When is the right time to transfer a credit card balance?
Q. What are the benefits or drawbacks of doing a credit card balance transfer?
A. If you carry credit card debt, you probably get balance transfer offers from time to time.
They’re worth paying attention to, but they’re not a slam dunk.
One of the benefits of transferring your balance is that you might be able to get a lower interest rate, or even a zero percent interest card, for a period of time up to one year, said Jody D’Agostini, a certified financial planner with AXA Advisors/The Falcon Financial Group in Morristown.
Making the move will lower your monthly payments and overall interest due, she said.
“If you have multiple cards, you might even be able to aggregate them all on one credit card with a lower rate,” D’Agostini said. “The convenience of one payment versus several is nice. It makes it more likely that a payment won’t be missed, and paid on time as you will have less to manage.”
Also, if you are late on a payment, it will be one late charge versus several, she said.
One caution would be to read the fine print.
There may be transfer charges, which could be as much as 3 percent of the transferred balance, and that would cut into the savings considerably, D’Agostini said.
“Make sure to see what the rate will go up to after the grace period,” she said. “It might be higher than what you are currently paying.”
She said you should also explore whether there is a clause that payments be applied to the balance with the lowest rate.
“If you use the card for cash advances or purchase, your finance charges could swell until those are paid off,” she said.
Also see what happens to the teaser rate if you are late on any payments. It’s common that the rate would then be lost, and this would negate much of the rationale for the switch, she said.