How To Pay Off Credit Card Debt

Getting out of debt is an important component to get yourself in a solid financial position.  Having a structured disciplined approach can help you get out of credit card debt (and pretty much any type of debt) no matter how big your balance is.  If you only have one debt, your strategy is simple, pay as much as you can handle on your monthly payment; however, if you have multiple debts to manage, you need to find a method that works for you.  Here are a few strategies to tackle your credit card debt:

  1. Know where you stand: Take inventory and write down all the debt you have and the interest rate for each one.
  2. Improve your rates: Negotiating a lower interest rate might be the quickest way to save on your credit card bills; keep in mind that your credit score will play a large role in whether or not you get a rate cut, but it’s not the only factor. Every lender has its own approach to this issue. Try calling each credit card company and requesting lower interest rates.
  3. Develop your monthly budget: List all your regular expenses (mortgage, utilities, insurance, car payments, minimum credit card payments, phone, gym, etc.) and variable expenses such as eating out, entertainment, travel. Once you have listed all your fixed and variable expenses, examine the ones where you can make some cuts immediately and list 3 ways in which you can do so.  Make sure to give yourself some breathing room in your budget in case an unexpected expense pops up.
  4. Choose your payoff strategy: Make sure to make the minimum payment on all of your accounts regardless of what payoff strategy you choose. There are 2 payoff strategies.
    • The avalanche method: Put as much extra money as possible toward the account with the highest interest rate; once that debt is paid off, start paying as much as you can on the account with the next highest interest rate. Continue doing so until all your debts are paid.  Every time you pay off an account, you’ll have more money to put towards the next one, and, since you’re tackling your debts in order of interest rate, you’ll pay less overall and be out of debt more quickly. Like an avalanche, it might take a while before you see anything happen. But after you gain some momentum, your debts (and the amount of interest you’re paying on them) will be paid off.
    • The snowball method: Put as much extra money as possible toward the account with the smallest balance. Once that debt is paid off, take the money you were putting toward it and apply it toward your next smallest debt, continue doing so until all your debts are paid.
  5. Consider Balance Transfers: This works well when you have an account with a high-interest rate, you can look into transferring its balance to a card with a low-interest rate and, therefore, spend less in interest over time. You’ll probably have to pay a balance transfer fee, so be sure to run the numbers and read the fine print before going this route; a few credit cards offer 0% APR balance transfers for no fee. If you’re carrying credit card debt at an interest rate and have at least decent credit, you may be able to qualify for a good balance transfer deal.
  6. Consider paying debt with a Personal Loan: A loan might be a good idea when you have several credit card debts; you could get a personal loan at a lower interest rate to pay that debt. There are many places to look for personal loans with a wide variety of rates depending on the lender and your credit history. You may want to check with local banks and credit unions where you already have an account, or compare the options from online lenders. However, taking out a loan to pay off credit card debt can be dangerous. Follow the terms of the loan carefully, or you could just make your situation worse. Avoid this route if you don’t trust yourself to use credit responsibly, as you’ll likely just end up further in debt. If you do use this strategy, remember these key points:
    • Keep credit cards open: Don’t close the credit cards you pay off, unless they have annual fees you don’t want to pay. Keep them open to help your credit utilization and average age of accounts.
    • Cut back on credit card spending: Don’t spend any more money on your paid-off credit cards. If you must, hide them or cut them up.
    • Be a responsible borrower: Make regular, punctual payments on your installment loan. If you don’t, you’ll just create more problems for your credit.
  7. Find your motivation and Support: Create concrete goals to stay focused, write them down and keep them visible. If you get tempted to overspend, take a look at them to remind yourself of the bigger picture.
  8. Track your progress: Keep an eye on your spending and revisit your progress every few months. Put reminders in your calendar to check up on your finances, have a spreadsheet with your starting balances and compare them to check your progress.

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