Balance Transfer Dating Guide

By Ben Edwards. Last updated 2 December 2011. 1 comment
Photo: bigbirdz

What can the dating world teach us about credit card balance transfers? Think about the worst break-up you’ve ever gone through, and how you felt afterward. You probably didn't want to see your ex, hear from them, or ever think about them again, right?

If you wanted a chance to wipe the slate clean and move on, that’s how many people feel about credit card balance transfers and the debt that goes along with them. They’re looking for a chance to escape the stress and turmoil they’re going through, even if it’s only temporary.

Unfortunately credit card debt, like an old flame, can hang around for a while unless you take steps to rid your life of it. Here are a few things I learned in the dating world (before marrying my lovely wife, of course) that might help you get the most out of a balance transfer. (See also: Why Do a Credit Card Balance Transfer, and How?)

1. Cut Your Ex Out of Your Life

What's one of the first things you do when you break off a relationship? Cut your ex out of your life, right? You might unfriend her on Facebook, take her number out of your phone, and cut her face out of any pictures you had together.

Well, you want to do the same with the old credit card you transferred your balance from. Cut it up. Closing the card can have implications for your credit score, so research that first, but definitely chop up the card so you won't use it again.

2. Break Old Habits

Often when you end a relationship it's good to switch up your daily routine so you're not reminded of your ex. Even if it was a bad break up, you may get teary eyed when you hear a song, eat at a certain restaurant, or go to a store you frequently visited together. When you break up, you need to move on and avoid the things you used to do together.

Breaking old habits is probably the most important thing you can do after you transfer a credit card balance. You've bought yourself 6 to 18 months of relief to pay off your debt; you certainly don’t want to add any more. Leave the old, debt-creating habits behind.

What type of credit card are you interested in?
How much do you spend per month?
Do you carry a balance?

3. Beware the Rebound Relationship

Rebound relationships can be a problem because sometimes you’re not really ready for another relationship; you still need time to deal with the baggage from the last one. Unfortunately, the nature of balance transfers means you're already in a rebound relationship. You just left one credit card for another.

Whatever you do, don't let it get serious. Call it what it is: a fling. You're using the card for its low interest rate; you're not looking to get involved with a new balance. Don't spend any more money on your card while you still have a balance to pay.

4. Learn from Your Ex

The more painful your relationship with your old credit card was, the longer you'll likely stay out of the credit card market. It may be that you'll remain celibate forever. However, if the allure of zero percent interest or earning cash back on your purchases puts you back on the market, then you'll want to avoid making the same mistakes again when choosing a credit card.

We’ve all known people who, for some reason, can’t seem to stay away from the "bad boy" or “bad girl” in their relationships. Well, high interest rates and hidden fees will break your heart every time, so there’s no reason to fall for the same bad card twice.

Make sure you get to know everything about a new card before filling out an application. Are there any hidden fees that you didn't see on the first date that could pop up once you get your first bill?

5. Don’t Ruin Your Reputation

No one wants to be known as the one who “gets around” when it comes to dating. Turns out the same is true with your credit score. No bank wants to lend money to someone with a history of card churn, especially if you’re carrying a lot of baggage (i.e. debt) around with you. As you move from one balance transfer card to the next, your credit history reflects the moves, so go easy on the card hopping.

Are there any other balance transfer tips that I missed?

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One other tip to mention--look at the fine print of the balance transfer offers. If you are a few days late on a payment, does the rate skyrocket? If you are late on a payment to ANOTHER credit card, does the rate rise (that's the universal default clause)? Are you sure you are in good health and that your job is secure? If not, and something unexpected and unavoidable happens and you aren't able to make the minimum payments, it could be financially devastating.