Credit card balance transfers: What you should know

Credit card balance transfers: What you should know

According to the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), the country has around $33 billion dollars of credit card debt. The RBA also reports that Australians save 9.3 percent of their disposable income, on average. So, if Aussies so are concerned with padding their savings accounts and maximising their dollar, surely they’d be concerned with reducing credit card debt too?

Of course while people will try to spend less or budget better to reduce the amount they owe on their credit cards, many will opt to switch cards to take advantage of zero percent interest offers.

But surely if you could simply transfer your credit balance to avoid interest, people would do it all the time and never pay a cent on what they borrow? Well, there are restrictions in place for this very reason, and being aware of them could help you avoid being stung by fees when trying to save money.

Switching credit cards

Changing from one credit card provider to another can often yield a better interest rate than the one you currently have. Check out RateCity’s credit card comparison tool to learn more about what offers are out there. But what about taking advantage of a zero percent offer?

These deals usually have no interest charged on the balance transferred for a set period of time, maybe six moths or a year. There are two caveats in that sentence that are very important to note.

1) Balance transferred

Often when you transfer your balance to a new credit card, you’ll be tempted to increase your limit — heck, there’s no interest, right?

Wrong. Spending money on this card over your balance transferred will attract interest and it can be more than your previous rate!

2) The interest-free period

Under this scheme, if you don’t manage to knock off your entire debt in the allowed time, you then revert to that card’s full interest rate. Again, that could be higher than the rate you are paying now.

If you have a small debt that you could eliminate in the six months or so that you have without interest it could be a beneficial situation, but for larger amounts, you could be stung with high interest payments on the remaining balance. The revert rate can often be higher when the interest-free term is longer.

In these situations it could be more beneficial to switch to a card with a low lifetime interest rate. Although there is no interest-free period, it could save you money in the long run if you’ll be paying off the debt for some time.

And the fees?

Of course, there has to be a catch to an interest free credit card. There are fees on balance transfers, which is how the finance provider makes their money on these facilities. Some fees to be aware of include annual fees, which are typically charged from the outset so will need to be factored into the cost of switching. Another fee charged by some providers is known as a ‘balance transfer handling fee’ and may be charged as a flat fee or a percentage of the balance being transferred.

Of course if you only transfer once, it won’t be much of a problem. However, if you plan to hop from one provider to the next, the string of charges may soon start to outweigh the benefit of not paying interest. There’s also all the time involved in that exercise as well.

So, what should I do?

Reigning in your credit card debt is all about smart choices. At some point the intelligent option might be to make a beneficial switch to a low-interest or no-interest card. However, true financial mastery comes from planning your spending.

Talking to a financial professional about your personal finances or setting up a good budget is a great place to start. Once you have a very good idea of your financial position, you can plan around what payments you can afford to make to bring your debt down, and whether switching cards will ultimately work for you with the fees and revert rates involved.

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Learn more about credit cards

How does credit card interest work?

Generally, when we talk about credit card interest, we mean the purchase interest rate, which is the interest charged on purchases you make with your credit card.

If you don’t pay your full balance each month (or even if you pay the minimum amount), you are charged interest on all the outstanding transactions and the remaining balance. However, interest is also charged on cash advances, balance transfers, special rate offers and, in some cases, even the fees charged by the company.

The interest rate can vary, depending on the credit card. Some have an interest-free period, otherwise you start paying interest from the day you make a purchase or from the day your monthly statement is issued. So avoid interest by paying the full amount promptly.

What is a balance transfer credit card?

A balance transfer credit card lets you transfer your debt balance from one credit card to another. A balance transfer credit card generally has a 0 per cent interest rate for a set period of time. When you roll your debt balance over to a new credit card, you’ll be able to take advantage of the interest-free period to pay your credit card debt off faster without accruing additional interest charges. If your application is approved, the provider will pay out your old credit card and transfer your debt balance over to the new card. 

How is credit card interest charged?

Your credit card will be charged interest when you don’t pay off the balance on your credit card. Your card provider or bank charges you the individual interest rate that is associated with your card, which is usually between 10 and 20 per cent. 

The interest will be added onto your bill each month or billing period if you don’t pay off the balance, unless you are in an interest-free period.

You will be charged interest on anything that hasn’t been paid for inside the interest-free period. Usually you will receive a notice on your bill or statement saying you will be charged interest so you have some form of notice before you’re charged.

How to calculate credit card interest

Credit card interest can quickly turn a manageable balance into unmovable debt. So being able to understand how interest rates translate into dollars is an important skill to acquire.

The common mistake people make is focusing on the credit card’s annual percentage rate (APR), which often sits between 15 and 20 per cent. While the APR does provide a rough idea of how much interest you’ll pay, it’s not entirely accurate.

This is because you actually accrue interest on your balance daily, not annually. So, you need to work out your daily periodic rate (DPR). To do this, divide your card’s APR by the number of days in a year (e.g. 16.9 per cent divided by 365, or 0.05 per cent). You can then apply this figure to the daily balance on your credit card.

How to pay a credit card from another bank

Paying or transferring debt from one lender to the other is called a balance transfer. This involves transferring part or all of the debt from a credit card with one lender to a credit card with another. As part of the process, your new lender will pay out the old lender, so that you now owe the same amount of money but to a new institution.

Many credit card providers offer an interest-free period on balance transfers to help new applicants better handle their debt. During this period, cardholders are not required to pay interest on the debt they brought over from the other card. This can be a great opportunity for consumers to pay off credit card debt with no interest. There are often fees associated with balance transfers; normally, these are a percentage of the amount transferred.

So make sure you read the terms and conditions of the card before transferring any debt across.

How do you use credit cards?

A credit card can be an easy way to make purchases online, in person or over the phone. When used properly, a credit card can even help you manage your cash flow. But before applying for a credit card, it’s good to know how they work. A credit card is essentially a personal line of credit which lets you buy things and pay for them later. As a card holder, you’ll be given a credit limit and (potentially) charged interest on the money the bank lends you. At the end of each billing period, the bank will send you a statement which shows your outstanding balance and the minimum amount you need to pay back. If you don’t pay back the full balance amount, the bank will begin charging you interest.

Can a pensioner get a credit card?

It is possible to get a credit card as a pensioner. There are some factors to keep in mind, including:

  • Annual income. Look for credit cards with minimum annual income requirements you can meet. 
  • Annual fees. If high fees are a concern for you, opt for a card with a low or $0 annual fee. 
  • Interest rate. Make sure you won’t have any nasty surprises on your credit card bill. Compare cards with a low interest rates to minimise risk.

How do you use a credit card?

Credit cards are a quick and convenient way to pay for items in store, online or over the phone. You can use a credit card as a cashless way to pay for goods or services, both locally and overseas. You can also use a credit card to make a cash advance, which gives you the flexibility to withdraw cash from your credit card account. Because a credit card uses the bank’s funds instead of your own, you will be charged interest on the money you spend – unless you pay off the entire debt within the interest-free period. If you pay the minimum monthly repayment, you will be charged interest. There are many different credit card options on the market, all offering different interest rates and reward options.

Which credit card has the highest annual percentage rate?

The credit card market changes all the time, so the credit card with the highest annual percentage rate is also liable to change.

Keep in mind that credit card interest rates are expressed as a yearly rate, or annual percentage rate (APR). A low APR is generally good but also consider:

  • There can be different APR's for each feature of the card (e.g. purchases may have an APR of 14 per cent, while cash advances on same card could have an APR of 17 per cent.
  • Credit cards with a variable rate can change throughout the year, affecting your APR, so check the full details.
  • If you pay your balance in full every month, having the lowest APR is not as important as the other fees associated with the card. However, if you carry a balance from month to month, then you want the lowest APR possible.

How to get a free credit card

There's no such thing as a free lunch. All credit cards come with associated costs when used to make purchases, even if it’s simply the cost of making repayments.

However, many lenders offer incentives for customers such as a $0 annual fee or 0 per cent interest on purchases during an introductory period. Additionally, paying off your balance in full during an interest-free period means you could only have to pay back the cost of purchases without interest. You could also be eligible for additional rewards such as cashback during that time, saving you more money.

Do I get HSBC credit card insurance on purchases I make?

As an HSBC credit card (HSBC Platinum, HSBC Platinum Qantas and HSBC Premier World) cardholder, you may be entitled to complimentary international and domestic travel insurance. This HSBC credit card insurance covers you for hospital stays and medical expenses, flight cancellations or delays, as well as lost luggage or personal items.

To be eligible for the insurance, you should have paid for at least 90 per cent of your overseas return travel ticket with your HSBC credit card. The cover is automatically activated without a need to contact HSBC. However, it’s always best to let your card issuer know when you travel overseas. If you have pre-existing medical conditions, you’ll need to contact Allianz directly to organise cover for these as they aren’t covered by the insurance. You can call Allianz on 1800 648 093.

The complimentary international travel insurance that comes with your HSBC Platinum credit card is valid for up to four months from the date of your departure from Australia. Your HSBC credit card insurance cover also covers your spouse and dependent children if 90 per cent of their travel ticket is purchased using your HSBC card.

 

How to increase my Commonwealth credit card limit?

Commonwealth Bank credit cards are extremely popular in Australia for everyday purchases and big ticket items alikers. A number of the card’s functions can be customised, depending on your needs and desires. If you wish to increase your Commonwealth credit card limit using the CommBank, you can usually do so on the app or via NetBank.

In the CommBank app, tap on the ‘Cards’ icon and choose your credit card. Then, click on ‘Credit Limit’ and select the ‘Increasing your limit’ option. If you don’t have the CommBank app, you can also increase your Commonwealth Bank credit card limit through NetBank. Simply log on and go to Settings, then click on ‘Product Requests’ and then choose ‘Credit Card Limit Changes’. 

Once the bank has received your application, they will review your account and payment history. Based on this assessment, your application will either be approved or denied. If approved, your new limit will be applied to your card instantly. 

While increasing your credit card limit may be an easy process, it’s important to remember that you should only request limits that you can manage. A high limit increases the risk of having a larger debt, even with cards that provide low-interest rate options. So, it’s important to think carefully and seek advice from people you trust before increasing your Commonwealth Bank credit card limit.

How to increase your HSBC credit card limit

You can opt to increase your HSBC credit card limit in multiple ways. 

The easiest way to change your HSBC credit card limit is through online banking. Log on to your account and click on ‘Manage your account’. Then, click on ‘My Cards’ and choose to change your credit card limit. Simply complete the HSBC credit card limit increase form and click on ‘Submit’. 

You can also request to increase your credit card limit by calling HSBC’s customer service hotline on 1300 303 168. 

Lastly, you can visit any HSBC branch to apply to lift your card limit. 

If you are facing challenges while trying to complete an HSBC credit card credit limit increase online, you can chat with a representative using internet banking. Click on the ‘Need Help’ button on the right of the dashboard and open the chat window to speak with the customer service officer. 

What is the CUA credit card increase limit process?

A credit limit is pre-assigned based on factors like your income, expenses, and debt by the card-issuing company. It varies from time to time based on credit utilisation and changes to your circumstances.

If your income has increased or your liabilities have reduced, you can request for an increase of your CUA credit card limit. You can lodge the request via online banking on the website, or by visiting the closest branch, or by downloading the application form and mailing it. While making the application, you may need to provide information about your income, employment status, desired limit, and the reason for the increase. The card-issuing company will assess your request before approval.

Before you apply for an increase to the credit limit, ensure your bills are paid in full and you aren’t asking for a very steep enhancement.