Use caution when assuming another's debts

Transferring a partner's balance puts your finances in jeopardy

The Credit Guy columnist Todd Ossenfort
Todd Ossenfort has been chief operating officer for Pioneer Credit Counseling since 1998. He writes our weekly "The Credit Guy" column, answering reader questions about credit counseling and debt issues.

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Question for the expert

Dear Credit Guy,
Can I transfer my partner's credit card balance to me on a zero interest rate balance transfer card? -- Cara

Answer for the expert

Dear Cara,
Short answer is yes, you can transfer a balance from someone else's credit card to your own. Your creditor will be happy to earn any interest that you are willing to pay -- most people do not pay off the balance transferred before the zero percent interest rate expires.

My question to you is why are you willing to take on the financial responsibility of someone else's credit card debt? I realize the person in question is your partner, but you are still taking on a financial responsibility that is not yours. I am assuming that the card with the zero balance transfer is in your name only. If I am correct, that means that you would be the sole party financially responsible for the amount transferred. Before you do so, I would strongly recommend that you review your finances and be certain that you can afford the additional obligation.

It could be that your partner is planning to make the monthly payment on the zero balance transfer credit card and you both are simply making this move to save money in interest charges. However, life happens and your partner could suffer a job loss, you and your partner could separate or any number of other things could occur that may mean it would be impossible to make the monthly payment as planned. Then, you would be responsible for making the payments. Worst case scenario: If you are unable to make the payments, your credit history will suffer and you could face aggressive collection procedures and legal action.

There are a couple of other things I'd like to mention for your consideration. I encourage you to shop around for the best credit card to use when transferring the balance. You will want to determine what the interest rate will be once the zero transfer rate expires. Again, life happens, and you may not be able to pay off the balance before the rate expires, so you will want a competitive interest rate once it does. Also, find out what fees will be charged for the balance transfer. You can do a quick comparison of current offers by card issuers on this site.

If you decide to go through with the transfer, my last bit of advice is to make your best effort to pay off the balance before the zero interest rate period expires. The sacrifices that you may have to make in the short term to get the debt paid off will be well worth it when you no longer have the monthly obligation.

Take care of your credit!

See related: 5 new rules in the credit card balance transfer game, Credit card video: Balance transfers and your credit, 9 things you should know aout balance transfers

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Updated: 03-25-2019