How much interest can you save with a long-term balance transfer credit card?
Balance transfer credit cards can help you consolidate your debt into one manageable monthly payment. Some credit cards offer promotional periods with low, or no, APR from 12 to 18 or more months. With a longer interest-free period, you can repay your debt without the burden of high interest rates.
To find the best long-term balance transfer card, weigh the amount of debt you have to transfer and how much time you need to pay it off.
Our pick for a long intro balance transfer term
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What is a long-term balance transfer?
A long-term balance transfer credit card can offer relief if you’re paying off multiple cards with high APRs. Essentially you’re using a new credit card to pay off one or more other cards, but with better terms.
By consolidating your debt and eliminating APRs for 12, 15, 18 or 21 months, you can adjust your finances, make smaller payments and know that the entire payment is being applied to your principal — not fees.
Balance transfer cards let you transfer existing debt up to a set limit, but most charge a transfer fee — usually a percentage of the transfer amount. Compare your savings with the low APR against the fees to make sure its worth it.
What is considered a long-term offer?
Depending on your debt, the difference between a 6-month and 21-month balance transfer card could mean hundreds of dollars in savings. More time could mean lower monthly payments without paying extra interest. Though, once the introductory period is up, you’ll start paying interest again.
A long intro period is anywhere from 12 to 21 months. In international countries such as Australia, you might find a 24 or even the very rare 30-month offer, but you would be hard-pressed to find that in the US.
How much am I allowed to transfer?
The total amount you can transfer is usually a percentage of your credit limit. While some may let you transfer up to 100% of your credit limit, others may only allow you to transfer 95% or even 80%. Many cards depend on your credit score and financial situation to determine how much you can transfer.
If you’re carrying a large debt, consider whether you can transfer the entire amount before applying for the card.
Mistakes to avoid with long-term balance transfers
To make the most of the long-term balance transfer offer, you should avoid the following mistakes:
Only meeting your minimum repayments.
Only paying the minimum monthly payment is unlikely to cover your entire debt by the end of the promotional period. If you can afford to put more than the minimum towards your debt, you’ll clear your debt faster.
It could take you more than four years to pay off $5,000 worth of debt with a low $100 monthly payment. If you can afford to pay $200 each month, you can have it paid off in two years — the length of some balance transfer cards.
Making purchases on your new credit card.
Using your balance transfer card for purchases isn’t recommended, as it only adds to your debt. Your repayments will automatically go to the purchases that are accruing the highest interest, so you’ll be losing valuable low or interest-free time.
When it comes to balance transfer credit cards, a strong rate makes a big difference. Finding a card you can qualify for, with a long intro period can save you hundreds of dollars.
Be sure to work out your finances so you can have the balance paid by the end of the low intro period. Once it’s over, you’ll pay a high revert rate on the balance. Before choosing a balance transfer card, compare your options and find the best fit for your finances.