Monday, December 6, 2010

Credit Card Tips and Tricks

I'm going to start this post with a terrible pun. It's already well below freezing here in the center of the country and its not even winter yet. My heating bills are going to be astronomical if this keeps up. Its either that or I'm going to get frozen out, oh well...
Speaking of frozen out, if you haven't been frozen out yet by your credit card company (sorry, that was it(yes, the pun)) I have a suggestion for you.
Back when I had huge credit lines I found that if I paid off a card completely and didn't use it for a short while, that the card company would come after me with a generous interest rate offer. This usually took the form of a balance transfer offer, or the like, and was usually offered at around 4% or so. I would take advantage of these perks once in a while, but at the time my revolving debt was fairly low and my cash flow was quite good.
Now you might say, "well of course the card companies will make offers like that, but only to people with perfect credit." At one time, I would have been much in agreement with you, but since then I have found out differently. Being someone who no longer has a high credit rating (it was VERY low, but its climbing back up now) I have had a few chances to try out whether the card companies will make a similar offer to an average Joe. And guess what? They will.
Not long ago I paid off a very high interest rate card (now I always am up to date on my payments, so these guys love loaning me money at a high rate). Afterward, it didn't take long for the card company to come by and offer me a low interest rate credit card check. In the mean time I had had a small emergency and used the high rate card to pay a necessary bill. So what I did was, I wrote a check (from Company XYZ card) on the credit card account for cash and used the cash to pay off the high interest rate on the same company XYZ. So instead of owing XYZ money at the high interest rate, I now owe them money at the low interest rate (there was a 3% one-time fee for the cash advance, but that is minimal over the long haul).
I can now take my time paying this debt and pay off higher interest rate cards first. I'm sure company XYZ believes I will not have the discipline to pay this off (the lower rate is only good for nine months) before the rate goes up; but that would be underestimating me. I also currently carry some debt at 4% on a major bank credit card. I used the same tactic pretty much getting this set up, too. I just emptied a card and waited for an offer to roll in. And this low interest rate debt has no expiration! As long as I pay on time I'm locked in. I've had this going for over two years now (wow!) and I see it going on a couple more.
Of course, as I said before, I pay all my bills on time and therefore have put myself in a position to be able to exercise these opportunities. If you are behind on your payments then this tactic will not work for you.
But what about being debt free? When will I eliminate credit card debt from my life? After all, that's what this is about, right?
Yes, it is. But right now I'm still in a precarious financial position, though I'm working my way steadily out of it. Carrying debt at a low interest rate is an excellent way of providing needed liquidity, and (as in my current case) is much preferable to carrying debt at a high interest rate. If you are current with your payments (on all your cards) and if you have the liquidity to pay off a card or two, do it, even if it means leaving some higher interest rate card left unpaid. If you play your cards right (oh no, a real pun!) you should find yourself tendered with one of these special offers, and then you can take the special offer cash and pay off the higher rate card (Please, use this money only for this, and for heaven's sake whatever you do, don't spend it!).
Good luck with this, but just remember, you will need to be very disciplined and make all your payments on time in order to reap the benefits of this strategy.

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