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Bottom Line Up Front

  • A balance transfer is a debt consolidation tool that lets you move high-interest rate debt to an account with a lower interest rate.
  • A balance transfer offer could let you consolidate all your monthly payments into one with better terms and even no annual fee.

Time to Read

4 minutes

March 4, 2022

Got credit card debt? You could get a handle on your personal finances and could improve your credit score by eliminating a high-interest rate debt with a balance transfer.

This money move allows you to transfer debt from a high-interest credit card to one with a lower interest rate, consolidate multiple monthly payments into one, and take advantage of better card terms, lower fees and promotional periods on the new credit card.

However, not all balance transfer offers are alike. To help you make an informed decision, let’s look at some of the common myths about balance transfers.

Test Your Knowledge

Question

Do all credit cards have balance transfer fees?

Answer

No. Some lenders charge a fee, and some, like Navy Federal Credit Union, don’t charge any balance transfer fees at all. Before you move your balance to another card, be sure to read the fine print to know whether the lender charges a fee to transfer your balance and whether there are any other charges (annual fee, late payment fee) on the new card.

Question

Would a balance transfer reduce the amount of money I need to pay back?

Answer

A balance transfer isn’t the same as repayment. Although a transfer will pay off your old debt, you’ll still have to pay off the balance you’ve transferred to the new credit card. One way you may save money is if the new card has a lower rate than the one you currently use, you may pay less in interest charges. So, it’s a good idea to compare rates before you act.

Question

Would a balance transfer affect my credit score?

Answer

Your credit score is based on many factors, including your debt repayment history. That's why a balance transfer itself wouldn't necessarily affect your credit score. You see, you're not adding more debt and the transfer wouldn't affect your ability to make on-time payments. However, frequently opening new accounts to transfer balances could have an effect on your score.

Question

Will closing an old unused credit card increase my credit score?

Answer

Actually, closing a card could have a negative impact on your score. Two of the factors that affect credit scores are (1) how long you’ve had credit and (2) how much credit you have available to you. By closing your card, you may shorten your credit history and reduce the amount of credit available to you. But, if the old card has an annual fee, closing it may be the right move.

Question

Are balance transfers only for credit card debt consolidation?

Answer

Not necessarily. Depending on the lender, you may be able to include other types of debts, like personal loans. If you know you’ll have to carry a balance for a while, look for a credit card with a continuing low interest rate, and check to see if you could include other types of debt.

Question

Can anyone qualify for a low- or zero-rate balance transfer offer?

Answer

No. Your creditworthiness matters. Good credit gives you access to the best card offers. Lenders will likely check your credit score and review your credit report before approving a balance transfer. Those who have good or excellent credit are more likely to qualify for lower interest rates. The best balance transfer credit cards not only have low interest rates but also offer rewards programs like cash back and other perks.

Question

Can I stop making payments to my old credit card as soon as I apply for a balance transfer?

Answer

No. Continue making at least the minimum payment on your old card until you’re notified your balance has been moved to your new account. Transfers can take up to 2 weeks to complete, and you don’t want to miss payments or get charged late fees in the meantime. Those dings could show up on your credit report.

Now You’re Ready to Move Ahead

Now that you have the facts about balance transfers, you’re ready to evaluate all those credit card offers and choose one that best fits your budget and your needs. Be sure to check out cards that also offer rewards. Navy Federal offers a variety of cards with excellent rewards and competitive rates.

Disclosures

This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.