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Pointers for picking the right balance transfer credit cards
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Pointers for picking the right balance transfer credit cards

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The process of balance transfer involves paying the debt on one credit card with another credit card thereby transferring the balance. However, picking the right card to pay off the outstanding balance isn’t as easy as it seems, and you could easily be misled to use the wrong credit card. Given that every single balance transfer will affect your credit history and you wouldn’t want to really get into a pattern, it is imperative that you choose the balance transfer credit cards wisely. Here are some distinct pointers where you shouldn’t compromise at all in order to get a good deal.

The promotional terms

The promotional interest rate and the promotional period, combined together usually determine the utility of the balance transfer credit card. How attractive the offer is, almost completely, depends on these two terms. For example, a balance transfer credit card with a promotional interest rate of 0% for a period of 12 months, is considered to be a decent bet as it allows you to get rid of interest on your debt for as long a period as 1 year. During this time, you can plan and repay your debt so that you are debt free by the time the new interest rate sets in. So, make sure the promotional terms are up to your liking and will actually benefit you financially. There is no point in going for a balance transfer where the promotional rate is not low or the promotional period is not longer than 6 months.

Longer promotional period versus promotional rate

Compare two cards, one with lower promotional rate, say 0% and a promotional period of 9 months and another with slightly higher promotional rate, say 4% and a promotional period of 18 months. 4% is still substantially lower than the normal interest rates on credit cards, hovering over 15% or sometimes even 20% and higher, depending upon your credit history. You need to choose a balance transfer credit card that offers you the best opportunity to repay your debt with the lowest cost. If your debt is low and its repayment can be managed with 9 months, then the first card, without any interest rate is a very obvious choice. On the other hand, if your debt is huge and cannot be repaid within 9 months, the second card is an obvious choice. This is because the 4% interest for 18 months, might eventually translate to less interest compared to 0% interest for 9 months, followed by, say, 15% interest for the next 9 months.

Additional costs should be as low as possible

Make sure you negotiate for an annual fees waiver as the fee adds to the debt burden on the customer. Sometimes this annual fee could be as high as $150, almost negating the benefits of 0% interest during the promotional period. Similarly, the balance transfer fees should be low. Other charges like late fees, cash advance fees and currency conversion fees vary from card to card and you need to keep an eye on them to ensure that the terms suit you well.

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