The devil went down to Georgia, he was looking for a soul to steal.
He was in a bind ‘cos he was way behind: he was willin’ to make a deal.
When he came across this young girl countin’ on her fingers and countin’ ’em hot.
And the devil jumped upon a hickory stump and said: “Girl, let me tell you what:
“I bet you didn’t know it, but I’m a finger counter, too.
“And if you’d care to take a dare, I’ll make a bet with you.
“Now you count some pretty good fingers, girl, but give the devil his due:
“I bet a fiddle of gold against your soul, ‘cuz I think I’m better than you.”
You’ve got Charlie Daniels running through your head, you’re going to have some finger-counting problems, and I do. I’ve been spending the morning (well, about forty-five minutes) working on a math problem (with breaks for surfing the Internet) trying to decide what to do with a credit card balance that just graduated from its no-interest promotional fee to the default Screw You situation.
It actually graduated two statements ago, but because I don’t receive statements in the mail and I’ve been paying online from my checking account bank and we don’t use the account for new purchases, I missed it until today. And today I was only over there because I was confused about a payment I was sure I’d made last week to the account that hadn’t posted to my online checking account yet, but that was because of the Presidents’ Day holiday on Monday and you don’t have to worry about that.
What we have to worry about is math:
Pilar has 56% of a debt accruing interest at 9.9%, and 44% of a debt accruing interest at 8.9%. She has received two balance transfer offers: Transfer 56% of the debt to a 2.99%, or transfer 100% of the debt to accrue interest at 0%, but for a 3% balance transfer fee. Which offer will save her the most money?
Annoying math, but not particularly tricky, until you get to this part:
Will the amount of money she saves be worth more or less the hassles and headaches she might endure while trying to deal with a new bank with punitive penalties for late payments?
I already bank with Navy Federal Credit Union, an institution that has excellent customer service and fantastic and reliable web access, and that has a good deal of trust for its account holders. Once, when we’d sold a car to some person via a classified ad, I’d deposited a large check and had started writing checks off of it right away. (I know, it was a little bit stupid to do that before it cleared, but I wasn’t really worried about the guy bouncing the check. I also had a newborn baby in my arms.) Guess what? There was a rule about large deposits being held for ten days before the funds could be released to your account. Guess what? When I bounced a large check a week after the deposit date and complained to the bank, they apologized, explained the rule, and said that because I’d been a member of the credit union for so long, they’d release the funds immediately and cleared it up with the check payee. Wasn’t that amazing? So here’s this wonderful bank that is offering to carry the burden of 56% of my debt at a drastically reduced rate, and all assets and obligations would be in one place that I’m all signed into already and everything is hunky dory. I’m annoyed enough by this offer of a no-interest rate transfer with a 3% transfer fee (3%!) that I’m thinking it’s just not worth it to bring another credit card company into the mix.
And then–just because I don’t know how to leave well enough alone, and because that golden fiddle sure looks pretty–I go looking for no-interest balance transfer offers online, and stumble across Discover Card’s, which has no interest and no transfer fee, and harsh, harsh penalties for late payments. Harsh ones. Way more punitive than anything I could ever encounter at Navy Federal. And I’m not a flake, but when I end up paying bills that are housed at other websites and I turn off paper statements–even if I select email reminders–those bills get away from me sometimes. I’ve paid things late. There are penalties along the lines of 100% of the balance being upped to 23% interest at the first offense, and these are just the penalties advertised in the fat print on the promotional page, before you start the application process and get all the information.
If I transfer all the balances to this card, I could save a $1000 in interest over the course of the year. (Yeah, yeah, now you smartypants can all go figure out my debt and laugh at my shame.) I don’t know about you guys, but $1000 is a not-insignificant amount of money to me. If I’m lucky, I can set up the bill within my online bill pay service, and I’ll get reminders right from the website that I already know and love, and won’t make any late payments, and even if I do and incur the penalties, well, my credit union to which I have always been loyal up to this point will accept my balance back again, right?
Karen, you resin up your bow and count your fingers hard.
‘Cuz hell’s broke loose in Georgia and the devil deals the cards.
And if you win you get this shiny fiddle made of gold.
But if you lose, the devil gets your soul.
I’m gonna risk it. Wish me luck! And if you’ve got any Discover Card horror stories, keep ’em to yourself. It’s between me and the devil now.