Happy new year!All of this means that some readers have likely started 2014 with the financial equivalent of a hangover. If you're one of them, don't let your headaches get you down. Unless you were close to the edge of bankruptcy before the holiday season started, you can almost certainly find ways (think of them as Alka-Seltzer for money) to ease your pain. How hard it's going to be to swallow this medicine will likely depend on how big your problems are. So pick and choose from the advice below, and follow the plan that best suits your particular needs.
Balance-transfer credit cardsThe easiest way forward is to shift as much of your plastic debt as you can onto balance-transfer credit cards. At the time of writing, IndexCreditCards.com's listings show a broad range of these products, offering zero-percent APRs for long periods, including some of 18 months. Within a pay-down plan to which you're fully committed, that sort of extended time free of interest could provide you with a useful breather from high-cost debt. However, these products come with special dangers for those who struggle to manage their finances well, and many find they end up owing more when the balance-transfer offer expires than they did at the beginning. So bear that in mind before applying, along with these other considerations:
- Expect to pay a one-time balance transfer fee, usually 3 percent of the sum you transfer.
- Don't use the card for new purchases or other charges while the zero-percent deal is current.
- Your application is unlikely to be approved unless your credit score is in the good-to-excellent range.