For the last few months you’ve cut spending as much as possible and made on-time payments, but your credit card debt continues to grow.
When you’re carrying a large balance on a credit card with high interest, it’s easy to feel like you’re sinking underwater with no end in sight. Paying just the minimum can easily result in hundreds of dollars in interest every month and a balance that takes over twenty years to pay off. So, what can you do to get rid of this debt once and for all?
Here are some weapons that can help you destroy your high interest credit card debt once and for all.
Before You Begin: If you have questions about eliminating your debt and want free help from others (many who have gone through this before), I highly recommend joining our forums. Having a support group that you can answer questions and can keep you on track can make a HUGE difference, especially if you are new to this!
Do you have a single high interest credit card or is your debt spread over many cards? If it’s a single card, your job is made much simpler. If you have a few, start by getting organized. Get together all of your credit card information and look at the balance, interest rate, due date and minimum payment of each. Add up the minimum monthly payments and determine how much extra you can afford to pay each month.
If you have more than one credit card, consider one of these three pay-down strategies:
- Method #1: Highest APR First. With this strategy, you’ll lower the total amount you pay with interest over time. Start by increasing your monthly payment to the credit card with the highest APR and make the minimum monthly payments on the remaining cards. Once this balance is paid off, move on the the next credit card. Do your best to at least double the minimum payment and keep up this higher amount, even as your minimum amount drops.
- Method #2: Lowest Balance First. If you feel like you just want to make some progress first, increase your monthly payment to the credit card with the lowest balance and keep making minimum payments on the rest. It’s much faster to pay off a $700 balance than it is a $3,000 balance so this strategy can give you some good momentum.
- Method #3: Consolidate Your Debt. To really simplify things, think about consolidating all of your debt onto a single credit card, with one payment to worry about. Next, pay as much as you can on this credit card to lower your total debt quickly. Consolidate your debt onto a credit card with the lowest APR you can get.
If you have a very high balance on a single card with a high interest rate, try to find a credit card with a low interest rate you can qualify for, particularly one with a 0% APR promotion on balance transfers. This can give you up to a year to repay your debt with no further interest, which can save you thousands and be enough to give you a great head start.
If you decide to transfer your balance, make sure the interest rate after the promotion is lower than your current credit card. You’ll also want to check the fees associated with the balance transfer, as some may cost you thousands just to transfer your balance whereas some are more affordable with a fee cap.
It’s important to weigh the cost of the balance transfer fee, with the 0% introductory APR offered. Cards with longer 0% introductory periods will usually have a higher fee for transferring balances. What you will save in interest, you may end up paying for through the BT fee, so be careful!
This concept may go against everything you believe, although it may actually save you a lot of money in the long run. If you have an investment account, for example, it would need to earn over 18% just to equal 12% interest on a credit card.
If your credit card is at the default rate, which can exceed 22%, it’s very unlikely your savings is working for you at all. If you pay off your debt with your savings, you’re getting your return without the risk. Maintaining an emergency fund is definitely important, but it’s also a huge priority to get rid of debt that’s holding you captive.
If you own a home with equity, you may consider a HELOC, or home equity line of credit. A HELOC has two big advantages: you’ll use the loan to pay off your debt and trade a loan at perhaps 22% for something under 6%. You’ll pay off your debt much faster this way without wasting hundreds every month on interest. If you itemize deductions on your tax return, most HELOC interest is also tax deductible.
Be very careful if you go this route, however, and don’t fall into the all-too-common trap of paying off debt just to charge up more on your credit cards. Once the credit card debt is repaid, put them away and focus on repaying your HELOC.
If you don’t have many options left, don’t be afraid to contact your creditor to renegotiate the terms. Sometimes your issuer will lower your APR, at least for awhile, so you can repay your balance. If they’re not working with you, let them know your situation and tell them you’ll have no choice but to declare bankruptcy if they refuse to renegotiate.
Get a lower interest rate or repayment schedule as they’re facing a complete loss if you turn to bankrupcty. Most are willing to work with you rather than write off your debt completely.