Yes, I promise I’ll write about other stuff in a bit. But I just got e-mailed a link to another site which talks about credit card balance transfers:
The kind souls at Discover sent me a similar offer a few weeks ago: zero percent on any balance transfer, good for the next twelve months. The catch (which I almost missed):
You must make at least one purchase per month on the card for the promotional rate to stay in effect on any transferred balances.
The writer muses that there could be some ways to get around it, things like charging a pack of Bubble Gum monthly and pay negligible interest. But the thing is that it’s hidden in the fine print.
Obviously, it’s really hard and annoying to read the fine print on all your credit card offers and such. But the way the system is set up, you have little choice. If you’re going to use a credit card—whether for cash back, because you feel that credit is important to your lifestyle, for balance transfers and debt repayment, for arbitrage, anything—you have to read it.
It’s like any tool. You wouldn’t start using a chainsaw without using instructions. That’d make you liable to end up like the kid in Robert Frost’s disturbing poem “Out, Out.”
If you have a hard time following the fine print, consider using a highlighter on the important stuff. Or jot down some notes like “interest for purchases: x%, interest for balance transfer: y%, fee for balance transfer $20, etc.