A balance transfer is an option offered by many credit card issuers which enable the card holder to use their available credit from one card to pay off the balances due on one or more other cards. Usually the interest rate on the amount borrowed is lower than the rate of the cards that are being paid off by the balance transfer.
Balance transfers are really nothing more than a consumer loan made to a customer who is already pre-qualified by the lender because of the credit card relationship that exists. Since the card issuer is already open to exposure for the maximum amount of the card holder's credit line anyway, it makes financial sense for the card issuer to entice the cardholder to run their balance up as high as possible.
A balance transfer offer is the perfect way to entice the card holder. Most balance transfer offers will come with an artificially low introductory interest rate, such as 1% or 0%, for a fixed period of time. After that time period the interest rate will rise to whatever was permitted by the terms of the offer.
Some offers will come with a fixed interest rate for the lifetime of the balance transfer payment period, subject to the usual penalty clauses for late payment, etc.
Although some card holders receive fee-free balance transfer offers, depending upon their credit experience with the card issuer, as well as their overall credit score, most balance transfer transaction requires the card holder to pay a fee. This fee could be a flat-rate or a percentage of the amount borrowed. Typical offers these days are running 3% of the amount transferred per transaction, or $ 5, whichever is greater. Some offers cap the transfer fee at $ 50.
Consumers who pay close attention to the fine print, and who are diligent about paying the balance transfer balance during during the promotional interest rate period, can reduce their monthly expenses by transferring high interest credit card balances to the lower interest card offering the balance transfer option .
Consumers who do opt to take a balance transfer should not run up more debt by using the credit cards that the transfer was used to pay off. This defeats the purpose of paying off the balance to begin with and will quickly place the debtor in a position where they are no longer able to make their payments.