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Balance transfers are ideal for meeting temporary cash-flow needs. Compare the pros and cons of two popular balance transfer options from Citibank and Standard Chartered.
When a sudden need for cash arises, you have a few options. You can draw from your savings, take out a personal loan, or get a cash advance with your credit card account. While these can answer your immediate cash flow problem, they still have their own drawbacks.
Drawing on your savings can only work if you have enough balance, while applying for a personal loan entails a long-term commitment. With a cash advance, well, besides a hefty fee, you also need to pay the entire sum back within the next billing cycle to avoid high interest charges.
So, is there a way to receive money at short notice, with the flexibility to repay the loan over a few months and comparatively low interest and fees?
Yes, in fact, there is. It’s called a balance transfer, and it can be a powerful tool in managing your cash flow when used wisely.
In this article, we will be taking a look at balance transfer offers by Citibank and Standard Chartered.
How does a balance transfer work?
In a nutshell, a balance transfer is a temporary, short-term loan taken against your credit card limit. Unlike a personal loan, a balance transfer’s interest rate is 0% per annum. This rate applies throughout the balance transfer’s repayment period, which is known as the “interest-free period”.
However, do note that you are charged an admin fee upfront when applying for a balance transfer, which means your cost of borrowing isn’t truly zero.
So, instead of paying a fixed instalment each month, you have the freedom to pay your loan back by the end of the interest-free period. However, you are still required to pay the minimum amount each month, at the very least.
If you fail to repay your loan by the end of the interest-free period, the balance leftover will be charged interest at the same rate as your credit card’s. As you may know, credit card interest rates are among the highest, which should motivate you to avoid this at all costs.
How much can you borrow with a balance transfer?
Typically, you can borrow up to 95% of your credit card’s remaining limit. Hence, a balance transfer wouldn’t be very useful if your card is almost maxed out. Do note that the final amount offered is subject to your credit rating, Total Debt Servicing Ratio, and other relevant factors.
There’s technically no cap as to how long you may borrow, but as mentioned, you would want to avoid high interest rates. Thus, it’s best to pay within the interest-free period. Usually, balance transfers’ have an interest-free period of three to 12 months, depending on your bank’s discretion.
Citibank Balance Transfer vs Standard Chartered Balance Transfer
|Citibank Balance Transfer||Standard Chartered Balance Transfer|
|Interest-free period: 6 months|
Admin fee: 1.58% of balance transfer amount
Borrow up to: As per bank’s offer
Minimum loan: S$500
Minimum payment: 1% of balance, or S$50 (whichever is higher)
|Interest-free period: 3, 6, 9, or 12 months|
Admin fee: 0.7% to 4.5% of balance transfer amount
Borrow up to: 95% of credit limit
Minimum loan: Not stated
Minimum payment: 1% of balance, or S$50 (whichever is higher)
Promotion: Get up to 100% cashback on processing fee. T&Cs apply.
What these products have in common
#1: 0% interest
Both of these balance transfers offer 0% interest loans, which are great for urgent or temporary cash-flow needs.
You may also use these balance transfers to consolidate and pay off credit card balances scattered across different cards. However, this may only be done for different bank accounts (I.e., you cannot use a Standard Chartered Balance Transfer to pay off your Standard Chartered credit card balance).
Using a balance transfer to pay off debts from other credit cards can help you avoid high interest charges.
#2: Suitable as a short-term loan
While both Citibank and Standard Chartered’s balance transfers offer an interest-free period, the benefit is short-lived – six months for Citibank, and up to 12 months for Standard Chartered. Thus, these balance transfer offers are best for people with the capability to pay off loans in a short amount of time.
#3: No early repayment fee
Both balance transfers do not impose an early repayment fee, which gives you the freedom to pay off your loan whenever you’re ready.
How these products differ
#1: Different interest-free periods
Citibank Balance Transfer is offered only on a six-month term, which may or may not be suitable for your needs.
On the other hand, Standard Chartered Balance Transfer offers a higher degree of flexibility. You can choose from four interest-free tenures – 3, 6, 9 or 12 months.
Choose a longer interest-free period if you aren’t confident about paying off your balance transfer on time. Though you’ll be charged a higher admin fee upfront, you have a better chance of avoiding interest charges down the line.
#2: Different admin fees
Both these balance transfers also come with different admin fees. Citibank offers a 1.58% rate (EIR 3.65% per annum) on the balance transfer amount. Meanwhile, Standard Chartered’s admin fee ranges from 0.7% to 4.5% (EIR 2.83% to 4.86% per annum), depending on the duration of the interest-free period. The shorter the interest-free period, the lower the fee.
For a head-to-head comparison, Standard Chartered’s fee is 1.5% (EIR 3.1% per annum) for a six-month period.
#3: Promotional offers
New customers of Standard Chartered will receive between 40% to 100% cashback of the processing fee charged on their balance transfers. At the time of writing, Citibank does not have a promotional offer for its balance transfer programme.
Conclusion: Which balance transfer should you choose?
The main thing to consider with balance transfers is how quickly you can pay your loan back. Should you carry a balance beyond the interest-free period, you are subjected to hefty interest charges. Hence, it is advisable to choose based on your repayment timeline.
If the six-month term happens to be ideal for you, then Standard Chartered’s Cashback offer is a slight notch above Citibank. However, it is still best to compare the overall fees of different balance transfers according to your payment timeline.
Read these next:
Balance Transfer: How Does It Work and Should You Get One?
How a Balance Transfer Can Help You Pay Off Holiday Debt
Unpaid Credit Card Bills? Here’s How Balance Transfer Can Help
Understanding Balance Transfers: How Much Can You Really Save in Interest?
By Alevin Chan
An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.