Spring is often the season that gets most attributed with fresh starts, but fall isn’t far behind. It’s the time when a new school year begins, and we also start thinking about a new aesthetic – both indoor and outdoor. Why not start fall with a more manageable budget that gets you ready for the new seasonal expenses?
If you’ve been carrying around high-interest credit card debt, you can start fresh this fall with a zero percent balance transfer offer.
Why you should do a balance transfer in the fall
Many people pay for their summer vacations with credit cards, with plans to pay them off before the summer ends. Then new expenses crop up – or perhaps overspending during those shore excursions on the cruise created a cash crunch.
If you didn’t clear that card by now, you could be paying for that vacation all over again in interest charges. If you didn’t use a zero percent intro APR credit card, it’s time to explore your option of a balance transfer.
College students who are just getting used to managing credit may have overspent their first year. With some credit firmly established, students can also benefit from a zero percent balance transfer credit card with lower monthly payments in the fall.
If you have multiple credit cards with high balances, you can free up some money in your budget – and save time each month – by consolidating all those payments onto one zero percent interest card with a balance transfer offer.
Fall is a great time to put cash aside for school supplies, college tuition, or a new wardrobe. Treat your family to a fire pit for fall gatherings or plan a camping trip with the money you saved. Just make sure to use cash.
How to do a balance transfer
Each credit card issuer has a slightly different process for initiating and executing balance transfers, and there are some details to be aware of.
For instance, American Express makes it easy to do a balance transfer online or by phone. But the company doesn’t permit partial transfers. If there isn’t room on the card for the full amount, the transaction will be denied.
Bank of America has an easy online form to initiate a balance transfer.
Like American Express, Capital One lets you transfer balances online or by phone. If you’ve had your Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card or Capital One SavorOne℠ Cash Rewards Credit Card more than 15 months, there is no balance transfer fee. But you won’t get a zero percent APR, either.
HSBC offers three cards with a 0% APR for balance transfers made within the first 60 days of account opening. Again, you can transfer a balance online or by phone.
The best way to do a balance transfer to a Citi credit card is by phone. You have four months from account opening to transfer a balance and qualify for the 0% intro APR for 15 or 21 months, depending on which Citi card you choose.
Discover allows you to do a balance transfer by phone, online, or through the Discover mobile app. Make sure to look for balance transfer offers when you sign on.
Chase also makes it easy to do a balance transfer online or by calling the number on your Chase card. If you’re a current Chase customer, you can look for offers to transfer high-interest credit card debt to your existing Chase card.
Length of time to complete a balance transfer
Just as interest rates and balance transfer fees vary, so does the length of time it takes to complete a balance transfer. The credit card approval process could delay your balance transfer if the card issuer requires additional information. It might also take longer to do a balance transfer using one of the credit card’s courtesy checks than to do it digitally.
It can take most major credit cards up to two weeks – up to 3 weeks for Chase and Capital One – to process your balance transfer. Discover boasts a faster average balance transfer time of 7 to 10 days.
A typical balance transfer through American Express takes 5 to 7 business days. However, it could take up to 6 weeks.
Continue making your regular payments on your card until you see the balance transfer has gone through.
Balance transfer payoff timeline
While we’re on the topic of paying off your balance transfer quickly, let’s answer an important question: How much time do you have to pay off your balance transfer before paying interest?
The answer varies depending on the card you choose, but top credit cards like the Discover it® Balance Transfer, BankAmericard® credit card, Citi® Double Cash card, and the HSBC® Gold Mastercard all offer zero percent APR for up to 18 months right now. (Regular variable APRs apply after the 0% intro offers expire.)
How balance transfers affect your credit score
Over time, a balance transfer has a positive affect on your credit score as long as you’re careful.
It helps to know the five factors that make up your FICO credit score:
- On-time payment history (35%)
- Available credit (30%)
- Length of credit history (15%)
- New credit (10%)
- Types of credit (10%)
When you open a new balance transfer credit card, your score will drop slightly because the length of your credit history just dropped. Additionally, you’ll lose a few points for opening a new account.
However, once you transfer balances, the available credit on your other cards should rise dramatically – and your credit score could, too.
When the credit bureaus evaluate your available credit, they look at your total available credit and the amount of credit you have available on any given card. Neither number should surpass about 30 percent, if possible.
When you transfer a balance, make sure you aren’t bringing your new credit card close to its limit. And make sure to keep those other cards empty for as long as you can to keep your FICO score rising.
If you continue making monthly payments, your zero percent interest balance transfer credit card can make it easier for you to get out of debt faster. And less debt with more available credit means a better FICO score in the long run.
It’s easy to start saving money this fall with a balance transfer credit card. If you focus on paying down that balance, you could even be debt-free in time for the holidays.