Many Americans struggle to manage credit card debt. If you have accumulated high balances, either because of overspending or because of circumstances beyond your control, you’re likely feeling stressed by your debt. With many credit cards carrying high interest rates, it may feel like you will never pay off the balances.

How Balance Transfer Cards Work
If you have good credit, you may qualify for a balance transfer card with a low interest rate. A balance transfer allows you to move your balance from one or more credit cards to a card with lower interest. The lower interest rate will last for a specified period of time. After that, it will jump significantly. The new rate might even be higher than the interest rate you were trying to escape.

When you transfer a balance, the credit card company that is accepting the transfer will charge you a fee that is a percentage of the amount transferred. This one-time fee will likely be much less than you would have paid if you had continued to accrue interest on a monthly basis with your old card.

Reasons to Choose a Balance Transfer
By transferring your balance from a card with a high interest rate to one with low or no interest, you may be able to pay off your debt faster and save thousands of dollars in the long run. If you have balances on several cards with different interest rates and due dates, it can be hard to manage multiple payments. By consolidating your balances, you can have one monthly payment with a lower interest rate on the total balance. You might also be able to transfer other debts, such as loans for vehicles or appliances.

Things to Consider
If you decide to transfer a balance, you should plan to pay it off in the period of time allotted before the interest rate goes up. If you don’t, you could find yourself crushed by high interest rates again.

If you transfer a balance and your old card has a zero balance, you should avoid using it to buy things, which would only lead to a new debt at a high interest rate. You should avoid making new charges on the card to which you transferred a balance because the issuer will likely charge a high interest rate for new purchases.

Is a Balance Transfer Right for You?
A balance transfer credit card can help you eliminate debt if it’s used responsibly. If you have good credit, look for a card with a low interest rate and fee and a long repayment period. Plan to pay off the balance in that amount of time to escape the weight of debt. If you think having a credit card with a zero balance would tempt you to spend more, lock up your high-interest credit cards so that you can’t use them unless there is a true emergency. With some smart decisions and dedication, you can achieve your goal of eliminating credit card debt.