One of the ways consumers can save money while still enjoying the convenience and benefits of credit cards is by transferring high-interest rate balances to low or zero-percent cards offered through the mail or online. With promotional balance transfer credit card periods now lasting as long as 21 months, simple mathematics will show that the balance transfer fee that accompanies most of these offers is a spit in the bucket in comparison to the amount of money that can be saved over that period of no interest borrowing.
For many consumers, making a balance transfer has no effect on their credit score, but for those who are struggling to increase or maintain an average credit rating the move may have negative consequences, according to some analysts. There are two potential areas that may be a problem for people with less than stellar credit:
Percentage of Debt
The percentage of your available credit that you are using is one thing to consider. Problems arise when you transfer a balance to an existing account instead of to a new one, resulting in a high debt percentage. For instance, if you have a $6,000 balance on a card with a $10,000 limit then you have a debt percentage of 60%. If you transfer that balance to a card with a limit of only $8,000, then your debt percentage has suddenly jumped up to 75%. This jump in debt percentage will negatively impact your credit score. As a general rule, transfer balances to a credit card with a limit equal to or higher than the one of the card you are transferring.
If you apply for a new card, hoping to transfer a balance, the card company will automatically request to see your credit report, also known as an inquiry. Too many inquires may be a sign of a consumer in trouble. So wisely choose the offers you want to apply for and allow a length of time to pass before making another transfer.
Credit card balance transfers will either be a positive or negative effect on your score, depending on how you manage the situation. Transfer to a lower or no-interest credit card, pay it off before the promotional rate expires and enjoy a debt-free life and a boost in your score. With your debt eliminated, you’ll open up the opportunities for higher credit limits or bigger loans.