1 Time When Balance-Transfer Credit Cards Don't Make Sense

By Nathan Hamilton Markets Fool.com

Getting out of debt fast is a goal for many cardholders carrying high-interest balances, and we're advocates for doing so. Not only does your personal balance sheet improve, but stress levels stand to also improve, as paying costly debt bills each month becomes less of an issue.

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Balance-transfer credit cards with 0% introductory APRs are one tool that cardholders use to pay off balances faster, and our picks of the best balance-transfer credit cards bring 0% introductory APRs offers that range from 15 to 21 months. But balance-transfer credit cards may not make sense in certain instances.

In the following video segment, Motley Fool analysts Michael Douglass and Nathan Hamilton discuss one such instance when prospective cardholders may want to hold off on applying for a certain offer.

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Michael Douglass: Balance-transfer credit cards make a lot of sense for a lot of people. After all, if you have a debt that you've been carrying and it's costing interest, you can transfer it over and then not pay interest for 12 or 21 months while you apply as much money as you can to that debt. It often makes a lot of sense to go ahead and try to move that debt over to save you money, to save you interest, and to then help you get out of debt. There are sometimes some pitfalls here, and let's talk about one of the big ones for balance-transfer credit cards that folks need to be really aware of, the annual fee.

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Nathan Hamilton: Yeah, and I think you put a good point on it and say, OK, we're super advocates for paying down debt, but in these certain scenarios it doesn't really make sense, because if you look at the number of credit cards on the market, there are so many out there that don't charge an annual fee. You look at it and say, OK, I can get a balance-transfer credit card that offers 15, 18, 21 months of 0% interest, there really is no need to pay an annual fee. You're generally going to be hit with a fee when transferring that balance, and many times when reaching your financial goals, the difference between making those goals faster and falling short, or slowly reaching those goals, it comes down to fees.

Douglass: Totally, it makes sense, and that's why we're really interested in keeping an eye on fees in general. We believe in watching fees in investing and 401(k)s and credit cards and debt of all kinds, because at the end of the day you want to make sure that your money is enriching you, not somebody else, as much as possible.

Hamilton: As much as possible.

Douglass: Fortunately, we've got a lot of information about that and about a number of other credit card tips at fool.com/creditcards. We've got the best balance-transfer credit cards and a free guide with five tips to help increase your credit score over 800. That's big if you're looking to apply for a mortgage or an auto loan, or really any kind of credit.

Hamilton: Cheap loan rates, good credit card offers, everything.

Douglass: Absolutely, so we've got a lot more of that information at fool.com/creditcards so check us out there. Thanks, Nathan.

Hamilton: Thank you.

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