If you’re looking to consolidate high-interest credit card debt, you may be considering a balance transfer offer. By eliminating interest payments, you can save money and pay down your debt faster. You can even transfer multiple balances onto a single card, simplifying your finances overall.
Before diving in, it’s important to understand how to approach the balance transfer negotiating table.
Approach with the numbers in mind
It’s key to do the math before you initiate a balance transfer, because most credit cards carry balance transfer fees. With a typical fee of 3%, a $2,000 transfer will cost you $60.
But, you might be able to negotiate that balance transfer credit card fee down.
“In the credit card industry, anything is possible,” says Wayne Sanford, owner of Credit Bureau Investigations, a credit counseling agency. “And your credit score is your ultimate leverage tool.”
Know your credit score before negotiating a balance transfer offer. “If you’re a 750, you should be able to leverage that score into what you want or take your business elsewhere,” says Sanford.
Know the balance transfer card landscape
The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, has a balance transfer offer that lets you defer interest for 15 months(16.24%-26.24%variable thereafter), while also earning cash back rewards.
The Discover it® Balance Transfer card offers a 0% APR for 18 months (14.24% – 25.24% variable thereafter) on qualifying balance transfers – as does the Wells Fargo Platinum Visa card (13.74%-27.24% variable thereafter).
Compare cards based on what it’s most important to you. Do you need 15 months to pay off your debt, or can you snag a better deal with a 12-month zero percent APR and a lower balance transfer fee? The “best offer” isn’t the same for everyone.
Keep in mind, the lower the balance transfer fee, the shorter the zero percent APR terms may be. It’s a trade-off. You have the best chance of snagging a low- or no-fee balance transfer if you know you can pay off that debt in six to 12 months.
Another number to consider? Caps. A 2.9 percent offer may have an un-capped fee. Meaning there’s no limit to what the credit card company can charge based on the amount of your balance transfer. On the other hand, a 3.9 percent offer may be capped at $75.
Do the math to determine what arrangement works for you, and see what you can negotiate.
Have strategic discussions
It’s typically best to negotiate a balance transfer offer by phone. Take note of what major credit card issuers are offering in the way of balance transfer deals.
Once you’re ready to make the call, ask to speak with a supervisor, since they’ll be able to discuss the best balance transfer rates. The first person you speak with (usually an agent) may have limited information. You’re goal should be to streamline the discussion as much as possible.
With that being said, you don’t want to dismiss an agent, outright. New balance transfer offers could be in the pipeline, and the agent could have key intel on when those offers come available. By asking a couple of questions, you could receive a heads up on timelines that can help you make more informed decisions.
Make new card offers and old card offers work in your favor
Being a new cardholder is an advantage when it comes to paying lower balance transfer fees. Issuers want you to choose their card, and one way to encourage that is with a competitive introductory offer.
The Citi Simplicity Card offers 0% APR for 21 months on balance transfers (16.99%-26.99% variable thereafter) with no late fees if you happen to miss a payment.
The Wells Fargo Platinum Visa, offers 18 months of 0% intro APR on qualifying balance transfers , with a relatively low variable APR from 13.74%-27.24% variable after 18 months.
If you’re looking for a card that will continue to deliver rewards after you’ve paid off your balance transfer, consider Chase Freedom Unlimited.
But you don’t always have to open a new card to snag a great deal.
“Keep your eyes on your current credit cards,” says Scott Bilker, author of Talk Your Way Out of Credit Card Debt. “When they send you an offer, keep it, date it and file it.”
Those offers are your bargaining chips, making you an informed negotiator.
Another option is to negotiate with your current issuers, if any of those cards are paid in full but less than ideal due to interest rates. Bilker says. “If you have credit cards with no balances, call and say, ‘You miss me?’ so they can make you some offers.”
The sweet spots for negotiating a balance transfer fee
If you have a good to excellent credit score, it may work in your favor to negotiate a balance transfer fee before you apply for a card. If you have a pre-approval offer in hand, that’s even better. Card issuers may be willing to sweeten the deal in order to keep you from going to a competitor.
On the other hand, your current issuer has access to your payment history, which can give you leverage to negotiate a better deal.
What to say during negotiations
When you enter negotiations, remember that you have something to offer: your business.
If you currently have a card, you may mention things like your loyalty to that issuer as well as your record of on-time payments. If you use the card frequently, note how much business you brought in the passed year. If you haven’t used a card in a while, that may work in your favor, too, because the issuer will want to keep you on board.
If you have several balances to transfer, you may be able to negotiate a single flat fee. Sometimes, the representatives will say yes. Other times, they will suggest a direct deposit, which generally translates into a single fee.
If your fee-waiver request is denied, try to get the fee capped at a number you think is reasonable — say, $50 or even $100, which is a lot better than 3% of a large balance.
When the issuer won’t budge on lowering the fee, you could offer to change other terms in exchange for a fee waiver.
Bilker suggests, “What you might do is offer to make the interest rate a little higher, but waive the balance transfer fee. Just do the math to make sure you come out ahead.”
This makes sense if you know you can pay off the balance quickly.
Another strategy to consider is writing a check — funded by the new bank — to move the balance. Sometimes, issuers will offer this method of financing as a way to transfer the balance in lieu of a traditional card-to-card transfer. Either way, it pays to ask what terms are associated with each option.
Negotiating balance transfer fees can seem a little daunting. But you can prepare early by asking plenty of questions and keeping good records. If you have a good handle on the details and confidence in the leverage you hold, you’ll come out ahead.