Update: The PenFed balance transfer for life offer is no longer available. However, there is one alternative. If you want a 0% offer, Discover now offers one of the best 0% balance transfer deal available, which is good for 18 months.
Balance transfer offers generally provide for a 0% introductory rate for some period of time, typically 6 to 12 months. These cards are perfect for paying off high interest debt, particularly if you can wipe out the debt before the 0% introductory APR offer expires. Some even get multiple 0% cards to stretch out the time they have to pay off the high interest debt a bit.
For some debts, however, it’s clear that you may need significantly more time than 6 to 12 months to retire the debt. For these situations, a low interest balance transfer for life may be the best options. A balance transfer for life deal is basically a low, fixed rate of interest on the amount of the transfer. These offers do generally require a balance transfer fee of about 3%, and come with a fixed rate of interest that is generally about 5% or lower.
Life of balance deals can save you a lot of money, particularly if you are transferring debt from other cards charging 15-20% interest, or more. While these lifetime balance transfer offers were once more common, you can still find these deals today if you know where to look. In fact, there is currently a credit card that offers a 2.99% balance transfer for life. That’s the good news. The not so good news is that the card is offered by a credit union that you may or may not be able to join. We’ll take a look at this life of balance card, and then look at some 0% balance transfer offers just in case you can’t join the credit union.
First, let’s compare balance transfer for life deals with 0% balance transfer offers.
Balance Transfer for Life Versus 0% Balance Transfer Offers
Should you apply for a lifetime low interest balance transfer or a 0% balance transfer offer? The answer depends on why you need to transfer balances and how long it will take you to pay off the debt. Also, keep in mind that many folks apply for both! The goal is to pay as little in interest and fees as possible while you work toward being debt free.
So how do you decide. If you can pay off your debt in 6 to 18 months, the 0% transfer is probably best. There are enough no interest offers out there to easily cover up to 18 months. The Discover More Card offers a 0% deal for 6 months, as does Citibank. As a result, it’s pretty easy to stretch out your debt for a year or so without paying interest. You will have to pay a 3% balance transfer fee, but that’s a lot less than most high interest credit cards.
If you think it will take a lot longer to pay down your debt, however, a low interest lifetime balance transfer may be a good option. While it’s not 0% interest, you can find balance transfer for life deals with interest as low as 2.99% (see below). Even adding a 2 to 3% balance transfer fee results in a deal significantly below the double-digit interest rates charged by most credit cards.
And this is where spreading your debt over more than one balance transfer credit card may make sense. For example, you could transfer a portion of your debt to 0% deals, with the plan of paying off this part of your debt in a year or so, and transferring the remaining, longer term debt to a lifetime balance transfer card. As a practical matter, this may be necessary anyway because you may need get the credit limit you need to cover all your debt from a single balance transfer card.
PenFed Visa Platinum Credit Card 2.99% Balance Transfer for Life
Important Update: The PenFed balance transfer for life is no longer available. However, they do have an excellent cash rewards card that offers a no fee balance transfer with a 4.99% interest rate good for 24 months. Here are the details:
- 13.99% APR – Lower than most rewards cards!
- Earn 2.00% Cash Back on Supermarket Purchases*
- Earn 5.00% Cash Back from Gas Purchases Paid at the Pump*
- Earn 1.00% Cash Back from All Purchases** You Make with the Card During Each Billing Cycle
- No Balance Transfer Fees – Good till April 30, 2010
- Up to $50,000 Limit
- No Annual Fee
- Cash Rewards Credited Each Month
- No Special Restrictions to Earn Your Cash Rewards
- Limited Time Only – Low Balance Transfer Rates†
- You must be a Pentagon Federal Credit Union member to apply. Not a member? It’s easy to join. You must be a United States Government employee, member of the United States Military and Uniformed Services, employee or volunteer of the American Red Cross, member of the National Military Family Association, or a family member/housemate of a current PenFed member.
How to Qualify for the PenFed No Fee Balance Transfer
As I mentioned, not everybody can join PenFed and apply for the card. In fact, you must be a member of one of the following to be able to join PenFed:
- United States Military & Uniformed Services
- Member of an Eligible Association, Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), or the Reserve Officers Association (ROA)
- United States Government Employees
- Family Member or Housemate of somebody who works for one of the above three
- Employee of an Eligible Place of Business
- Employee or volunteer of the American Red Cross
- If you do not fall within in of the above categories, you can join the National Military Family Association (NMFA) in order to become a member with Pentagon Federal Credit Union.