The value of a balance transfer card depends on four main factors:
- Balance transfer fee
- Introductory APR for transfers
- Length of the introductory period
- Regular APR (applies once the intro terms expire)
It can be difficult to balance all of these terms. So we recommend using a balance transfer calculator. This will help you determine not only how long it will take you to pay off your balance, but also which balance transfer credit card will save you the most money.
If you anticipate being able to repay your full balance within a card’s 0% intro period, you can focus on avoiding a balance transfer fee. The regular APR won’t affect you, after all.
But if you don’t think you’ll be approved for a card with a long enough 0% intro period to repay your full balance, the regular rate will indeed come into play. And the card with the longest introductory period won’t necessarily be the best balance transfer credit card for you. So you’ll have to compare the cost of paying down what you owe with each card you’re considering. And you’ll need to take into account how much you expect to owe at the end of each card’s 0% period as well as how expensive that amount will be, in light of each card’s regular APR.
Finally, don’t make the mistake of assuming another balance transfer credit card will be available to bail you out if you don’t reach debt freedom by the time regular rates take effect. Many people learned this lesson the hard way during the Great Recession.