Credit card debt is easy to accumulate. Paying it down, though? That’s the challenging part — particularly once your balances reach the $5,000, $15,000, or even $30,000 point.
Fortunately, you can use several credit card debt payoff strategies to tackle those balances. If you’re struggling with up to $30,000 in credit card debt, here are four ways to pay off credit card debt and get your spending under control.
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- Focus on one debt at a time
- Consolidate your debts
- Use a balance transfer credit card
- Make a budget to prevent future overspending
A good starting point is to focus your energy on paying down one debt at a time while only making minimum payments on the others. Two popular strategies for doing this are the debt snowball and debt avalanche methods. Here’s how each one works:
- Debt snowball method — With the debt snowball payoff strategy, you pay extra each month toward your smallest balance first. Once you’ve eliminated that one, apply the amount you were paying to the next-smallest debt, and so on. This method gives you several quick wins and can help keep you motivated as your balances start to disappear.
- Debt avalanche method — Also called the highest-interest rate method, this strategy focuses on paying off your costliest debt first — the one with the highest interest rate. You pour all your extra funds into your highest-rate debt first, making only minimum payments on the others. When that higher-interest balance is gone, you work on the next highest-rate debt and repeat the process. This strategy typically reduces your long-term costs the most, though it won’t deliver results as quickly as the snowball method.
Both strategies can be effective, but the right one depends on your unique debt situation and personal preferences. If you have a lot of separate debts and need a little extra motivation, the snowball method might be a good idea. If you have one debt with a much higher rate than the others, the avalanche method would probably be smart, as it would save you the most in the long run.
Another option is to consolidate your credit card debts. To do this, you take out a loan and use it to pay off your credit card balances and other debts. This move essentially rolls all your different debts into a single one, leaving you with one monthly payment and interest rate.
You can consolidate your debts with several kinds of loans, including debt consolidation loans (which are unsecured personal loans), home equity loans, home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), and cash-out refinances.
The benefit of debt consolidation is that it streamlines repayment. You only have one monthly payment to worry about and budget for. Many times, it can also reduce your interest rate. (Keep in mind that your loan’s interest rate will depend largely on your credit score.)
On the downside, some debt consolidation loans come with closing costs, which could reduce your savings. You also may have to put up an asset as collateral, like your home or car. This puts your asset at risk of foreclosure or seizure if you don’t make payments.
Credible makes it easy to compare personal loan rates from various lenders, and it won’t affect your credit score.
It might sound strange to take out a new credit card to pay off old ones, but the strategy can work well — and save you big — if done correctly.
With balance transfer cards, credit card companies typically offer a 0% interest rate for a set period of time, often 18 to 21 months. This allows you to transfer your high-interest balances to the new card and make payments only on the principal balance for that initial period.
When using a balance transfer card, try to pay off your balance in full before the intro rate expires. If you’re still carrying a balance at that point, your balance will start to accrue interest at the card’s regular rate, and your minimum payment amount could jump considerably.
Balance transfer cards also typically come with a transfer fee. This fee varies from company to company but is typically around 3% to 5% of each balance you’re transferring. And you’ll typically need good to excellent credit to qualify for a 0% intro APR card.
If you’ve racked up $30,000 in credit card debt, getting on a budget is critical — both to paying that debt down and preventing it from building up again.
Start by working to understand your larger financial picture. What money do you have coming in, and what are your expenses each month? You can use a spreadsheet to map it all out. Be sure to include things like your housing expenses, utilities, minimum credit card and loan payments, groceries, and any other must-have expenses.
You should also look at what money is going elsewhere, as this can help you zero in on areas where you may be overspending. Your bank and credit card statements can be helpful for this purpose.
Once you know where your finances stand, you can create a monthly budget to follow going forward. This will allow you to reduce your spending and put consistent cash toward your debts or other financial goals. If you need guidance on this task, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a budgeting worksheet that can help.
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