The Only 3 Times to Transfer a Credit Card Balance
High interest rates are the worst
Carrying around a $10,000 credit card balance totally sucks. What’s worse: Making hefty monthly payments only to realize your interest rate is so high you’re not even making a friggin' dent. Usually, this is the time a too-good-to-be true balance transfer offer appears in the mail. But should you take the bait? We asked the experts at financial planning firm Stash Wealth. Here, the three times when you’re good to go.
THE TRANSFER OFFER IS BASICALLY FEE-FREE
If the card doesn’t have an annual fee, provides at least 12 months of zero percent interest (i.e., you’ll have a cushion of time to pay off your debt) and doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee, it’s probably a good idea to move your debt. NerdWallet is a great resource for finding cards with balance transfer offers that will work for you. For example, right now, the Chase Slate Card doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee if you move your debt within the first 60 days of opening an account. It also offers zero percent APR for 15 months.
YOU’RE 100 PERCENT CERTAIN YOU WON’T MISS A PAYMENT
Pretty much the only reason to transfer your debt is because you know you have the cash to start paying it off. If you’re worried (even a teeny-tiny bit) that you’ll miss even one monthly payment, decline. Here’s why: Missing a payment will cancel your zero percent offer and you’ll immediately revert to paying a higher-than-usual interest rate on your balance.
YOU’VE DONE THE MATH
The only way to know if a balance transfer offer is cost effective is to crunch some numbers (ugh, we know). Most important, you’ll need to assess the length of the promotional APR (with the Chase Slate card, it’s 15 months), but also what that APR jumps to if you don’t pay the balance off in full during that time. For example, say that over the course of 15 months, you pay $500 a month to whittle down your $10,000 balance at a zero percent APR. After 15 months, you’ll still owe $2,500--and you'll have to pay it off at the new card’s regular (and potentially sky-high) interest rate.