Q: I currently have a credit card with a debt of about $6,000 dollars at a 22 percent interest rate I have gotten offers for 3 percent for the life of the balance if I transfer it to one of these cards. Would this be a smart idea or would it hurt my credit history and score?
A: If you can transfer debt on which you’re paying 22 percent interest to a card where you’re only going to pay 3 percent interest, you should do it as quickly as possible.
And then you should make every effort to get this debt paid off as quickly as possible, both to improve your credit history and increase your credit score, but also because you’ll sleep much easier at night.
In general, balance transfers don’t hurt your credit. What hurts your credit is if you carry a balance that is more than 25 percent of your maximum available credit limit on a particular card, and if you don’t pay your bills on time. Also, if you transfer a balance and then close down the account (or close the account while it still has the balance on it), that will severely damage your credit history and score.
But if you can transfer this balance and pay down this debt significantly because of the savings, you should soon see your credit score rise.
Ensure Credit Card Balance Is Paid Off
One more thing: After you transfer the balance, be sure to go back to the original card for a month or two and double check to see that the entire balance was paid off.
I recently heard from someone who had played the balance transfer game successfully 41 times, only to get tripped up on the last transfer. All but $9 was paid off, but he never went back to check. After not paying his bill of $9 for three months, he had lowered his credit score by more than 100 points. By that time, the bill had risen to a paltry $14.
Moral of the story: Be very careful when doing a balance transfer and always double check to make sure the account has been completely cleared and is reading a zero balance with no fees or interest due.