Getting a second balance transfer card harder than the first

Question for the expert

Dear Credit Wise,
 Hi Kevin, I have $12,000 debt in high interest credit cards. I was able to balance transfer of $6,000 to a new credit card that offered 0 percent interest for 12 months. But it didn't let me to transfer the $12,000 total, but just half that amount ($6,000). Should I apply for another credit card to transfer the rest of the balance? Do you think they are going to decline my application and this could be detrimental to my credit history? Thanks,  -- Troy

Answer for the expert

Dear Troy,
Chances are you got an offer in the mail about transferring to the new card.  Hey, 0 percent interest -- you can't do better than that! You then assumed that the entire balance would be able to be transferred.  But you discovered an unfortunate truth about balance transfer offers -– you were only able to transfer half of your debt.  This scenario plays out all too often in the world of balance transfers and is something I have cautioned my readers about in the past when talking about balance transfer offers. A cap is often placed on the amount that can be transfered and much depends on your credit history to date.

Let's get back to you. Troy, you still have $6,000 tied up in a high-interest card and would like to do something about it. When you ask if "they" will decline your application, I assume you are talking about the issuer of your new card, the one that already took on half your balance. I can't know whether your application would be approved, but my guess is that it would not, at least not right away. Banks set limits on balance transfers based on creditworthiness. The issuer of your new card just assessed the risk of you defaulting, and decided it wanted to take on half the risk -- $6,000. You would be asking them to double your credit limit. The bank might agree, but I think it's more likely that since you are a new customer, it will want to see how you handle your account for a few months before extending you more credit.

You could look into other 0 percent interest card offers and see if you qualify. Again, I can’t tell you that you would, but you might, at least for part of it. As you have just discovered, your credit limit could very well be less than what you need to move your entire debt. You might still have a balance at a higher rate than you want.

I must caution you that each time you apply for a credit card, whether you are approved or not, your credit score falls a few points. The effects are temporary and erased with a few months of on-time payments. But right now, you're already a little less creditworthy than you were before applying for the previous card. If you are able to move the remaining $6,000 to another 0 percent interest card, it might be worth it to you. It depends on how soon you will need to apply for credit again. But repeated inquiries and new accounts in quick succession will cause your score to dip.

If you decide not to pursue another card, take some steps to aggressively pay down your high interest debt balance. This may call for some belt-tightening on your part, but will be worth it once you are out from under the debt. Be sure at the same time that you don’t ignore what you need to pay on your 0 percent interest card to take full advantage of the savings. You want to be sure to have that paid off within your 12-month window.

Be wise with your credit!

See related: Credit score impact of multiple balance transfers

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Updated: 03-21-2019