A balance transfer credit card is one that comes with a low introductory annual percentage rate or 0% APR, which you may qualify for depending on your credit. This introductory APR is, of course, limited to a certain period of time, typically around 12 months or longer. The benefit of these cards is that you can transfer balances from high-interest cards and then pay the debt down during the intro period without paying for expensive interest costs, allowing you to better manage and pay off your debts.

That said, you can expect to pay a balance transfer fee, though fees will typically cost you less than you’d be paying in interest. Balance transfer fees are usually 3 to 5 percent of the balance you are transferring, or a flat fee of around $50, often whichever is higher.

Knowing how to get longer balance transfer periods can be a game-changer for your financial management. Read on to find out how to get longer balance transfer periods with credit cards so you can pay down your debt once and for all.

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What Are Common 0% Balance Transfer Periods?

Most credit cards that offer a low introductory APR for balance transfers do so with two time periods involved. First, there’s the time period by which you must make the balance transfer. Some cards require transfers to be made within the first few months of opening the account for the introductory offer to apply.

Second, there’s the time period where the low or 0% APR applies. These offers can be for as short as a few months to as long as two years. Most tend to be 12, 15, 18 or even 21 months, depending on the card. The tricky thing with credit cards is that they do tend to change their products and product terms more often than you’d think so you have to keep an eye out for major changes.

The length of the introductory APR period is critical to maximizing the benefits of the offer. For example, if you have a balance on an existing card of $1,500 and you can only afford to pay $100 a month on it, you should look for a transfer card with at least a 15-month introductory period. Timing is crucial because, if you can’t pay down the outstanding debt in time, then another APR will kick in. Stay on top of the time period because the credit card issuer is unlikely to remind you when the 0% APR window ends.

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How to Get Longer Balance Transfer Periods

The key to getting longer balance transfer periods really is shopping around. Doing your research can mean the difference between a card that offers 12 months 0% APR and one that offers 21 or even 24 months 0% APR. Research the best credit cards for balance transfers to make sure you don’t just settle on any credit card. Also, pay attention to annual fees. If a card offers a longer 0% APR period but has a $100 annual fee, it might not be the right fit.

Another important point with 0% APR balance transfers is that you can lose this benefit, often by mistake or not paying attention. For instance, after you have made the balance transfer, you still have to make the minimum monthly payment on the card before the due date otherwise you’ll lose the 0% APR. Of course, if you get knocked with a late payment, you’ll not only lose the introductory APR — you could also get hit with the penalty APR, which is always a higher rate than the standard APR.

Do your research, find the offer that best matches your needs and start with that. And throughout the process and once you have your credit card, be diligent and stay on top of your spending to maximize the benefits of a 0% APR balance transfer card. All your hard work could be wasted if you get back into old habits and start charging new purchases to your card. Keep in mind that a balance transfer is about paying off debt, not taking on new debt.

See: How to Maximize Credit Card Rewards

Transferring Balances More Than Once

It is possible to extend your balance payment over a longer period. The main way to do this is if you can string two balance transfer offers back-to-back.

For example, if you owe $5,000 on a high-interest credit card and you want to use the balance transfer game to pay your debt down faster, you might transfer that balance to a card with 0% APR on transfers for up to 15 months.

To pay the balance off during that 15 months, you’d need to pay $334 a month. But this could not be enough. For instance, if you can only afford $200 a month, then at the end of the 15 months, you still owe $2,000. If you can get another balance transfer card with a 12-month period of 0% APR, however, you could transfer the $2,000 to it and finish paying it off without ever paying interest on the balance.

You would have to pay the balance transfer fee twice, which is typically 3 to 5 percent of the amount being transferred. However, that is still a lot less than potential interest, so this method can work as long as you do detailed research and time everything just right.

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