Are you searching for the perfect balance transfer credit card? Are you hoping to make a final decision in the near future, so that you can take better control of this part of your financial life? Are you finding it difficult to compare offers?
With the average U.S. family carrying more than $8,000 in credit card debt, there could come a point when you look into a balance transfer credit card.
There are many reasons to give this a second look, including the ability to bring all your credit card debt under one roof. Even better is the fact that you can save money on finance charges every month.
While you could opt for the first balance transfer offer you receive in the mail, this is not always the best idea. Instead, you want to be proactive in seeking out the offer that’s perfect for your situation.
Here are five things to look for in a balance transfer credit card:
- Length of the Introductory Period
An introductory rate is exactly what it sounds like: an interest rate that is lower than usual for a specific period of time.
Here’s how Capital One defines it:
“The rate refers to the APR, or annual percentage rate, which is the interest you pay if you carry a balance (what you owe on the card) each month. For an intro rate, you get a lower-than-usual APR as an incentive for signing up for a new card.”
In the case of a balance transfer credit card, the longer the introductory period the better. During this time, which is typically 12 to 24 months, you won’t incur any interest if you carry a balance. This gives you time to pay down your debt in a more efficient manner.
- Interest Rate After the Introductory Period
The interest rate you qualify for depends on a variety of factors, including your credit score, credit history, and the offer itself.
Note: here is a breakdown of average interest rates for many different types of cards.
As excited as you may be about the zero percent introductory period, you need to remember that this won’t last forever. Once it’s over and done with, you don’t want to be stuck with a higher than average interest rate.
Credit card companies are in the business of making money. This is why you will incur a balance transfer fee.
You can expect the fee to be in the three percent range, although searching around may allow you to find something a bit lower.
So, if you’re transferring a $20,000 balance at three percent, it means you’ll pay $600 upfront.
- Reputation and Reviews
With so many balance transfer offers out there, you need to read as many reviews as possible. This will give you a clear idea of the reputation associated with each credit card.
If other consumers are complaining about the same thing, time and time again, there’s a good chance something is wrong. Conversely, if everyone seems to like a particular offer, it’s probably because it has a lot to offer.
- Online Account Access and Tools
In today’s day and age, this is more important than ever. You want to choose a credit card with a robust online account management system, as this can go a long way in helping you better manage your debt.
The best credit card offers provide online account access, complete with a variety of tools (such as balance transfer calculators).
These are just a few of the many things you should look for in a balance transfer credit card. If you keep these points in mind, you’ll find yourself in position to make the right decision at the right time.
It’s never easy to dig yourself out of credit card debt, but it’s nice to know that you can use a balance transfer to make things easier on yourself.
Do you have any experience with a balance transfer credit card? Did you do anything in particular to find the right offer? Were you happy with your decision? Share your experiences and approach to balance transfers in the comment section below.