Credit card debt is a significant problem for many consumers. If you’ve ran up a large balance on one or more credit cards, then the sooner you take action, the better. And that means making more than just the minimum monthly payments. Not only will your credit score suffer if you have too much debt, but it can take years or even decades to pay off credit card debt when you’re only paying the minimum.
When you’re dealing with credit card debt, having a game plan to pay it off is crucial. Here are strategies that can help you manage those balances and bring them back down to zero:
Set a Budget
It’s a simple step, but it’s one that so many people miss or carelessly skip over. If you don’t have a budget, it’s going to be difficult or impossible to implement any other debt repayment strategies. Even if you are able to pay off your debt, you’re likely to run into the same issues without a budget.
Creating a budget is simple and doesn’t take long. Start by listing your income, along with all your monthly bills. Then, assign a portion of your income to paying down your debt. Stick to this budget no matter what, and don’t dip into your debt income for other purchases that you don’t need. If you aren’t making enough to cover your bills, then you need to either find a way to generate more income, or cut back on your spending.
Pay High-Interest Cards First
If you have debt on multiple credit cards, pay the minimum on the cards with lower interest and pay more on the card with the highest interest rate until you’ve paid it in full. Repeat this process with each credit card, so you’re paying the lowest possible amount in interest.
Consolidate Your Credit Card Debt
There are two popular methods of debt consolidation: paying the debt with a loan or transferring your balances to one credit card. By consolidating your debt, you only have to worry about one monthly payment. You may also be able to secure a lower interest rate through the loan or credit card you choose.
Debt Consolidation with a Loan
You can obtain a debt consolidation loan through several different types of lenders or debt consolidation programs, with the most common options being banks and credit unions. Interest rates may be lower than your current credit card interest rates, but it is important that you check for any hidden fees. Make sure you also verify that the low interest rate lasts throughout the term of the loan and doesn’t increase after a short period of time.
If you often spend too much on revolving lines of credit, such as credit cards, then a loan is a good option to pay off your debt. You’ll get a set amount, and then you’ll have to pay it off in monthly payments.
Debt Consolidation with a Credit Card
For this method, you need to find a credit card with a low interest rate and low or 0-percent interest on balance transfers. Fortunately, there are several credit cards on the market that fit this description. Keep in mind that these offers are almost always for the card’s introductory rates, which go up after a certain period of time (often one year). If you’re confident in your ability to repay your debt within that time frame, then it may be smart to consolidate all your debt onto one of these low-interest credit cards.
Credit card debt is something that can follow you for all of your adult life if you don’t take care of it. It doesn’t go away on its own, and you need financial discipline to get yourself out of that hole. Taking the time to build your debt repayment strategy, and committing to it 100 percent, goes a long way towards making yourself debt free.