How to Win the Credit Card Balance Transfer Game

There’s nothing fun about credit card debt. An outstanding balance of $5,000 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 that this is tricky. There are pitfalls in the balance transfer game that, if not avoided, could make your situation worse.

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 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. Don’t carry the card. Don’t share it with another. Don’t use it. Period.

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 will 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, in which case, the bank may offer you a different account.

This could be a big problem if you do not notice. You could say yes to the bank transferring your balances to an account that may not have $0 interest and may be subject to huge transfer fees.

If this happens, you are not obligated to accept their alternative account for which you did not apply. But unless you are savvy enough to notice, plan to find yourself in deep do-do.

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 it for something. Gradually the balance will creep back to what it was before. This is another pitfall that will surely sink your ship.

Transfer fees

Ideally, you will find a balance transfer account with no or 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.

Coming out a winner

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 this strategy that gives you the best chance at winning the game.


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4 replies
  1. Sue D. says:

    We have used this method quit a few times, buying all of our appliances, paying for used cars,
    and just transferring loans that have interest. We are completely debt free (except mortgage) that
    will be paid off in 3 years.

  2. Ann N says:

    I have used the “0%” interest credit cards a couple of times, but when the balance owing reaches “$0” I stop using it, but I also didn’t close it either. But after a while of not using said card the company closes it for “non use”. My question is this, does that affect my FICO score? I didn’t close it, the credit card company did.


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