** Credit card balance transfers-game over…

Credit card balance transfers –  game over…

If playing the balance transfer game with my credit cards were an Olympic sport, I would have taken the gold. For 15 years I played and mastered how to beat the credit card companies at their own game. It started innocently enough with a simple offer in the mail one day.

Transfer your high credit card balances to us, 0% interest for 18 months. NO interest, really? I can do that. Now at that particular time I had not a credit card balance, but I was bound determined to get one alright. But what would I buy? I was already pretty frugal and did not need anything at the moment. So I came up with the bright idea that I would buy an investment. Now I am not talking about some collectible that I was willing to bank on increasing in value in the future. No, I was way too conservative for that. I knew that MONEY made money. So I needed to invest in money. But credit cards were only for purchasing things. Things that one could touch and hold, or an experience that one could buy. You cannot just buy money. Wrong.

The first thing I did was order what was known as convenience checks. These are the checks that you actually write to someone or yourself and they can be cashed, just like money. Now back in the day my particular credit card company did not charge a fee for one to write and cash these checks. It was free money. Well, not entirely. As soon as the check was cashed the interest clock started.

While waiting for my checks to arrive i applied for my first 0% offer. I was quickly accepted (I had and still do have excellent credit, mainly due to my OCD tendencies than any other reason). The checks arrived shortly after, in which I promptly wrote out my first for $5000. Putting it in an envelope I quickly mailed it off to my mutual fund company with the request to purchase $5000 worth of xyz, which they did.

Now I had a credit card balance of $5000. Next I contacted my new credit card company and told them that I needed to take advantage of their 0% offer, would they please transfer my balance. I figured out the monthly payment needed to pay this off within the 18 month time frame, approximately $275 month, worked it into my budget, and diligently began paying this loan off.

When the 18 months were up, I was debt free again. So guess what, I did the same thing again. Only this time i took $10,000. Now the 10 took a little longer to pay off so when the 0% expired at one card, I sent it to another, and then another, all keeping it at 0% the whole time. Eventually this amount was paid off too.

How fun this is. What if I did the same thing to buy some nice new furniture for the house, oh, and a hot-tub…I could take vacations for free and so it went, and it quickly spiraled out of control. I loaded my credit cards and myself, down with stuff, and the sad part, I was not really concerned about it. It was all bought on 0% interest. Buy, buy, buy–pay whatever, whenever it does not matter (well as long as you at least made the minimum payment that is, which I did). Now by this point I had graduated to just swiping my card.

Then the credit card companies wised up. Not on me, well, yes on me. On me and all the other individuals that figured this game out and were playing along.

And they changed the rules on us….

Suddenly there were no more FREE convenience checks.

You want cash do you, well it is going to cost you– slap: here is the fee.

Transfer a balance sure, we will give you 0% –slap: but we now want a transfer fee.

In the beginning I played by their rules. I just will not use your convenience checks, so there. Your balance transfer fees I can live with, really what is $25-50 a pop when I am getting $10,000 worth of interest free for 18 months. So I played on, racking up more and more. And when the credit card companies saw that they were not scaring us, they upped the ante. The transfer fees started being based on the total amount of debt that you wished to transfer. Now transferring $10,000 was going to cost you 1, 2-5% of the amount.

Game Over, for me anyway

This was no longer a walk in the park. Now it began costing me and i did not like it. And I as took a long look around at all that I had done I knew it was time to get out this. So I set my sights on paying this mess off as soon as possible with the least amount of wreckage left behind. By now I had a considerable amount that I had to deal with and I knew each time I had to transfer from company to company it was going to cost me. So my husband and I decided (you did not know he was part of this equation did you, well now you do), anyway, we decided to throw every bit of money that we could at this and thus only having to transfer a few times (which was extremely painful mind you) we finally retired from the game.

And while I miss playing the sport dearly I know had I stayed on the team, I was heading only to be sidelined with a major injury.

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