We’ve all heard about credit card churning, which is the art of opening and closing credit cards to take advantage of generous sign-up bonuses. But what about “credit card surfing?”
At first glance, you might think it’s some sort of hip new thing all the cool kids are doing. Or some weird game like credit card roulette.
Well, it turns out this so-called surfing is no more than shuffling credit card debt from one card to another, sometimes indefinitely, or at least until your luck runs out.
And credit card balance transfers are at the heart of it.
How Credit Card Surfing Works
Let’s say you opened a 0% APR credit card that offered no interest for 12 months. You begin merrily charging and swiping and dipping and rack up a few thousand dollars in credit card debt.
Thanks to the liberal terms of the card, you’re able to make the minimum payment each month and pay nothing in the way of interest. You can also let your credit card balance grow each month without any sort of penalty.
Now once that promotional 0% APR ends, you’ll be hit with sky-high interest, but what if you surf on over to a new 0% APR credit card before that happens?
That’s exactly how credit card surfing works. You keep moving the debt from one 0% APR credit card to another in an attempt to never pay credit card interest. And as noted, you don’t necessarily have to pay off your debt either.
Because there are scores of no fee balance transfer credit cards out there, you’re able to move the debt without paying a balance transfer fee.
And once the debt is moved to the new card, you’ll effectively refresh that 0% APR period for maybe another 12 or 15 months.
Then simply rinse and repeat and you’ll never pay credit card companies a dime in interest. You’ll also have increased liquidity at your fingertips to live above your means, or to simply avoid spending your own hard-earned cash.
The Trouble with Credit Card Surfing
While credit card surfing sounds totally tubular, it’s actually a pretty dangerous sport to play, much like real surfing.
For one, it allows you to rack up debt that you might not be able to pay back. We all know that’s bad enough.
Secondly, it promotes making only the minimum payment, which might be $25-$50 a month on a debt that is probably growing larger than that each month.
Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, there may come a time when you’ve got nowhere to turn. Or to stay on theme, no more waves to catch…totally flat.
For example, say you’re on 0% APR credit card number five and your debt is now over $10,000. As it grows, it’ll get more and more difficult to open a new credit card with that amount of outstanding debt.
Credit card issuers don’t like customers with a lot of outstanding credit card debt, nor do the credit bureaus. So if you continue to surf for a while, your credit scores will likely suffer.
That, plus the growing credit card balance, should make it more difficult to keep transferring the debt.
You might not get approved for a subsequent 0% APR credit card, or you might not get the necessary credit limit to cover all the debt.
So think twice before you surf, both on a board in the ocean and with your credit cards.
Read more: What is balance transfer arbitrage?