How a Balance Transfer Card Saved Me 80 Years of Payments

Balance Transfer Card Saved Me 80 Years of Payments - picture of young woman celebrating in money rain

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In my younger days, I wasn’t quite the savvy saver that I am now, in fact I don’t even think I knew how to save money!

Before we got married, I had acquired a little bit of credit card debt, spent a lot of money on nights out, and generally lived waaaaaaay beyond my means. Yeah, in my core I was still a tightwad. But, it’s like I’d totally forgotten how to do math. It wasn’t that I couldn’t pay my bills on what I was making. It’s that I just didn’t care what the consequences of my debt were.

For years, I just wandered around, putting things on credit, believing that cutting a check and paying bills was the same thing as budgeting. I had no money. I had no plan. And saving…what was that?

Instead of using my early twenties to get ahead, I was simply shuffling debt from one area to the next. I distinctly remember sitting in my bedroom, looking at my credit card bill, and writing a balance transfer check to cover the minimum payment on another credit card. The scary thing now is that, at the time, it didn’t worry me much. Thankfully, I didn’t dig so deep that I couldn’t get out.

In my mid-twenties, a lovely young lady made her way into my life. She had made a few financial mistakes of her own (hello new car), but she’d learned the hard way. I fell in love with her, and we decided to get married. But, before we did, we took a look at my finances.

The Numbers

I don’t remember what the exact balance was. It was right around $2,500…and that was credit card debt only, if only I knew how to save money shopping through ebates then like I do now!! I was still in school and had some student loans to add to the pile as well.

Like I said, I wasn’t in too deep, but it wasn’t great either. When Holly found out what I had been doing, robbing Peter to pay Paul, she put the kibosh on it quickly. I believe her exact words were, “Holy smacks! What the balls are you doing?”

OK, so maybe that’s not exactly what she said…but you get the drift.

I was living beyond my means, unwilling to change my habits, and continuing to add small amounts of debt each month to my credit card balances. I was only “able” to make minimum payments on my cards, which meant that interest charges just kept building up. That meant, over time, the extra $6 beer I charged at the bar ended up costing me $15. Multiply that by a couple hundred beers, and you can see how this was heading down a very bad path.

Worse yet, I didn’t even realize the consequences of what I was doing. Since I was struggling to make ends meet, I was only paying the minimum balance due on my cards. I was young and using one of those “Support Your University” credit cards. So, if memory serves me correctly, the rate on my main card was 18.99% interest. So, here’s how the math was breaking down on my credit card repayments:

$2,500 Balance x 18.99% APR – $25 Monthly Minimum Payments = Paid off The Other Side of NEVER

Yep. You read that right. By making minimum payments on just a $2,500 balance, I would pay off my credit cards in exactly NEVER!!!

Not only was I not gaining any ground. I was freakin’ losing ground!!!

Starting with the very first time I paid the minimum balance, I lost about $14.50. That meant, my new balance was $14.50 higher than it was the month prior…and I hadn’t even bought anything yet. Because the balance was higher, the interest was more on the next month. So, when I’d again pay the minimum balance, I lost even more ground.

It was a vicious cycle, and I didn’t even realize I was caught up in. Most people don’t.

Luckily, for me, it didn’t spiral out of control. I figured it out in time, and I realized that I had to find a way to pay this thing off fast!

My Credit Card Repayment Plan

For me, getting out of credit card debt didn’t take any fancy maneuvers or the use of a debt consolidation company. Nope. All it took was a little budgeting savvy and a change in my behavior.

With a little explanation and prodding from my fiancé, I decided I needed to tackle the debt before the wedding. I packed all of the credit card debt on a 0% APR balance transfer card, and started whacking away at it each month. This did two things:

  1. I got off the interest carousel. – Sticking my debt onto a balance transfer card with a 0% APR helped me get off the never-ending interest carousel. Instead of falling further behind each month by only paying interest, I was actually able to make progress on the balance itself.
  2. It gave me hope. – Maybe more importantly, by consolidating my credit card debt on a balance transfer card, I started having hope that I could pay it off. Instead of seeing my balance going up each month, I actually started to see it go down. This motivated me to push even harder!

Of course, this doesn’t work if you don’t change your behavior. You can’t use it as an excuse to stop paying off your debt or to take on more. That’s just going to add to your pain and put you further behind.

Don’t just slap the debt on a balance transfer card and carry on as usual. It won’t work. Get on a budget, live below your means, and cut out the extra garbage. The only way to defeat debt is to save and spend with intent. Get yourself on a budget, and take control of your money!

What Balance Transfer Card Should You Use?

Editor’s Note: Some offers listed below may no longer be available. 

Sounds great, right…but what card should you use?

There are a number of good options available, but – in my opinion – the card_name is the clear winner. Like most 0% APR cards, the introductory 0% APR lasts for the first 15 months. That gives you plenty of time to pay off relatively small amounts of credit card debt.

The thing that sets the Chase Slate® apart from other balance transfer cards is this: No balance transfer fees on balances transferred for the first 60 days! While most cards charge a fee of around 3-5% of the total transfer, the Chase Slate® Card allows you to transfer balances without incurring a fee for 60 days after you open the account. That’s a really sweet deal, and it can help you get a HUGE jump-start on paying down that debt. If you can pay off your balance before the introductory APR expires, you really do get to use their money for free!

There’s only one catch: If you have debt on a Chase card already, you can’t transfer your debt to the Chase Slate®. So, if you fall into that category, you’ll want to check out the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card.

With the card_name, you get an introductory APR of 0% on balance transfers for a whopping 21 months from the date of the first transfer. You also get an intro 0% APR on purchases for the first 12 months after opening your account. After that, you’ll get a 17.99%-28.74% variable APR. The card does charge a balance transfer fee of 5% (minimum of $5), but that’s just $50 per $1,000 in transferred balances. There’s no annual fee. Oh yeah, and don’t forget about that intro 0% APR.

Find more of the best balance transfer cards here.

The Final Word

The credit card game is designed for you fail, but knowing is half the battle Ace! Getting off of the revolving interest rate carousel can be extremely difficult, especially when you don’t know you’re on the ride. By transferring your debt to a balance transfer card with 0% interest, you can finally get out in front of your debt and make some headway. Once you have a grasp on your debt and are ready to responsibly use credit, it can be beneficial! Such as using some of the best travel rewards credit cards to make your vacationing with your family on a budget a lot easier on the wallet!

Use it wisely and pay it off quickly. It worked for me, and it might just work for you too!

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  1. This is a great story and example for many! I’ve utilized a balance transfer a few times, but I recently pid off a lingering transfer and ever since, anything I’ve charged has been paid in full! I don’t like the interest ride and plan to stay far from it.

    1. Yeppers! I stay far from interest payments as well, but using a balance transfer card was just the jump-start I needed to get out of credit card debt.

  2. I was able to use a balance transfer to pay off a student loan. It had an 8% interest rate and the company was offering me a fee free balance transfer to pay it off. I had one year to pay it off but I knocked it out in 6 months because I didn’t want to get close to owing any interest. You have to be very very careful not to go past the promotional period because the interest will hit you like a ton of bricks! Only consider a balance transfer if you are sure you can pay it off well before the promotional period.

    I saved about $400 of interest with this method so it worked out pretty well!

    1. Nice! That worked out great for you!

      Personally, I’d be nervous about transferring a student loan to a balance transfer card. If you don’t get it paid off before the interest comes into play, you could get crushed. I’m more inclined to use a balance transfer card for high interest debt like credit cards. But, it sounds like your plan worked wonderfully in your instance!

  3. This is the strategy I used back in the days of 0% and 0-fee balance transfers to pay down over $50,000 of credit card debt my parents had run up in the course of running their business, and supporting the living expenses of more than one family. Even with the fees, this is effective in buying a year of breathing space per card at a time where you don’t pay that horrible 20+% premium on top of any other fees. Because that fee cycle is VICIOUS once you start falling behind and paying only the minimum, and sometimes paying late.

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