One way to handle credit card debt is to transfer balances from high interest cards to lower-interest ones. If your credit score is good enough, you'll likely find issuers eager to take on your debt in the hopes of making money on interest charges down the road. The key is to pick the right offer and pay off the obligation before the interest rate on the debt changes.
Get the Best Terms
Check the terms of your balance transfer to make sure it's what you need. Many promotional offers promise a low promotional rate for a set period, but it rises to the higher levels ordinarily associated with cash advances once that ends. Make sure you can pay the amount while the low rate is in effect. If you can't, you may wind up paying more in the long run in interest rates and transfer fees than you would have if you'd just kept the money on the original card.
Initiate The Process
Contact the issuer of the credit card you want to transfer the balance to and inform the issuer you're interested in making a balance transfer. Generally, you'll have multiple options for doing so. Some credit card companies offer convenience checks that can be used to pay off another credit card. In that scenario, a balance transfer is as simple as writing that check and leaving enough time for it to be processed before your next payment is due. Others allow customers to conduct balance transfers by mail, over the phone or online.
Provide the Information
You'll need to provide the credit card company the information for the account you're transferring. Generally that's the account number and the card's expiration date and security code. You'll also declare the amount you want to transfer. Make sure your available credit line covers both the transferred amount and the balance transfer fee, which typically is a percentage of the transaction. Though amounts vary, a balance transfer fee of 3 to 4 percent is common.
Keep Up Payments
Balance transfers aren't instantaneous. Once you agree to make the transfer, the credit card company contacts the creditor on your behalf and arranges the payment. It usually takes about a week to complete the process, though it can take longer. Make your monthly payments until you receive word the transfer is complete. Otherwise you may find that a late fee and additional interest charges mean you'll still have a balance remaining after the transfer.