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The Ultimate Guide to Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Kamel LoveJoy

Kamel LoveJoy About The Author

Jun 27, 2024 5:30:00 AM

Managing credit card debt can be challenging, especially if you're juggling multiple high-interest accounts. Whether you have a significant amount of debt or simply want to reduce your monthly payments, balance transfer credit cards might be a key solution for you. Let’s read the fine print of a credit card and learn the pros and cons of balance transfers and explore why they could be useful for you.

The Ultimate Guide to Balance Transfer Credit Cards for Young Adults

Mastering Balance Transfer Credit Cards: The Ultimate Guide

A balance transfer credit card allows you to move your existing credit card debt from one or more cards to a new card with a lower interest rate or an intro APR (Annual Percentage Rate) of 0% for a specific period. This can help you save money on interest and pay off your debt faster.

What the Heck is an APR Again?

APR stands for Annual Percentage Rate, which is the interest rate you pay each year on your credit card balance. For instance, with a 2% APR account, $100 will accrue $2 in interest over the year. 

Banks typically charge this interest on a monthly basis. For example, a bank with a 2% APR will charge 0.167% interest monthly. If interest is charged quarterly, it would be 0.5% every three months. To find the APR, multiply the periodic rate by the number of periods in a year.

Example of a Balance Transfer

If you have a $3,000 balance on a credit card with an 18% APR and transfer it to a card with a 0% intro APR for 12 months, you save $540 in interest (18% of $3,000) during that year. This money can then be used to pay down the principal balance instead.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Balance Transfer Credit Card?

The Ultimate Guide to Balance Transfer Credit Cards for Young Adults - Pros

The benefits of using a balance transfer credit card include lower interest rates, debt consolidation, faster debt payoff, and potentially improved credit scores. Here's a deeper look into each benefit:

Lower Interest Rates

Many balance transfer credit cards offer a 0% introductory APR for a set period, usually between 6 to 18 months. This means you can pay off your debt without accruing additional interest during this time.

Debt Consolidation

With debt consolidation you are combining multiple debts into one to simplify your financial management. Instead of keeping track of various payment due dates and interest rates, you only have one monthly payment to focus on. But be sure to do your best to make more than the minimum payment.

Faster Debt Payoff

With lower or no interest, more of your payments go toward reducing the principal balance rather than just covering interest charges. This helps you pay off your debt faster.

Improved Credit Score

Reducing your debt and managing your payments effectively can improve your credit utilization ratio, which can positively impact your credit score. A better credit score can help you secure better interest rates on future loans or credit cards.

How to use a Balance Credit Card Example

If you transfer $5,000 from a card with a 20% APR to a card with a 0% APR for 12 months and pay $417 monthly, you could pay off the entire debt within the promotional period without paying any interest. This saves you $1,000 in interest savings.

Calculate How Quickly you could Pay Off  Your Debt 

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What Are the Potential Drawbacks or Cons of Balance Transfer Credit Cards?

The Ultimate Guide to Balance Transfer Credit Cards for Young Adults - cons

While balance transfer credit cards offer many benefits, there are also potential downsides to consider:

Balance Transfer Fees

Most credit card issuers charge a fee for transferring a balance, typically 3-5% of the transferred amount. This fee can add up, especially if you’re transferring a large balance. Make sure to learn the amount of each transfer!

Limited Introductory Period

The 0% intro APR is temporary, and after the promotional period ends, the interest rate can be quite high. If you haven't paid off the balance by then, you might end up paying more in interest. Be careful of variable APR rates these rates are not stable and are based on the market.

Risk of New Debt

Transferring a balance doesn’t eliminate the debt; it just moves it. Without discipline, you could end up accruing more debt on the original card, resulting in more financial strain. In your first year make sure to put as money as possible towards paying off the debt (gift cards, birthday cash, or couch change). Try your best to limit new purchases until the older debt is paid off.

Impact on Credit Score

Applying for a new credit card can temporarily lower your credit score. Additionally, having a high balance on your new card can affect your credit utilization ratio. Make sure to know how often to check your credit report.

A Balance Transfer Con Example

If you transfer $5,000 to a new card with a 3% balance transfer fee, you'll incur a $150 fee. If you don’t pay off the balance within the 0% APR period and the rate jumps to 20%, you could end up with more debt than you started with.

How Do You Apply for a Balance Transfer Credit Card?

Account opening for a balance transfer credit card involves several steps:

Check Your Credit Score

Good or excellent credit scores are often needed to qualify for the best balance transfer offers. Knowing your score helps you determine which cards you can realistically get. You can also check your credit score but the score that shows on some of the free websites may differ then from your actual credit score. 

Compare Offers

Look for new credit cards with the longest 0% APR periods and the lowest balance transfer fees. Compare the terms and benefits of different cards to find the best fit for your needs.

Read the Fine Print

Understand the terms and conditions, including what happens when the introductory period ends. Make sure you’re aware of any fees and the regular APR after the promotional intro period. Also, make sure to check for annual fees. Make sure to ask about introductory rates, billing cycles, and even bonus points.

Apply for the Card

Complete the application with accurate personal and financial information. Most applications can be done online, and approval can be instant.

Transfer Your Balance

Once approved, contact the new credit card issuer to initiate the balance transfer. Provide the details of the accounts you’re transferring from and ensure the process is completed. Make sure to ask for the intro balance transfer fee, credit limit, and late fees. 

Applying to a  Balance Transfer Credit Card with Good Credit Example

If you have a credit score of 700, you might qualify for a card offering 0% APR for 18 months with a 3% balance transfer fee. You apply online, get approved, and transfer your $3,000 balance from a card with a 20% APR. You pay a $90 fee (3% of $3,000) but save much more in interest. But remember the 0% low intro APR is for a limited time. 

What Do You Need to Apply for a Credit Card Balance Transfer?

To apply for a balance transfer credit card, you generally need:

Personal Information

This includes your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. Providing accurate information is crucial for the approval process.

Employment and Income Details

You’ll need to provide your employer’s name, your income, and other financial obligations. This helps the issuer assess your ability to repay the transferred balance.

Credit Information

This includes your current credit card balances, limits, and history. A good credit history increases your chances of getting approved for a balance transfer card.

Got questions about balance transfers? Ask us!

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Conclusion

Handling outstanding debt can be daunting, but balance transfer credit card accounts offer a practical solution for young adults looking to manage their finances better. By understanding how these cards work, their benefits, potential drawbacks, and the application process, you can make an informed decision that suits your financial situation. Too much debt can be stressful, at First Alliance Credit Union, we’re here to help you navigate your options. Whether you’re considering future balance transfers or a debt consolidation loan, our loan experts are ready to assist you in finding the best solution for your needs. Get in touch with us today to learn more about managing your credit card debt effectively.

 

We do our best to provide helpful information but we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information presented in the article, under no circumstance does the information provided constitute legal advice. You are responsible for independently verifying the information if you intend to use it in any way. Additionally, the content is not intended to be reflective of First Alliance Credit Union’s products or services, for accurate and complete details about our product and service information you must speak to an advisor at First Alliance Credit Union.