Credit Smart

Keeping card accounts open after a balance transfer


Consolidation can help manage debt, but goal is to pay it off

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Question for the expertDear Credit Wise,
Hello. I’m trying to find a way how to minimize my monthly payables. (Too many dates to worry, I don’t want to miss a payment.) Do you think it’s wise to open another credit card and do a balance transfer on all accounts but

keep all cards open? Will that hurt my credit score? And by doing this transfer would I still be able to use one of my cards while doing a balance transfer? What’s your best advice? Thank you for your time. — Joyce

Answer for the expertDear Joyce,
I know how difficult it can be to keep up with several due dates. As I’ve said here before, paying your bills on time every time is the most important thing anyone can do to achieve and keep a good credit score. Since you say you don’t want to miss a payment, it seems that you have been paying attention. So I am on board with whatever method works best that accomplishes that goal.

Most credit card companies offer online automatic bill pay, which is a great way to never miss a payment. It could also be that a balance transfer is the answer, but that will ultimately be your decision. You will need to do your homework on the actual cost of a balance transfer to be sure you will actually be saving money. Generally, transfer fees are 3 percent of your balance and that will be charged for each transfer. Your comment of “too many due dates” implies a fair number of cards, so the transfer fees could be significant.

The best thing for your credit score will be to keep your accounts open. Closing accounts reduces available credit, which is important to your score. So, yes, you will be able to use any of the cards you leave open.

But just because you can, does not mean you should. My best advice is to get to the place where you are paying all of your balances in full every month. I understand that this takes time, but the first step is always to quit using credit cards unless you can pay the amount you charge when you receive your statement.

Take a hard look at your budget and your spending habits with an eye toward areas that can be trimmed or even eliminated altogether. Great places to start here are your food expenses, both grocery and eating out. Most everyone can save money with meal planning and coupons. Also take a look at your cellphone, cable and Internet packages. Eliminate services you don’t need. Once you find places to save, put those savings toward an emergency fund. An emergency fund is vital to your financial health, which will eliminate the need to reach for a credit card when unexpected expenses arise.

Be wise with your credit!

See related: Balance transfer survey: Shop for best deals


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