In the past, many credit card companies charged no balance transfer fee and those that did charge for balance transfers limited the fees to a maximum of $75 per transaction. With so many people scrambling to transfer their credit card balances and the credit card companies suffering massive losses however, most balance transfers now average about 3-5 percent per transaction.
Despite these increases in credit card balance transfer fees, a 0% interest balance transfer still remains one of the easiest ways to reduce costs and speed up the process of paying off your credit card. For example, let's say you have a credit card with a $5000 balance and a 20% interest rate (yes, credit card interest rates can and do get that high). By transferring this balance to a card with 0% APR, you will save over $1000 in interest over the course of one year. A 5% balance transfer fee would cost about $250, but you would still be saving about $750 in interest fees overall - savings which can be used towards reducing your credit card debt.
So is a credit card balance transfer fee worth paying? The short answer is yes. In this example, even paying the highest balance transfer fee of 5% still works out in your favor. The long answer however, is yes, but only if the 0% APR rate lasts for 12 months or more.
If you have good credit and can qualify for a 0% APR that lasts at least 1 year, you can take advantage of some serious savings. However, if the 0% introductory rate only lasts 6 months, the credit card transfer fees can essentially cancel out the benefits of transferring your balance.
Using the above example, if you were to transfer your $5,000 balance to a credit card that only offered a 0% interest rate for 6 months, you would save a little over $500 on interest. Subtract the $250 transfer fee, and the total savings would be barely enough to reduce your credit card debt by 5%. Why would anyone choose a balance transfer credit card that only offered a 0% interest rate for 6 months when other offers last for 12 or 18 months? Unfortunately, in most cases they don't actually realize they aren't receiving the offer for 12 months or more.
Most credit card companies will advertise 0% rates on balance transfers for up to 12 months. However, these "up to 12 month" offers often include additional stipulations in the fine print: The 12 month offer is based on credit. So you might be approved, but only be given a 0% rate for 6 months. Most consumers forget to read the fine print. They apply for a card that offers a 0% interest rate for up to 12 months, but only qualify for a 6 month 0% rate. Unfortunately, most won't figure out they've only received the introductory 0% interest for 6 months until it is too late; they have already transferred their balances and after 6 months has gone by they suddenly notice their interest rate isn't 0% anymore.
The key to saving the most money on a credit card balance transfer is not finding a card with the lowest balance transfer fees, but instead finding a credit card with a 0% rate that lasts at least 12 months. While you might notice higher initial savings with a 1% balance transfer fee on a card that offers 0% interest for "up to 12 months," you could end up saving more with a 3-5% balance transfer fee on a card that offers 0% interest for 12 months. See the difference there?
You should always read the fine print when filling out any application or form, but it's especially important to read the fine print when applying for a credit card transfer. Read the fine print and don't lose your savings on interest to transaction fees.
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Article Added on Monday, August 23, 2010
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