Published in: Credit Cards | Oct. 2, 2019
By: Christy Bieber
Is it a bad idea to keep transferring your credit card balance?
Balance transfers make repaying high-interest credit card debt easier. A good balance transfer card can cut the rate you pay on what you owe -- sometimes down to 0%. But while balance transfers are a good tool for saving on debt payoff, they can also get you into trouble if you handle them the wrong way.
One common question when transferring a balance is whether it's a good idea to move the debt you owe multiple times. There are pros and cons to multiple balance transfers, and you need to consider both when deciding if it's a good idea.
Transferring a balance multiple times can make a lot of sense if you do so as part of a solid plan to pay down debt that you can't afford to repay in one balance transfer cycle.
Balance transfers offer promotional APRs for limited amounts of time. Sometimes it's as long as 15 months. If you have $10,000 in credit card debt and can only afford to make payments of $400 per month, you won't be able to pay off the full $10,000 in a 15-month period. You'll be $4,000 short.
It can still make sense in this situation to transfer your $10,000 balance to a card with a 15-month promotional 0% APR. If you do, you won't pay any interest on the full balance for more than a year.
Then, when your promotional rate expires, you can transfer the outstanding amount to a new balance transfer card to keep the remaining debt at 0%. If you can get a new balance transfer card with a promotional APR of 0% for at least 10 months, you'd be able to successfully pay the remaining $4,000 without incurring any additional interest.
Transferring a balance multiple times makes sense if you're aggressively paying off what you owe and won't have time to become debt-free before the first 0% APR expires. But it does not make sense if you're just moving debt around for the sake of doing so.
Transferring a balance can make it seem like you're making progress on your debt when you really aren't.
If you transfer a balance and make only minimum payments, you probably won't make a dent in the outstanding debt before the 0% promotional rate expires. Sure, you can transfer the debt again -- assuming you're able to qualify for another balance transfer card -- but you aren't doing much to become debt-free.
Continuing to move debt from one balance transfer card to another could become costly if you pay balance transfer fees each time. And if you make little progress on your debt and can't transfer the balance, you'll have to pay off what you owe at the card's standard APR.
If a balance transfer stalls your progress and you don't get rid of your debt because you don't feel the need to pay it off at 0%, it could hurt you in the long run as you linger in credit card debt for years.
Opening new balance transfer cards and moving money around can also hurt your credit score, especially if you transfer a balance that's close to the credit card limit. This could make other loans, such as mortgages, cost more.
As you can see, there are times when multiple balance transfers make sense. If you have a plan to pay off your debt but can't do it in the time that your first transfer provides, a second transfer can save you a fortune on interest. But you don't want to keep moving debt from one card to another without making progress.
As long as you're responsible with your repayment goals and find the right balance transfer offers, though, there's nothing wrong with using this technique several times to keep interest costs as low as possible as you climb out of credit card debt for good.
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