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Tips on Balance Transfer Credit Cards During Covid-19

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What we’ll cover:

If you’ve been chipping away at debt this year (good for you!) you may have considered a balance transfer credit card to help whittle it down.

But like so many things in 2020, a few things have changed when it comes to these types of cards, including their terms and rates. Some issuers might not even be offering them anymore. 

Familiarizing yourself with these changes might be helpful as you think about how you want to tackle your credit card debt. We’ll also go over some potential alternatives if a balance transfer card is no longer, well, in the cards for you!

Here are some things that are going on in the world of balance transfer credit cards and why it matters, especially if you’re hoping to knock down your credit card balances.

Quick: What is a balance transfer credit card?

If you’re reading this article, you might already be familiar with balance transfer credit cards. (You also might be wondering how many times we’re going to spell out “balance transfer credit card” in this piece. We know, it’s a mouthful!) 

A balance transfer credit card is a card that you transfer your debt to in order to take advantage of a promotional 0% APR (or at least, an APR lower than what you’re currently being charged) offered for a limited time. So yes, it’s pretty much exactly what the name would have you believe. 

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Balance transfer credit cards can be a helpful option for folks carrying a fair amount of credit card debt who don’t want to keep paying their current high APRs. 

Challenges with balance transfer credit cards in Covid-19

If you’ve been in the market for a balance transfer credit card offer, you may have realized that there seem to be less available balance transfer card offers these days. And if you had a hunch that it’s got something to do with Covid, well, you could be right.

In times of economic uncertainty, issuers tend to be a little more picky about who they extend credit to.

In the early stages of the pandemic (and the financial stresses that have accompanied it) credit card issuers started tightening standards for cardholders. Many raised the minimum required credit score and lowered credit limits for new cardholders. 

And that’s not unusual. In times of economic uncertainty, issuers tend to be a little more picky about who they extend credit to. 

With that said, some bad news: Some issuers stopped offering balance transfer offers all together. Additionally, some rewards credit cards that previously offered 0% APR intro periods on purchases and balance transfers have gotten rid of the transfer option. 

And of the rewards cards still offering an intro 0% APR period for balance transfers, many have shortened the length of said 0% APR period.

Alternatives to balance transfer credit cards

If you’ve been in the market for a balance transfer card but haven’t been able to score one, know there are other alternatives you could look into to help pay off debt

Personal loans

If you have debt across multiple credit cards, a personal loan might be a helpful alternative if you’re not able to get a balance transfer card offer. A personal loan can still help you consolidate that debt into one monthly payment.

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Instead of juggling several payments and due dates, with a personal loan you’ll only have one bill and due date. (This will hopefully make it easier to avoid possible late fees, too.) 

Try to negotiate a lower APR from your issuer

After the Federal Reserve cut interest rates this year, the APR on your credit card may have already dropped. If it didn’t, or you’d like to try for something even lower, you could try to negotiate it down with your credit card issuer. 

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, many issuers are offering credit card relief programs to cardholders who’ve been affected. The hardship relief programs can include lower APRs and waived late payment fees. Reach out to your issuer directly to discuss your options.

Cut back on spending and prioritize debt repayment

We understand this is not a groundbreaking suggestion, but still worth pointing out in the case you want to just keep your existing credit card. Check out your monthly expenses and see if there are any things you can cut to focus on paying off your debt first and foremost. 

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional advice. Articles on this site were commissioned and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs®, but may not reflect the institutional opinions of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Goldman Sachs Bank USA or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions.