new-year-resolution

How to achieve your debt consolidation goal in 3 weeks and 5 easy steps

Whether it's a new year's resolution or mid-year crisis, it's never too late to consolidate your debt. Kickstart your financial goal and repay your debt within 3 weeks and 5 easy steps.

When was the last time you made a new year’s resolution to control your finances and actually kept it? Maybe you didn’t know where to start, couldn’t find the right options for you or didn’t know which strategy to take. Don’t make the same mistakes this year. Whether it's January first or the beginning of July, it's never too late to fulfill your resolution.

Keep your promise and kickstart your debt consolidation goal with a balance transfer credit card within three weeks with our easy step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Collect the information you’ll need. What about expenses?

1_documents-needed

Week 1. While we don’t expect you and your pounding hangover to bound out of bed on New Year’s Day, you can start collecting the paperwork you might need over the first few days of the new year. We're going to start by collecting the information and documents you need to calculate your expenses. It may seem a little tedious at first, just know this exercise is going to be a crucial step to understanding (and maybe even start questioning) where your money is going. Don't underestimate the power of itemising your expenses, it's a powerful tool you can use to keep your finance records clean, cash flow steady and in the right direction - whether it's to deal with debt or for a strategy for your savings.

Start by collecting these:

  1. Outstanding bills and expenses: phone, utility, memberships etc.
  2. Your bank statements (paper or online), if you have access to your online net bank account you should be able to access any current direct debit set up and your spending habits.
  3. Any other important financial notices that you might not have access to online.

Next, let's exercise our bookkeeping skills.

  1. Start noting down your expenses. Simply begin by listing them, you can draw this out on paper or start a new spreadsheet-which is what we like to do.
  2. From your expenses, itemise your list including the monthly cost, calculating the total amount to give you your ballpark figure for how much you should be budgeting for expenses each month - this figure is the number you want to have a firm grasp of.
  3. Now add your income into the equation, if expenses exceeds the cash flow coming in you may need to re-evaluate. You might want to consider the expendable costs you're currently engaged in, think about the costs/luxuries you can do without (at least maybe just for the time you'll be executing your new savings strategy).
  4. By now you should have a good idea of where you sit financially, however you see it the turning point starts here - in any event you're already in a better position to start making your decisions to paying down your debt or starting a new savings plan.

Extra tips:

collecting-documents

  • You can go through your inbox and online bank statements to make sure you’re on top of your finances and everything you owe.
  • When calculating how much you owe, remember to consider automatic debits from your account (such as monthly bills or charity donations) that could impact your debt levels. If you decide to conduct a balance transfer, you’ll need to organise for these direct debits to be taken from your new account if you don’t wish to keep your old account open.

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Step 2: Check your credit score (optional, but useful to consider)

2_credit-score

Week 1. Once you know how much you owe and how much to budget, you can start considering which debt consolidation solution offers you the most value. Before you make a decision, you’ll need to consider which options you’re eligible to apply for. Most debt consolidation alternatives require cardholders to have a good credit history. If you don’t already have a copy of your credit file, it’s easy to order a copy to find out whether you’re eligible to apply. Credit files can take weeks to arrive by mail, but you can receive an online copy within a day if you apply through Equifax.

If you receive your credit file and find that your score isn’t up to scratch, you might want to reroute your resolution to improving your credit score before you apply for a new credit card. Keep in mind that rejected credit card applications can have a negative impact on your credit score, so rushing the process and applying for a card when your credit score isn’t in good shape could backfire.

See our credit file improvement guide for tips on refreshing your credit score before you apply for a credit card

If you have a good credit score, proceed to the next step.

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Step 3: Compare, compare, compare

3_compare-options

Week 2. You can’t achieve your resolution without the right tools. This is where comparing your credit card options is essential. When comparing balance transfer credit cards, there are a few key questions you should ask yourself to determine whether the card is right for you.

  • When does the promotional offer end? If your card comes with a 0% offer, it’s likely that it will only last for 6 to 24 months. While you’re comparing, devise a quick budget and calculate whether you could repay your entire balance by the end of this period - a common trap you want to avoid is only paying the minimum repayment. If not, you’ll want to consider a card with a longer promotional period to ensure that you’re not carrying a remaining debt (plus interest) beyond 2017.
  • How much can I transfer? Most cards only accept balance transfers up to a fixed amount (or a percentage of your total debt) If your balance exceeds this amount, then you’ll be unable to transfer the entire amount and will have to continue repaying the remaining balance under high interest rates in your old account, you can alternatively look into high credit limit balance transfer cards.
  • Who can I transfer from? Most providers won’t let cardholders transfer balances from an existing account with the same bank. You might also find that you’re unable to transfer debts from partnered, affiliated or co-owned banks. Confirm which banks you can transfer between here.
  • Other fees and features. Make sure to compare other features of the card outside of balance transfers. Details such as the annual fee, interest rates on purchases and rewards programs could also impact how you use the card during and after the balance transfer is in place, so these should also be part of your comparison process.
  • Eligibility requirements. You’ll need to meet the provider’s eligibility criteria if you wish receive approval for the card. Make sure you earn the minimum income requirement, have a good credit history and meet any other conditions before applying.

Balance Transfer Credit Cards Comparison

Rates last updated December 13th, 2017
$
% p.a.

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Name Product Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Purchase rate (p.a.) Annual fee Amount Saved Product Description
NAB Premium Card - Exclusive Offer
0% p.a. for 25 months
19.74% p.a.
$90 p.a.
Exclusive to finder.com.au, enjoy a no BT fee, 0% balance transfer offer for 25 months and seven complimentary insurance covers.
St.George Vertigo Platinum - Online Offer
0% p.a. for 24 months
12.74% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($99 p.a. thereafter)
Platinum card benefits plus 0% p.a. for 24 months on balance transfers (with no BT fee) and $0 annual fee in the first year. Ends 13 December 2017.
Woolworths Everyday Platinum Credit Card
0% p.a. for 14 months
19.99% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($49 p.a. thereafter)
Receive a $50 eGift Card when you meet the offer criteria, a 0% p.a. for 14 month balance transfer offer and a $0 first year annual fee.
St.George Vertigo Visa - Online Offer
0% p.a. for 18 months
13.24% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($55 p.a. thereafter)
Take advantage of 0% p.a. for 18 months on balance transfers (with no BT fee). Plus, $0 annual fee in the first year. Ends 13 December 2017.
Citi Rewards Platinum Credit Card
0% p.a. for 24 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee
20.99% p.a.
$49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($149 p.a. thereafter)
A long-term balance transfer offer with a range of platinum rewards and benefits.
HSBC Platinum Credit Card
0% p.a. for 22 months with 2% balance transfer fee
19.99% p.a.
$129 p.a.
Receive a 0% p.a. for 22 months balance transfer offer and earn 1 Reward Point per $1 of eligible spend. Plus, complimentary travel insurance.
ANZ Platinum Credit Card - Exclusive Offer
0% p.a. for 12 months
0% p.a. for 3 months (reverts to 19.74% p.a.)
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($87 p.a. thereafter)
Exclusive to finder, get 0% p.a. interest on purchases for 3 months and 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 12 months. Ends 17 December 2017.
Westpac Low Rate Card - Online Only Balance Transfer Offer
0% p.a. for 24 months with 2% balance transfer fee
13.49% p.a.
$59 p.a.
Take advantage of 0% p.a. for 24 months on balance transfers with a 2% balance transfer fee when you apply online by 31 January 2018.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Bonus Points Offer
0% p.a. for 18 months
20.74% p.a.
$64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
Earn up to 60,000 bonus Velocity Points in the first 3 months on eligible spend and enjoy a discounted annual fee of $64 for the first year.
Citi Platinum Credit Card - 100k Bonus Points
0% p.a. for 15 months with 1% balance transfer fee
20.99% p.a.
$49 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($149 p.a. thereafter)
Earn 100,000 reward Points, enjoy a long-term balance transfer offer, a discounted first year annual fee and complimentary travel insurance.
Virgin Money Low Rate Credit Card
0% p.a. for 14 months
11.99% p.a.
$49 p.a.
Receive a discounted annual fee, $100 cashback when you meet the spend requirement and up to 14 months interest-free on balance transfers.
Bankwest Breeze Classic Mastercard
0% p.a. for 24 months with 2% balance transfer fee
12.99% p.a.
$79 p.a.
Receive a long-term balance transfer offer of 0% p.a. for 24 months, a low ongoing purchase rate and up to 55 interest-free days on purchases.
St.George Amplify Card
3% p.a. for 36 months
19.49% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($79 p.a. thereafter)
Take advantage of a 3% p.a. interest rate on balance transfers for 36 months. Plus, a $0 first year annual fee and 1.00 Amplify Point per $1 spent.
BankSA Vertigo Visa
0% p.a. for 18 months with 1% balance transfer fee
13.24% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($55 p.a. thereafter)
Save with a $0 first year annual fee and a 0% p.a. for 18 months balance transfer offer. Plus, up to 55 days interest-free on purchases.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Balance Transfer Offer
0% p.a. for 18 months
20.74% p.a.
$64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
Save with 0% p.a. for 18 months on balance transfers, earn 3 bonus Velocity Points per $1 for the first 3 months and get a yearly $129 Gift Voucher.
NAB Low Fee Card
0% p.a. for 16 months with 2% balance transfer fee
19.74% p.a.
$30 p.a.
Receive complimentary purchase protection insurance, a 16 month balance transfer offer and special offers from Visa Entertainment.
Bankwest Breeze Platinum Mastercard
0% p.a. for 24 months with 2% balance transfer fee
12.99% p.a.
$99 p.a.
Receive a 0% p.a. interest rate on balance transfers for 24 months, complimentary travel insurance and 0% foreign transaction fees.
Qantas American Express Ultimate Card
0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee
20.74% p.a.
$450 p.a.
Take advantage of 55,000 bonus Qantas Points, a $450 Qantas Travel Credit each year and 2 yearly complimentary Qantas Club lounge invitations.
Bank of Melbourne Amplify Card
0% p.a. for 18 months with 1% balance transfer fee
19.49% p.a.
$79 p.a.
Take advantage of a 0% p.a. for 18 months balance transfer offer, earn 1 Amplify point per $1 spent and get up to 55 days interest-free on purchases.

Compare up to 4 providers

Learn more about balance transfer credit cards

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Step 4: Apply wisely4_apply-wisely

Week 2. Once you’ve compared your credit card options and decided on one, it’s time to apply for your card. Click on the green "Go to site" button on the product table or review page to be directed to a secure online application with your preferred bank.

Most online applications will take approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete and submit. To make sure the application process goes smoothly, ensure that you meet the eligibility requirements and have all of the required documentation on hand before beginning the application.

find-compare-apply

If you apply online, many providers can you give a response within 60 seconds or so based on the information you have provided. If you’re approved, you’ll receive confirmation and information packages regarding the card and your account. If there has been a problem or the provider needs to cross-check some information you’ve provided, your application status may be left pending. If you haven’t received any feedback for a few days, contact the provider directly to discuss the status of your application.

Pro-tip for balance transfers

If the card has a promotional balance transfer offer, it’s best to apply for the balance transfer while you’re filling out the rest of the application so you can request that your debt is transferred to your new account as soon as possible. By doing so, this will allow you take advantage of the full length of the promotional offer. Make sure you have the details of your transfer, including how much you need to transfer and where from, before beginning the application. If you’ve decided to close your old account, you’ll also need to contact your old bank to organise this.

See a video we put together for the process to apply for a balance transfer

Otherwise, if you haven’t met the eligibility requirements or have failed to provide the necessary documents, you’ll receive a notification that your application has been rejected. If your application has been denied, don’t apply for another straight away. Take the time to understand why your application was rejected, compare your options and wait a few weeks before applying again. Remember that multiple rejected applications will have a negative impact on your application, so you’ll want to avoid applying for more than one card in a short time frame.

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Step 5: Start consolidating5_start-consolidating

be-freeWeek 3. If your application has been approved, you can expect to receive your card within one to two weeks. If you applied for the balance transfer at the time of application, your balance should’ve transferred to your new account.

If you haven’t already, spend the wait in between approval and receiving your card mapping out a realistic budget and set of goals that’ll help you keep your repayments on track.

Use these 3 simple rules to keep yourself moving forward:

  1. Set monthly goals.
  2. Use calendar notifications to remind you when payments are due.
  3. Set a final date for when you’d like to have your debt repaid by the end of the year (and preferably before the promotional period finishes).

New Year’s resolutions are notoriously hard to keep, but it's never too late to set your goal. Once the new year settles in, it’s easy to lose sight of your goal and become distracted by your everyday responsibilities. The hardest part is planning how you’ll achieve the goal, but this guide should make that a whole lot easier.
All that’s left to do now is put on your game face, apply for a new card and start consolidating.

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Sally McMullen

Sally McMullen is an editor at finder.com.au who is a credit cards, frequent flyer and travel money expert by day and music maven by night.

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