Eager to pay off your credit card balance? Balance transfers can save you money on interest charges by rolling your existing balance onto a card with a lower APR. But for many cardholders, a lack of understanding of the balance transfer process keeps them from taking advantage of the opportunity.
The good news: A balance transfer is not that hard. Here are a few easy steps to determine whether it’s right for you, and how to make it happen if it is.
Examine your current financial situation
Credit cards with promotional balance transfer offers can make sense for some credit card users. These offers allow you to move your existing balances to a new account with no interest charges for a limited amount of time, although most credit cards will impose a 3% balance transfer fee on the transferred balance. Cardholders should weigh the cost of this fee against continuing to pay off their balances at the existing interest rate.
To determine whether a balance transfer is right for your circumstances, also consider the length of the promotional period, the interest rate after the promotional period ends, what happens if you don’t pay off your balance during the promotional period, and what your minimum payment will be.
Request a balance transfer
Once you’ve chosen a balance transfer card, applied and been approved, it’s time to request your balance transfer. You can request balance transfers over the phone or online, and it may take at least 14 days after your account is opened to process balance transfers and send payments to your other creditors. You will need the account information for the cards that you want to transfer the balance from, and you’ll need to specify the amount you wish to transfer. In general, it’s best to prioritize transferring the balances with the highest interest rates.
Once you have requested a balance transfer, you’ll want to double check that everything went according to plan. In addition to confirming that the proper amounts were transferred successfully, you’ll want to keep an eye on your old accounts for the next 30 days so you can pay off any interest that may have accrued between the time you requested your balance transfer and when the transaction was completed.
Pay as much as you can
To save as much money as possible on interest charges, pay off as much of your new balance as you can before the promotional rate expires. For example, if you have a $5,000 balance and a 0% introductory rate for 18 months with a 3% balance transfer fee, you can pay off your debt in 18 months with a $287 monthly payment — and not a dime in interest.