Balance Transfer Credit Cards - An Overview
What Is A Balance Transfer Credit Card?
Simply put, a balance transfer credit card allows you to transfer your card balances over from your other credit cards. Through this transfer you can save money on the APR. If you can consolidate all your balance to a single credit card, you can easily keep track of your debt.
Why Should I Transfer My Balances To A New Credit Card?
Balance transfer credit cards, when used correctly, can help you save money. Most people keep a balance on one credit card, a separate balance on yet another, and pay a high APR to maintain both of them. Balance transfer credit cards have outstanding introductory APR's and the very best balance transfer credit cards will have a comparably lower ongoing APR as well.
Some of the best balance transfer credit cards offer an introductory APR of 0% for an extended period. Those people who are in a debt trap can take advantage of this offer. There are even some balance transfer credit cards which prolong the introductory ARR of 0% until you have paid off all the balance that you have transferred. Certain balance transfer credit cards have a fixed rate and the rate remains the same until you pay off the balance transferred. This type of card, often times lacks the introductory 0% APR offer.
Things to Remember
It is not difficult find a balance transfer credit card, and in fact, you might have already been receiving solicitations from several credit card companies. But finding the best balance transfer credit card can sometimes be a murky affair. Understanding certain key elements regarding these cards can help you to choose the best.
Most people fall for the introductory offer given by the balance transfer credit cards. But this is only for a specific period of time. The period of time offered on these introductory APR balance transfer cards is often times determined by your credit history. So while selecting a balance transfer credit, keep a close eye on the introductory offer. Make sure that the introductory offer will work in your favor.
In some instances, some credit card companies will require an initial balance transfer along with the application for the card. Some people might not be comfortable with such a demand. The best balance transfer credit cards provide flexibility on balance transfers that will allow you to transfer balances at anytime during the introductory period.
Some of balance transfer credit cards might have a fixed rate introductory offer which is not a 0% APR on balance transfers, but is very low, remaining constant until you pay off the balance.
Most balance transfer credit cards have a transfer fee. Make sure that the transfer fee does not negate the financial advantage you are trying to get from the whole process. This aspect should be considered seriously by people who are planning to transfer balances from two or more cards. There will be no transfer fees incurred with the very best balance transfer credit cards.
You should compare your existing cards interest rate with that of the balance transfer credit card. While comparing include all the fees associated with each card as well. And if you are planning to use your balance transfer credit card for ongoing purchases, make sure to get the complete details, including ongoing APR's on purchases, penalties, late payment fees and any miscellaneous surcharges that might be incurred when using the card in this manner. Make absolutely sure that there are no hidden charges.
Be Aware that Credit Cards Change
The changes in terms for your credit card can impact you financially. So many people simply pull the statement out of the envelope and never read any of the changes in terms or other materials sent by the credit card company.
There are even some people that assume that their rates won't change and that terms won't go against them.
Make sure you read everything your lenders send you thoroughly. For example, your late fees, overlimit fees and other charges may be rising. The default rate could be going up as well.
Recently some credit cards have raised the minimum amount percentage by a percentage point or more. While this helps you in paying off your card about two weeks faster, it can hurt those that are stretched to the maximum breaking point.
Many credit card borrowers are outraged when things are changed. How can they do this, they ask. Well, they can. They've always been able to, and they do it all the time.
When you accept a credit card, you are signing to the terms promised at the time of offering. But you are also signing a statement that says the issuer can change the terms anytime it wants to, to anything it wishes. Most credit cards are only required to give you a sixteen day notice in the change of terms.
What can you do if your terms are changed? You can either accept or cut the card up and never use it again. If you choose option two, you preserve your current terms, but lose the card.
If you don't read the terms, you can't say you didn't know. The next time you use the card, the purchase is acceptance of the terms. You are blindly agreeing to new terms.
Plus, chances are that the terms will not be changing to benefit you. Last year, credit card issuers collected over $16 billion in penalty fees last year. Seventy percent of those dollars were from late fees. The fees are rising. Most people paid over $34 dollars per incident last year.
Make sure that you understand all of the terms of your credit cards, including what the rates and fees are. And understand that those terms can change at any time. You are taking a huge risk by taking on a debt that is out of your control. Make sure that you know what can happen before you agree to it.
Check your statements to see that you are being charged teh correct rates. You can see your rates increase without any default on your part. There are many reasons that card companies will give you for changing your rate.
If you want to insure that you never face that late fee, schedule regular minimum payments. You can always pay more anytime during the month to pay off your balance faster. But by at least having that minimum come out automatically, you are eliminating any missed payments.
If you see that there is trouble in your future, make sure you take action right away. Sitting and waiting can cost you money if new fees kick in on your accounts. Talk to the lender before you have any troubles with your card.