A balance transfer card can be useful if you’re overwhelmed by high interest rates or need to consolidate debt. However, you usually need a good credit score to get a good card. Card issuers only want to take on your debt if it’s certain you can repay it.
Your credit score is one of the ways credit card companies determine your creditworthiness. If you have a fair credit score between 580 and 669, you could qualify for a balance transfer card, but you’ll likely pay more in fees.
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Compare balance transfer cards for fair credit
Your options for balance transfer cards can be limited if you have fair credit. Fortunately, you still have a few good choices. Here’s a list of the best cards on the market.
What’s in this guide?
Fair credit explained
If you’re new to credit or working to get your credit back on track, you may find your score is in the fair range — or between 580 and 669. You can still be approved for a credit card, but with a high APR and low spending limit.
If your score is creeping up to the good range, work on building your score before making a big transfer. You could get better interest rates on loans, credit cards and even better insurance rates in some states.
Credit cards award good credit with offers of cash back, rewards, higher limits and low interest rates. Credit bureaus consider the following when determining your credit score:
- The age of credit history — or how long you’ve had credit.
- How many credit applications you’ve recently submitted.
- Your payment history, including late and on-time payments, collection actions and judgments against you.
- Your credit utilization ratio, which is calculated by dividing your balance on existing credit cards by your available credit limits.
- How many installment loans, auto loans, credit cards, mortgages and other types of credit you have.
What to expect from balance transfer cards if you have fair credit
If you have fair credit, you won’t qualify for the best balance transfer card and could see high APRs and transfer fees. Consider the following when applying for a card:
- Ongoing APR. If you see APR terms advertised as 13.24% to 23.24%, based on your creditworthiness, realize that lower rates are reserved for those with good or excellent credit. If you have fair credit, expect to pay an APR on the higher end of the range. Try to pay off your transferred balance fully before your 0% APR promotion runs out.
- More than just your credit score is considered. Credit card companies consider factors like your income and outstanding debt along with your credit score.
- Your credit limit may be lower than you expect. A credit card provider’s profits depends on its customers’ ability to repay debt. Setting credit limits to manage their risk is part of this.
Who is a balance transfer card for fair credit good for?
If you’re considering balance transfer credit cards for fair credit, you could be looking for financial fresh start. Consider a balance transfer card if:
- Your debt matches your potential credit limit. Because your credit limit may be low, it’s important to consider how much you can move — and if you’ll save enough to make it worth it.
- The fees won’t outweigh the intro APR. Low interest allows you to pay down your debt more quickly, but a balance transfer fee can cut into that.
- Your intro APR is long enough. Paying off your balance before the intro APR ends can save you a lot in the long run. But if the revert rate is too high and you don’t pay it off, it could end up costing you more.
How to compare cards balance transfer cards for fair credit
When you’re comparing balance transfer credit cards you want to consider the following:
- Length of intro period. The low or 0% intro period offered my range from six to 21 months. But with a lower credit score, it’s not likely you’ll qualify for a longer intro period.
- Reports to credit bureaus. If you have fair credit, look for a balance transfer card that reports to the big three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. If you make regular on-time payments, you could reap rewards that come with a higher score.
- Fees. Consider what you’ll pay in fees. Some charge a balance transfer fee between 2% and 4%, or high annual fees.
Should you improve your credit score before applying for a balance transfer?
Whether you should wait to apply and improve your credit first depends on your individual situation. What type of limit, intro APR and fees are associated with the new card will determine whether it’s worth it.
For those with fair credit, those factors may not add up to something that can save a substantial amount of money. In which case, it would be better to avoid the hit to your credit and simply keep building until you can get a better deal.
Applying for a balance transfer card with fair credit
Before you apply, be sure to compare your options and find the card that best suits you. Look closely at the fees, revert rate and intro period before making your selection.
To apply for a balance transfer card, you typically have to be at least 18 years old, or 19 in some states. While you’re applying, have the following information on hand:
- Your name, residential status and residential address
- Your Social Security number
- Your email address, phone number and date of birth
- Financial information like your annual salary and wages
What to do if your application is denied
If you’re denied, the credit card provider will likely include a note explaining why your application didn’t make the cut. From there, you can work on whatever factors were outlined.
In the case of improving your credit, there are a few steps you can take. Paying down your balances on time every month, not using your cards, not opening any more cards or applying for additional credit and not closing any accounts that you pay off will help boost that score.
Keep track of your score, and after a few months you may want to apply again. If you can wait a little longer and boost your creditworthiness even more, you may be able to apply for an even better balance transfer card.
How to make the most out of a fair-credit balance transfer card
- Pay your balance in full. Make sure to pay off your balance before the introductory period is up to avoid a high revert rate. The higher APR could significantly cut into whatever money you saved during the intro period.
- Low APR. If you don’t qualify for a 0% APR period, make sure the APR, annual fees and transfer fees are lower than what you’re already paying.
- Don’t use the credit card. It may be tempting to use your credit card for new purchases. But if your goal is to pay down debt, put your balance transfer card away and focus on paying the balance.
- Make more than the minimum payment. It’s likely you won’t be able to pay off your balance before the end of the 0% transfer offer if you’re only making minimum payments. Divide your balance by the number of months the offer is good for to get what your monthly payments should be.
If you’re on the path to cleaning up your finances, getting a balance transfer card is a good place to start. Getting good balance transfer rates — even for as little as six months — can save you hundreds of dollars to put towards debt. Consider your credit and financial situation before you decide on a balance transfer credit card.