Are Credit Card Balance Transfers Worth It?
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Are credit card balance transfers really cost-efficient and worth the effort?
You’ve probably asked yourself this question If you’re in the process of paying down debt on high-interest credit cards.I recently read an article from CreditCards.Com comparing credit cards that offer both no balance transfer fees and low-interest rates to credit cards that offer 0% interest rates for a promotional period but require a balance transfer fee.
Balance transfers could be beneficial under certain circumstances. However, you do need to choose the right option for your unique situation and consider all costs.
Most importantly, it’s important to remain disciplined enough to pay off the balance in full before the promotional period ends to avoid high-interest rates.
Otherwise, you’ll continue to repeat a vicious cycle of paying balance transfer fees over and over while constantly shift money to different accounts without ever truly eliminating debt.
What is a Balance Transfer?
People generally take advantage of balance transfers when they need relief from high-interest rates in their current credit cards and are interested in reducing or eliminating credit card debt.
The process involves applying for another credit card which offers the option to transfer some or all of said-debt to the new card. During the promotional period (i.e. 6-18 or more months), the borrower is able to avoid most or all interest as long as balances are paid within the given timeframe.
In my experience, money has to be transferred within a certain amount of time to take advantage of the low or no-interest perk.
As mentioned earlier, some balance transfer options require fees based on how much money is transferred and others don’t.
Overall, a balance transfer is basically shifting money from one credit card to another for better terms.
A (brief) Personal Credit Card Balance Transfer Story
In the past, I’ve not been as disciplined as I should’ve been when “taking advantage” of transferring a credit card balance with a high-interest rate into a 0% option.
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Although I opted for a card that offered a 0% interest rate for 12 months, this same “opportunity” required me to pay a balance transfer fee. At the time this seemed to be the more appealing option for my circumstances.
Like most people, I promised myself I’d pay off the card in full within 12 months and sought relief from the high-interest rates I paid at the time.
And like many others, I fell incredibly short of my good intentions. I didn’t pay off the card within the promotional period and got hit with a high-interest rate.
Had I taken a more thoughtful approach, I’d like to think I would have chosen the option with a lower interest rate for the life of the card and been more diligent in sticking to a credit card payoff plan.
Another poor choice you should avoid is using the new card for additional purchases.
Talk about taking 1 step forward and 2 steps back (at least momentarily).
It may not be a big deal at first, but it is something to think about when those interest rates kick in.
Developing a Money Mindset
Before moving money around in hopes of decreasing debt, think about what behaviors led to such high credit card balances in the first place.
Are you an impulse spender? Do you live beyond your means? If so, can you make immediate changes to stop doing this? Have you taken steps to increase your income and put this money towards your balance?
The most important thing to do is to create a plan and stick to it.
Final Thoughts on Balance Transfers
What are your thoughts? Do you think balance transfers with low interest and no balance fees is a better option for the less-disciplined credit card owner that still needs a break from high-interest rates?
Check out the article over at CreditCards.Com for a deeper dive into the pros and cons of both options as well as a few financial charts that dive even deeper into the real cost of balance transfers.
If you’ve ever taken advantage of either option, I’d love to hear about your experience!
Until next time,