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Like student loans, credit card debt is one of those things most of us have, don’t want, but can’t figure out how to get rid of. Over time, the balances get so big we assume we’ll never be able to pay them off, but you can if you follow these tips from the experts.
Matt Tatham, manager of content insights and a data analyst at Experian Consumer Services, a division of Experian, which is the nation’s largest credit bureau, outlined four strategies for paying off credit card debt. The first step, he said, however, “is knowing how much you owe and make a list of those debts.” From there, you can decide which of the following payoff options makes the most sense.
- The Debt Snowball Approach: “Make minimum payments on all your cards every month and apply your extra money toward the credit card with the lowest balance. When that card is paid off, you move to the one with the next lowest balance.”
- The Debt Avalanche Approach: “Focus on paying off the credit card with the highest annual percentage rate (APR) first. Once you pay that card off, you can take that payment and put it towards the next-highest APR card while still paying the minimum on your other cards.”
- Use Your Credit Cards: “You can apply for a balance transfer credit card because during the introductory period, you likely will not pay interest on the balance you transfer from another credit card.”
- Debt Consolidation Loan: “If you do not have enough cash flow to pay your debts, a debt consolidation loan could help you pay off the credit card debt with an installment loan that has a fixed monthly payment amount.”
Carla Dearing, CEO of SUM180, an online financial wellness service, outlined a couple of additional ways to let your existing credit work for you, explaining, “credit card debt is a particularly expensive type of debt. Interest on credit card debt is usually many times more than that of other kinds of debt. The interest you pay is also many times more than what you could make if you put your money in a savings or investment account.”
When it comes to interest, Dearing suggested you contact your credit card company and ask them to lower your annual percentage rate. “Many credit card issuers would rather lower your rate than have you transfer to another company. It’s worth asking.”
If you own a home, Dearing said considering a home equity line of credit (HELOC) might be a good move as the interest rates are often significantly lower than those on credit cards. “By paying off the credit card and moving that balance to a HELOC, you’ve reduced the amount of interest that will stack up and will be able to pay off the debt more quickly as a result.”