0% Balance Transfer and 0% APR Promotional Periods
Not so long ago, the 0% balance transfer promotional periods were introduced in the credit card industry. The idea was that for a period of time (Usually 6 months) the credit card company would not charge interests over unpaid balances transferred from other credit cards. Sometimes, this offer came together with a 0% APR promotional period too, which implied that there was no interest rate for purchases either.
These offers draw attention to many credit card holders who immediately turned to credit cards that featured this benefit. In a short amount of time almost all credit card companies where offering this kind of cards.
Smart people saw a great opportunity, they could keep transferring the balance from one card to another just before the promotional period ended, so getting free finance for an uninterrupted period of time. This was immediately noticed by credit card issuers who limited this practice in many different ways.
Balance Transfer Fees and other Charges
The solution that the credit card industry implemented consists on charging a fee (instead of an interest rate) for balance transfers. The idea of 0% balance transfer is lost since, although there is no interest rate, transferring the balance from one card to another is no longer free of charge.
Moreover, in order to cover their costs, credit card issuers charge other fees and costs. In order to compensate for the 0% interest rate on balance transfers, this kind of credit cards come with higher issuing fees, renovation fees, maintenance fees, penalty fees and so on.
Also, when the promotional period has ended, the interest rate charged for financing the unpaid balance can be extremely high, almost abusive. It can even double the interest rate charged by regular credit cards for the same purpose.
Credit Card Surfing
This practice, which consists on transferring the credit card balance from one credit card to another taking advantage of the 0% promotional periods, can be used and is still used by many people who have large balances. The fee charged for transferring higher balances is that, not that onerous.
Neverheless, you should know this is a risky practice, because if for some reason, it can not be performed on time, the interest charged for financing the unpaid balance may be too high and you could easily exceed the credit card limit incurring in penalty fees and higher interest rates.
So, if you decide to take advantage of this feature and transfer your balance from one credit card to another, make sure to read the fine print of your credit card contract and watch for hidden fees that may turn such transaction too onerous and useless.