Balance Transfer Series: Choose Your Cards Wisely!

There has been a lot of interest expressed lately by a few people who want to get into the 0% balance transfer game, or who are trying to transition off of their first round of offers onto their next round. I thought I’d run a series of posts about my learnings from doing balance transfers over the last year, and how I’m transitioning from my first round of transfers to my second round.

The first part of the series is choosing your cards. When I first decided to do balance transfers, I had to put some thought into which cards and credit card companies I was going to use. I choose to pursue balance transfers with Chase, Citicard, and Discover. I frequently used Amex and MBNA cards in my everyday life, so just to be safe, I left them out of the first round.

What I’ve found is that Citicard has by far the best customer service. You can request credit line increases on their website, and they typically allow for the largest credit lines. They also allow payments to the card directly from ING and Emigrant savings accounts, which makes managing the Citi balance transfer much easier. (Edit – the savings account owner and the card owner MUST be the same person. You can get around this by paying the Citi card from an MBNA credit card.)

Chase has slightly poorer customer service (but it is getting better) and the weakest website. All payments mush originate from a checking account, so payments are a two-step process for me… transfer from Emigrant to checking, and then make the payment online. One good thing about Chase is that even though I had a maxed-out card with them, they kept giving me more credit cards (two Sony cards, one Priority Club card, and an Amazon card). As I cancelled each of these cards, I had the Chase rep transfer the available credit to my balance transfer card, making my credit utilization percentage go down and my credit score go up!

I haven’t had any problems with the Discover card, and no issues that involved working with their customer service. They do allow payments directly from a savings account.

With any card you choose, it is important to read the fine print. Make sure you know the end date of your 0% offer, and what the fees are (hopefully there are none) for the transfer.

My next posts will deal with protecting your credit, preparing for round two, and managing your cards once you have them.