Balance transfer credit cards let you consolidate your debt and save on interest costs
If you’ve found yourself overwhelmed by debt, a balance transfer credit card could be a good way to consolidate your debt faster with a lower interest. These types of credit cards provide a promotional period of lower interest to help you regain control of your debts and save money. Learn the benefits and considerations below when choosing a balance transfer credit card, compare the balance transfer offers on the market and pay lower interest on your debt today.
Balance Transfer Credit Cards Comparison
What is a balance transfer?
A balance transfer refers to the process in which a cardholder transfers an existing debt from a credit card, store card or personal loan to another credit card in attempt to reduce their debt with a lower interest rate. Most introductory balance transfer offers allow new cardholders to pay little to no interest on the transferred balance for a promotional period (which can vary from card to card). When compared to the standard purchase or cash advance rate that these balance transfers usually revert to, cardholders can stand to make considerable savings in the form of interest.
How does a balance transfer work?
Transferring a balance from an existing card to a new one is not a complicated process, though you’ll need to consider whether this is something you want to do before applying. Most cards required that you provide details of the balance transfer at the time of application, so make sure to have these details handy if you want to take advantage of the offer. Most credit cards pose some limitations on balance transfers, such as where you can transfer your balance from (this usually excludes transferring from cards within the same bank) and how much you can transfer (usually this is a percentage of the card’s credit limit).
If you provide all relevant balance transfer details at the time of application and have met the eligibility requirements, the balance transfer request should go through soon after your new card’s approval. Once balance transfers go through, cancelling existing accounts is your responsibility.
How can a balance transfer help me save money?
Not all balance transfer offers are the same, and they can vary in the following aspects:
Promotional balance transfer rate
If you're looking to consolidate your debt, start comparing balance transfer cards with low promotional rates. Rather than paying say 20% interest on your already growing debt, you can repay your balance faster and make significant savings with a low or 0% balance transfer promotional offer. Compare balance transfer credit cards with low promotional offers.
Balance transfer rate
This is the promotional interest rate that transferred balances attract, which can be as low as 0% p.a. The lower the interest rate, the less you'll have to pay in interest costs and the more you'll save.
The promotional time period for balance transfers can vary from one credit card to the next, and most such offers come with promotional interest rate periods in between 6 months and 18 months. If you're comparing 0% credit cards, you'll be able to save more interest if the promotional period is longer as you'll have more time to repay your debt at the lower promotional rate without incurring interest.
This is the interest outstanding balances from balance transfers start attracting once the promotional period ends. This can be the card’s purchase rate or its cash advance rate, and know that cash advance rates can be notoriously high. If you want to increase your potential savings, do your best to repay your balance before the promotional period and the revert rate ends. If you don't think you'll be able to repay your balance within this time, consider a card with a longer balance transfer period or a lower revert rate.
Pay more than the minimum repayment
Even if your card has a 0% promotional balance transfer, you'll still need to pay a minimum repayment each month. However, if you only pay the minimum repayment, you may be unable to consolidate your entire debt by the end of the balance transfer period. Even though you'll be paying more each month, the savings you'll make on interest in the long run will most likely surpass these costs.
How to use the Balance Transfer Calculator in 4 easy steps and learn how much you can save today
Step 1. Enter the total debt/outstanding amount you would like to transfer
Step 2. Provide the interest rate that you are paying on your existing debt (if you don't have your interest rate on you, the average is around 18-20%)
Step 3. See the 'Interest Saved' column to find out which credit cards will save you the most money. Click on the 'Interest Saved' title to sort the cards in ascending or descending order of money saved
Step 4. Compare the credit cards available in the table provided to find the card that suits your needs. If you still want to find out more about a particular credit card, click the ‘More info’ link for a full review on the features and benefits.
Back to top
Money expert Michelle Hutchison answers the question, 'What is a Balance Transfer?'
The balance transfer process made simple
The amount you can transfer over is limited by your credit limit, with most providers allowing a maximum transfer of no more than 90 - 95% of your credit limit.
If your request is approved your new card will take on the debts of your old cards and paying them off. Your old accounts won’t be closed automatically, so it’s your responsibility to call your lenders and request them to be closed. You then have the full promotional period to pay off your balance.
Once your balance transfer period ends the rate will revert to either the new credit card’s purchase rate or the cash advance rate, so it’s important to pay off this balance in full to avoid getting hit with substantial interest charges.
Bertha ended up spending $3,500 as unexpected expenses towards car repair using her credit card. Since the time of this transaction she’s managed to repay $500 of the principal amount, although she feels she’s paid a tidy sum as interest. Her card charges 20.99% p.a. as its purchase rate, and if she sticks to making minimum monthly repayments of two percent, she’ll end up paying more than $16,000 over a course of around 42 years.
If she ups her monthly payment to $151, she’ll end up paying $3,636, excluding fees, and she’ll manage to repay the money in about two years.
If she makes use of a card with a 2.5% p.a. balance transfer offer for 15 months and an ongoing purchase rate of around 13%, she could save over $500 during the 15 months period, and she would then start paying a low ongoing rate on the outstanding balance.
If, on the other hand, Bertha opted for a card with a 0% p.a. balance transfer rate for six months and a low ongoing rate of 11.99%, she could save around $250 as interest during the promotional period, and more after the promotional period ends.
Bertha, in both scenarios, not only saves on interest during the promotional period, but also after it ends because the new card’s ongoing interest rate is noticeably lesser than that of the previous card. If, as per the second example, Bertha can manage to pay $500 per month towards her new card, she can pay off the entire $3,000 before the promotional period expires without paying any interest.
What are the pros and cons of a balance transfer?
Balance transfers have positives and negatives just like any product. Here's some of the advantages and disadvantages to consider:
- Save on interest. If you manage to pay off the entire outstanding balance before the promotional period comes to a close you don’t have to pay any interest, and even if you end up with an outstanding balance at the end of this period you can still save in the form of interest.
- Pay your debt sooner. Since you don’t have to pay any interest for a given time period, your balance does not build over time, and this enables you to pay it off sooner.
- Get a better credit card. Opting to go the balance transfer way gives you the opportunity to look for a new card that suits your needs better than your existing card.
- Repeat the process. If you have an outstanding balance from a balance transfer at the end of the promotional period, you can consider applying for a new card and repeating the balance transfer process. Bear in mind, though, that every application for credit leaves a mention on your credit file.
- No interest-free days. As long as you have an outstanding balance from a balance transfer on your account, you cannot make use of your card’s interest free days on purchases.
- Revert rate. This can be a particular problem if you have to start paying the card’s cash advance rate on outstanding balances when the promotional period ends, because cash advance rates are typically high.
- Balance transfer fee. Some cards require that you pay a balance transfer fee, which can be in between one to three percent of transferred balances.
- Lost rewards. If you’re closing a rewards card account, you stand you lose all accumulated reward points. In such a scenario, try to redeem your points before you close the account.
What else should I consider?
Before you apply for a new credit card to transfer a balance from an existing card, consider the following.
- Is there an introductory offer? If the card you’re applying for does not have an introductory balance transfer offer, it might not lead to significant savings, whereas a card with a promotional offer would charge considerably lower interest.
- What is the revert rate? If the revert rate is high, and if you don’t pay the entire balance before the promotional period comes to a close, you can end up paying more interest than you might expect.
- How much can I transfer? Most credit cards come with minimum and maximum limits for balance transfers. The minimum can be in between $200 and $500, and the maximum can be 50%, 80% or even 95% of your new card’s credit limit.
- Where can I transfer from? You cannot, in all likelihood, use a credit card to transfer a balance from another credit card provided by the same credit card provider. Some might have other stipulations as well, so it’s ideal to check before you apply.
Transferring balances from one credit card to another is not a new concept, and a number of Australians take this path. You, too, can save considerably in the form of interest if you go this way, but you have to make sure you stick to the rules. Applying for the first such card that comes your way is definitely not a good idea, and the ideal starting point is comparing your options well.Back to top
Frequently asked questions
Once I complete a balance transfer do I have to close my old account or can I keep using it?
Once the balance transfer is complete, keeping the old credit card account open or closing it is your prerogative.
How long does a balance transfer request take to go through?
This essentially depends on how much time your existing card provider takes to process the payment, and in some instances it can take seven to 10 business days.
Can I earn reward points on balance transfers?
No, you cannot. Rewards credit cards generally don’t offer any reward points on balance transfers or cash advances.