0% APR promotional balance transfer offers are the most valuable tools for paying off debt. But just because a cardholder has been approved for one of these offers, and has transferred his or her balance, it doesn’t mean that the debt will automatically go away. The truth is that promotional balance transfers should only be used as a way to eliminate debt, and not just to defer payment.
Create a plan
Credit card users who open up an account with a promotional balance transfer should also create a plan to pay off their debt before the 0% APR rate expires. Start with the existing balance, as well as any balance transfer fees. Most cards have a fee of 3% although the Slate® from Chase is currently the only card with a 0% APR offer, but without a balance transfer fee.
- Chase Slate® named 'Best Credit Card for Balance Transfers' two years in a row, MONEY® Magazine, October 2013, 2014.
- $0 introductory balance transfer fee for transfers made during the first 60 days. After that, the fee for future balance transfers is 3% of the amount transferred with a minimum of $5.
- 0% Introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After the introductory period ends, a variable APR of 12.99%, 17.99%, or 22.99%.
- $0 Annual Fee
0% for 15 months*
0% for 15 months*
12.99%, 17.99%, or 22.99% Variable*
Next, look at the duration of the balance transfer offer. By law, card issuers have to grant at least six months, and some cards such as the Citi Simplicity® Card have offers that last as long as 18 months. Cardholders can try to divide their entire balance by the number of months in order to determine the amount they should pay every month, but it is not that simple.
For example, it may take a few weeks to receive the new card and complete the transfer, so cardholders never really have the full duration of the offer to pay down their debt. Next, cardholders would be wise to simply subtract another month or two from the duration of the offer, just to allow a small margin of error in the event that unforeseen circumstances keep them from paying the planned amount each month.
Sticking to the plan
Once cardholders have a plan for paying off their entire debt, it must be properly executed. For example, making the correct payments each month to pay off the debt in time will not work, unless cardholders avoid using the card for new purchases. Unfortunately, it can be tempting to make new purchases on a card that offers both 0% APR on balance transfers as well as new purchases. If the card is used for new purchases, that amount must also be added to each month’s payment in order to complete the plan. And in addition, the amount of any late fees or foreign transaction fees must also be accounted for.
By using promotional balance transfer offers as part of a comprehensive plan to eliminate debt, cardholders can save money on interest while accomplishing an extremely important goal.