Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.
Last Updated: 2/7/2013
If you’ve got a credit card debt that you just can’t pay off, sometimes a low lifetime balance transfer is the best and cheapest option. It’s also the easiest because you don’t have to keep remembering to switch your balance each time you get to the end of a 0% period.
These are cards that will take on the debt you owe on another credit card and they will let you pay it off on a low rate for as long as it takes you to pay it. So even if their normal interest rate is, say, 17%,you may only be charged 5% a year to pay off your debt. Some providers will charge you a transfer fee (between 2.5–3% on the whole) but others won’t. You need to do the calculations and work out if the lower long-term rate is worth the extra transfer fee in some cases.
If you have an ongoing debt on a credit card that is currently charging you interest then it could be worthwhile switching it to one that doesn’t charge so much. For some people it will be best to go for a 0% deal (particularly if your credit rating is good enough). Check here for the best 0% deals and how to get them.
If your credit rating is not excellent then it may not be a good idea even to apply for one of these. If you think your credit rating might not be up to scratch then check out your credit rating first before wasting an application.
Remember that each time you apply for credit and get rejected you get minus points on your credit rating ‘scorecard’. Get a 30-day free subscription to CreditExpert and check your score before applying (just remember to cancel it at the end of the free period if you don’t want to continue with a monthly subscription).
Credit cards with 0% rates are great for giving yourself a payment break, but when it comes down to getting on top of your finances and paying back some debts – a credit card with low rate that stays low is what you need. Read through some of our best buys for credit cards with low rates that stay low.
The Barclaycard Platinum Simplicity Visa credit card is a good all rounder. It has a single rate of 7.9% on both purchases and balance transfers. The balance transfer duration lasts until your debt is repaid. They also have no balance transfer fee.
When you transfer your balance to one of these low lifetime interest rates make sure that you cut your old card up and close that account down. Don’t leave yourself the temptation of an empty card that you could just use to buy something you really don’t need and make your total debt even bigger.
Also, make sure you don’t use the new card to buy more stuff. This card is just a way of helping you pay off the debt quicker and cheaper. If you buy more things with it, not only will this increase your debt but you will be charged interest at the normal, high rate on the new purchases as credit card companies use your repayments to pay off the cheapest debt that you have. If you add other purchases to it they won’t put your repayments towards paying those off. So, again, avoid temptation and, when you transfer a balance to this new card, cut it up as well so that you can’t spend with it!
It also goes without saying that you should never use a credit card to withdraw cash from a cash machine. The charges and interest rates for borrowing cash this way are insane and will very quickly plunge you into far more terrible debt than you’re in now.