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Low Interest Credit Cards: Savior or Devil?

Low Interest Credit Cards: Savior or Devil? - Of course, the title is an exaggeration on both sides. Credit cards are neither your salvation nor a destroyer. They are a tool, and how you use that tool is up to you.

It can be used for the sake of convenience, for online shopping and the dozen other uses for which it was designed. Or, it can become a means of increasing your debt to absurd levels and cause you to pay painful amounts of unnecessary interest every month.

Low Interest Credit Cards: Savior or Devil?

Many who let credit card debt get out of control see debt consolidation as the way out. They are often presented with a stack of offers to reduce their credit card debt by consolidating all their debt onto one credit card.

But those offers, though they frequently tout 'lower interest rates' should be viewed with a skeptical eye. Those lower interest rates are usually only available to a select few with very good credit ratings. That doesn't apply to the typical person who is struggling to overcome a history of excessive debt and find a way out.

But, they can offer a way to solve the problem over the long term. You may, in fact, be able to qualify - the only way to be sure is to apply. But even if you're accepted, there are several key items to keep in mind when considering this solution.

Very rarely will such credit card offers lower the actual amount of principal outstanding. As a result, you have exactly the same amount of debt on the day you acquire the new card. And, over the long term you will actually sometimes pay more.

A lower interest rate can, indeed, be a benefit. But lowering the rate doesn't always mean lowering the total amount. If you pay 8% on a debt of $10,000 for, say, five years you will pay more than paying 10% on $10,000 for two years.

The reason is the compounding effect of interest. The total amount of interest paid in the first case is $2165.60. The net interest rate overall is 21.656% when calculated as the percentage paid beyond the principal. In the second case, you pay only $1074.80, with a net interest rate of 10.748%. 

Remember the 8% vs 10% are the APR in each scenario – the annual percentage rate, this is the rate for a one year period – not the total percentage of interest.

Of course, the upside is that in the case of 8% over five years, you pay only $202.76 per month, in the second case you pay $461.45 per month. Many will find the former payment easier to manage than the latter. And, you may be able to find some middle ground. Calculators available online will help you run through the different scenarios, in order to guide you to choosing the one that's best for you.

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