If you’re struggling to keep up with payments and can’t seem to make a dent in your credit card debt, a balance transfer may be a good repayment strategy for you. Just be aware of all the terms and conditions before you take this step.
Transfer Your Debt to a New Account
Find a creditor that will offer you a low rate on a new account. Many cards will offer a low introductory rate (sometimes 0%) for a period of time to entice new customers. This period may last from 6 to 18 months.
Make the Same Payment, But Pay Less Interest
Imagine you had $10,000 of credit card debt, and you were making minimum payments of $200 a month. $150 of that is going towards interest. If you find the right creditor, you could go several months without paying any interest. Think of how much you could reduce that debt by applying your entire monthly payment towards the principle. Keep in mind, there may be a one-time fee for transferring a balance. This can vary depending on the creditor. Also be aware that there are likely strict rules about missed payments under this promotional period. If you are late or miss a payment, that low rate could skyrocket and throw off your whole plan.
One other warning… Your balance transfer may be treated differently than other charges made on the new card. Meaning, there may be a different interest rate applied to new charges, while your transferred amount gets the low introductory rate. If you make minimum payments, they will be applied to the lowest yielding balance (the transferred balance with the introductory rate). If you make a payment above the minimum, then it will be applied at the higher rate. So, it would be most beneficial to not make additional charges to this new card.
How Will a Balance Transfer Affect My Credit Score?
Good question! Opening a new account will always have an impact on your credit score. A new account will lower the average age of your credit accounts. The length of credit history accounts for approximately 15% of your credit score. However, your credit utilization ratio will decrease when you open up a new account. If your total available credit increases and you are still utilizing the same amount, then your lower usage ratio can have a positive impact on your score.
Transferring a credit balance is not a fast fix for your credit score. The purpose of this strategy is to temporarily apply more of your payment to the actual credit card debt, and not the interest. This will help you repay your debt faster. Make sure you are aware of all the terms and conditions of your new account before going through with a transfer. A balance transfer may be a good strategy if you already have a good credit score, and are not at risk to miss a payment during the introductory period.
If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today.