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Is it worth considering a credit card balance transfer?

Is it worth considering a credit card balance transfer?

A credit card balance transfer is a type of debt consolidation that can help you pay down your mounting credit card debt faster. It involves transferring your debt from one or more credit cards onto a new card with a temporary low interest rate to reduce the number and size of your monthly repayments. 

To attract customers, some lenders might not even charge any interest during the introductory or promotional period, enabling you to pay down your loan without any interest payments. However, your low introductory rate will revert to the original rate once the promotional period is over. To avoid being charged interest on your transferred balance, it may be best to pay off the debt before the end of the low-rate period. 

A credit card balance transfer can be a good way of clearing your debt if you choose a low interest rate deal with a reasonably long term to pay off the full amount owing. It can also make a positive impact on your credit score unless you struggle to make your monthly repayments or continue spending, only to end up in a worse financial situation than before. 

Is it bad to transfer credit card balances?

While it isn’t wrong to transfer your credit card balances to pay down your debt, it’s possible to make mistakes if you don’t understand how balance transfers work. For instance, the low-rate period on a balance transfer credit card is only for a limited time. However, a lower interest rate might tempt you into spending more, which may not leave any room for extra repayments to pay down your debt. 

If you’re not cautious, you may accidentally sign up for a credit card that charges more interest than your old credit card after the introductory period is over. In this situation, you could end up paying more interest on your debt than before the balance transfer. 

Does a credit card money transfer affect my credit score?

Yes, a credit card money transfer can either improve or hurt your credit score, depending on how you use it. For instance, the money you save on interest with a balance transfer can help you reduce your outstanding debt faster, which can improve your credit score over time. Paying your credit card bill on time each month will also boost your credit score. On the other hand, if you miss your repayments or struggle to pay your bills on time, it will be recorded on your credit file and pull down your credit score. 

It’s also possible that if you are unable to pay off your entire debt during the low-interest rate period, you may consider another balance transfer once your interest rate reverts to normal. Multiple credit card balance transfers over a short period could hurt your credit score indirectly as they might look bad on your credit report.

Another factor that might hurt your credit score after a balance transfer is the way you deal with your old cards. If you don’t close your old credit cards after having transferred your outstanding debts to a new card, it can have a negative effect on your credit score, unless you’re making regular repayments on all the open accounts. 

Cancelling your old credit cards might prevent you from accumulating additional debt. However, keeping existing accounts can sometimes help your credit rating by keeping the average account age high. Therefore, you need to carefully weigh the pros and cons before deciding to close an existing credit card, as the payment history associated with the card will also be removed from your file. 

Lastly, while it’s recommended to shop around to get the best possible deal on a balance transfer card, making multiple credit card balance transfer applications can have a negative impact on your credit score. Whenever you apply for new credit, the creditor will pull out your credit file to determine your creditworthiness as a borrower, resulting in a hard inquiry. 

Such hard inquiries appear on your credit report and can have a negative effect on your credit rating. Therefore, it’s advisable to do your research before applying for a balance transfer card and also to crunch the numbers to ensure you can pay off the transferred debt within the specified timeframe.

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This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Mark Bristow before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.



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