How to Switch Credit Cards

Switch credit cards without hurting your credit rating.

Switching to a new credit card can lower your interest rate and provide additional perks, such as cash back rewards. However, consumers should consider a few items before making the switch, such as researching balance transfer offers and watching out for extra fees. Use care when shopping for a new credit card to preserve your credit and secure the best deal.

Step 1

Shop around for the best credit card deal. Compare credit card interest rates using online tools, such as Bankrate.com. Make a list of the companies that offer the lowest interest rate, and plan to research them further.

Step 2

Call credit card companies to determine which is offering the lowest interest rate. Ask about additional fees, such as annual fees and late payment fees. Ask the lender if the published rate is an introductory offer. An introductory offer is good for a specific period of time, such as six months. After this time, it reverts to a different, and usually higher, interest rate.

Step 3

Compare credit card perks. Credit cards offer a variety of reward programs, from cash back to airline miles to paying off a mortgage early. Decide which perks are the most important for your situation. Choose the card with the lowest annual percentage rate (APR) and best perks.

Step 4

Find balance transfer offers. Some credit card companies offer low interest rates when switching credit card balances. Rates are as low as zero percent in some cases. If you consolidate multiple balances onto the new credit card, tally up the total balance. If the total balance is more than 30 percent of the available credit, this will adversely affect the credit score, according to MSN Money. For example, if the credit limit is $10,000, carry a balance of $3,000 or less. Find balance transfer offers through online search tools (see Resources). You can also contact your existing creditors to see if the lender is running an offer. New lenders usually send direct mail offers to your home, promoting balance transfer offers.

Step 5

Apply for a new credit card either on the phone or online through a company's website. Be prepared to provide information, such as your income and Social Security number. Based on this information, the credit card company will approve your application.

Step 6

Make minimum payments on the old card until you confirm the transfer has been made. Late and missed payments seriously hurt your credit score. Making minimum payments until you confirm the account has been paid in full will preserve your credit.

Step 7

Leave the old account open. Credit bureaus give higher scores to people with a long credit history. Leaving the account open, with a zero balance, will help your credit score.

Step 8

Finish the process. Several days after approving your application, the credit card company will send you new cards. Sign the cards immediately, and call the number included on the card to activate your new account.

Tip

Ask about balance transfer fees. According to Bankrate.com, balance transfer fees can range from three to five percent of the total balance. For a balance of $5,000, this is $150 to $250. Choose the offer with the lowest interest rate.

Warning

Watch out for annual fees when shopping for a new credit card. These fees are as much as $100, depending on the credit card.

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