Step by Step Guide for 0% Balance Transfers
Now that you’ve learned more about a balance transfer, how do you actually go about doing one? Below we have a step by step guide on how to get started. By doing a balance transfer, you could easily start save money over the short term and start paying down debt.
Here are our 4 steps to do a balance transfer:
- Understand your current balance and rate
- Find the best balance transfer card for you and understand the terms
- Apply for a balance transfer card, get approved, and do a balance transfer
- Create a plan to pay down your debt during the 0% APR introductory time period
Step 1: Understand your current balance and rate
Go to your current credit card and figure out how much of a balance you have and what your rate is (or annual percentage rate “APR”). This will be important information for you to have handy to figure out the best balance transfer credit card for you.
PRO TIP If you have multiple credit cards, we suggest prioritizing the debt with the highest interest first.
Step 2: Find the best balance transfer card for you and understand the terms
There are a lot of balance transfer cards out there, so you should pick the one that fits your needs. In general, we recommend picking the card with a 0% APR and longest introductory time period for this APR, no or low transfer fee, and an APR that is reasonable after the introductory time period. You should also pick a card that you have a likelihood of getting approved for. In general, 0% APR balance transfer cards are most suitable for those with good or excellent credit. You should be also wary of any additional fees that the card has (e.g., annual fee).
We really like the Chase Slate card (not sponsored) because it offers a 0% APR for the first 15 months, $0 balance transfer fee (as long as you transfer within 60 days, otherwise it’s 5% or $5, whichever is greater), a comparable Variable APR to other cards, and no annual fee. They also offer the support of a large bank and other tools like access to your FICO score to keep you on track.
Whichever card you choose, make sure you understand the terms really well. Terms we would look out for include:
- Introductory Rate. Introductory time period rates for both balance transfers and purchases
- Balance Transfer Fees. Balance transfer fee and when you need to do the balance transfer by
- Other Fees. Any additional fees (e.g., annual fees, foreign transaction, cash advance)
- Any penalty APRs for paying late
- Limits and Restrictions. Limits on how much you can transfer and any restrictions on your card (e.g., where you can transfer the balance from)
You should understand the calculation of how much you would be saving and paying to do the balance transfer:
Saving: Balance x Interest Paid on Current Credit Card x Introductory Time Period of New Card
Cost: (Balance You Can Transfer x Balance Transfer Fee %) + Additional Costs
Have us do this calculation for you for free: withsnowball.com/ask
Step 3: Apply for a balance transfer card, get approved, and do a balance transfer
When you have decided on the best card, you can apply for the card. You can often do this online through the credit card company directly. After that, you wait to hear back from them on whether you are approved. Once you are approved, you should contact the new company as soon as possible to do a balance transfer request (you can often do it online or over the phone).
You should have your account number for your old card handy and know the balance you want to transfer. It can usually take between 7-10 days to process a balance transfer, so make sure you are diligent about making payments to both your old and new card during this time so you don’t incur additional fees.
Step 4: Create a plan to pay down your debt during the 0% APR introductory time period
Now that you have made a balance transfer your old credit card debt will be on your new credit card debt. If you couldn’t transfer your full balance, make sure that you are still making payments on your old credit card.
It’s important to make sure that you are making all of your minimum payments on time, otherwise, you could potentially lose the introductory interest rate. We suggest setting up an autopay or calendar reminder, and making sure your bank account has the necessary funds. Create a plan to pay off the balance within the introductory time period, with some buffer.
For example, if you owe $5,000 and have a 12-month introductory period, pay $500/month to pay it off within 10 months.
Remember, a balance transfer doesn’t wipe off debt but gives you more time to pay without incurring as much interest - take that opportunity to really pay start fresh!