Money Talks: Tips on Transferring Credit Balances

Got a big balance on your credit card? No problem! Take advantage of low teaser rates offered by a different lender and cut that interest rate down to size. But beware the credit card traps waiting for you.

We reviewed the fine print on a Chase Gold MasterCard solicitation. Yikes! The recipient of the pre-approved* (read the fine print), 5.99 percent* (read the fine print) credit card balance transfers* (read the fine print) looked really terrific.

Did you get the idea that you gotta read a lot of fine print? (Want some tips and strategies on reading ANY fine print? Click here. Well, it turns out, the 5.99 percent for three months will probably only be for two months on balance transfers because Chase makes you agree to let them have 30 days to bring your other card balances over to their bank. And after that three months? Whoa doggies! Interest rates range from 18 to 27 percent!!!! Plus, Chase will gouge you on late, over-limit, cash advance and transfer fees.

We're not picking on Chase. It was fate. Their solicitation just happened to fall into our hands. Many of the credit card companies will tease you with low rates and then trample you with high rates and fees. You must read their fine print.

Some lenders charge fees even higher than Chase's to transfer your balance. And they can be as high as 2 percent. Transfer a $2,000 balance, pay $400.

Another common trap is the old "I dare you to make a late payment." Example? Fleet Bank's offer of 9.9 percent becomes 21 percent after just one late payment.

The best way to avoid these traps is to drop out of the borrowing rat race. The next best way is simply shopping the lowest rates and best terms on credit cards. And if you're transferring a balance, compare the offers.


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