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Credit card debt burdens many Americans, but completing a balance transfer is a way to dig yourself out.
Balance transfer credit cards offer interest-free periods, often 12 to 20 months, that you can use to pay off high-interest credit card debt faster than chipping away at balances on an existing card that charges interest.
If you have credit card debt on multiple cards, it can be a good idea to consolidate it to one balance transfer card to save money on interest charges and manage your debt better.
You can generally transfer as many balances as you want to a single 0% APR card, but you'll need to meet certain requirements.
Below, we provide a step-by-step guide to transferring more than one balance to a 0% APR card.
- Open a card from a different issuer
- Calculate how much debt you want to transfer
- Review the balance transfer limits
- Transfer debt within the eligible time period
Balance transfers can't be completed between cards from the same issuer, so you'll need to check that the cards with debt differ from the balance transfer card you plan to open.
Be careful with debt on co-branded cards, since those cards may not have the issuer present in the card's name. You'll need to verify the issuer by checking your cardholder agreement, calling customer service or searching online.
For instance, if you have debt on a Citi card you can't transfer debt to another Citi card. And if you're looking to transfer debt from both a Citi card and a Discover card, opt for a balance transfer card that isn't from either of those issuers, such as cards from Amex, Wells Fargo, Chase and Bank of America.
When you're looking to complete a balance transfer, you should take note of the amount of debt you want to transfer. Add up all the balances across your existing cards to calculate your total balance, which is important to know for the next step.
So if you have $3,000 on one card and $4,000 on another, your total balance would be $7,000.
Once you open a balance transfer card, you'll need to consider the amount of debt you're actually allowed to transfer. While you want to transfer the total balance you calculated in step two, you may not be able to.
Card issuers often limit the total balance(s) you can transfer to a percentage of your credit limit or specific dollar amount. For instance, terms for the Citi Simplicity® Card state that the total amount of your balance transfer request (plus balance transfer fees) can't exceed your available credit limit.
For example, if you open the Citi Simplicity Card and receive a $10,000 credit limit, you should be able to transfer up to $10,000, including the balance transfer fees.
It's also important to know that balance transfer limits also consider any new purchases charged to your card as well as any balance transfer fees. So, if you have a $10,000 credit limit and charge $3,000 in new purchases, you'll only be able to transfer up to $7,000.
In addition, some balance transfer cards incur a 3% fee or higher, which will also be applied to your total limit. The Citi Simplicity Card charges a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Keep in mind that balance transfer requests vary among card issuers and cardholders. The balance transfer limit you receive can vary based upon your credit history at the time you submit the request.
Balance transfer cards have two important time periods:
- Length of the introductory 0% APR
- Amount of time you have to qualify for the 0% APR
You'll typically choose a balance transfer card based on how long the 0% APR lasts (among other factors), and you should be aware of the qualification requirements.
In order to take advantage of a no-interest period, you'll need to transfer balances within a specific amount of days from the date your account is opened. Expect the time frame to be around 60 days, although certain cards extend that to four months, such as the Citi® Double Cash Card and Citi Simplicity® Card.
If you transfer balances outside of the required time period, you won't be eligible for the intro 0% APR. The best way to ensure you don't miss out on the interest-free period is to transfer balances when you apply for the card (if that's an option) or right after account opening.
Information about the Citi Simplicity® Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuers of the cards prior to publication.
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