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credit & debt

Balance Transfer Deals Are Back

Get a 0% rate for a year or more, but compare offers carefully.

After becoming scarce in the aftermath of the financial crisis, 0% balance-transfer offers on credit cards have made a comeback. You can dramatically reduce finance costs by shifting your balance to a credit card that charges no interest for a set time frame, as long as you pay it off within that period.

Don’t let teaser rates overshadow other factors when deciding to switch cards. Compare transfer fees (usually 3% of the sum transferred), the length of the 0% term (12 months or more is generous), the nonpromotional annual percentage rate (your interest rate after the promotion expires) and any annual fee.

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Citi’s Diamond Preferred card gives you 18 months to pay off a transferred balance at the 0% rate. The Slate card from Chase offers 0% on balance transfers for 15 months, with no fee if you move the money within 60 days of opening an account. Compare offers with a credit card calculator, such as the one at CardHub.com or CreditCards.com, or use the offer to negotiate a better rate with your current issuer.

If you switch from a card you’ve had for years, consider keeping it open to maintain your credit history. Try not to load up the new card with purchases; racking up more debt negates the point of a balance transfer in the first place.

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