Credit card debt pay off made easy with right use of your balance transfer credit cards
Published 4/27/08 (Modified 4/24/13)
List of zero percent credit cards to make life easy
People utilize balance transfer credit cards for a myriad of reasons such as making money from balance transfer and credit card arbitrage, to paying down and reducing high interest debt by applying for zero percent to low interest credit card offers. While those trying to make money from multiple balance transfers are usually more focused on finding no fee 0% offers that last up to a year long, those trying to pay down credit card debt generally have a much longer time horizon span in mind. My focus here is to provide some practical help to those struggling with high interest credit card debt, and help them find more manageable ways of relieving and resolving this financial burden.
Compared to other forms of loans, credit card debt is particularly hard to handle because it is usually associated with high interest rates in excess of 15-20% or more depending on your credit score and credit report history. The longer the credit card debt remains unpaid, the more interest continues to accrue, and the quicker the balance can balloon out of control. That's why it is important to make a concerted effort towards paying off the debt through regular payment increments. The key to making higher sums of unpaid credit card debt more palatable while you chip away at it is to shift those high interest debts over to accounts that provide lower rates. This can be accomplished either by shifting the card balance over to 0% balance transfer introductory APR offers, or it can be accomplished through the use of so-called lifetime balance transfer credit cards that offer low interest rates. For those with above average to excellent credit scores, I recommend taking the 0% balance transfer route and applying for no interest balance transfers since they offer the least amount of financial investment since no interest is imposed so long as you continue to regularly pay off each month's minimum card balance.
The biggest downside with 0% cards is that the longer duration offers generally impose some type of 3% upfront balance transfer fee. The more attractive no balance transfer fee offers usually have much shorter durations, limited to 6-12 months periods. Of course, another downside with 0% offers is that after the six months or one year promotional period runs its course, you'll need to apply for another balance transfer card if you intend to keep rolling over your interest-free debt. 0% balance transfer promos work best for those who anticipate paying off their debt soon within a span of a few months or within a year. However, a great number of those struggling with credit card debt are unable to pay off their cards in such a short period of time. Many also have a tough time micromanaging and handling the stress involved with tracking balance transfer offer expiration dates and having to worry about whether they will qualify for another 0% card offer later on when the time comes. Fortunately, there are alternative options for those with sizable credit card debt, and who find 0% balance transfers too short and burdensome to handle.
Choose The Low Interest Fixed APR Lifetime Balance Transfer Option If You Expect To Carry A Balance For A While (1 Year Or More)
If you know it's going to take longer than 6 to 12 months to pay off your entire high interest credit card balance, it might pay to get a lifetime balance transfer card and avoid having to keep rolling your balance over to another card every time your current 0% deal expires. These lifetime balance transfer credit cards provide a low and predictable fixed interest rate that stays in place until the balance on the card is paid off. Many lifetime balance transfer deals are frequently free of any upfront balance transfer fees, and rates are often lower and just as competitive as the rates offered by the best bank provided personal loans. Thus those individuals that may take one, two, or even three years of steady snowball or snowflake-type payments to pay off their credit cards may want to consider lifetime balance transfers as a hassle-free alternative to 0% interest cards or loan consolidation options.
A major benefit of low fixed interest rate lifetime balance transfer cards is that the interest rate is usually set, fixed, and predictable for the life of the balance until it's paid off. You avoid having to deal with tricky interest rates that are likely to reset at much higher standard levels at the end of some 0% balance transfer promotional period. After all special 0% balance transfer offers expire, they usually instantly reset to much higher variable rates of 15-20% APR or more. Securing a low interest balance transfer card right from the start helps avoid that issue by committing yourself to something foreseeable, with no expiration, and which will not suddenly skyrocket in payment obligation, presuming you know how to do a balance transfer correctly and avoid making any big mistakes or slip ups. As with all balance transfer credit cards, it's important not to use the account for further purchases once you've made your balance transfers as the zero or low interest rate will usually only apply to the debt you initially transferred. New and additional purchases will generally be charged a much higher rate.
People who are looking to take advantage of the lifetime balance transfer method of clearing debt should look for the lowest fixed interest rate offer(s) they can find. In some limited circumstances, it may require that you apply to more than just one low fixed rate card to consolidate your high interest debt into lower APR accounts. While owning a low interest rate credit card still means the cardholder is required to pay some interest, having to pay 5%-7% APR is a lot easier and less depressing than having to face an out of control 15%, 20%, or even 25% APR interest rate. However, I highly encourage you to work diligently and persistently at paying off the balance regardless of whether you are under a temporary 0% offer or whether you have a fixed rate for the life of the balance. While the interest rate may be zero or low, don't be lulled into a false sense of security. Don't forget - in the long run, low interest credit card debt is still debt - so get rid of that hanging sword sooner than later!
Special 0% Lifetime Balance Transfer Offers Via Targeted Mailing Offers From Discover Card and Certain Card Issuers
As an additional note, there are certain card issuers out there, most notably, Discover Card, that occasionally send promotional mailers to select consumers for 0% lifetime offers. These offers are quite amazing since the 0% balance transfer deal is for the life of the balance. The invite terms vary depending on individual mailers but in the case of Discover Card, they usually include custom invitation codes that must be entered on their online website to activate.
The Discover Platinum Card lifetime balance transfer offer usually provides a 0% interest rate for a 6-12 month period or so with the right to extend the zero percent balance transfer offer indefinitely thereafter. The catch is that you must make 2 purchases or cash advances for each billing period. As readers of my balance transfer dangers article will know, payments made towards the balance transfer card get counter-intuitively applied to lower interest balances first. Thus, until the larger 0% balance is paid off, additional purchases get pushed to the back of the line where they silently accrue interest at the standard high rate for purchases. Some of the Discover Card mailer terms impose no minimum limit to the purchase amount so in theory you could use the card to buy two 25 cent candies each month and qualify for the 0% lifetime balance transfer forever. However, not all of the offers are the same and some mailer invitation terms require a minimum monthly purchase charge of $50 or more to maintain the 0% lifetime balance transfer program.
Unfortunately, because this is a targeted offer based on Discover Card's own snail mail marketing efforts, there are no direct online sign up links. I am also not aware of any other direct online application links to zero balance transfer credit card offers for life provided by other card issuers.
Currently, the vast majority of fixed low interest lifetime balance transfer deals have been ended in favor of balance transfer offers that feature fixed 6-18 months terms.