Got credit card debt? Consider transfer

Consumer Reports finds best credit cards for people with big debt

Published On: Sep 27 2012 05:49:57 PM CDT   Updated On: Sep 27 2012 05:56:15 PM CDT

The economy may still be wavering, but not the banks. They're still sending consumers plenty of credit card offers with enticing rewards, cash-back offers, and low interest rates.

Consumer Reports just analyzed more than 50 cards, including ones that are good for those struggling to pay off their credit card debt.

Robert Muthumbi says he hasn't bought his kids a Christmas tree in two years and eating out is a rare treat, all in an effort to chip away at a $10,000 credit card debt.

"I've been really making efforts to pay them down, two or three times more than what the minimum payment that is due," he said.

But with interest rates on his cards at 16 and 22 percent, he's barely making a dent.

For families like the Muthumbis, Consumer Reports recommends transferring the balances to a card with a lower APR.

"You can often find cards with very low interest rates, even down to zero, for balance transfers. But look carefully at the terms because they can vary a lot from card to card," Greg Daugherty, Consumer Reports, said.

You're often charged a balance transfer fee, usually three to four percent up front, and the zero percent or low APR often lasts only 12 to 18 months.

Consumer Reports found the Chase Slate card is good for people who can pay off the balance quickly. It has zero interest for 15 months and no transfer fees in the first 60 days.

"But if you calculate that you won't be able to pay off your debt that quickly, you're better off with a card with a low, fixed interest rate," Greg Daugherty said.

Consumer Reports found one of the best such credit cards is the PenFed Promise. It currently has a low APR of 4.99 percent on transfers made before the end of the year and has no balance transfer fee. Be aware you need to be a member of the PenFed credit union, which can cost $15.

If Robert does transfer his balances, Consumer Reports recommends he try to get another card for any new purchases. He'll need to pay that one off in full every month to avoid going deeper in debt.

If you pay off your credit card bills each month, Consumer Reports says a better choice for you is a card that offers rewards or cash back.

A good choice is American Express Blue Cash Preferred. If you pay a $75 annual feed, you get six percent back at supermarkets, three percent back on gas and at department stores and one percent back everywhere else.