Balance transfer credit cards can be a great option to pay down debt to improve your credit health, but earning an attractive offer for a balance transfer card usually requires at least a Fair credit score and many will require an excellent or good credit score.
FICO credit scores range from 300 to 900, where different levels of scores are gathered in groups:
Credit card issuers use credit scores, among other factors, to determine who can qualify for a credit card.
If your credit score assigns you a rating of Fair, you may find that any available credit card offers will have higher-than-average APRs and lower balance transfer limits than someone with Good credit would earn.
With a Fair credit score, you should expect to have balance transfer APRs a bit higher than the 17.54% national average.
As you evaluate your need to transfer an existing balance to a new credit card, you will want to check that the APR on the balance transfer offer is lower than the cards that carry your existing balance. Whenever you transfer a balance, you want to be sure that you can save money on interest.
Customers with Fair ratings may see fewer offers for introductory 0% APRs, if any. If you do have offers, the introductory period may be shorter than offers for people with good to excellent credit. Ideally, to help drive your credit score up, you should focus on paying off your entire transferred credit card debt during any introductory period you have: doing so will reduce the amounts of interest you owe on the debt.
As someone with a Fair credit rating, you may find that your limits on balance transfers is smaller than you would like. This will reduce the amount of your debt that you are able to move to the balance transfer credit card.
If you can't find a balance transfer card with an introductory 0% APR, then you should consider if you can move balances off of cards with the highest APR to your cards that has a lower balance transfer APR offer. This strategy can help save you interest over the life of your card's debt.
While meeting your monthly minimum payment is a must, putting more than the minimum to every credit card payment can help to drive up your credit score. Higher credit scores can lead to better balance transfer offers.
Citi's Double Cash Card offers a low introductory rate on balance transfers along with cash back rewards.
At their best, balance transfers can help reduce the amount of interest you pay on your credit card balances. If you qualify for a card with 0% introductory APR on balance transfers, you essentially put a pause on any paying any interest on your transferred balance until the introductory period expires.
Your actual debt remains unchanged until you pay it back.
To help drive your credit score up, be sure to make on-time payments on your credit cards as scheduled. To help increase your score even more, pay more than the minimum payment due to help you drive down your credit utilization ratio, which accounts for 30% of your credit score.
If you use a balance transfer offer on a new credit card to pay off another credit card entirely, keeping the old credit card account open is a better option than closing the account, as this should help decrease your credit utilization ratio and can help your average credit account age factor. Be aware, however, that any annual fees on the card will continue to be charged against your account as long as the account remains open.
If you pay your credit cards on time, especially if you pay more than the minimum, reduce new spending, keep your credit accounts open, and pay off existing balances by using a balance transfer offer, you likely will see improvements in your credit score.
Disclosure: This article is for educational purposes. It is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and is not a substitute for professional advice. It does not indicate the availability of any Citi product or service. For advice about your specific circumstances, you should consult a qualified professional.