Ask an Expert: Should I Transfer My Balance to a Zero-Percent Offer?

Ask an Expert: Should I Transfer My Balance to a Zero-Percent Offer?
Photo (cc) by Wonderlane

I review dozens of credit card offers each week to find the best deals. My goal is to help you use credit cards to build and protect your money and credit. Check out more on our credit card page.

Last week, I got this email from a Money Talks News reader…

Hello,

I have over a $4,000 balance on one of my credit cards with a high interest rate. I’m looking to transfer that balance to a new card which gives me a zero-percent rate for a period of time. Right now I am looking at this deal. It is the Citi Platinum Select Mastercard with the following details:

  • zero percent intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 18 months
  • after that, the variable APR will be 11.99-21.99 percent based upon your creditworthiness

How “good” is this deal? And do you know of any others that would be better for my needs? I am looking to transfer that huge balance to a card where I can pay it off interest free.

Thanks,
Doug

Thanks for the question, Doug. Here’s your answer…

For those like Doug with credit card debt, zero-percent balance transfer offers seem too good to be true. They can be a godsend – but only if you use them correctly. First, you have to select the best offer. The Citi Platinum Select MasterCard is a very competitive offer for the following reasons:

  • It features a full 18 months of zero-percent financing, the longest promotional period currently on the market.
  • The offer covers both purchases and balance transfers.
  • There’s only a 3 percent balance transfer fee. That’s the lowest out there, with one exception (see below).
  • There’s no annual fee.

This is a great offer. But if you think you can pay off your balance in 15 months, consider the Slate card from Chase – the only card on the market right now with no balance transfer fee. If you’re approved, you’ll save the $120 you would have spent on the 3 percent balance transfer fee for the Citi Platinum Select.

Some other things to consider, Doug…

  1. Make the transfer in time. Deadlines vary greatly depending on the card. For instance, the “qualifying period” is only 30 days for the Chase Slate, but it’s four months for the Citi offer.
  2. Confirm the transfer goes through. Keep making payments on your old card until you double-check that it’s entirely paid off.
  3. Don’t use the promotional financing to add to your debt. Receiving zero percent on new purchases is great, but don’t let that tempt you to increase your debt each month.
  4. Pay off your balance. With any balance transfer offer, be sure that you can pay the balance in full before the promotional period expires. The credit card companies are counting on some of their new customers failing to do that. Don’t be one of them.

So Doug sniffed out one of the best deals on the market, but he should also consider Chase Slate. If he makes this move carefully while starting a comprehensive plan to pay off his debt, he is going to save hundreds of dollars in interest along the way. Good luck, Doug!

Got a credit card question? Email it to [email protected] and it may be answered here next week.

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