Digging out of thousands of dollars of credit card debt can feel frustrating, intimidating and ultimately impossible. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be any of those things if you learn how to take control.
Paying down debt is not only about finding the right financial tools, but also the right psychological ones.
To start, you need to understand why you racked up credit card debt in the first place. Perhaps it was a medical emergency or a home repair that needed to be taken care of immediately. Maybe you’d already drained your emergency fund on one piece of bad luck when misfortune struck again. Or maybe you’re struggling with a compulsive shopping problem, so paying down debt will likely result in you accumulating more until the addiction is addressed.
You also need to understand what debt payoff strategy will motivate you to succeed. Do you want to pay down your credit card debt in the absolute fastest amount of time possible that will save you the most money or do you want to make small wins along the way to keep yourself motivated?
Here are a couple strategies to consider as you learn the best way to handle credit card debt — and pay it off quickly.
Two common credit card debt repayment strategies
These repayment strategies can help you pay off credit card debt quickly. Keep in mind, you can use these strategies even for non-credit-card debt.
Before you begin, it’s best to list all your debts and their corresponding interest rates that you’re being charged. Then figure out how much you’re required to pay on those debts every month, plus any extra money you can afford above and beyond the required minimum payments. You may only be able to only come up with an extra $25 or $100, but whatever you come up with should align with your monthly budget of income vs. expenses and not stretch you so thin that you are foregoing meeting your basic needs.
Both methods require that you continue to pay the minimum payments so you keep all the accounts current, but apply any extra funds to the debt you’re focusing on attacking first. Here are the two most popular debt payoff methods and how they work:
- Debt avalanche: The debt avalanche method will save you the most money by focusing on paying off the credit card or other debt with the highest interest rate first. While continuing to pay the minimum payments on any other debts, you’ll be applying a larger payment on the highest interest rate debt. Then, once that debt is paid off, you’ll focus on paying above the minimum payment on the next highest interest rate debt, and so on. This strategy will save you the most money on interest charges.
- Debt snowball: This method entails paying off your smallest debts first. So, while keeping all minimum payments current on all your other debts, you’ll be focused on sending in a higher payment on the smallest debt you have. Then, once that is paid off, you’ll move to the next smallest debt, and so on. This approach is more psychological in that it can provide you with some quick wins, motivating you to keep going.
Pick the repayment strategy that you know will keep you moving forward. After all, if your repayment strategy doesn’t keep you motivated, you may not stick to it.
Using a personal loan or balance transfer credit card
As you seek debt repayment options, you could consider a personal loan or balance transfer credit card with a lower interest rate than on your existing debt. Transferring your debt to one of these financial products could help you reduce long-term interest costs.
But you’ll first need to learn whether or not you’re eligible. Your credit score will play a big role in determining your eligibility for a personal loan or balance transfer card. Use our credit card payoff calculator to figure out if a personal loan or a balance transfer is the best option for you.
If you have a credit score above 640, you have a good chance of qualifying for a personal loan that may have a much lower interest rate than your credit cards. With new internet-only personal loan companies, you can shop for loans without hurting your score. In just a few minutes, with a simple online form, you can get matched with multiple lenders. People with excellent credit could see personal loan APRs below 10%. But even if your credit isn’t perfect, you might be able to find a good loan that fits your needs.
Not sure what your credit score is? Learn how and where to get yours for free. If you know your credit score needs some work, but are not sure of how to get those numbers up, we outline some simple steps you can take that can help.
If you have a score above 700, you could also qualify for 0% balance transfer credit card offers. We talk more about balance transfers below, but this option is one of the best ways to pay off credit card debt as you can whittle down your balance more quickly by eliminating interest charges during the balance transfer intro period.
A credit score of less than 600 will make it difficult for you to qualify for either option. If you have a credit score less than 640, are struggling to make monthly debt payments and would like to explore your options to reduce your debt by up to 50%, then please click our option below to customize a personal debt relief plan.
Now let’s talk about how a personal loan or balance transfer card can help you dig out of debt.
Let’s say you have $10,000 in credit card debt, and are stuck paying 18% interest on it.
You already know that putting as much spare cash as you can toward paying down your debt is the most important thing to do. But once you’ve done that, so what’s next?
Use your good credit to make banks compete and cut your rates
You could save $1,800 a year in interest and lower your monthly payments based on several of the rates available today. That means you could pay it off almost 20% faster.
Here’s how it works.
Option One: Use a Balance Transfer (or Multiple Balance Transfers)
If you trust yourself to open a new credit card and not use it for new purchases, consider a balance transfer card. You may be able to cut out interest charges entirely for the duration of the 0% intro APR period. However, you need to have a good credit score, and you might not get approved for the full amount that you want to transfer.
Know that you can’t do a balance transfer between cards from the same issuer. For example, you can’t move a balance from a Chase card to a Chase balance transfer card, but you could, say, move it to a Citi card. MagnifyMoney regularly surveys the market to find the best balance transfer credit cards. If you would like to see what options exist, beyond Chase and Discover, you can start there.
Our roundup of best balance transfer cards also has tips on how to do a balance transfer safely. You might be hesitant to apply for a balance transfer card, but there is no faster way to cut your interest payments than taking advantage of the best 0% or low interest deals banks are offering.
Thanks to recent laws, balance transfers aren’t as sneaky as they used to be, and friendlier for helping you cut your debt. For example, if you aren’t able to pay off the entire balance before the intro APR promotion ends, only any remaining balance will be subject to the card’s ongoing APR.
Sometimes the first bank you deal with won’t give you a big enough credit line to handle all your credit card debt. Maybe you’ll get a $5,000 credit line for a 0% deal, but have $10,000 in debt. That’s OK. You can either transfer as much as you can and apply for another balance transfer card or keep any remaining balance on the high-interest card and focus on paying that down while just making minimum payments on the balance transfer card for a while.
Option Two: Personal Loan
If you don’t want to apply for yet another credit card, you could consider a personal loan. You can get prequalified at multiple lenders without hurting your credit score, and find the best deal to pay off your debt faster.
Personal loan interest rates are often about 10%-20%, but can sometimes be as low as 5%-6% if you have very good credit.
Moving from 18% interest on a credit card to 10% on a personal loan is a good deal. You’ll also get one set monthly payment, and can pay off the whole thing in 3 to 5 years.
Sometimes this may mean a higher monthly payment than you’re used to, but you’re better off putting your cash toward a higher payment with a lower rate.
And you’ll get out of debt months or years faster by leaving more money to pay down the debt itself. If you want to shop for a personal loan, we recommend starting at LendingTree. With a single online form, dozens of lenders will compete for your business. Only a soft credit pull is completed, so your credit score will not be harmed. People with excellent scores can see low APRs (sometimes below 6%). And people with less than perfect scores still have a good chance of finding a lender to approve them.
As low as 2.49%
Minimum 500 FICO®
24 to 60
LendingTree is not a lender. LendingTree is unique in that you may be able to compare up to five personal loan offers within minutes. Everything is done online and you may be pre-qualified by lenders without impacting your credit score. Terms Apply. NMLS #1136.
As of 17-May-19, LendingTree Personal Loan consumers were seeing match rates as low as 2.49% (2.49% APR) on a $20,000 loan amount for a term of three (3) years. Rates and APRs were based on a self-identified credit score of 700 or higher, zero down payment, origination fees of $0 to $100 (depending on loan amount and term selected). Terms Apply. NMLS #1136
If you don’t want to shop at LendingTree, you can see our list of the best personal loans here.