It’s now possible to get balance transfer cards with as many as 18 or even 22 months interest-free. If you’ve racked up a lot of credit card debts, then transferring your balances to one of these cards could be a great way to consolidate your debt. Plus, you’d have all those months interest free to repay or at least pay down your debt. But important things exist you need to know before you rush off to apply for one of these cards.

It’s not the same as paying off your debts

There are definite benefits to transferring your credit card debts to a 0% interest balance transfer card, but it’s not the same as repaying your debts. All you’re really doing is moving one set of debts to a new card. Here’s an example of what this could mean. Let’s suppose you’ve been paying 13% interest on a $2000 credit card debt. In this case, you’d have to pay $347 monthly for 6 months to repay the debt. However, if you transfer that $2000 to a 0% interest card your payments would be just $334, a savings of $77 in interest. This means the only real benefit from a balance transfer is the money you’d save over the long haul – assuming you repay your entire balance before your introductory period ends.

It would make your financial life simpler

It can be tough trying to keep track of multiple payments that are all due on different days of the month, and that have different minimum payments. Transferring their balances to a new, 0% transfer card would mean remembering just one payment a month. This should definitely make your financial life simpler.

You’ll be charged a fee

You’ve probably heard the old expression that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Balance transfers aren’t free, either. You will almost certainly be charged a balance transfer fee, which likely will be a percent of the amount you’re transferring. In the past, transfer fees were capped but this is no longer the case. A typical fee this year is 3%. This means if you were to transfer $10,000, you’ll immediately be charged a $300 fee. You’ll need to calculate how much interest you’d save versus this fee to know if the balance transfer would really make sense.

That great 0% interest rate will expire

Unfortunately, that great 0% interest rate won’t last forever. It will eventually expire. This could be six months, 18 months, or even longer. But at some point, you will see your interest rate jump up, probably to something like 12% to 18%. If you haven’t paid off your balance before your introductory rate expires, you could end up paying more interest than before you made the transfer. Also, if you are late in making a payment or miss one, that great 0% interest rate will evaporate, and you’ll automatically be charged the higher rate.

Be careful with new purchases

That 0% introductory interest rate may not apply to new purchases as they may not be interest-free. Be sure to read the fine print as the rules of some credit cards stipulate that just the balances you transfer will qualify for the 0% rate, while new purchases will be charged the regular APR. Other cards will apply the 0% interest rate to new purchases, but maybe for just the first six months.

You could transfer other debts

One of the common misconceptions is that you can only transfer credit card balances. The fact is you may be able to transfer loans for appliances, cars, furniture, and other monthly installment payments. The way this is done is by using checks from the bank that issued the balance transfer card.

Determine how payments are allocated

Here’s where things get a bit complicated. If you have a 0% interest on the debt you transferred and an interest rate on new purchases, you can’t tell the credit card company how to apply your payments. The credit card issuers are required by 2009’s Credit CARD Act to first apply anything above the minimum payment to the debt that has the highest interest rate. However, most credit card companies will first apply the total minimum payment to the debt that has the lowest interest rate. This could lengthen the time it takes you to repay the debt, so the best idea is probably to steer clear of using the balance transfer card for new purchases.

You need good credit to qualify

Balance transfer cards are widely available, but the ones with the really great terms are available only if you have good or excellent credit.

In conclusion

Transferring credit card debts to a new one with 0% interest for some period of time could save you significant money – but only if you qualify. But if you can get one, that could be a great way to save money and get your debt paid off sooner, meaning it might be your best option.

Saving money isn’t easy – at least not for most Americans. According to a GOBankingRates survey a whopping 62% of us have less than $1000 in savings. And only 14% of Americans have $10,000 or more saved.

While you never know when a financial emergency will hit, you can be sure that one will. Your house could sustain serious damage or your automobile could need an expensive repair. You could lose your job, or suffer a serious illness.

How can you protect yourself from these kinds of emergencies? You need to have at least $10,000 in the bank.

Saving that much money isn’t easy, but if you follow, these nine steps, you can reach that goal.

1. Learn your spending

You can’t really start saving until you understand your spending. Apps such as Mint can help you determine this. It will both track your spending and divide it into categories, so you can see where your money goes. If you find you’re spending $200 a month eating out, you might decide to do things differently. Then, you have those little things like drive-through lattes that don’t cost much but that can add up over a month’s time. Once you understand your spending, you should find places where you can save money for your emergency fund.

2. Set realistic goals

Nobody climbs Mount Everest in a day, and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to save $10,000 in one year. While your goal should be $10,000, there’s nothing wrong with breaking it down into more bite-sized chunks. For example, your goal might be to save $1000 in six months, then $2500 in a year, then $5000 and so on. It really doesn’t matter what numbers you choose, so long as they are reasonable and doable.

3. Create a budget

If you don’t now have a budget, you need to make one, and it needs to include your emergency fund. Cutting out impulse purchases can help, but this won’t get you to your goal – at least not according to most experts. If you want to realize that $10,000 goal, you need to allocate 10% to 15% of your gross income to your emergency savings. Just make sure that whatever percent you choose, it’s one you can do consistently and without fail.

4. Pay cash as much as you can

Studies have shown that people who don’t use credit or debit cards typically spend 15% to 20% less than those who do. Paying cash also tends to cut down on impulse purchases. This, again, turns into money for your emergency savings account.

5. Treat your savings account like it was a bill

It can be easier to save money if you set up an automatic transfer just like you pay your bills automatically. How do you do this? You should be able to arrange with your employer to put a portion of your paycheck into your savings account automatically. If this is not possible, arrange to have money automatically transferred from your checking to your savings account. In other words, treat your emergency fund as if it was a monthly bill.

6. Open an inconvenient but high-yield savings account.

Find the highest-yield savings account you can. This is likely to be an online account as they tend to pay higher interest rates then your local banks. But what’s even better is to set up a high-yield savings account separate from your checking account in a bank that’s a distance away from where you live. This would make it more difficult for you to access the money on a whim.

7. Save any windfalls

If you come into an unexpected windfall like a birthday present, a bonus, or an inheritance, resist the temptation to spend it on something fun. Stick it in your emergency savings account instead. This will help you reach your goal much faster.

8. Don’t pay off your credit card debts

This may seem counter intuitive because credit card interest rates are much higher than the interest rate you earn on your emergency savings account. But if you’re paying down debt, and not contributing to an emergency savings account, you’re making a serious mistake.

If you can do both, first tackle the credit card with the highest interest rate. When you have it paid off, you can then take its minimum payments money, and sock it into your emergency savings account. If that minimum payment was $50, this would mean $50 more for your savings fund every month.

9. Treat yourself occasionally

Saving money means sacrificing some of the fun things in life and a fair amount of self-discipline. It’s important to reward yourself occasionally to keep going. And you should work the treats into your budget. They could be a weekend at the beach, a new smartphone, or a new piece of furniture for the living room. The important thing is to build money into your budget – whether it’s for a grande latte or an overnight stay at grand hotel – as this will help you sustain your momentum towards achieving that $10,000 goal.