When you are struggling with tons of debt, maybe even considering bankruptcy, a zero percent credit card offer may seem like a lifeline. At the very least, it will keep you afloat for a few more months, which is valuable time you need to get your affairs in order. Right? Well, perhaps not. Read on for why you should treat such offers carefully.

The interest rate could soar – quickly

A zero percent interest rate usually does not truly mean zero percent. It might for a few months, but after that? Expect the rate to climb, especially if you miss a payment or have not paid off your balance. In fact, it is possible that if you are late on the first month’s payment, the rate climbs to one of the highest you have ever experienced. The fine print matters, so check it.

On the other hand, if you firmly believe you will pay off the balance in the prescribed time and have the plan and means to do so, a zero percent card could be helpful. But bypass such offers if you are simply trying to avoid financial drowning.

There are still fees

The interest rate may be zero percent (at least for the time being), but the credit card companies stand to make money immediately through balance transfer fees. Suppose you are moving $5,000 to a zero percent card, and the transfer fee is 3 percent. You end up paying $150 for that fee. And if you have the habit of shuffling your debt from zero percent card to zero percent card, these fees can take a huge bite out of your bottom line.

Your problems just get bigger

Zero percent credit card offers may let you postpone making serious, hard decisions about your finances – whether to consider bankruptcy, for example. However, they also give you a few months in which your problems will probably grow. At the end of those months, you may be scrambling for another zero percent card. (By the way, all of these transfers are bound to ding your credit score.)

Tackling your finances head on can be extremely difficult. You may have to face up to some of the choices you have been making, but a plan can help you avoid bankruptcy. If you do need to file or are considering doing so, it is often best to meet with an experienced attorney who can review your case with you, before you hit your last resort.