Credit balance transfers: What to consider

The four biggest banks in the U.S. - Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo -- are now encouraging consumers to transfer credit card balances with rates as low as zero percent.

Have you received mail encouraging you to accept that offer? Could you benefit?

On "The Early Show," personal finance expert Carmen Wong Ulrich, author of "The Real Cost of Living," said these introductory rates are part of a strategy to bring many Americans back into the credit card fold.

"Our credit card usage has gone way down (since the economic downturn). And our revolving balances have gone way down," Wong Ulrich explained. " ...These are some of the same banks that are also putting charges on your debit cards. ... And, in effect, (the banks) are steering us back to those credit cards."

However, many of the people who sign up for the teaser introductory rates, she observed, won't be able to pay the balance off in time.

"Then the rates jump, (to) anywhere from 14 to 20 percent, so it becomes incredibly costly," Wong Ulrich said. "You have to know how to use these cards."

So when is it safe to use these cards for their introductory perks? Check out Wong Ulrich's advice in the video above.