Many people don't know what balance transfers are or how to use them, so they don't utilize this great credit card feature. That is unfortunate, since balance transfers can be a key tool in keeping your finances stable. Balance transfers are generally easy; credit card issuers can walk you through the process over the phone whether you are signing up for a new card or using a balance transfer credit card you already have. Some issuers even allow you to do a balance transfer online. If you ever find yourself in any of these situations, you should consider doing a balance transfer:

1. I normally pay in full but can't this month.

If you know that you can't pay your monthly credit card statement in full and will be carrying a balance, you should consider a balance transfer so you can avoid paying interest. Most of the top balance transfer cards offer a 0% intro APR for up to a year and half, which gives you plenty of time to pay off your balance without being charged interest. If you have good credit, there is no reason you should be paying interest on your credit card balance.

Which balance transfer credit card to use: Slate from Chase. This is the best balance transfer credit card around. It offers 0% APR for 15 months, which gives you plenty of time to pay off your balance, plus it has no balance transfer fee. So it costs you nothing to transfer your balance. It also has no annual fee, so you truly aren't paying anything extra for this card. If you need a little extra time to pay off your balance, you could try the Citi Simplicity Card, which offers a 0% intro APR for 18 months but does have a 3% balance transfer fee.

2. I always carry a balance.

If you are constantly carrying a balance on your credit card, it can feel like all you are doing is paying off the interest you are charged each month. You are basically putting tiny band-aids on a deep cut. What you need to do is find a credit card with a lower APR. While credit cards offer a 0% intro APR for up to a year and a half, that time frame is not enough for some. Even if you plan on carrying a balance for years, you can probably get a much lower APR.

Which balance transfer credit card to use: Barclaycard Ring Mastercard. This credit card has one of the lowest ongoing APR that we've seen, at 8%.  It also has no balance transfer or annual fees, so you won't be charged anything for using the card. If you will be able to pay off your balance with a year or so, we recommend the Slate from Chase credit card, with a 0% intro APR for 15 months and no balance transfer fee, or the Citi Simplicity card, with a 0% intro APR for 18 months.

3. I carry a balance but also want to earn rewards for new purchases.

If you want to get the most out of your new balance transfer credit card, you should pick a credit card that also offers great rewards. In addition to a 0% intro APR for extended periods, many credit cards are also offering cash back and point intro bonuses, as well as ongoing rewards for your everyday purchases. If you are getting a new card to transfer your balance, why not also make a little extra money?

Which balance transfer credit card to use: Either Discover it or Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express (a NextAdvisor advertiser). The Discover it card has a longer intro period, with a 0% intro APR for 18 months, although it does have a 3% balance transfer fee. With rewards, it offers 5% cash back on purchases within select categories and 1% on all other purchases. Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express offers a 0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers, although they have a 3% balance transfer fee. As far as rewards, the card offers 3% cash back at US supermarkets, 2% cash back on US gas and select department stores and 1% cash back on other purchases. Neither card has an annual fee.

4. I carry a balance on multiple cards and pay interest on all of them.

Why go through the pain of paying a bunch of different bills each month? You can kill two birds with one stone by transferring all of your credit card balances to one credit card. Not only does it make life easier by cutting down on the amount of bills you get, but it can also cut out all of that extra interest you are paying if you find a card with a great 0% intro APR or a really low ongoing APR.

Which balance transfer credit card to use: Citi Simplicity Card. You aren't paying much of anything for this card. It has a 0% intro APR for 18 months, which is the longest intro period we've seen. Plus, there are no late fees, no penalty fees and no annual fees … ever. There is, however, a 3% balance transfer fee. If you have a large balance and don't want to pay a balance transfer fee, you could also try the Slate from Chase card.

5. My current credit card just upped my APR.

If you've got good credit, the credit card companies are falling over themselves to get your business. Don't be held hostage by your credit card. Get a new one. If you have a 0% intro APR that just expired, you may also be able to transfer to a new one. However, doing this over and over without making a dent in your balance may be a bad sign to lenders. Still, if you can do it, it will probably save you a lot in interest payments.

Which balance transfer credit card to use: Any balance transfer credit card. If you aren't carrying a large balance and all you wan to do is switch to a card with a lower APR, the world is your oyster when it comes to balance transfer cards. To pick the card that is right for you, check out our Balance Transfer Calculator to find the best credit card for your needs.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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