If you have a credit card (or two) in your wallet, you’ve likely heard of a balance transfer, which allows consumers to shuffle debt from card to another.
They’ve been around a long time, and are used by credit card issuers to drum up business, typically by offering new cardholders 0% APR for some promotional period.
Of course, once that 0% APR runs out, so to speak, the newly acquired customer must pay finance charges to the new issuer, assuming they still have an outstanding balance.
This, in a nutshell, is how credit card issuers play the balance transfer game (and win).
Up until recently, those who wanted to execute a balance transfer had to fill out a credit card application and indicate which balances they wanted paid off and transferred to the new issuer.
But thanks to a recently acquired patent, U.S. Patent No. 8,483,473 to be exact, consumers are now be able to transfer credit card balances via their smartphones, simply by snapping a photo.
Welcome to the Future Today
The so-called “mobile balance transfer” was developed by Mitek, a mobile imaging software provider based out of San Diego, California.
The company also created mobile deposit technology, which allows bank customers to cash checks simply by taking a photo, along with mobile billpay and mobile photo quoting for insurance.
Anyway, back to the mobile balance transfer. At the moment, only one company is offering it, San Diego County Credit Union (SDCCU).
Here’s how their system works:
1. Download Easy Balance Transfer App (iPhone or Android)
2. Use SDCCU username and password to log in (must be a customer)
3. Take photo of bottom of payment stub from a different issuer’s credit card bill
4. Hit submit to process balance transfer
As you can see, transferring a balance is a “snap!” But seriously, it appears to be pretty easy. Of course, you shouldn’t go with a SDCCU balance transfer just because it’s easy.
First off, it’s really not that difficult or time-consuming to execute a balance transfer online. You simply fill out a form, which includes providing your current credit card issuer’s information.
Sure, you have to use a keyboard and do some typing. And yes, the mobile balance transfer is cool, but from what I can see, SDCCU only offers 0% APR for about eight months (until March 1, 2014).
And they charge a 2.5% balance transfer fee, which admittedly is lower than the standard 3% fee most card issuers charge, but not as good as Slate’s No Fee Balance Transfer offer.
So anyone looking to transfer a balance should really shop around, as opposed to just using this innovative technology for its coolness factor.
Yes, it’s convenient and futuristic, but it’s not really all that necessary. And if they’re not offering the best deal, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Of course, if it becomes an option for all balance transfers in the future, it’ll save people some time, and could reduce errors as well.