I Played the Balance Transfer Game and Won

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The following is a post from Grayson from Debt Roundup. Check out his blog after reading how he paid off $52,000 in credit card debt. Nice work, Grayson!

When you grab the shovel and start digging your way out of $50,000 worth of credit card debt, you will do anything that you see fit in order to minimize the process. As I stared at all of those greedy, plastic cards with my name on them, I decided I would use the cards to my advantage.

Yes, I did use credit to run my way through college and to start an online e-commerce business, but why not try to use them to help me? This is when I decided to lace up my shoes and play the credit card balance transfer game.

How Do Credit Card Balance Transfers Work?

For those of you that don’t know what the balance transfer game is, then here is a quick and dirty breakdown. You take a credit card that has a balance with a high interest rate and transfer it to a lower interest credit card. This saves you a lot of money in the long run if done correctly. It is a pretty easy game to play and here are the rules.

  1. List all of your credit cards and interest rates in order of highest to lowest APR.
  2. List your available credit on each card.
  3. Ask your credit card provider for a balance transfer promotion.
  4. If nothing available, then open up a new balance transfer credit card.
  5. Transfer your highest APR credit card balance onto your balance transfer card.
  6. Pay off your balance transfer card before the promotion period ends.
  7. Win!

What Do I Need To Do To Lower My Interest?

These rules are not really complicated and can be pretty easy to get a handle of. When I played this game, I had a credit card that had a good amount of credit available. I hadn’t seen any balance transfer promotions, so I called the credit card company.

After a few minutes over the phone, I was able to score an 18 month 2.99% promotion. While some of you might think that 2.99% is not that great, I had an average APR of 14%, so this was a big win. I took my highest APR balance and transferred it over while on the phone with the rep.

What About Balance Transfer Fees?

The key to playing and winning the balance transfer game is to make sure that you are not paying a balance transfer fee. This is a very common fee that credit card providers charge to “process” a balance transfer. Many do a set fee or a certain percentage of your balance transfer amount.

I was able to get this fee waived due to the amount I was transferring, but the rep on the phone had to get the manager’s approval.

Make Sure You Don’t Make This Mistake

If you can’t get this fee waived, then make sure you calculate how much you will save by transferring the balance. Another aspect is making sure that you will be able to pay off the full balance by the time the promotion ends. If you don’t, then most balance transfers will retroactively charge you interest on the full balance that you transferred. It will negate the whole process.

Related: Ultimate Guide To Paying Off Credit Card Debt

There are some out there that think balance transfers are not good, but I think they are a useful tool. If you have had as much debt as I, then you will use any tool that is available in your toolbox.

How Many Times Did I Transfer My Balance?

During my four years of paying down credit card debt, I played the balance transfer game 5 times. I would transfer a balance, pay it off, then transfer another balance. I found that when you pay off a credit card, many providers will entice you to come back and spend money. I didn’t want to spend more money, but I did want to use their balance transfer promotions to help me get out of debt.

If you are in debt and need some help paying off your credit cards, then why not try the balance transfer game? It might not decrease the amount of time it takes to pay off your debt, but it will decrease the amount of interest that you pay. Any little bit helps, right?

I played the balance transfer game 5 times and won it each and every time. Those “wins” helped me get through my financial turmoil and right my ship.

Need credit card relief? Check out out the latest balance transfer credit cards and see if you can “WIN” the game too!

Author Bio: Grayson is the owner of Debt Roundup, a personal finance blog dedicated to helping everyone get out of debt. Grayson dug himself out of $50,000 worth of credit card debt and has started to gain positive net worth. Check him out at Debt Roundup.

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
He’s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

27 thoughts on “I Played the Balance Transfer Game and Won”

  1. I have been playing this game for a while and slowly winning. I am not able to pay off the zero percent card before the promotion period ends but I do knock a lot of debt off the card while saving over $1k in interest charges including the transfer fee. Once the period is about to end I find another promotion and transfer that balance and try to combine whatever else I can up to the limit to save more interest.

    • That is how you play the game Alan. It would be more beneficial to only transfer what you can pay off onto the 0%. Make sure you read the terms because some transfers will charge you full interest on the amount you transferred, not the amount you have left.

  2. This sounds extremely risky but the fact that he accomplished it is awesome. I only have 1 credit card and I got it when I was 18 and about once a month the bank asks me if I want to raise my credit limit from that introductory $500 and I have been telling them no for years now. I don’t want $50,000 in credit debt!

    • My credit card debt was from building a business. I made some dumb choices, so I had to make the decision to fix them. Using balance transfers can be risky, but if you don’t take risks in life, you might not be rewarded. I was rewarded with a shorter payoff time and thousands of dollars saved in interest.

  3. Man, getting out of $50,000 in credit card debt without settling any of the balances is pretty impressive. In 2010 I paid off about $75,000 in total debt, but a relatively small percentage was on credit cards.

    It’s funny you mention ‘grabbing a shovel’ when it comes to getting out of debt. When I was paying off my debt, I was only able to do it quickly because I was scrambling to grow my shovel and throw every available penny at the debt.

    Hopefully as everyone is playing the balance transfer game (and winning) they’re also accelerating things as much as possible by earning side money and clobbering debt with it.

    • Well, when you finance a business on credit cards (many of them) you have a lot of chances to play the balance transfer game. I got pretty good at it, so that is why I won. The only way to pay down debt is to earn more money. You can only reduce expenses by so much, but I had to think outside the box to earn more money.

  4. Sounds like a game I never want to play lol. I’ve heard of it before and it makes sense if you can keep up. So basically if they want your business transferring the money they may waive the fee. That makes sense.

    • I only played the game because I had to Mr. CBB! I didn’t want to use any companies because I wanted to be responsible for it, since I caused it. The game is not bad, but it works very well if you have discipline. I didn’t take on any new debt in order to play this game, but I think that is good advice no matter how you pay down debt.

  5. I have heard of balance transfer tactics in order to pay their credit card debts but I haven’t tried this myself.

  6. I love this approach and your analysis, Grayson. Balance transfers are only bad if you run up both credit cards later. I totally agree: use every tool in your toolbox to wring every last dollar of savings out of your strategy.


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