What is a balance transfer card?
A balance transfer credit card lets you pay off your existing credit card debt by moving the balance onto a new card – normally either with lower or no interest. This way you can reduce the amount of money you pay on interest, so you’ll be able to pay your existing debt off quicker.
Cut the cost of debts
Many of us have run up debts on several credit and store cards. This could be costing us a fortune in interest - the typical rate on some store cards is as high as 30%.
A balance transfer card could help you cut the cost of your debts. Simply switch the outstanding balance on your high-rate credit cards to a cheaper balance transfer deal. You could easily cut your interest payments in half, or even down to zero with a 0% balance transfer card.
The card issuer will set a limit on the amount that you can transfer, but you can switch debts from any number of cards as long as you stay within the limit. This could, for example, be 95% of your agreed credit limit on the new card.
0% balance transfer cards
Let’s say you have built up debts on a credit card or a store card. If you transfer the debt to a card that charges 0% for 12 months, you would pay no interest for a year. If you clear the debt before the 0% period expires, the balance transfer card works like an interest-free loan.
It’s a good idea to set up a direct debit to make the necessary payments. You can then be sure to pay off the outstanding balance in time. And don’t forget to cut up your expensive credit cards once you’ve cleared the balances. Otherwise, you might be tempted to go on a spending spree and run up more debts!
Balance transfer fee
Most balance transfer cards charge a fee of between 2% and 3% of the amount you transfer. So, if you switch a balance of £1500, you could pay a fee of up to £45. But don’t let the fee put you off. In many cases, you can more than make up for the cost in the amount you save in interest.
Some balance transfer cards offer good deals on purchases as well as balance transfers, so you can also spend on the card. But you should check the terms and conditions. A card might, for example, charge 0% on balance transfers for 12 months, but 0% on purchases for only three months. You therefore have to manage your money carefully.
It often works out better to take out two separate cards, one for balance transfers and one for purchases. That way, you can take full advantage of the best deals on the market and make the best savings. Remember, though, that card companies are fussy about their customers, reserving the best deals for applicants with a high credit score.
You can’t usually transfer a balance to another card from the same company
Watch out for charges on balance transfer cards. You don’t normally have to pay an annual fee, but you’ll have to pay a penalty if you’re late with a payment, miss a payment, or go over your limit.
There are a number of balance transfer credit cards on the market, but it’s easy to compare the best balance transfer deals with MoneySuperMarket’s free, independent comparison service. It’s a quick and easy way to find the right card for you, and save yourself some money.
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