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What to Know about Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Credit cards come in many different formats to help people who need access to extra finances to cover certain expenses. A lot of people today use credit cards to help them stagger some of the larger payments that they need to make in life. For example, you might find that you can’t really afford to pay for a much-needed trip out of town on a couple of months of wages, particularly after all of your bills take a bite out of the pot, but with a credit card, you can book the vacation and pay back what you owe a small amount at a time.

The problem that many of us have with credit cards, is that it’s a lot easier to go out and spend money on these financial products, than it is to actually pay that money back. It’s easy to use your credit card to make purchases when you can’t afford items yourself, but you will eventually need to pay that money back, and eventually, debt can begin to build. This is particularly true in cases that begin with a short interest-free period that gradually expires, giving way to high-interest rates more significant than we can afford.

Introducing Balance Transfer Credit Cards
If you’re struggling with the repayments on your current credit cards, then you might find it helpful to switch to a balance transfer credit card, which can help you to save a lot of money on your typical interest payments. Usually, in exchange for a limited transfer fee of perhaps 3% of your total balance, your balance transfer card can give you a period of interest-free repayments that lasts anywhere between 12 and 34 months.

In other words, you can simply swap your debt over to a card that has a lower interest rate than the card that you’re currently using, so as to make it easier for you to pay off your debt more comfortably. Keep in mind that the rate you’re given might only apply to balance transfers, and not purchases, which means that you might end up paying a higher rate if you make new purchases using your transfer card. Additionally, you’ll start paying interest again after the introductory period has expired.
So, if balance transfer cards can be so useful in helping people to regain control of their spending, and their debt, why doesn’t everyone get one? The answer is simple, there are a few things you need to know about these cards before you begin filling in your applications.

Timing is Very Important
When it comes to balance transfer cards, it’s important to remember that, like other credit cards, these financial products are designed to seduce you into their grasp with small initial rates at first, before they can start to earn more cash when your terms fall back to the original rate that the lender provides. If you decide to take out a new credit card through a balance transfer, it’s important to make a note of exactly how long your new low rate lasts, as this is crucial, and more important than the actual rate you need to be aware of.

Once you understand the terms ahead of you, make sure that you remember that you’ll need to either transfer again to another card, or clear your balance a month before your ending date. Another thing to remember during this process, is that the rate that you see advertised for a particular card might not be precisely the same as the one that you are offered. The rate awarded to you will depend on numerous factors, including your credit score.

Speak to Providers and Cover your Bases
Before you start picking your balance transfer deals and filling out the correct applications, remember that few things will make your credit card provider offer you incredible deals faster than the threat that they might end up losing your custom. If you have seen an attractive deal for a balance transfer card on the market, you should consider speaking to your current provider before you instantly jump ship. These individuals may be able to offer you similar deals that mean you go through less paperwork in the long-run.

Additionally, remember that even the best credit cards will still expect you to cover the minimum repayments that are set for your particular debt – even if those payments are very low. Keep in mind that the costs for missing a repayment, despite the cheap rates, could be very high, including the end of your deal, or a switch to higher rates.

Don’t Spend, Just Pay Your Debts
Finally, a balance transfer card is really only for one thing – clearing out debt. If you see yourself spending on your card too, then you could quickly get into a lot of financial problems. The reason for this is that any repayments made into your card will clear your spending first, before they clear your outstanding debt, and the money that you don’t clear could be charged interest at a much higher rate.

How to Check your Credit Report

When it comes to accessing the crucial finance that you need to make important purchases for your future, your credit report is very important. It’s a good idea to make sure that you check the details of your credit report regularly to ensure that the details held within are all correct and up-to-date. Remember to get copies of each of the files that are held for you by all three credit reference agencies, including Experian, Equifax, and CallCredit, as it’s unlikely that each of these providers will be storing the same information, and you need to know exactly what is in each file.

The information that every credit reference agency holds about you, and your spending habits will help to give you an indication of some of the issues that might be able to impact your ability to get your hands on credit in the future, such as a personal loan or mortgage, for instance. Understanding your credit history, and taking steps to improve your score if it is suffering is a good way to make sure that you’re never left in a difficult position if you need to access finance from a bank, union, or building society.

How to Find your Credit Report
Getting hold of your credit report so you can learn more about your financial history and what is written about you in your files is easier than you might think. All you need to do to get started is request a copy of your credit file from any of the various agencies that are available online, or you can even contact the three separate credit agencies we mentioned above by telephone or post.

Because of the “Consumer Credit Act”, any individual has the right to obtain their full statutory credit report at a cost of only £2 per the agency you request it from. If you apply to get a copy of your credit report online, it’s worth noting that you’re going to need to have some specific information available to you to get through the screening processes. This will include a list of all the addresses that you have lived at over the past six years, and any details of people that you might have financial relationships with, such as a partner with whom you hold a joint mortgage or credit card.

Most of the time, you’ll be able to access your online credit report shortly after your application has gone through the system.

Accessing your Credit Report for Free
Besides the £2 statutory report, Experian, Equifax, and CallCredit offer their consumers free online credit reports, but these are only provided as part of a temporary offer designed to help welcome people into their paid services. If you want to access your credit report for free, then all you need to do is use these services and make sure that you cancel your membership with the agency that you choose before the trial period ends.

Usually, you will be able to access information for a period of thirty days before the end of your trial period. If you forget to cancel your subscription, you’ll be charged a monthly fee for access to your files.

Correcting Credit Mistakes
One of the most important reasons to regularly check your credit report, is the fact that they can be prone to mistakes. If you spot any issues on your credit files, it’s important to have this concern rectified, otherwise your ability to obtain credit later by be harmed. Mistakes may range from simple errors that relay your address differently to information that is incorrectly supplied by your bank which might stop another company from lending money to you. You might even notice fraudulent behaviour, such as someone attempting to make an application for credit in your name.

If you spot a mistake, it’s important to contact the credit reference agency you are using and ask for that mistake to be corrected as quickly as possible. Ensure that you include an explanation about why the note is wrong, and also draw attention to any evidence you might have.

The credit agency you contact should have 28 days to act and make changes to the relevant detail within your credit report. During this time the detail will be marked as disputed to let any lender that is searching through your file know that they can’t necessarily rely on that piece of information when determining whether to lend to you.

Keep in mind that if you need to add a notice of correction into your credit report, you should use that note to explain why you believe a particular part of the information provided is incorrect, and ensure that you draw attention to mitigating circumstances too, such as a sudden bereavement that might have prompted you to miss a loan or credit card repayment.