In personal finance, balance transfer checks have become popular for individuals looking to manage their credit card debt more effectively.
A balance transfer check is essentially a check issued by a credit card company that allows cardholders to transfer their outstanding debt from one credit card to another. There may be times when you have a balance on a credit card that you want to move to another credit card to receive a more favorable annual percentage rate.
Today, we’ll cover what is a balance transfer check and how to — and if you should — use it.
How does a balance transfer check work?
Balance transfer checks are physical checks sent via U.S. mail to a credit card’s billing address. These checks are similar to balance transfer credit cards. Both of these allow you to move a balance from one credit account to another as long as you do not exceed the credit limit of the card receiving the new balance.
Just as credit cards charge 3%-5% for the balance transfer fee, a balance transfer check also does. The main difference with a balance transfer check is that instead of completing the balance transfer online, you write a check from one credit card to pay off another card’s balance.
Consider the following scenario: You receive a balance transfer check in the mail for Credit Card A with a 0% APR offer for 12 months. You use that check to pay off a $2,000 balance on Credit Card B.
Within a few days, you’ll see your balance on Credit Card B paid off, and Credit Card A will have a balance of $2,000 plus any balance transfer fee the credit card company has charged.
When to use a balance transfer check
Everyone’s financial situation is unique. Therefore, some may find great use in balance transfer checks, while others might view them as a means of carrying continuous debt. At TPG, we stress the importance of paying credit card bills on time and in full to avoid late fees and interest charges.
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Using a balance transfer check is useful in situations such as purchasing items on one card to receive purchase protection or bonus points thanks to bonus-earning categories and then paying off the balance once it has been transferred.
Balance transfer checks are also an excellent way to help finance large purchases by utilizing low or 0% APRs over several months. This way, you’ll feel assured you won’t have to pay a lump sum from your checking account.
The best time to use a balance transfer check is when an issuer offers 0% interest for an extended amount of time, as this will help you save money in the long run, should you pay off the balance gradually over several months. Low APRs, such as 0.99% or 1.99% on balance transfer checks, may seem enticing compared to an average interest rate of over 20%, but you will still accrue some interest.
Alternatives to balance transfer checks
How to use balance transfer checks is fairly straightforward. However, there may be easier alternatives if you find balance transfer checks useless or have yet to receive one.
The simplest alternative to a balance transfer check is to complete a digital or online balance transfer. Suppose you’re pressed for time to transfer a balance and cannot rely on the U.S. Postal Service. In that case, a quicker and perhaps more reliable method is to request a balance transfer via your credit card issuer’s website or mobile application.
From personal experience, any promotional APR offer I have received as a balance transfer check is also available online once I sign into my account and view offers. Another alternative is to call your credit card issuer to see if you can use the balance transfer check option over the phone with the help of a customer service representative.
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Finally, you may not receive balance transfer checks when you actually need to use them, or you miss out on an offer. A simple workaround is to consider applying for a balance transfer credit card offering a promotional APR.
Balance transfer checks are an excellent way to manage debt or balances on one or several cards and transfer them over to a credit card offering a promotional APR. These checks arrive via mail, so keep an eye on any letters from your credit card issuers.
By transferring a balance through a check, you can save hundreds on interest fees. However, just like any balance transfer, checks also incur a balance transfer fee. Do the math and determine if the offer is right for you.