A balance transfer is an excellent way to consolidate debt across one or several credit cards onto a credit card offering a promotional annual percentage rate. Balance transfer offers regularly appear for those with good credit, but what about those with bad credit?
Unfortunately, balance transfer for bad credit is typically much harder to come by because a low FICO score indicates risky spending and payment habits, resulting in missed payments, high credit utilization and other negative factors.
Due to these factors, options for balance transfer for bad credit individuals are scant, whether they’re looking to open a new card to take advantage of a publicly available 0% APR or hoping to receive a balance transfer option on cards they already hold.
Here are some things to keep in mind when looking for a balance transfer for bad credit.
Can you balance transfer with bad credit?
Bad credit is considered a FICO score lower than 630 and is a key barrier to those looking to balance transfer or consolidate credit card debt. The purpose of a balance transfer is to have a reduced or 0% interest rate, which can help borrowers save on interest and pay off debt quickly.
It is entirely possible that balance transfer cards for bad credit may be approved for some individuals, but based on credit history and factors affecting FICO scores, you may receive a low credit limit, which may not be useful if you’re looking to move over larger debt or consolidate numerous cards. Keep in mind that balance transfers are not free; there is usually a 3% to 5% fee associated with it, so a $5,000 transfer could result in fees of as much as $250 — another burden for those looking to pay down debt.
Applying for a new card may further lower your FICO score temporarily because it results in a hard inquiry on your credit report; in the long term, it may affect your credit score if you are maxing out the credit limit, thus negatively affecting your credit utilization ratio.
Related: Best balance transfer credit cards
Are there balance transfer credit cards for bad credit?
Within the world of credit cards, no credit cards specifically offer balance transfers for bad credit.
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The majority of issuers will approve new credit cards to those with fair to excellent credit, and issuers such as Chase or Discover may have 0% APR offers available. However, they tend to be reserved for those with at least good credit scores of over 670.
An alternative to looking for balance transfer credit cards for bad credit is to look in your wallet to see if you already hold a credit card that may have a balance transfer offer.
Cards such as the Chase Slate Edge provide introductory APR offers and 0% APR offers occasionally. So, if you have a card you aren’t using, it may be better to log in to your online account and check for any offers before applying for a new credit card.
Alternatives to balance transfers
Looking for balance transfer credit cards with bad credit has its challenges. However, if you find yourself being limited, there are some alternatives.
If you aren’t having any luck with balance transfers due to bad credit, draft a plan to pay off the debt. If you are carrying debt across several credit cards, consider paying off the card with the lowest balance first, as this can help reduce your overall credit utilization and increase your credit score.
Another alternative to balance transfer is a debt consolidation loan. These personal loans combine debt across multiple cards into one overall debt, with interest rates usually lower than those on credit cards.
Although those with bad credit may not receive the best interest rate, this method allows you to combine all your debt into one place and not worry about multiple payments, due dates or late fees.
It’s worth calling your credit card issuer to see if your APR can be lowered. Although not a guarantee, some issuers may lower your APR, which can help you save greatly on monthly interest charges.
If balance transfers and debt loan consolidation aren’t options for you, a passive alternative is to better manage expenses. Charting your expenses, budgeting and reducing them in areas can increase your purchasing power, enabling you to pay off larger portions of the debt. Some techniques I have used to manage my expenses are to create a list of monthly expenses and use budgeting apps to see where additional costs can be removed.
Balance transfer cards for bad credit are not readily available. It’s also important to remember that balance transfers incur fees, further adding to debt.
If you cannot apply for a balance transfer credit card with bad credit, explore alternatives such as checking balance transfer offers on existing credit cards, drafting a payoff strategy or applying for a debt consolidation loan to pay off your balances more quickly.