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When you carry a balance on a credit card with a higher Annual Percentage Rate (APR), transferring it to a different card with a low or a 0% introductory APR can be a money-saving move.  The best balance transfer credit cards are designed to help you save on interest charges, which can enable you to repay your debt faster. When you compare balance transfer credit cards, it may be helpful to pay attention to these two things: how long the low or 0% introductory APR applies and the balance transfer fee.

About Balance Transfer Credit Cards

How a balance transfer works

Transferring a balance means moving debt from one card to another. The credit card company accepting the balance transfer typically makes a payment toward your debt on the first card, or they may provide you with checks you can write yourself to pay down your debt. You then owe the debt on the new card at the new interest rate.
In most cases, the card issuer executing the transfer charges a fee for this service, typically between 2% and 5% of the amount of each balance transferred. This fee is automatically added to the new balance.

How to save money with a balance transfer

Saving money with a balance transfer depends on choosing the right card and managing the account responsibly. If you have a larger balance you want to transfer, you might benefit most from a card with a longer low or 0% introductory APR period, giving you more time to pay down or pay off the debt before the regular APR applies.
You can also save money by choosing a card that has no annual fee, or if you can find one, that has no balance transfer fee. For example 3% balance transfer fee on a $5,000 balance would cost you $150.

How do you transfer a balance?

When you apply for credit card with a low or 0% introductory APR on balance transfer, you’ll be asked about balances you want to transfer during the application process. Be prepared to provide the card issuer’s name, the account number and the transfer amount in addition to your personal information and know that there will be a limit as to how much you can transfer.
If your application is approved and your credit limit is high enough to cover the amount you want to transfer, the issuer of the new credit card will transfer the requested amount. The balance transfer fee, if any, will be applied to your new account once the process is complete and will appear on your first monthly statement.
You can also wait until you are approved for the new card before you request the transfer. Some individuals prefer to know what the credit limit will be on the new card so that they avoid maxing out or heavily using the limit on the new card. High utilization on one credit card can hurt your credit score. If you handle the transfer this way, be sure to pay attention to any restrictions. Many low or 0% introductory APR offers are only good on balances transferred within a certain number of days or months after account opening.

Things to look out for when transferring a balance

Pay attention to the regular interest rate on the new card, the balance transfer fee and the length of the promotional period. Read the offer in detail. For example, know whether a late payment will activate a higher interest rate and result in the introductory offer ending before the term is up.
Note that you will give up the interest-free grace period on new purchases if you transfer a balance. If you carry any balance on a card, interest on new purchases is charged from the date of the transaction.

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