5 ways how misuse of balance transfer credit cards can cost you dearly

Cynthia Stewart
May 30, 2007
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0 Intro APR credit cards are used by many people to avoid high interest rates on outstanding balances. As soon as the 0 Intro period expires - they find another credit card with 0 intro offer or low interest offer on balance transfer and switch balances. In the short term it might look as a good strategy, but it has its own drawbacks. Here are few facts, which if overlooked can cost the credit card holder dearly.

  1. The credit card companies might stop approving such applications when they find that the applicant has a sustained history of balance transfer misuse.
  2. Lenders like people who pay them interest, that's the main source of their income. So, if the find that when it comes to repaying your debt with interest, you simply cut corners and transfer the balance to a new credit card. They won't be interested lending to you.
  3. With such repeated balance transfers, and closing old credit cards will have an impact on your credit history also. The remarks in your credit report can drive away potential lenders, and you'll have to face the music even when you apply for other type of loans like auto loan, mortgages, personal loans etc.
  4. If a credit card issuer refuses one such request of balance transfer, your entire plans of getting the debt to a low interest rate can be jeopardized and you could be facing high APR's, which can land you in further trouble.
  5. Balance transfer credit cards don't tolerate late payments, so if you miss out on a particular repayment all the benefit is lost and instantly the high regular APR's are applied. Again a low rate on balance transfers does not mean the overall APR's will also be low. There could be different APR's for purchases, and cash advances.

Though balance transfers are not a bad idea, but excess of everything is bad. Besides, denting your credit history, repeated balance transfers are also a bad financial habit. It is like not facing the eventual reality of repaying your debt. Balance transfers are there for good reasons and should be used as such- in that way they will benefit the credit card holders in a big way.

Continually opening new low interest credit card accounts and shifting money without attacking the overall debt could worry lenders, potentially hurting your chances for borrowing money in the future. Credit card issuers favor customers who pay interest, viewing customers who transfer debts over and over to avoid paying interest as less-than-ideal borrowers.

Such excessive balance transfer behavior can also make it tough to borrow money from other lenders outside of the credit card industry, such when shopping for a home or automobile.

Separately, should you make a misstep -- for example, by making a late credit card payment -- your credit card's regular (and undoubtedly much higher) interest rate will get triggered. That could also result in a sudden surge in the APR on your credit card debt.

Another reason to be wary of performing too many balance transfers is that the low interest rate you get with a new balance transfer credit card may just apply to the transferred balance itself. It is important to note whether the low interest rate on balance transfers also applies to purchases.

Should you need to make a new purchase with the card, the interest on your spending could be at the credit card's regular interest rate. However, certain balance transfer credit cards, like the Discover Platinum Card and the Citi Platinum Select Card, offer low introductory APR's on both balance transfers and purchases.

Meanwhile, be aware that with a balance transfer credit card, all the payments you make will likely first be applied to the 0% portion of your debt. As a result, any other credit card spending will accumulate interest until the transfer is paid off and you can then tackle the most recent charges.

However, all these warnings do not mean that a credit card balance transfer is always a bad idea. In fact, balance transfer credit cards can really work in your favor if used sparingly. If you don't go overboard with transferring balances, and pay attention to any balance transfer fees your credit card may carry, transferring your balance to a lower interest credit card can be an excellent way to save yourself some money as you pay down your debt.