Repeat balance transfers cut debt, but control spending, too
Dear Credit Wise,
Hello, Mr. Weeks, my wife and I combined have credit card debt of about $6,500 and were wondering this: Is transferring the debt to cards that have intro periods with lower (or no) APR cards, with a 3 percent transfer fee, and doing it over and over, a good way to pay off the debt fast? If not what may be best? We aren't worried about lowering our score, we can recover over time. Our goal is to get out of debt and not charge so much so fast. Thank you. -- Henry
What you suggest might be a good solution for you and your wife, since you say you are not worried about your credit scores. You are right when you say you can recover in time. Just remember that to qualify for those low- or 0-percent-interest credit cards, you generally must have fairly good credit. Be aware that your scores might dip with numerous transfers. You could get to the point that you eventually might not qualify for these offers.
However, if you can continue to get a good interest rate moving your balances over and over, it seems like you would want to do that. No one wants to pay more than they have to when borrowing money. Zero interest is the gold standard and makes the most financial sense.
But the inherent problem here is the phrase "over and over," which indicates you are constantly carrying credit card debt.
What actually will make a big difference to your financial health is how quickly you can pay off your debt. Transferring balances over and over again to keep a low interest rate will help, but not if you continue to add to your credit card balances. At this point, your debt is small enough that you should be able to pay it off in a reasonable amount of time, especially if you are able to get good interest rates. The calculators at CreditCards.com can help you see exactly where you stand with your credit card debt.
What I would suggest is that you and your wife amend your goal and aim instead for retiring your entire credit card debt. Using those calculators, determine the amount you can afford to pay each month toward your debt and continue to pay that same amount every month. This means you should not be adding to your balances during this time if at all possible.
If you do charge, try to pay the new charges in full the next month, along with your regular monthly payment. This will likely call for some sacrifices on your part, but will be well worth it in the long run. At the end, you will be so accustomed to paying off your charges that you will automatically continue that practice, as well as having money available to put toward your emergency savings account. This way, you will increase your credit score and your assets, but not your debt.
Be wise with your credit!
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