How Does a Balance Transfer Affect Your Credit Score?

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
Updated: October 16th, 2019
The content is accurate at the time of publication and is subject to change.

If you have one or even several credit accounts with considerable balances and huge interest, probably, considering a balance transfer to consolidate those debts is the best way out. But before you apply for a balance transfer credit card, it’s not out of place to assess all possible pros and cons. And, first of all, it has to do with your credit score. The card you choose, the way you will use it and some other factors can impact your score and either increase or decrease it.

How a Balance Transfer Credit Card Can Improve Your Credit

If you find the right balance transfer offer, it will play into your hands for a long time afterward. Some cards may favor you not only with a 0% intro APR for balance transfers, but also with a $0 annual fee, great rewards program (which is especially precious if you plan to use the card after paying off the transferred sum), and some other useful services and features. Another not less valuable benefit the card can bring you is your credit enhancement. That’s what you can expect:

  • Lower overall credit-to-debt ratio. First, a new credit card in your wallet decreases your entire debt amount compared to your total available balance. This correlation is called credit-to-debt ratio or credit utilization ratio and makes up 30% of your FICO score. It is recommended that your outstanding debt does not exceed thirty percent of your available credit. The lower, the better.
  • New credit factor. The very fact of opening a new credit account stands for 10% of your total FICO credit score. So, a new balance transfer card can be especially good for credit building in case you haven’t opened any accounts for a long time.
  • Delinquencies removal. If you have late payments on current credit cards or loans, a balance transfer will deliver you from them. Although this does not immediately put them away from your credit reports, at least they will no longer press you and accumulate unnecessary interest. Moreover, timely payments on the new card can help mend your credit history.
  • Easier payments. A balance transfer card combines your payments into one. This rather facilitates the process of managing your debt. Having only one monthly due date, you have fewer chances to forget about and miss the payment. Such improvements in financial behavior will lead to faster debt repayment and a gradual increase in scores.

How a Balance Transfer Credit Card Can Worsen Your Credit

It may seem so easy to transfer burdensome balances to a new card. Especially if it offers a 0% intro APR and a low balance transfer fee. Still, be careful. Some pitfalls may make your life even harder and damage your score. Here is what you’d better note beforehand:

  • Higher credit-to-debt ratio on the new card. Even though, as it was mentioned above, your overall credit-to-debt ratio will decrease, still, once you transfer balances from your old accounts to the new one, your credit-to-debt ratio will increase on this new card. It’s not difficult to guess that it, on the contrary, will affect your score in a bad way.
  • Shorter credit age. Likewise, a point regarding a new credit account may be controversial. When a credit card issuer opens an account in your name, the average age of your credit accounts changes down. Thus, the length of your credit history becomes shorter and decreases your score accordingly. This factor forms 15% of your total credit score.
  • Insufficient credit limit. Not always a new issuer will approve you the whole amount that you need. In this case, you will simply not be able to transfer all the debt. Thus, you will have to pay both a new card and the remaining debt on the old accounts.

To Apply or Not to Apply?

Getting a balance transfer credit card can definitely have a positive impact on your credit score with the lapse of time if you do everything right. In case your current credit cards charge you giant APRs and fees making it impossible to get even an inch closer to debt reduction, then we would recommend you apply without hesitation. Firmly adhering to the payout plan and keeping healthy financial habits, you do not risk seeing your scores dropping. Be a responsible cardholder and don’t get trapped again with new debts. If the balance transfer credit card you choose has a 0% intro APR period, try your best to meet this deadline.

It is also a good decision not to cancel your old credit accounts after the transfer if they do not have large annual fees. Just keep them open but don’t use. The open credit cards will help your credit age stay high and maintain your credit-to-debt ratio low.

All rates and fees, and other terms and conditions of the products mentioned in this article/post are actual as of the last update date but are subject to change. See the current products' Terms & Conditions on the issuing banks' websites.

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