The Best Credit Cards for Pet Expenses

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Americans are spending more and more on their pets every year, according to the American Pet Products Association. This year, the association estimates spending will rise to $69.36 billion (up from $66.75 billion in 2016), $16.62 billion of which will go toward veterinarian care (up from $15.95 billion). That means owners may need to prepare to spend more money for their furry family members.

Some vets don’t offer a payment plan directly through their billing office, so applying for a credit card might be your best option to pay for your pet’s medical bills and other expenses (outside of using your savings, borrowing the money from family and friends or crowdsourcing the funds).
The older your pets get, the more likely it is they’ll need medical care, so planning ahead with a pet card can be a good idea. As much as pet owners can try to predict how much they’ll spend on their loved one, it really is impossible to know.

Is a pet-specific credit card a good idea?

A credit card designed for pet health care costs may sound like a great idea, but the truth is, there aren’t many of them. CareCredit is the only card with a specific feature for financing veterinarian bills, and you’ll have to see if your vet accepts it.

The card has a 0% APR promotional offer from six to 24 months, perfect for those who need more time to take care of their pet’s expenses. There are longer financing terms available as well, starting at 24 months and ending at 60 months.

Purchase Amount

CareCredit Financing Options

$1,000 or more

Eligible for a 24-, 36- or 48-month financing
offer with a 14.90% APR

$2,500 or more

Eligible for a 60-month financing offer
with a 16.90% APR

One of the downsides of CareCredit is that it charges deferred interest if you don’t pay off the balance by the time the introductory offer ends. The current standard APR is 26.99 percent.

If you’re going to carry a card that charges deferred interest, make every possible attempt to pay off the balance before that interest kicks in. You can use a credit card payoff calculator to help you figure out what you need to pay monthly in order to get rid of your debt before the promotional APR period ends.

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Other options

Using a pet-focused credit card to take care of vet bills isn’t the only way to spread out the costs of animal health care — or even necessarily the best option.

Below, we’ve listed several credit cards that can help you tackle hefty veterinary bills; what’s best for you will depend on a variety of factors, like how much time you have to prepare for the expense and what your personal financial situation actually is.

For a one-time expense: Cards with a 0 percent introductory APR

Some credit cards offer a one-time 0 percent APR introductory rate on new purchases. That means whenever you spend money during the promotional period, you won’t have to pay interest on those purchases as long as you pay off the balance before the promo period ends.

This type of card is best for people who can anticipate an expense, such as an imminent surgery. Keep in mind that it may take a few weeks to get approved and receive your new credit card, so planning is key.

Also, promotional periods start when your account opens, not with your first purchase, so you’ll want to apply funds to the vet bill as soon as you can after getting the card to maximize the time you have to pay off the balance interest-free. This course of action is really best for a one-time cost: Recurring costs can add up quickly, making it difficult to pay off the balance by the time the special offer runs out.

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

Why we like it

The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card has a 0 percent intro APR for 21 months, one of the longest periods available. That includes both purchases and balance transfers. Once the promotional period is over, the rates will switch to a variable APR of 13.99-23.99%, depending on your credit score.

This card has no annual fee and is a good option if you’re confident you can pay off the balance before the intro period ends. Otherwise, you could face some heavy interest fees.

Fees and fine print

There is a balance transfer fee of 3 percent of each balance transfer, with a minimum charge of $5. Foreign transactions result in a 3 percent fee, and late-payment fees can be up to $35.

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The Provident Signature CashBack Visa® card from Provident CU

Why we like it

The Provident Signature Cash Back Visa® card from Provident CU is one of the few credit cards that offers both cashback rewards and a 0 percent APR intro offer on both purchases and balance transfers. The offer lasts the first 14 months your account is open, and after the promotional period ends, the standard variable APR rates kick in: 11.99-16.99 percent for purchases and 12.99-17.99 percent for balance transfers. Those rates are somewhat less than other cards on this list, which make it a good option if you’re not sure you can pay off your balance in 14 months.

The card doesn’t have an annual fee and earns unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases. It also has no foreign transaction fees and includes travel accident and trip cancellation/interruption insurance, making it a great choice for pet owners who also like to go places.

Fees and fine print

The biggest downside to this card is its availability: You have to be a member of Provident Credit Union to get it. The credit union is based in California and mostly serves the Bay Area, though you can join if you have a membership with one of a variety of associations.

Beyond membership eligibility, here are some things to consider: Balance transfers carry a fee of $10 or 2 percent of the balance transferred, whichever is greater, and, if you miss a payment, a late-payment fee up to $15.

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For managing existing debt: Balance transfer credit cards

Sometimes your pet has a one-time emergency, like a tooth extraction or hip surgery, that you can’t anticipate. While you can plan ahead for routine needs, it’s hard to be prepared for a procedure that costs several thousand dollars in one fell swoop.

That’s where a card with a balance transfer offer can help. These cards usually offer a low interest rate, sometimes even 0 percent, on balance transfers. If you’re currently paying for your pup’s bills on a card with a high interest rate, consider applying for a card with a 0-percent-APR balance-transfer promotion. Depending on your current interest rate and your minimum payment, you could save hundreds on interest.

This kind of card is best for those who aren’t adding to the balance on a regular basis and are simply trying to pay off one-time expenses. These cards offer this low rate for a certain length of time, sometimes up to 24 months. Ideally, you should pay off the balance before the offer expires so you don’t pay interest on the balance. Calculate how much you need to pay each month so you can do that, keeping in mind it may require making more than the minimum payment.

Discover it® 18-Month Balance Transfer Offer

What we like

The Discover it® 18-Month Balance Transfer Offer is an introductory 18-month balance transfer offer at 0 percent APR. The card also has a six-month introductory APR of 0 percent on purchases. After the intro periods expire, your balance will be subject to the ongoing variable interest rate of 11.99-23.99 percent, depending on your credit. There is a 3 percent fee per balance transfer.

This card has no annual fee and is also a rewards card: You can earn 5 percent cash back in certain categories (the categories change each quarter), and all other purchases earn 1 percent cash back. Discover will match all the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically. Redeem your cash back for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.

One more benefit is that this card doesn’t charge a penalty APR, which is when card issuers can increase the APR if you miss a payment.

Fees and fine print

Keep in mind that the balance transfer intro offer differs from the purchase intro offer: New purchases only have a six-month, 0 percent APR intro period. The APR and cashback rewards may tempt you to spend more than you should, so be prepared to exercise self-control if you get this card to pay down vet-bill debt.

Discover also waives the late fee the first time you miss a payment, but don’t let it become a habit: Subsequent late payments will cost up to $37.

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Chase Slate®

What we like

The Chase Slate® stands out among many credit cards because there is no balance transfer fee if you complete a transfer within 60 days of the account opening. Any transfers made after 60 days will come with a 5 percent balance transfer fee ($5 minimum).

There is an introductory 0 percent APR on the first 15 months for both purchases and balance transfers and no annual fee. After the intro offer expires, purchases and balance transfers will have a 15.99-24.74 percent variable APR. There is also no penalty APR with this card, so you don’t have to worry about losing the 0 percent offer if you make a late payment.

Fees and fine print

Late payment fees cost up to $37, depending on your balance, and foreign transactions carry a 3 percent transaction fee.

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Citi Simplicity® Card

What we like

The Citi Simplicity® Card is a top pick if you’re looking for a card with a stellar balance transfer offer and other significant perks. This card has no annual fee, no late fees and no penalty interest rate if you miss a payment. There is also 0 percent introductory APR for the first 21 months on balance transfers and purchases, after which it will convert to a standard, variable APR of 14.99-24.99 percent, depending on your credit score.

Fees and fine print to watch out for

While this card might be great for some pet owners, there are some other things to watch out for. The balance transfer fee is 3 percent of the balance ($5 minimum), and this card has a foreign transaction fee of 3 percent.

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For ongoing expenses: Low-interest credit cards

If you have an older pet who needs monthly meds or is on a strict diet, proper care can involve costly recurring expenses. If, as a result, you can’t afford to pay off your credit card balance in full every month, having a low-interest credit card can help.

Interest fees can add up quickly once the balance grows, so be sure to watch how much of the principal you’re paying every month and how much is going to interest. You might be more motivated to pay off the debt in full if you know how much it’s costing you each month.

UNIFY Financial Credit Union Variable Rate Visa® Credit Card

What we like

Any U.S. citizen or permanent resident can join UNIFY, and it offers a credit card with one of the lowest interest rates out there. The ongoing interest rate on this card ranges from 5.99-18 percent APR (variable), so if you have good credit and anticipate dealing with hefty vet bills for a very long time, this card could help you keep your financing costs down. There’s no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee.

Fees and fine print

This is a no-frills credit card with no introductory periods, so you’ll start incurring finance charges as soon as you start carrying a balance from month to month. If your ongoing expenses are going to last less than a year and a half, you may be better off with something like the Citi Diamond Preferred (described above) because of its long introductory purchase APR.

Late payments on the UNIFY credit card incur a fee of up to $25 fee at five days past the due date, and besides the low APR, this card offers very few perks.

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TruWest Visa Platinum

What we like

The TruWest Visa Platinum card has 0 percent Intro APR for the first 18 billing cycles on both purchases and balance transfers, as well as no annual fee. However, its premier perk is its low ongoing interest rates, which range from 6.95-20.95%, some of the lowest available.

Fees and fine print

This card is from TruWest Credit Union, and you must be a member of the credit union to join. However, it’s not easy to become a member. Membership is available to those who work in select Arizona and Texas counties or have worked for select employers including Motorola, Freescale and ON Semiconductor. Relatives of current members are also eligible. Current members must have at least $5 deposited with TruWest in order to apply for a credit card.

Because membership is so limited, only a small portion of the population will be eligible for this card.

There is no penalty APR, but late fees can cost up to $25. Foreign transactions have a fee of 0.8-1 percent — the higher fee applies when the transaction requires a currency conversion.

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The post The Best Credit Cards for Pet Expenses appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

5 Credit Cards to Help You Navigate Your Finances Post-Divorce

Tragedy and identity theft is never a good thing, but in this case, it positively impacted a woman's credit.

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are reviewed below.]

Separation and divorce can be a time of great upheaval—both emotionally and financially. You may be simultaneously paying off debt and lawyers’ fees, making purchases for a new home, and closing joint accounts you held with your spouse.

These issues can cause financial headaches, but a responsibly managed credit card could be just the lifeline you’re looking for. Credit cards with 0% introductory annual percentage rate (APR) offers can be a way to help you pay off more principal and pay less interest if used efficiently—which, in turn, can help you reduce debt and start out on the right path to building your new life.

Here are five credit cards that can help the recently divorced avoid interest.

1. Citi Simplicity

Rewards: None

Sign-Up Bonus: None

Annual Fee: $0

Balance Transfer Fee: The greater of either $5 or 3% of the transfer amount.

APR: 0% APR for 21 months on purchases and balance transfers, then variable 14.49% to 24.49% APR.

Why We Picked It: The sheer length of this card’s intro 0% APR offer is impressive.

For the Newly Divorced: With this card, you’ll see 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 21 months—a period that outshines most competitors. That’s nearly two years to pay off your debt and make purchases interest-free.

Drawbacks: There are no rewards with this card.

2. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Rewards: 1.5% cash back on purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: $150 bonus cash back when you spend $500 in the first three months.

Annual Fee: $0

Balance Transfer Fee: The greater of either $5 or 5% of the transfer amount.

APR: 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then variable 15.99% to 24.74% APR.
Why We Picked It:
You’ll get 15 months of 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers, plus a nice cash-back incentive for purchases.

For the Newly Divorced: All purchases earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back reward, which takes some of the sting out of your post-divorce expenses. Purchases and balance transfers see 0% APR for 15 months, and the sign-up bonus has a low spending threshold.

Drawbacks: Some competing cards offer better cash-back rates.

3. Discover it – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer

Rewards: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter for rotating bonus categories, 1% cash back on other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: Though not a traditional sign-up bonus, Discover will match all cash back earned with this card in the first year.

Annual Fee: $0

Balance Transfer Fee: 3% of the transfer amount.

APR: 0% APR for six months on purchases and 18 months on balance transfers, then variable 11.99% to 23.99% APR.

Why We Picked It: Balance transfers receive a long interest-free payback period. Plus, there are many ways to earn great cash-back rates.

For the Newly Divorced: This card earns 5% cash back on spending categories that rotate every quarter; categories this year have included gas stations, home improvement stores, and wholesale clubs. You’ll get just six months of 0% APR on purchases, but balance transfers get an impressive 18 months of 0% APR. Plus, Discover’s first-year cash-back match offer on this card only strengthens the initial value.

Drawbacks: You’ll have to wait over a year to get your first-year cash-back matching bonus.

4. Citi Double Cash Card

Rewards: Unlimited 1% cash back on every purchase, with an additional 1% upon payment.

Sign-Up Bonus: None

Annual Fee: $0

Balance Transfer Fee: The greater of either $5 or 3% of the transfer amount.

APR: 0% APR for 18 months on balance transfers, then variable 14.49% to 24.49% APR; variable 14.49% to 24.49% APR on purchases.

Why We Picked It: The card offers 18 months with no interest on balance transfers and a strong cash incentive to pay off purchases quickly.

For the Newly Divorced: 18 months of 0% APR on balance transfers is a great amount of time to pay down the principal. Plus, you’ll earn cash back a second time on every purchase when it’s paid off.

Drawbacks: You must pay off a purchase in full to earn the full cash back rate. Balance transfers must be completed within the first four months of the account opening.

5. BankAmericard Credit Card

Rewards: None

Sign-Up Bonus: None

Annual Fee: $0

Balance Transfer Fee: $0 for 60 days, then the greater of either $10 or 3% of the transfer amount.

APR: 0% APR for 15 months on balance transfers made within 60 days of the account opening, as well as on purchases, then variable 12.99% to 22.99% APR.

Why We Picked It: For those with balance transfers to make, this card offers a decent intro 0% APR period and waives balance transfer fees for a limited time.

For the Newly Divorced: You’ll get a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and select balance transfers. Balance transfers made in the first 60 days won’t incur a fee, which could offer substantial savings.

Drawbacks: There are no rewards or sign-up bonuses with this card. Balance transfers must be made within 60 days from the date you open your account to qualify for 0% APR for 15 months.

How to Pick a Credit Card to Avoid Interest Post-Divorce

When choosing a card with a 0% APR offer, make sure to check the APR that kicks in once the introductory period expires. Ideally, it should be lower than the APR of cards you currently hold or recently held, although if your credit took a hit during your divorce, you may not be able to secure the best APR available.

If you have balance transfers to make, check the associated fees. Some cards waive balance transfer fees for a limited time, while others will automatically charge you for the privilege of moving your balance over. This can get pricy if you have large balances or multiple transfers to make.

Finally, if your finances are in a rocky state post-divorce, you’ll want to use your card responsibly and pay down purchases and balance transfers before the 0% intro APR period expires. Try to estimate the monthly payment required to do that. And while you’re paying off a balance transfer, you may want to avoid putting additional purchases on your new credit card until it’s paid down.

What Credit Is Required to Get a Card with a 0% Intro APR Period?

Cards with strong 0% intro APR offers usually require good to excellent credit. To increase your chances of approval, you should know your credit score before you apply.

During a divorce, accounts are opened and closed, and debts are shifted around. It’s important to monitor your credit after a divorce to track how you’ve been affected. You can check two of your credit scores for free at Credit.com.

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At publishing time, the Citi Simplicity Card, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Discover it, and Citi Double Cash Card cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees, and terms with credit card issuers, banks, or other financial institutions directly.

The post 5 Credit Cards to Help You Navigate Your Finances Post-Divorce appeared first on Credit.com.

5 Credit Cards to Help Pay Off Your Vacation Spending

Credit cards with strong balance transfer offers can help.

[DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

Vacations are expensive affairs, with costs including lodging, transportation and car rentals adding up to a large bill. But they can get even more expensive while you’re traveling, because the vacation mindset can lead you to spend on excursions, fancy dinners and gifts for your loved ones back home.

If your recent vacation splurge left you with a spending hangover and a big credit card balance, you may be worried about all the interest you’ll accrue as you pay off your trip. Credit cards with strong balance transfer offers can help, providing a way to transfer your balance to a new card and pay off your balance interest-free.

To do this effectively, you’ll want to check your budget and see how long you think you’ll need and then compare different cards offerings to find the one that could benefit you the most. To help you get started, here are five credit cards that can help you pay off that vacation splurge.

1. Citi Simplicity

Rewards: None
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: $0
Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 3% of the transfer amount, whichever is greater
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% intro APR for 21 months, then variable 14.49% to 24.49%
Why We Picked It: Citi is currently offering one of the longest 0% intro APR periods in the business. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
To Pay Off Your Vacation: With 21 months with no interest, you’ll have nearly two years to pay off your vacation. Plus, there are travel protections, including car rental insurance and emergency assistance, for the next time you take a trip.
Drawbacks: There are no rewards programs with this card, and you’ll pay a balance transfer fee.

2. Discover it Card

Rewards: 5% cash back on rotating purchase categories, 1% cash back on everything else
Signup Bonus: Discover will match all cash back you earn in the first year.
Annual Fee: $0
Balance Transfer Fee: 3% of the transfer amount
APR: 0% intro APR for 14 months, then variable 11.99% to 23.99%
Why We Picked It: You can pay off your vacation balance over time and earn cash back on purchases.
To Pay Off Your Vacation: You’ll get 14 months to pay off your vacation with no interest. You’ll earn 5% cash back on quarterly rotating spending categories and 1% cash back on everything else.
Drawbacks: If you don’t want to keep track of spending categories for cash back, this card requires too much effort.

3. Barclaycard Ring Mastercard

Rewards: None
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: $0
Balance Transfer Fee: $0
APR: 0% intro APR for 15 months, then variable 13.99%
Why We Picked It: Balance transfers cost nothing with this card.
To Pay Off Your Vacation: Balance transfers get 15 months interest-free. You’ll also save on fees, as this card has no balance transfer fee.
Drawbacks: There is a profit-sharing feature called the Giveback program, but you have no control over it and there are no binding obligations for the card issuer.

4. BankAmericard Credit Card

Rewards: None
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: $0
Balance Transfer Fee: $0 for balance transfers made within 60 days of opening your account. After that, the fee is $10 or 3% of the transfer amount, whichever is greater.
APR: 0% intro APR for 15 months, then variable 12.99% to 22.99%
Why We Picked It: This card is another strong choice for avoiding balance transfer fees.
To Pay Off Your Vacation: If you transfer your vacation balance over in the first 60 days, you’ll avoid all transfer fees. After that, you have 15 months to pay off your trip with no interest.
Drawbacks: If you don’t transfer your balance in 60 days, you may end up with a higher balance transfer fee than some competing cards.

5. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Rewards: 1.5% cash back on every purchase
Signup Bonus: $150 bonus cash back when you spend $500 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $0
Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 5% of the transfer amount, whichever is greater
APR: 0% intro APR for 15 months, then variable 15.74% to 24.49%
Why We Picked It: There’s a strong interest-free intro period and you’ll earn cash back on all purchases.
To Pay Off Your Vacation: You’ll get 15 months to pay off your vacation balance without interest. And, you’ll get 1.5% cash back to help you save for a future trip.
Drawbacks: Depending on your balance, the balance transfer fee may be higher than some other options.

Choosing a Card To Pay Off Your Vacation

With any balance transfer card, you’ll need to check the APR that activates after the 0% intro period. If it’s greater than the interest on your current credit card, you’ll have to be careful. If you don’t pay off your vacation before the intro period expires, a card with a higher APR will hit you with worse interest than you already have.

You’ll also want to evaluate the balance transfer fee. Some cards don’t have balance transfer fees, while others will charge a flat fee or a percentage of your transfer amount, whichever is greater. Depending on the cost of your trip, these fees can get expensive. If the card only offers free balance transfers for a short time frame, you’ll want to make sure to transfer your balance immediately.

Paying off your entire vacation within the intro period is what is likely to save you the most money, so you may want to calculate the monthly payment needed to do that. Using your card for everyday spending will add to your balance, so if your priority is to pay off your vacation, you’ll want to limit purchases on your card until the trip is fully paid off.

What Credit Is Required For a Card To Pay Off a Vacation?

Cards with strong balance transfer offers may require good to excellent credit. You should know your credit score before you apply to get an idea of if you’ll qualify. You can check two of your credit scores for free at Credit.com so you have a better idea and don’t get hit with that inquiry just to get denied.

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At publishing time, the Citi Simplicity, Discover it, Barclaycard Ring Mastercard and Chase Freedom Unlimited credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

The post 5 Credit Cards to Help Pay Off Your Vacation Spending appeared first on Credit.com.

These Balance Transfer Credit Cards Can Help You Pay Down Debt

When considering a balance transfer card, be sure to check the introductory APR and any transfer fees.

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

If you’re trying to pay down a large credit card balance and you feel like you’re getting nowhere, one potential solution is to move your debts to a balance transfer card. Balance transfer cards often offer introductory periods of 0% interest, giving you time to pay down your balance without accruing additional debt.

If you’re looking for a balance transfer credit card, you should be examining the introductory period, transfer fees and any additional benefits the cards provide to help you decide which one is right for you. To help you get started, check out these cards, which all offer solid intro periods for you to pay down your balances interest-free. (Paying your debt down means you’ll be on the path to improving your credit utilization and, in turn, your credit scores. You can see two of your scores free on Credit.com.)

Chase Slate

Balance Transfer Fee: $0 for 60 days, then $5 or 5% of the transfer amount, whichever is greater

Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% intro APR for 15 months, then variable 15.74% to 24.49%

Annual Fee: None

Why We Picked It: This card has a lengthy 0% intro period and cardholders can avoid balance transfer fees for 60 days.

Benefits: Fifteen months is a solid intro period, and you can save further by completing your balance transfers within 60 days to avoid transfer fees. There’s also no penalty APR if you make a late payment.

Drawbacks: After the initial 60-day window, balance transfers incur a $5 or 5% transfer fee, which is higher than many competing cards.

Citi Simplicity

Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 3% of the transfer amount, whichever is greater

APR: 0% intro APR for 21 months, then variable 14.24% to 24.24%

Annual Fee: None

Why We Picked It: Citi’s 21 months of interest-free financing is impressive. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)

Benefits: With 21 months interest free, Citi Simplicity sets the bar high for balance transfer cards. That’s almost two years to pay down your balance. There are no late fees or penalty APRs.

Drawbacks: There are no rewards policies.

Alliant Visa Platinum Rewards Card

Balance Transfer Fee: None

APR: 0% to 5.99% intro APR for 12 months, then variable 13.99% to 23.99%

Annual Fee: None

Why We Picked It: Alliant Credit Union’s rewards card offers no balance transfer fees and a year with no interest. Plus, cardholders earn rewards points for valuable redemptions.

Benefits: Qualifying cardholders get a year of 0% APR and no balance transfer fees. They’ll also earn two points for every dollar spent in purchases and 5,000 bonus points when spending $500 in the first three months. Points can be redeemed for travel, gift cards, cash back and more.

Drawbacks: You’ll have to be an Alliant Credit Union member to access this card, although a simple $10 donation to Foster Care to Success can make you eligible. Beyond that, you need the right credit to qualify for the 0% intro APR offer. If you don’t, Alliant may impose an intro APR up to 5.99%.

Discover it

Balance Transfer Fee: 3% of the transfer amount

APR: 0% intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers (6 months on purchases), then variable 11.74% to 23.74%

Annual Fee: None

Why We Picked It: Discover it offers 18 months of 0% APR on balance transers and earns cash back with a nice bonus the first year.

Benefits: Eighteen interest-free months is a solid time frame to catch up on debt. Cardholders also earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases for quarterly rotating spending categories such as gas, dining and home improvement. All other purchases get unlimited 1% cash back. Discover matches all earned cash back for the first year of the card.

Drawbacks: Earning cash back requires spending on the card, which may be counterproductive if you’re trying to pay down debt.

Barclaycard Ring MasterCard

Balance Transfer Fee: $0

APR: 0% intro APR for 15 months, then variable 13.74%

Annual Fee: None

Why We Picked It: This card has 15 months with no interest, no balance transfer fees and a decent APR once interest kicks in.

Benefits: For 15 months, cardholders can pay down their balances with no interest. They’ll also pay nothing for balance transfer fees. Once the interest kicks in, it’s a decent rate.

Drawbacks: The card’s Giveback rewards program is a profit-sharing feature that offers cardholders little control.

Choosing & Using a Balance Transfer Card

Assuming you intend to use your balance transfer card to pay down large balances, there are some things you should know about selecting and using these cards.

Before you apply for any card, you’ll want to check the APR that kicks in after the 0% intro period. If it’s higher than the APR on your current cards, think twice about applying. If you don’t manage to pay off your balance transfers before the intro period runs out, a card with a higher APR will slap you with a worse interest rate than you currently have.

The balance transfer fee also requires close attention. Some balance transfer cards won’t charge a fee on transfers, while others will charge $5 or 3% to 5% of the transfer amount. Depending on your current balances, this could wind up costing hundreds of dollars.

When you open a card, transferring your balances immediately will pay off. That’s because you’ll get the full intro period to pay down your balance interest-free. Also, if your card only offers free balance transfers for a limited time, you’ll want to take advantage while you can.

Finally, you’ll want to use the card in the most fiscally responsible way. Paying off your entire balance within the intro period will save you the most money, so you may want to figure out the minimum monthly payment required to accomplish that. Using the card for everyday spending will add to that balance, and if your focus is reducing debt, you’ll probably want to limit or completely avoid using the card for purchases until the balance reaches zero.

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At publishing time, the Chase Slate, Citi Simplicity, Discover it and Barclaycard Ring MasterCard credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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This Trick Will Help You Finally Pay Off Your Credit Card Debt

Here's the best way to leverage those flashy 0% APR offers from credit card issuers.

In 2017, one-in-four Americans say they’re thinking about money more than just about anything else. Does that sound like you? One of the best ways to clear some of your head space may be to pay down credit card debt. Less debt means fewer minimum payments, which means an easier time managing your day-to-day cash flow.

That’s not the only benefit of paying off credit card debt early either. With annual percentage rates (APRs) in excess of 15%, credit cards can cost you a big chunk of change in interest. Plus, high credit card balances can do big damage to your credit. (You can see the effect of your current balances by viewing two of your free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

A Big Trick for Paying Off Credit Card Debt

Paying off credit cards takes planning and discipline. But you can also use a few tricks to make the process easier.

One big trick to make paying off credit card debt both easier and faster is using 0% APR balance transfer offers. It’s a simple strategy that can save you hundreds, or even thousands, in interest, not to mention allows you to potentially pay off your debt sooner.

You’ve got to leverage the offer correctly, however. Here are the basic steps to using this strategy.

  1. Apply for a card with a 0% introductory APR offer on balance transfers.
  2. Move some or all of your balance from an interest-bearing card to the card with the 0% APR. (Wondering what card to use? You can view our picks for the best balance transfer cards here.)
  3. Pay down that card as quickly as you can.
  4. If the card still has a balance when the introductory offer is up, consider applying for another 0% introductory APR card, and transfer the balance again. (More on this in a minute.)

That’s the gist of the strategy. It’s a great option for those with credit high enough to qualify for 0% introductory APR offers. Before you dive in, though, read through these additional tips and tricks.

1. Watch the Balance Transfer Fees

First off, it’s essential that you look at and understand balance transfer fees. Most balance transfer deals come with an upfront fee that gets tacked onto your balance once you make the transfer. This is how credit card companies come out on top with balance transfer deals.

Many times, transferring the balance to the 0% interest card will still save you money. But that may not be the case if you’re transferring a relatively small balance or if you’ll pay off the debt quickly either way.

To know whether or not a balance transfer will save you money, you’ll need to calculate your break-even point. First, estimate how many months it will take you to pay off the transferrable balance. Then, figure out how much interest you’d pay in that period of time if you did not transfer the balance. Finally, calculate the total fee you’d pay on the balance transfer.

If the balance transfer fee is more than the interest you’d pay in your current situation, it’s not worth your while.

2. Keep Track of Timing

Because balance transfer deals typically last between six and 18 months, you’ll need to keep careful track of when each introductory offer ends. If you’re running multiple balance transfer offers to pay off a lot of debt, keep a spreadsheet of offer end dates, current APRs, and future APRs once the offer is up.

Have a look at your spreadsheet each month. When a card’s offer period is about to end, decide whether to roll the remaining balance to a new balance transfer deal, or to leave it where it’s at.

Remember, it’s in your best interest to pay your transferred debt off in full by the time the 0% introductory offers expires. While you could potentially move the debt to another balance-transfer credit card, you’ll likely have to pay another fee. Plus, you’ll incur another hard inquiry on your credit report, which could ding your credit score. That’s why the next step is particularly important.

3. Know Your Credit Situation

This debt payoff strategy won’t work for everyone. You’ll likely only qualify for good balance transfer deals if you have good credit in the first place. And it’s difficult to say for sure how this scheme will affect your score.

On one hand, the hard inquiries generated by additional credit card applications will ding your score. But having a higher overall credit limit will improve it. These two may balance one another out over time.

The key is to keep track of your credit score throughout this process. If your score isn’t currently high enough to qualify for a 0% introductory APR deal, you may want to take time to polish up your credit before you apply.

4. Don’t Add New Debt

The number one key to making this strategy work for you is to not add any new debt. If you can’t avoid temptation to spend because you now have more available credit, you’ll just add to your mountain of credit card debt. One option is to shred your cards, even if you don’t close your accounts. This makes it harder to impulse spend on those cards that now have no balance once you’ve completed the transfer.

As long as you keep from adding new debt and follow the steps outlined here, 2017 could be a great year for getting free from debt.

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The No. 1 Rule of Balance Transfer Credit Cards

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Having a mountain of debt is both stressful and draining. In order to pay off credit card debt, some people turn to a balance transfer credit card.

While it may seem like a strange idea to move your credit card debt from one credit card to another, doing so can be a good option. This new piece of plastic may come with a 0% APR for a given period of time, so you can focus on paying off your debt without adding interest charges on top of what you already owe.

That being said, if you’re not careful and diligent about paying off this new card, you could end up right back in the same situation you were in before transferring the balance.

But don’t worry; we’re here to help. We’re going to tell you the most important rule to follow with a balance transfer credit card: Make sure you pay off your debt during the interest-free period ends.

Why Is This So Important?

As we mentioned, balance transfer credit cards typically come with a promotional APR period, during which you won’t accrue more interest charges each month. Paying off your card during this time is imperative because, once that promotional period ends, you’ll likely end up with a higher interest rate, which could mean even more debt if you can’t pay the balance.

Because of this, it’s important to remember that just transferring your balance isn’t the answer to getting out of debt — the process actually starts before getting the new plastic.

Considerations to Make Before Getting a Balance Transfer Credit Card

Before you sign up for a new card, you’ll want to look at your budget and see how long you think you’ll need, realistically, to pay off your debt. Once you know that, it’s a good idea to look at all your different card options. (You can read about some of the best balance transfer credit cards in America here.) Some cards offer this benefit for 18 months, while others offer it for 12, so you’ll want to look for a card that will offer the 0% APR timeframe that will work best for you.

As you’re doing your research, make sure you also read the fine print and take note of the terms and any fees — for example, some cards charge a balance transfer fee, while others have different interest rates for the transferred balance and new purchases.

As you continue to work on paying off your debts, it’s a good idea to monitor the effects it’s having on your credit. You can view two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

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What Is Credit Card Surfing?

credit-card-surfing

Twenty years ago, the phrase “surfing the web” became a popular way of describing how millions of Americans were starting to use the Internet by quickly browsing from one website to another. Today, this is pretty much how we all use our computers and even smartphones. Lately, the term “credit card surfing” is becoming a popular way to describe a different kind of behavior.

The Basics of Credit Card Surfing

It can be extremely difficult to pay off credit card debt, and as unsecured debt, your outstanding balances will likely incur a higher interest rate than mortgages, student loans or car loans. To avoid interest payments on their credit cards, some people turn to 0% annual percentage rate (APR) promotional financing offers from credit card issuers. These offers allow them to avoid interest charges by transferring a balance from one piece of plastic to another, typically for as little as six months and as long as 21 months.

With these promotional financing offers so commonly available, some cardholders attempt to take the next step towards avoiding interest charges by “surfing” from one offer to another. When an existing 0% APR balance transfer offer is about to expire, they will apply for a new credit card with another interest-free promotional balance transfer period. Furthermore, some credit card users hope to continue this practice indefinitely.

Reasons to Avoid Credit Card Surfing

Credit card surfing might seem like it could be a sustainable practice, but it has many potential problems. First, those who use 0% APR balance transfers will almost always have to pay a balance transfer fee equal to 3% to 5% of the amount transferred. And while this fee can be worth it to avoid paying a much higher amount in interest charges in the short-term, credit card surfers should never convince themselves that these promotional financing offers allow them to sustain their debts for free forever.

In addition, credit card surfers may be constantly utilizing a large percentage of their available credit limit as they continue to carry debt. Doing so will raise their debt-to-credit ratios, which could lower their credit score. Furthermore, their minimum payments will still be reported to the major credit bureaus, and that amount could impact the size of any new loans they might apply for, such as a mortgage. Each credit card application generally generates a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can ding your credit score, so applying for too many new balance-transfer credit cards in a short-time frame can damage your credit in that way as well.  (To see where you currently stand, you can view two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.)

Credit card surfing is also a risky strategy because it presumes that interest-free balance transfer offers will continue to be available in the future, and that the applicant will qualify for them. These offers are common now, but could easily go out of style next year, or become more heavily restricted to those with the best credit scores.

Finally, procrastinating is a questionable idea when it comes to paying off your debt. While you might be able to qualify for a new credit card with a 0% APR offer now, there’s no telling whether circumstances outside of your control such as illness or job loss could hurt your credit in the future, and put these offers beyond your reach. And credit card debt adds up quickly. (You can calculate the lifetime cost of your current debts here.)

The Best Ways to Use Promotional Financing Offers

Credit cards that offer 0% APR financing on balance transfers are a great way to save money on interest charges, but only when used strategically. The best way to leverage these offers is to use them as an incentive to pay off your existing balances sooner, not later. Consider the end of your card’s promotional financing period to be the finish line in your race to eliminate debt. (Keep in mind, too, some cards have caveats that make you liable for retroactive interest if you don’t pay the balance you transferred off in full by the time the offer expires.)

Each payment you make during your promotional financing offer will go 100% towards paying off your principle balance, not interest payments. And if you succeed in paying off your debt before interest is incurred, you can avoid increasing your balance by another 3% to 5% when you transfer it to another credit card.

Surfing can be tremendously fun when it occurs on the Internet or the ocean, but credit card surfing is a risky proposition. By taking a look at the bigger picture when it comes to your credit card debt, you can use an interest-free promotional financing offer to retire your debt, rather than perpetuate it.

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How to Score a Lower Credit Card Interest Rate

lower credit card interest rate

The Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the first-time in nearly seven years this December, citing improvements in the economy. That means anyone with a variable-rate credit card might see their annual percentage rate go up. But you don’t have to weather the storm: Depending on your spending habits and financial health, there may be ways to score a lower APR in 2016. Here’s how.

1. Raise Your Credit Score

A good credit score entitles you to the best terms and conditions on competitive credit cards (and other financing), so getting yours in tip-top shape can help you secure a lower APR. You may want to check your credit to see where you stand and what areas you need to improve. (You can do so by pulling your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and viewing your free credit report summary, updated each month, on Credit.com.) Generally, you can improve your scores by making all your payments on time, keeping debt levels low (below 30%, and ideally 10% of available credit), removing errors and limiting credit inquiries.

2. Call Your Issuer

Once you’re sure your score is sound, you may want to call your issuer to see if they’ll lower your existing rate. Keep in mind they’ll be more apt to do so if you’ve shown you’re a responsible cardholder who uses the card regularly. If your issuer doesn’t agree, you can always try again later. You may find success with a different customer service agent.

3. Comparison Shop

If you’re not getting anywhere with your current issuer — or think it’s time for a new piece of plastic — you can shop around for a new credit card. You could look for a low-interest credit card or a balance transfer credit card, which lets you transfer an existing high-interest debt to a new card with little-to-no interest for a period of time (typically 12 to 18 months). Just be sure to review the terms and conditions carefully — balance transfers typically have fees and there may be caveats, such as retroactive interest if you don’t pay off the balance within the 0% window. You’ll also want to know what you’ll owe in fees and interest on all cards you’re considering. Each credit card application tends to generate a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can ding your score, so it’s best to keep those to a minimum.

More on Credit Cards:

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5 To-Dos Before Transferring Your Credit Card Balances

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If you’re considering transferring big credit card balances to a card with a lower, or even 0% introductory interest rate, good for you. You already know it’s a chance to pay less in interest charges and whittle away at your debt. What you might not know are some of the following tips that can help you find the card that best fits your needs.

1. Check Your Credit Score

First and foremost, check your credit score. Some of the credit cards with the best balance transfer offers are aimed at people with credit scores of 700 or higher. (You can see where your credit stands by viewing your free credit report summary at Credit.com.) Checking your credit is important because you don’t want to apply for cards that you won’t qualify for. When your credit report indicates you’ve been applying for multiple new credit lines in a short period of time, your credit scores can take a dent.

2. Look for the Longest Free Financing Term

Once you know your credit score, you’ll want to find a card with the longest free financing term available so you’ll have as much time as possible to pay down your debt without incurring interest charges. The law requires that cards offering a 0% introductory balance transfer fee do so for at least six months. Some issuers offer the 0% rate for up to 18 months. You can find some of the best balance transfer credit cards here.

3. Check for Balance Transfer Fees

Once you’ve found a card with a good free financing term that you can qualify for, check to see what their balance transfer fee is. Most issuers charge at least a minimum of 3%. Note: Do the math. If you’ll end up paying more by transferring your balance at 3% than you would continuing the payments to your existing credit card, you should skip the offer.

4. Apply for Additional Cards if Needed

Keeping in mind the credit score information above, let’s say you’ve applied for a great card that you qualify for, but the company won’t let you transfer the full amount of your balance. Now is the time you might consider applying for a second balance transfer card for the remaining balance or see if your existing card company will offer you a better rate.

5. Look for Promotional Financing on Purchases

Some cards that feature 0% financing on balance transfers also extend those terms to new purchases. Just be careful not to use it to create more debt. Read all the terms of conditions of each offer carefully, since there may be caveats that make the deal less favorable, like retroactive interest if you don’t pay your balances off in full by the time the low-to-no financing offers expires.

Be sure to check out these tips for avoiding balance transfer credit card mistakes and also keep on top of all statement due dates. A missed payment is one of the quickest ways to damage your credit scores.

More on Credit Cards:

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