Typically you will see banks come out with their best balance transfer offers during the 1st quarter of any given year. Then as the year goes on, you will usually see these offers (a) stay about the same, or (b) become worse/shorter during Q2 thru Q4.
Translation? Q1 is best and then it’s all downhill for the year.
This makes 2013 especially worrisome. Rather than starting the year off with a bang, most credit card companies kept their balance transfer deals the same. They didn’t make ‘em any longer. Nor did you see new promotions for waiving BT fees.
Chase versus the competition?
Back during the first quarter of 2012 and 2011, Discover ran promotions that waived balance transfer fees. In 2013 that didn’t happen. The offers from Citi have stayed the same, giving 0% intro APR for up to 18 months. However, those come with BT fees of 3%. The best you will find from a Bank of America credit card is up to 15 billing cycles, which again, comes with BT fees. Wells Fargo perhaps has the worst offers, which only give 0% for the first 6 months (after you get socked with the 3% transfer fee, what’s the point of that). And American Express? They don’t even do zero percent transfer promotions anymore.
That leaves us with the Chase 0% balance transfer. To the best of my knowledge, it’s the only one on the market in 2013 which comes with no balance transfer fee for the first 60 days.
This is a compelling deal because even though it’s not quite the longest 0% on the market, the money you are saving on transfer fees will more than make up for that.
Think about it… if you moved a $5,000 balance over to another card and had to pay 3%, that equals $150.00 in fees. That’s making your debt larger, not smaller!
However if you have a small balance (say $3,000 or less) than it might make sense to go with a different Chase card to transfer balances. I’m talking about their Freedom card, which comes with a cash back bonus if you make a certain amount of purchases within the allotted time.
The drawbacks with this Chase promotion is that the 0% is shorter than the Slate and you will still have to pay the BT fees. So this one won’t be right for everyone. But if you only have a debt of say $1,000, then the 3% fees on that would be $30. If you earn a bonus of $100, that still puts you ahead by $70.
Obviously though, the math becomes less favorable the higher your debt is. The cut-off point for where the fees exceed the bonus amount is $3,333.33 (for that amount, you would pay $100 in balance transfer fees).
Conclusion? Get better 0% deals with Chase in 2013
As long as these incentives continue, it looks like using a Chase balance transfer will arguably be your best bet in 2013.
And I wouldn’t wait to take advantage of them, because the Federal Reserve has hinted that they may start raising interest rates earlier, as soon as the end of 2013. If that happens, then it will become more expensive for banks to offer 0%. As a result, I’m predicting future promotions will be less lucrative rather than more so.