If you need to do a balance transfer when you have poor credit, your options will be limited, but you do still have a few. Here's what to do.

When you have poor credit, your options for a balance transfer can be very limited. There are few credit cards that you can be approved for, but you won’t be able to qualify for the most competitive 0 percent APR balance transfer offers.

But don’t give up hope, there are some options that may still be available to you.

Strategies for balance transfers when you have poor credit

Credit cards for those with poor credit can have very high interest rates, which means that you can save a lot of money by performing a balance transfer to an account with a lower interest rate. Here are a few strategies to get you started.

Check to see if you already have a low interest rate on a card

Your first strategy should be to see if you already have an account with a lower interest rate, perhaps one that was opened before you had poor credit.

A card’s interest rate is determined by the account holder’s creditworthiness when he or she first applied. So if you had better credit when you opened an account, you could still have a relatively low interest rate.

If you have have a card has a significantly lower interest rate, then it can make sense to transfer your balance to the new card. However, just make sure that the account you are transferring to is not with the same card issuer as the account you are transferring from, as this is never allowed.

Improve your credit

Unfortunately, your poor credit will prevent you from opening up accounts with low interest rates, or ones that allow balance transfers.

The better strategy is to try to improve your credit as quickly as possible so that you can qualify for a balance transfer credit card that is available to those with average credit.

Get a “personal loan”

Another strategy can be to consider a balance transfer to an account held by a spouse or another relative that is willing to assist you. Thankfully, most card issuers will let you transfer a balance to another person’s account, with their permission.

And to be clear, the other person will be solely responsible for the repayment of the amount transferred, so it will be as if the account holder will be extending you a personal loan that you will repay to them or their account. Nevertheless, this can be an attractive option, especially between spouses who manage their finances together.

Find a co-signer

Similarly, you could consider opening a new account with a co-signer.

But just like transferring a balance to another person, the co-signer that agrees to the balance transfer will be accepting responsibility for your debt. When an account is opened with a co-signer, both are individually responsible for the repayment of the debt.

This means that if either one fails to make payments, the other is still responsible as if he or she were the sole primary account holder.

Other considerations for balance transfers when you have poor credit

Balance transfer fees

The first thing that you have to think about whenever you are considering a balance transfer are the balance transfer fees.

These fees can be up to five percent of the amount transferred, and are automatically added on to the new balance. Therefore, it may not be worth transferring a balance to get a slightly lower interest rate.

It’s also hard to justify a balance transfer fee when you are planning on paying off the new balance soon, as you will pay the fee upfront while the savings will be realized over several months.

You won’t receive the best credit card benefits

Next, you have to set the proper expectations when applying for a new card when you have poor credit. Nearly all of the cards offered to those with poor credit won’t have a balance transfer option. But most importantly, you can’t expect to qualify for a low interest rate credit card when you have poor credit.

And finally, when you are approved for a new card but have poor credit, you may only receive a small line of credit, perhaps just one or two hundred dollars. This may not save you much money, or help you to get out of larger amounts of debt.

Summary

When you have poor credit, the best options for a balance transfer are to use a third party or a co-signer, and set about rebuilding your credit.

Once your credit has improved, you may then be able to qualify for a useful balance transfer offer, but you shouldn’t expect one with poor credit. By trying one or both of these options, you can use credit card balance transfer to save money on interest while you pay off your debt.

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About the author

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Jason Steele has been writing about credit cards, travel and personal finance since 2008, and is passionate about using his cards to travel for free. Jason contributes to many of the top personal finance and travel sites and has been widely quoted in mainstream media as a credit card expert. Jason lives in Denver Colorado where he enjoys bicycling, snowboarding and flying. You can follow Jason on Twitter, Facebook or on his website.