5 ways to pay off your credit cards
So, another Christmas season has come and gone and for many of us, that means dealing with the upcoming credit card statements and figuring how to pay off the debt. The worst thing you can do financially is carrying credit card debt especially debt that is costing you 18 to 28%. Christmas is fun because it is the season for giving but remember, the bills will still be there long after the thrill of giving and receiving has gone.
In today’s world, almost everyone uses credit but most people get little to no training on budgeting, saving money or using credit wisely. Here are some strategies to get out of credit card debt:
1. Pay more than the minimum. Most credit cards require a minimum payment of 3% of the outstanding balance. Paying the minimum only prolongs the agony. Quite frankly that’s exactly what the banks want you to do. If you carry a $1000 balance on your credit card at 28.8% interest, your minimum payment is $30 per month. At that rate, it would take you 68 months (over 5 years) to pay off that $1000 balance and you would pay about $1040 of interest on a $1000 debt. That’s crazy! If you double up the minimum payment to $60 per month, .you will have the debt paid off on only 22 months and your total interest would be less than $300. That’s over $700 of interest saved on a $1000 credit card debt. Pay down your credit card debt as much as possible or best yet, pay it off every month.
2. Consolidate your debt to a lower interest rate. According to Tricia French, Financial Counselor for SISIP Financial Services, “There are really only two ways to get out of debt; pay it down as fast as you can and find credit at the lowest interest rate.” One of the ways to get a lower interest rate is to consolidate your loan into one lower rate. The best option rate if you have good credit is a line of credit because it usually has the lowest. Let’s say you have $10,000 of credit card debt from various credit cards and on average you are paying 15% in interest. Your minimum monthly payment on that debt would total $300 per month. Of that $300 in payment, $125 would go to interest and $175 would go to principal. If you consolidated that debt into a line of credit at 8% and continued to pay the same $300 per month in payments, the interest portion would only be $67 per month which means $233 would go towards the principal.
3. Pay the highest interest first. For some people, debt has become so overwhelming that consolidation is not an option. In that case, it’s time to get really serious and start attacking the highest interest debt first. The math on this strategy is really simple, higher interest rates mean more money in the bank’s pockets. Pay high interest first. Once a card is paid off, don’t run it up again. A credit card with a zero balance can often be a temptation to spend. To avoid the urge, stash it away, lower your credit limit or better yet, cut up the card.
4. Switch to low-interest rate credit cards. If you are carrying a balance on your card of more than $1000 it makes sense to ask your lender about switching to their low rate card. Despite the annual fee, you will save interest and speed up your repayment. If you plan to pay your balance in full each month once you’ve got your card paid off, then you can switch back to the standard card and save the annual fee.
5. Cash-out your savings accounts. Often people keep money in savings accounts or money markets earning as high as 4%. If you have debt even as low as 6%, you are much better off using money earning 4% to save interest on money that is costing you more than 6%.