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If you’d like to reduce the interest payments you’re making on a credit card, or combine multiple debts into one sum to make repayments more manageable, a balance transfer card can be a great idea. The terms of the card you’re eligible for will depend on your status, and you’ll only be able to combine multiple balances if the provided credit limit is high enough.
There are a few important things to check when you do a balance transfer, including fees, how long the 0% interest period lasts and what the rate will be once it’s over, and what effect applying for a balance transfer could have on your credit rating if you’re not accepted. To make the balance transfer worth it, you should also know up-front that you’ll be able to repay the balance before the promotional period ends. Otherwise you could end up paying interest and charges.
There are lots of balance transfer credit cards, so it’s important to take time to find the right fit for your situation.
It’s always best to pay off your full credit card balance every month. However, if you do build up a balance, transferring it to a new credit card can give you a break from paying interest for a while but may be subject to a balance transfer fee.
When using a balance transfer card with a 0% interest period you’ll still need to make at least the minimum payment by your monthly payment due date, but if you keep up with your payments, you may be able to clear what you owe faster than if you were still paying interest.
Here are a few of the options you could be offered.
This type of balance transfer card will give you a longer 0% interest period than others. It'll give you more time to clear your debt, which can help if you prefer to pay it off slowly. The alternative is paying more to clear the debt sooner. Bear in mind that these offers usually come with higher balance transfer fees than cards with shorter interest-free periods.
This two-in-one card gives you a combination of a balance transfer and a purchase offer, which means you won’t pay any interest on spending on the card for a set period. Bear in mind there could still be fees to pay on the balance transfer itself, and for making cash withdrawals on the card. You should stay well within your credit limit and pay back what you owe before the 0% interest period is over to avoid paying interest and charges.
Balance transfer cards save you money by having a lower rate of interest (or 0% interest for a set period) than your previous account. There’s usually a fee for making the transfer but some balance transfers don’t charge you anything to make the switch. Pay attention to how the transfer fee is waived. Sometimes you’re charged the fee in the first three months, then it’s fully refunded. To make the most of a balance transfer that has a 0% interest period, pay off the balance before it ends to avoid interest and charges.
Unless you go for a card that combines a transfer with 0% on purchases, you might find you’re charged no interest on your balance for a set period, but a standard rate of interest applies when you make additional purchases on the card. To get the best deal on a balance transfer, be clear on how your particular card should be used to save you the most money.
Your credit rating can affect the type of credit card you are likely to be offered – if any.
Make sure you make regular payments to build up your credit history. This will give you more options for making a balance transfer in the future.
If your credit history is poor and you would like to make a balance transfer, you may be offered a card with a higher interest rate once the promotional interest-free period finishes.
Make at least the minimum repayments on time and stay within your credit limit to build up your credit history. This could give you more options for making a balance transfer in the future. Also bear in mind that if you miss any payments or haven’t cleared your balance before the promotional period ends, you may need to pay interest and charges.
Also be mindful, applying for lots of credit cards can show up on your credit file and make lenders not as willing to accept your application. It’s best to get your credit rating in good shape before applying. Check out our guide on how to improve your credit score for some tips.