances of other types of debt to a no or low-interest credit card.
Check the Real Cost
The advertised interest rate for the card you’re considering may be lower, but there is often an up-front fee charged for the balance transfer (usually a percentage of the transfer), which could cancel out any savings. MAX offers several cards with no transfer fees attached.
Beware of Temptation
If you can help it, do not use the new card. Adding to the balance with additional purchases can quickly undo the progress you’ve made on your debt and negate the purpose of the transfer. Even if you have a 0% rate card, some balance transfer cards only let your transferred balance qualify for no interest, meaning any new spending will rack up interest.
Get – and Stay – Organized
Know exactly when any promotional or introductory rates on the new card expire and keep track of that date. Depending on what the new rate will be, you may need to be ready to pay off much more of the balance ahead of time to make the transfer worth it.
Stay on Schedule
Don’t pay late or miss a payment, or you’ll risk incurring penalty fees and added interest that can end up costing you a bundle. If you have several cards and have had trouble keeping up with deadlines in the past, transferring all of their balances to a single new card makes even more sense. You’ll only have one due date to keep up with and one payment to make.