You may be thinking the headline on this article sounds like a scam. After all, what person in debt needs one more credit card, particularly one that’s supposed to help them pay off instead of rack up more debt?

Perhaps surprisingly to some, balance transfer credit cards can do exactly that. So if you’re carrying a lot of credit card debt that you can’t seem to get rid of, you can add this to the host of options available to help you pay off your debt.

Read on to see just how a balance transfer credit card can help, and how to go about choosing the right one for your personal needs.

 

Why Your Credit Card Balance Matters

You may be wondering why it even matters that you’re carrying this debt from month-to-month. You’ll eventually pay it off, right? Well, aside from the additional cost of the interest you’re paying on that debt, it’s also impacting your credit scores, which can, in turn, impact your ability to get additional credit at a good rate, like a mortgage, for example.

That’s why it’s a good idea to regularly track your credit scores and credit reports, and especially before applying for a new credit card. Each time you apply for new credit, it generates what’s known as a hard inquiry. That will drop your credit scores a little bit in the short term, which is nothing to worry about. But if you keep applying for credit, the negative effects on your credit can mount (regardless of whether your applications are granted or denied). So, before you even consider applying for a balance transfer credit card, it’s a good idea to see where your credit stands so you’ll know if you qualify.

 

How a Balance Transfer Card Can Help You Kill Your Debt

Chances are if you’re carrying credit card debt from month to month and aren’t seeing any significant progress in paying it down, it’s because your annual percentage rate (APR) is on the higher side. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of cash-back and travel rewards credit cards come with higher-than-average APRs, but if you’re paying off your balances in full every month, you’re fine. That’s also exactly why you want to try to pay these cards off each month. If you don’t and you’re carrying a balance over from month to month, that interest can add up pretty quickly.

If you were able to transfer the balance on your high-interest card to a new card with an introductory, 0% APR, you’d have nothing but principal to focus on. Many balance transfer cards offer as much as 18 months (and sometimes even 21 months) of interest-free financing for balance transfers and even new purchases. Getting out from under that interest can make a big difference in getting rid of your debt.

balance transfer credit cards

Pay It Off Before the Introductory Offer Ends

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when looking for a balance transfer fee is the duration of that introductory offer. The longer your 0% introductory offer lasts, the longer you have to pay off your debt without incurring any interest.

Ultimately, your goal should be to pay off your balance in full before the introductory offer expires.

 

Don’t Forget the Balance Transfer Fee…

Most balance transfer cards come with a one-time balance transfer fee – usually 3% to 5% of the total balance you transfer. There are some cards that have no balance transfer fee, though they can be hard to come by (they’re offered only for a limited time and/or you need impeccable credit to qualify).

When choosing the balance transfer card that’s right for you, it’s important to keep this fee in mind. While it’s likely significantly less than paying high interest rate on your current card balance, it’s still a good idea to compare this fee across cards that you’re considering.

 

…Or the Perks

A lot of balance transfer cards also come with rewards that can be really helpful for saving even more money once your balance is paid off. Some come with cash-back rewards that give you a percentage back on your purchases while others let you earn travel rewards like miles.

It’s a good idea to compare these rewards across the cards you’re considering, however these rewards generally only apply to new purchases, not the transferred balances. So keep that in mind if you’re not planning on using the balance transfer card for new purchases.

 

Keep Your Goal in Sight

The whole point of getting your balance transfer credit card is to get rid of your debt once and for all so you can start focusing on your financial goals. It’s almost impossible to do that, though, if you don’t rein in your spending a little. In other words, if you keep adding credit card debt, you’re not making any progress.

[Editorial Disclosure: PayDownMyDebt.com is a service that provides people with tools to pay down their debts through automatic payments. The purpose of this article, however, is not to encourage users to purchase that service. This article is educational and journalistic in nature and aims to help people learn how to pay down their debt, whether they use our site, another, or go it alone.]

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Debt is something many people don’t really like to think about, even though it impacts their lives in numerous ways. The truth is, debt is one of the underpinnings of our financial system. Corporations make money off of your debt in various ways: They charge you interest on things like your mortgage, automobile loans and credit card balances; they collect and then sell your debt history to companies so they can determine whether to extend credit to you; they sell you your own debt information (or try to); and, of course, they sell you products aimed at helping you manage your debt or improve how your debt is presented to potential creditors.

That’s why it’s so important to understand how debt works, how you use debt, how your debt impacts your credit and what types of debt are considered “good” and “bad” when it comes to evaluating your own personal finances. “Good” debt is generally thought to be debt that can help you grow your overall net worth over time – like your mortgage or student loans. “Bad” debt, on the other hand, is generally thought to decrease your net worth. 

Why should you worry about whether your debt is viewed as “good” or “bad?” Well, for one thing, if you want to figure out the most effective way to pay down your debt so you can reach your future financial goals, it can be important to determine which debts to focus on first. To improve your credit standing, you’ll want to focus on getting rid of the “bad” debts first.

Let’s take a closer look at different types of debt and why they’re considered “good” or “bad.” We’ll start with credit cards…

 

Credit Cards: Bad Debt

As ubiquitous as credit cards are, and as much credit card debt as there is (the average American household has about $8,000 in credit card debt) you’d think credit card debt would be seen as “good” debt.

Generally speaking, credit card debt, or revolving debt, is viewed as “bad” by the credit industry if you carry a balance from month-to-month. If you pay off your balances each month, however, your credit card debt can be viewed as very positive or “good.” If you’re carrying a lot of credit card debt, you may want to consider applying for a balance transfer credit card to help you consolidate your debt and pay it off faster. 

 

Auto Loans: Good Debt

Most auto loans are seen as “bad” debt, though as “bad” debt goes, they aren’t all that horrible, especially if you’re making your payments on time. Auto loans, don’t typically help you grow your net worth, and in many cases your loan is more than your vehicle is worth. In addition, for many people, monthly auto loan payments make up a large portion of your monthly income.

 

Home Mortgages: Good Debt

Mortgages are typically considered to be “good” debt for a variety of reasons. In most cases, homes appreciate in value, letting you build equity in your home. However, if your home has depreciated for some reason and is worth less on the current market than you actually owe, your debt could be viewed as “bad.” The same is true if your mortgage payments make up more than about 35% of your monthly income. 

 

Student Loans: Good Debt

Like mortgages, most student loans are viewed as “good” debt. That, of course, is dependent on a few different factors, including whether you borrowed a reasonable amount based on the lifetime earning potential your degree provides. That’s because your ability to repay the debt hinges almost exclusively on that single factor. If you fall behind on your payments or, worse, default on your loans, your student loans obviously become “bad” debt.

Obviously, your credit standing is impacted greatly by your ability to manage your debt successfully. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, you can check out our explainer on how to pay off debt quickly using a couple of tried-and-true methods called the debt snowball and debt avalanche. Doing so can not only make you feel more in control of your financial life, but also put you on the right track when it comes to saving enough for retirement.

 

 

[Editorial Disclosure: PayDownMyDebt.com is a service that provides people with tools to pay down their debts through automatic payments. The purpose of this article, however, is not to encourage users to purchase that service. This article is educational and journalistic in nature and aims to help people learn how to pay down their debt, whether they use our site, another, or go it alone.]

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It may be hard to believe, but the holidays are just around the corner and all that travel, gift giving, party throwing and decorating is about to go into full swing – as are the expenses that come with all that merry making.

Sure, you can just charge everything to your credit card over the next few months and worry about how to pay down your debt once January rolls around, but that may not be the smartest idea, especially if your credit card carries a high annual percentage rate (APR). Properly managing your debt today can help you reach your future financial goals more easily, and possibly even sooner.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of ways you can avoid a mountain of holiday credit card debt this year while still having a wonderful time celebrating with friends and family.

Let’s take a look at five things you can start doing now to prepare for holiday expenses.

 

1. Review & Revise Your Budget

If you have a monthly budget, now is a good time to see if there are ways to free up some extra cash for the holidays. Could you do without Netflix for a couple of months? Cut back on eating out? Pack your own lunch and brew your own coffee until the end of December? It’s amazing how much money you can save by cutting out some of the nice-to-haves now and putting that money into a savings account for your holiday spending.

If you don’t have a monthly budget, it’s a good idea to consider creating one. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it should track your income and spending so that you have a firm grasp on where your finances stand.

 

2. Pay Down Existing Debt Now

You could also use that money to pay down any credit card debt you may be carrying so that you don’t keep paying interest on it as you make new purchases. There are a couple of tried-and-true approaches to paying down your credit card debt that you could implement now. Not only will reducing your credit card debt help you save money on interest, it can boost your credit scores, meaning you could qualify for better, new credit. You could even …

 

3. Get a 0% Introductory-Offer Credit Card

If your credit is in good shape, you could potentially qualify for a credit card with no interest for balance transfers and even new purchases (here’s how you can choose the right balance transfer card for you). That means you could pay off your high-interest credit card debt if you have any, make your holiday purchases, and then spend 12, 18 and sometimes even 21 months paying down that debt without accruing any interest charges.

 

4. Look Into Layaway

If your credit’s not so hot, a new credit card may not be an option for you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of paying for your holiday purchases – especially gifts – with incremental payments. Lots of stores offer layaway options that allow you to start paying now for holiday gifts that you will pick up and pay off in full right before the holidays. Layaway can really help take some of the sting out of holiday gift giving.

 

5. Get Creative

Saving money on your travel, gifts, parties and even food is a great way to make sure you don’t rack up more debt than you can handle. You can start thinking now of ways you can keep these costs low. Can you drive over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house? If so, it’s probably cheaper than flying, even if it does take a bit longer.

If you have a big family, you could suggest a name draw for any holiday gift giving. Rather than everyone feeling obligated to buy everyone else a gift, a name draw can mean giving nicer gifts while still keeping everyone’s costs down. You could also consider using your creative skills to make gifts for your loved ones.

Remember, the easiest way to avoid the stress and potential credit damage that debt can cause is to keep your spending in check and not rack up big debts in the first place, especially on credit cards. Doing so can help ensure your holidays are merrier and brighter without that looming shadow of debt creeping in to spoil the fun.

 

[Editorial Disclosure: PayDownMyDebt.com is a service that provides people with tools to pay down their debts through automatic payments. The purpose of this article, however, is not to encourage users to purchase that service. This article is educational and journalistic in nature and aims to help people learn how to pay down their debt, whether they use our site, another, or go it alone.]

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Most of us hate feeling indebted to other people. Owing someone can be uncomfortable, whether it’s money or even just a favor. Yet being in debt to companies seems an entirely different thing from a psychological perspective.

Americans seemingly have no problem with racking up mountains of credit card debt, and it’s only getting worse. The reality is that debt can have implications on not just your financial well-being, but also your emotional well-being. Having large sums of debt and seeing no way out is, simply put, stressful.

If you find yourself in this position, it can feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Luckily the tunnel is frequently shorter than you may think. To extend that metaphor, you just have to stay on track to reach the end where the light is. Within this article we are going to walk you through some of the fastest and best ways to pay off credit card debt.

Admit There is a Problem

The first and most important step for anyone dealing with credit card debt is to admit there is a problem. If you can’t admit that you’re spending more than you can afford, then you are not in a position to help yourself. You need to know there is a problem before you can properly fix it.

 

Ask for a Lower Interest Rate

No matter how much debt you have, one of the first steps you can take on your path to a debt-free life is to call your credit card company. Talk to them and see if they are willing to work with you on your interest rate. Let them know that you are working toward eliminating your debts and need some help. Depending on your account balances, a 1% decrease in your interest rate could add hundreds of dollars to your repayment efforts each year.

 

Utilize 0% APR Balance Transfer Credit Cards

There are going to be times when your credit card issuer may not be willing to work with you. Even if they are, your interest rates could still be extremely high. One of the best ways to pay off credit card debt is to eliminate interest altogether by transferring your balances to a card with an introductory interest-free financing offer (here’s what to consider when choosing a balance transfer credit card).

Let’s assume that you have $10,000 of credit card debt and you are paying an average interest rate of 17.99%. If you are making $250 payments each month, then you would end up paying $5,380.72 in interest before paying off the debt in full. The idea of paying nearly $5,400 more than your balance will hopefully give you plenty of motivation.

When you apply for a 0% APR balance transfer card, you can immediately move your existing credit card balances over. There are plenty of options available, with some cards offering as much as 18 or even 21 months interest free. Just be aware that they will end up charging a 3% balance transfer fee.

Keep in mind that you are probably going to need a solid credit score to qualify for some of the best offers. Also, because you are applying for a new line of credit you will see a small drop in your credit score. However, it won’t last long. As soon as you start reducing your balance and your credit utilization decreases, you will see positive changes happen to your score.

 

Pay More Than the Minimum Payment Each Month

Depending on the size of your balance, your minimum payments each month might be quite high. Even so, do your best to pay more than just the minimum payment each month. By doing that you will considerably reduce the time it will take to pay off your balance.

Using a debt reduction method like the Debt Snowball or Debt Avalanche can help you organize your monthly payments in a way that helps you whittle down your debts quickly and efficiently (see more details below).

 

Make Multiple Payments Each Month

Making one large payment each month toward your debt might not be feasible unless you are a high income earner. Instead try making multiple payments.

“Set up weekly or twice-a-month payment reminders and split your payments in half,” says Sarah Hollenbeck, personal finance expert with Offer.com. “Not only will this be easier for you to budget, depending on your paycheck cycle, but you’ll be saving more money on interest since you’re not waiting the full 30 days to make a payment.”

 

Create a Trimmed-Down Budget

If you are not currently living with a budget, then that should be high on your priority list. There is no way to really understand how you are performing financially each month when you don’t have a clear picture about where your money is going. However, this budget needs to be a little extreme. If you want to reduce your debt, then you are also going to need to reduce your expenses. Don’t know how to go about building a budget? Check out our explanation on the basics of building a budget.

Once you create a budget based on past spending, look for items that you can trim down or even cut out all together. This will help you allocate money to debt paydown.

“Once that budget has been established, you will need to know if you need to increase your income or decrease expenses to make those credit card payments,” says John Barnes, CFP with My Family Life Insurance. “Trade-offs might need to be made. Often, at this step, a discussion of wants versus needs usually takes place.”

 

Get Familiar with Debt Snowball and Debt Avalanche

If you don’t have a good understanding of both the debt snowball and debt avalanche method, now is the time. These are debt reduction strategies that will help you eliminate debt much more efficiently. Debt snowball helps keep you motivated by paying off your smallest balances first, working your way up to the biggest balances. Debt Avalanche is a little different in that it focuses first on your debt that has the highest interest rates. This approach provides for fewer quick wins than the Snowball approach, but will most likely save you money in the long run. Check out our Debt Snowball worksheet here.

Put Yourself on a Shopping Ban

You got yourself into credit card debt for one major reason: You were spending more money than you were actually earning. Even though it may have been due to some uncontrollable situation like a job loss, you’re going to need to spend less to pay down the debt.

“When making a commitment to paying down debt, it’s important to remove known temptations,” says Jennifer McDermott, consumer advocate for Finder.com. “Not sure you can resist on your own? Icebox is a free Chrome extension which works by replacing the Buy button on the top 20 e-commerce sites and an additional 400 others. The plugin prevents immediate purchase, putting items “on ice” between three and 30 days, thus curbing impulsive online buys and helping people save.”

Start a Side Hustle

Reducing the amount of money you spend each month will go a long way when paying down debt, but you can speed up the process even further by increasing your income as well. We live in a gig economy, which makes it easy to use your talents and interests to earn additional income during your down time.

Websites like Upwork.com offer a marketplace for talent to find income generating opportunities. Maybe you enjoy website design or marketing. Maybe you have a love for writing. Use your talents to boost your income.

 

The Bottom Line

Credit card debt can leave you with a helpless feeling in the pit of your stomach. It can make you feel like there is no way out. However, debt is completely in your control. No matter if it’s credit card debt, student loans, or some other type of debt, paying it off takes a plan and dedication. In the end you can be living the debt-free life that you want.

 

[Editorial Disclosure: PayDownMyDebt.com is a service that provides people with tools to pay down their debts through automatic payments. The purpose of this article, however, is not to encourage users to purchase that service. This article is educational and journalistic in nature and aims to help people learn how to pay down their debt, whether they use our site, another, or go it alone.]

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If your credit card debt has you anxious and worried, we have good news. There are some tried-and-true ways to quickly pay off your credit card debt and relieve yourself of the burden of high interest rates, while also improving your overall financial health.

While there aren’t really any instant fixes (unless you win the lottery or have a rich uncle), there are lots of ways you can minimize the damage that credit card debt can cause to your financial well-being. The last thing you want to do, though, is ignore it. And spending several years paying your minimum balances while hoping to get ahead isn’t any better. That’s because credit card interest adds up quickly.

Most credit card issuers charge between 1% and 2% of your total balance as your minimum payment each month. So, if you’re carrying $10,000 in credit card debt from month to month, you’ll need to pay $100 or $200 each month just to keep your account in good standing.

That does nothing, however, to bring down your balance, which continues to rack up interest. With a 16.99% annual percentage rate, you’ll need to make payments of $242 each month for more than five years to pay off your debt. That totals $15,147 in total payments, or 34% interest on your $10,000 debt. And that’s if you never add any debt to that amount or incur any late charges.

So how do you get out from under the burden of your credit card debt? Here are some helpful tips for how you can break the cycle and become debt-free.

 

Get Organized

Just like you need directions to your destination when you’re driving someplace you’ve never been, you need a plan for getting rid of your debt, and that requires having all of your money movements written down in one place. Yes, we’re talking about a budget. Once your budget is in place and you know what your income and outgo look like, you can easily see any areas where you might save a bit of money. Is it time to get rid of your cable bill? Can you reduce your phone plan? Do you need that magazine subscription? Any extra money you can find in this way can be applied to helping you pay down your debt.

Once you’ve figured out the above, it’s time to think about your credit cards. You can write down all your credit card information on another page or in a separate spreadsheet. It’s a good idea to know how much your balance is on each card, plus the limit, your interest rate and your monthly minimum payments. This will help give you a clearer understanding of your debt, and can help you determine which card(s) are making you struggle the most.

 

Formulate a Plan

There are a few ways you can go about the process of paying down your debt. Here are four methods for doing that.

 

The Debt Snowball

In a nutshell, the debt snowball method lets you focus on paying off one debt as quickly as possible while making minimum payments on your other debts. If you’re the kind of person who responds well to quick successes, then this may be a good approach for you.

 

The Debt Avalanche

The second possible approach is the debt avalanche. In this method, you pay down your credit card with the highest interest rate first. This approach helps you save money in the long run by shaving off interest payments more quickly. You won’t see results as quickly, but it can be better for your bottom line.

You can read all about the debt snowball and debt avalanche methods here.

 

Transfer Your Balance

Another option for paying down your debt more quickly is to transfer your credit balances to a credit card that offers a 0% introductory APR for balance transfers. While most of these cards charge a transfer fee (typically between 2% and 5% of the balance transferred), you’ll be charged absolutely no interest for a pre-set period of time. Most balance transfer cards offer this introductory APR for between 12 and 15 months, but some are available for as long as 18 or even 21 months.

It’s important to remember, though, that this card is not for racking up new charges. Your goal should be to pay off the entire balance by the time the introductory APR ends.

Some things to consider when choosing a balance transfer card:

– How long the introductory 0% APR lasts

– Whether that APR is just for balance transfers or also new purchases

– What the APR will be after the introductory rate expires

– Any balance transfer fees

 

Take a Personal Loan

Personal loans, sometimes called debt-consolidation loans, can be a great option for people who like the idea of making one payment each month instead of keeping track of several. These personal loans allow borrowers to make a set monthly payment at a certain interest rate with a hard date for paying it off. However, that payment is set in stone, so if you’re worried about cash flow, keep in mind there’s no lesser, minimum-payment option like with a credit card.

You can learn more about reducing your monthly expenses, increasing your income and implementing debt-payoff strategies in our post, How to Pay Off Debt.

 

[Editorial Disclosure: PayDownMyDebt.com is a service that provides people with tools to pay down their debts through automatic payments. The purpose of this article, however, is not to encourage users to purchase that service. This article is educational and journalistic in nature and aims to help people learn how to pay down their debt, whether they use our site, another, or go it alone.]

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Everyone looks forward to the day when they can honestly say they don’t owe anyone anything. The road to financial freedom can be long and tedious, but employing the right strategies for loan repayment — and avoiding the wrong ones — can shorten the journey and save you a considerable amount of cash. There’s a lot of how-to advice out there about debt payoff, but not all of it is advice worth taking. Here are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to strategies for a faster loan payoff.

 

DO: USE CASH INSTEAD OF CARDS

You can’t pay off your credit cards if you keep using them. When you shop, keep that plastic in your purse or wallet and use cash. Paper money feels more real, and you’re more likely to pause before you buy if you have to break a $20 bill for that latte you don’t really need. It’s too easy to spend frivolously when you’re just swiping a card. Put cash into envelopes for the things you need such as gas and groceries. When the cash runs out, it’s gone, which will automatically limit your spending.

 

DON’T: USE CREDIT INSTEAD OF CASH

Using debit and credit cards instead of cash can lead to unnecessary splurges like that scone with your Starbucks, on-sale items you really don’t need and even extra grocery items that will sit in the pantry until they expire. The unnecessary spending can cause budget creep and high interest credit-card debt, making loan payoff much harder.

 

DO: RENEGOTIATE OR TRANSFER BALANCES

If you have a good payment history with your credit card issuer, call the number on the back of your card. Tell the customer-service representative you’re unhappy with your current interest rate and want to find out if there is a way to lower it. If needed, ask to speak to a supervisor. Better yet, sift through your mail for new lenders offering a long-term 0% interest rate on credit-card balance transfers. Transferring your balance to a lower- or zero-interest card can buy you time and save you a lot of money that can be applied to debt payoff. Know when the 0% APR ends and what the rate will be afterward so you don’t get hit with a skyrocketing interest rate. Be ready to pay off the balance or find a different card with a zero-percent offer when the current interest-free period expires.

 

DON’T: PAY TOO MUCH TOO SOON

Consolidating debt into a single payment sounds like a good idea, but avoid getting locked into a loan repayment plan you can’t maintain. Ask yourself whether you have the money available in your budget to make this payment every month and still cover your living expenses, maintaining an emergency fund and other obligations.

Pay Down My Debt can help you pay down debt faster. Withdrawals from your account every other week fit conveniently with paychecks and your monthly budget, while an extra half payment twice a year toward principal reduces interest over the life of the loan. Please visit our website to learn more about smart loan repayment strategies.

 

 

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