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Using 0% Balance Transfers to Dig Yourself Out of Debt

Written by admin - 2 Comments

While it’s true that you can’t borrow your way out of debt, that doesn’t mean that you can’t use credit cards to help dig yourself out of a financial hole. You can apply for and use balance transfers to reduce your interest rate, ideally all the way to zero.

How it works

Start by applying for one of the many 0% balance transfer offers that are out there floating around. These cards come with introductory periods as long as 12-15 months, so they can save you a ton of interest. After approval, simply transfer your higher rate debts to your new, lower rate card.

Next, get serious about paying down your balance before the introductory period expires. If you can’t get your balance completely paid off before the introductory period ends, check with your original card issuer many of them send out promotional offers to existing customers which may include a low APR balance transfer offer. If you can’t find a suitable balance transfer offer, you still will have saved 12-15 months worth of interest payments, so you’ll be ahead of the game.

One nice thing about this approach is that it’s not limited to credit card debt. Because many card issuers provide balance transfer checks, you can use this strategy to consolidate debts from a variety of sources, including car loans, home equity loans, and student loans.

The downside

While this strategy can save you a ton, it’s not without its pitfalls. For example, the days of the no fee 0% balance transfers are rapidly coming to an end. Nowadays, pretty much all of the 12-15 month offers have a balance transfer fee that can eat into your savings. While these fees are usually around 3% of each balance transfer or a $5 minimum, whichever is greater, they’re usually not capped, so be careful.

It’s also important to stop adding to your debts when using this strategy. Since most credit card issuers will preferentially apply your payments to the 0% portion of your balance, any new charges will incur finance charges until you get your balance down to zero. If you can’t control your credit card spending, then you’ll need to work on that problem before using this strategy.

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Comments (scroll down to add your own):

  1. Excellent advice. I saw one the other day with a 3% fee and no maximum fee cap. I’m glad I saw it. Also, if your payment is late by 1 day then they bump you up to 20% or more. Ugh.

    Comment by Laurin — Aug 27th 2008 @ 8:44 pm
  2. Stay away from Advanta. They’ve been ripping off people with rate hikes. Doesnt matter if you paid on time and more than the min. balance or if you’ve never gone over your credit limit. They’ve screwed us all. Read more about it in consumeraffairs.com or just google it. You’ll find enough testimonials to keep you away if youre smart.

    I made my mistake by getting lured in to their enticing offer. Now I’m paying the price.

    Comment by LKamoku — Sep 16th 2008 @ 3:59 pm

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