You may have seen offers out there for credit card balance transfers, which come with an enticing zero percent interest rate for an introductory period. This might seem like a great deal — and it can be sometimes — but it’s not so simple.
Here are some of the credit card balance transfer pros and cons.
Pro: You’ll Potentially Save Lots on Interest Payments
The most obvious benefit of a credit card balance transfer is lower interest rates. Credit cards come with some of the highest interest rates of any form of debt —sometimes over 20 percent. The issue with high-interest rates is they make it more difficult to eliminate debt, as it keeps regenerating even when you pay it down.
You’re going to get a low introductory rate when you do a balance transfer — often zero percent — for a certain number of months. Getting this break can help you catch up on your debt, and potentially pay it all off.
Pro: Might Be Better Benefits on New Credit Card
Credit cards typically come with some kind of benefit — such as cashback — to entice people to use the card and rack up debt. These benefits can vary greatly between different cards, which means it’s good to choose one that provides a benefit relevant to your life, or at least the most cashback.
Look to see what benefits you’ll get from using that new card when you perform a balance transfer, Shopping around for the best benefits can be quite rewarding in the long run—especially if you pay off your credit card and stop carrying revolving debt.
Pro: Consolidate Your Payments
A credit card balance transfer can be another way of accomplishing debt consolidation. You can take multiple lines of credit and move their balances onto a single card at a lower interest rate.
Those looking for debt consolidation with bad credit should also consider the potential benefits of working with a debt relief agency. Consolidating your debt this way can help you simplify your repayment, and possibly get you out of debt entirely in a much shorter time frame.
Con: You’ll Have to Pay a Transfer Fee
Like most things in life, there are downsides to doing a credit card balance transfer. Chief among these can be the transfer fee. Balance transfer fees typically run in the range of three to five percent. As noted by the financial blog Money Under 30, transferring $10,000 with a five percent fee equates to $500. While you’ll get to enjoy zero percent rates for the introductory period, a balance transfer actually puts you deeper into debt.
Con: The Intro Rate Is Only Temporary
Don’t get too comfortable with that zero percent rate. It’s going to run out after the introductory period. And when it does, you’ll possibly be stuck with an even higher interest rate than before you performed the balance transfer.
A balance transfer is only going to be successful if you pay off the debt while it’s no accumulating interest. Otherwise, it might put you in an even worse place than before the balance transfer.
Con: This Can Actually Make Your Debt Worse
Yes, you heard that correctly. Credit card balance transfers done wrong can be detrimental to your finances, leaving you with an even bigger debt load. Performing a balance transfer doesn’t in itself put you in a better financial position. All it does is buy you some time. If you don’t take advantage of that time, your debt will just keep growing until something changes.
While there are some merits to performing a credit card balance transfer, it’s certainly not the end-all-be-all solution to debt reduction. Consider the pros and cons of a balance transfer carefully before going through with it.