tightrope walker

How to Win the Credit Card Balance Transfer Game

There’s nothing fun about credit card debt. An outstanding balance of $5,000 that is subject to 19.99% interest means you’re paying about $1,000 a year just in interest. Imagine if that $1,000 could go directly to repaying the balance instead. You could pay it off in record time instead of stringing it out for many years.

If you’re carrying credit card debt, transferring that balance to a new credit card with a 0% introductory rate could be the way out of your heavy debt situation. Just beware: There are pitfalls in the balance transfer game that if not avoided could end up making your situation worse, not better.



To play the balance transfer game well requires financial maturity and personal discipline. Are you up to it? Should you wish to play, you’ll need to adopt this strategy to come out a winner:

Fine print

Find a balance transfer credit card application. You want one that offers at least 15 months of 0% interest, has no annual fee, and a small if any, balance transfer fee. Search at IndexCreditCards.com. Read the application very carefully. Know exactly what’s in the terms and conditions.

Divide to conquer

Once you have the account and you transfer the balance, divide your outstanding balance by the number of months in the 0% introductory period. Lock eyeballs on that number. That is the amount you must pay each month for this to work.

Do not use the new card

This account is for one thing only—to facilitate paying the balance to $0.

Close it

Close the account from which you transferred the balance. Just close it and do not look back. Yes, this could knock a few points off your credit score for a few months. But paying off the new account quickly will help to recover those points.

Sounds easy enough, but let’s not fool ourselves. Paying the new balance on the new account during the 0% interest months is going to take a lot of hard work and discipline. And there are pitfalls you must avoid:


The terms and conditions that came with the new 0% credit card will state that you may not qualify for the account for which you are applying, and in which case the bank may offer you a different account. This could be a big problem if you do not notice, then go ahead and transfer your balances to an account that may not have $0 interest and may also be subject to huge transfer fees. If this happens, you are not obligated to accept a different account.

Double trouble

If you fail to close the first account once you transfer the entire balance, prepare for trouble. Emergencies happen and if you keep that old account active, you’ll find a way to use for something. Gradually the balance will creep back to what it was before.

Transfer fees

Ideally, you will find a balance transfer account that has no or at least very low transfer fees. They do exist, but you have to search. Most have a transfer fee of $5 or 3% of the balance transferred, whichever is more.

Pulling off a credit card balance transfer to an account with a 0% introductory rate offers a fabulous opportunity to pay off your credit card debt. But it requires a steady hand and a strong mind. You must be focused, determined and fully committed to a strategy that gives you the best chance at winning the game.


More from Everyday Cheapskate

A cellphone
woman ironing man's shirt
young couple perplexed by notice they can skip a payment
A married senior couple seeing a home equity scam artist. The men have reached and agreement and the wife looks angry.
A person sitting at a table using a laptop computer
A close up of a newspaper
cropped shot of young couple shopping online with credit card and laptop at christmas

Please keep your comments positive, encouraging, helpful, brief,
and on-topic in keeping with EC Commenting Guidelines

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Caught yourself reading all the way 'til the end? Why not share with a friend.

2 replies
  1. Lisa Godfrey says:

    All of these charge a minimum of 3% to transfer. The APR is 0% for a limited number of months which may be helpful for some, it I haven’t seen one with 0% I toe APR AND a 0 balance transfer fee in a while.

  2. Michelle says:

    I have been doing this for nine years, ever since I got laid off from my job and could not find another one. I never carry any credit card balances but I used 0% cards to transfer money into my checking account to survive (some cards give you that option if you already have a card with them). It carried me over until I was able to collect my Social Security.

    There are some cards out there that even offer 18 or 21 months at 0% interest. I only open cards with no annual fee and that only charge 0 – 3% balance transfer fee. When the promotional period is up if I haven’t paid it off then I close that card and open up another one, but you have to have a good to excellent credit rating to do this. Mary is right to emphasize that you must be disciplined or you will find yourself right back where you started or worse. I am nearly done paying off my last card and will not open anymore.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *