According to ValuePenguin, a financial data platform, over 40% of US households have credit card-related debt, with the average balance topping $9,000.
Even the most well-meaning person can end up in debt. That’s the nature of credit cards. While these pieces of plastic aren’t always bad — they offer many benefits, after all — hefty interest payments can leave you trapped in a cycle of debt.
Considering the average credit card has an interest rate of 17% or more, according to data from CreditCards.com, it’s no wonder why getting out of this cycle is difficult. But as hard as it may be, it’s not impossible — and you’ll thank yourself for it when you finally make that last payment.
Before you start getting on top of your debt, ThePennyHoarder.com advises not swiping the plastic until you’re more financially stable. Of course, your circumstances will determine whether you should stop using your card altogether, but generally, you should only use your card if you:
- Only hold debt from a mortgage or student loan
- Have three to six months saved in an emergency fund
- Can consistently pay your monthly statement on time and in full
Whatever you decide to do, you need to develop good financial habits, so you don’t end up in the same situation down the road. In the meantime, your first step is calculating your total debt. There are many free tools available online that can help.
Once you have this figure, pick a strategy that you can stick with for the long-term. Here are a few proven methods from The Penny Hoarder that can help you say goodbye to credit card debt.
The Avalanche Method
Depending on the size of your debt, you may feel overwhelmed. One way to avoid this feeling is with the avalanche and snowball methods, where you pay your credit card balance a little at a time. When you divide your debt into reasonable amounts, you’ll stay make better progress and remain inspired.
With the avalanche method, you rank your outstanding balances from those with the highest interest rates to the lowest. Focus on paying the minimum balance on each monthly statement and use your disposable income to pay the card with the highest interest rate. Once you pay down this balance, move on to the card with the second-highest rate. Continue this process until you pay off all of your debt.
The Snowball Method
The snowball method works similarly to the avalanche method, but instead of paying off the card with the highest interest rate, you focus on repaying the card with the smallest balance. Continue paying the minimum on your other credit cards each month and use your remaining income to eliminate the card with the smallest balance.
Whether you should choose the avalanche and snowball method depends on your preferences. Do you want to spend less on interest payments, or do you want to pay off smaller balances quickly? An online debt calculator like Dough Roller’s can help you decide which strategy will save you more.
Use A Balance Transfer Card
If you have a FICO credit score of 670 or higher and think you can knock out your debt in about a year, then you should consider a balance transfer credit card. These cards often have lower interest rates, making it easier to pay your debt when you transfer your balance onto your new card.
Most balance transfer cards have zero interest introductory periods, plus no annual fee. While they typically charge 2% to 5% to transfer, there are plenty of options without this fee. And if your credit is in good shape, you can easily find a card with favorable terms.
Get A Loan
Getting a loan is a common and effective debt management strategy. Here, you use the funds from the loan to repay your credit card debt. Rather than paying multiple credit card bills each month, you can focus just on the one loan payment. Plus, most loans have lower interest rates than credit cards, which could save you a considerable amount of money in the long term.
You can apply for either a personal loan or a home equity line of credit. With the latter, you have three options: a home equity loan, a home equity line of credit or a cash-out refinance. Each has its pros and cons, so if you’re a homeowner, make sure you research to find the right choice for you.
- Smith, Jen. “How to Pay off Credit Card Debt When You Have No Idea Where to Start.” The Penny Hoarder, The Penny Hoarder, 5 Aug. 2019, www.thepennyhoarder.com/debt/how-to-pay-off-credit-card-debt/?aff_sub2=seo-hp-block-2.