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personal finance

How to make sure a balance-transfer card will help you pay down your debt


Anyone carrying burdensome credit-card debt knows how those zero percent (or low-rate) balance-transfer options can feel like a lifeline.

And if you approach them right, they can help you hack away at your debt much faster and reduce how much you pay in interest. Yet more than 40 percent of consumers who take advantage of these deals don’t get the balance paid off during the special-rate period, according to a new study from CompareCards.com.

Depending on how much more than the monthly minimum you pay during that introductory time, you could end up making little headway in paying down your debt.

“To get the biggest bang out of the balance-transfer card, you have to pay more than the minimum, or you won’t save nearly as much in interest as you could,” said Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst at CompareCards.

Consumer credit card debt stands at $974.2 billion, according to WalletHub. The average interest rate across all cards is about 17 percent, although it can reach as much as about 30 percent on some cards — thus the lure of a balance-transfer offer.

Before you assume it will be the answer to your debt woes, however, it’s worthwhile planning how to make sure the move will help get your debt paid off, rather than just give you temporary breathing space and relieve your stress level.

Say you have a $10,000 balance on a card that comes with an interest rate of 20 percent. You transfer the entire amount to one with zero percent for 12 months, with minimum monthly payments of $150.

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