Paying off Credit Card Debt: What You Need to Know

Paying off Credit Card Debt: What You Need to Know

When used responsibly, credit cards can be an invaluable financial tool, helping you to finance large purchases and manage crises. On the other hand, getting into credit card debt happens quite frequently, and when it does, it can be hard to see a solution for paying off your debt.

Credit card debt can end up costing more money than you spent in the first place, thanks to high interest rates and late fees. If you have found yourself in credit card debt, you are certainly not the only one in this position. But it is possible to climb out of credit card debt, even if you currently feel overwhelmed.

Here are a few tips and tricks that financial experts say can help you pay off credit card debt more quickly and easily than you thought possible.

Start Small: Pay off Just One Card

If you are carrying a balance on multiple credit cards, it can seem like an impossible task to make a dent in that debt. To get started, focus on paying off just one. Deciding which card to tackle first depends on your personal financial goals.

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For example, if you are looking for motivation, choose the card with the lowest balance and get that one paid off as quickly as possible. This is commonly known as the “snowball method” of paying off debts, starting small and gradually snowballing to paying off larger amounts.

If your goal is to improve your credit score, you will want to pay down the balance on the card with the highest utilization rate (the percentage of your available balance that you are currently using). In general, you want to keep your utilization rate below 20 percent to improve your credit score. Paying down a card with a higher utilization rate could help you significantly in achieving that goal.

Another common method is called the “avalanche method,” where you start with the cards that have the highest interest rates and pay those off first. Choose the option that best reflects your financial goals and know that paying off your debt starts with small steps.

Contact Your Creditors

Though it may seem like a long shot, reaching out to your creditors could actually benefit you in the long run. If you’ve been a longtime customer, they may be willing to work with you on adjusting your payment or APR.

Ask for lowered payments or lower APRs and try explaining your situation to them, maybe even offering up the steps you think might be necessary to pay off your debt. The worst that can happen in this situation is that they say no. However, they might be able to help, making it easier for you to pay off your debt.

Look into Balance Transfers

It might seem counterintuitive to go applying for another credit card when you are trying to pay off credit card debt. In certain circumstances, it can actually benefit you. Look specifically for a balance transfer introductory offer. You’ll want to find one that is especially long, maybe 12 to 18 months at a minimum, so that you can get the most benefit out of this option.

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In this situation, you can take advantage of a zero percent APR introductory offer and transfer as much of your balance from other credit cards as possible to this new card. It will save you money (since for at least a while you won’t be accruing interest on the balance). It will also allow you to consolidate your monthly payments into one large payment covering a range of your credit card debt.

Even a balance transfer to a card that simply has a lower interest rate would be helpful to you. Every little bit of money you can save will help. Be aware that some cards charge a balance transfer fee, so look for one that doesn’t if possible.

Stop Using Your Cards

As you start paying down your debt, it can sometimes feel like you’re getting nowhere. That might actually be true if you continue to use your cards while trying to pay them off. The best solution for you is to completely stop using those credit cards while you are trying to eliminate your debt. That way, you won’t continue to rack up charges as you pay down your balance.

Switch to a cash payment approach, or only use debit cards instead. That way, you are only using money that you actually have in your bank account. As you do this, you may also want to take a look at your overall budget and financial habits. Try to eliminate extraneous spending where you can and put together a realistic budget for your other expenses.

With some time and persistence, you will soon make progress. Paying off your credit card debt can become a reality.