How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt
If you’re up to your eyeballs in credit card debt, it probably seems sometimes like you’ll never pay off those bills.
No one is saying it’ll be easy, but with some focused strategy, and help from your credit union, you’ll be able to pay off those credit cards--probably sooner than you think.
By paying just an extra $25 to $50 a month toward one of your credit card bills, you’ll be able to pay off that card, then move to the next one.
You’re probably wondering, “How can I come up with extra money?” Curbing spending is the place to start.
Here are some ways to identify spending leaks so you can redirect small savings to credit card debt:
- Adjust your tax withholdings and put the extra money toward debt each month. The average tax refund is around $2,900--don’t lend money to Uncle Sam.
- Pack your own lunch. Fast food at $6 a day adds up to around $1,500 a year. Brown bagging is a good place to start.
- Pay bills online. You’ll avoid late fees (late payments also can raise your interest rate) and save on postage as well.
- Review phone, cable, and internet service bills. Are you paying for features you don’t use?
- Adjust your thermostat at night or when you’re not home.
- Travel during off-peak/off-season times or put that big vacation on hold. Travel in-state or make day trips instead.
- Save on gas by combining errands instead of making several little trips the same day.
- Replace high-interest bank credit cards for a low-rate credit card from your credit union.
- Pay more than the minimum on your credit card.
Consider the example of a $2,000 balance at 18% interest. If your minimum payment is 2% of the balance due each month, it will take you about 19 years to pay it off and you’ll pay $3,862 in interest. (A 2% minimum payment would start at $40 and taper to $20. Maintain the $40 and you’ll pay off the debt faster. That's what our calculator assumes.)
If you’re paying 4% of the balance due, you’ll pay off the balance in seven years and four months and cut your interest costs to $1,031. (A 4% minimum payment starts at $80 and tapers to $20.)
By paying 8% of the balance due, much more than the minimum, it will take you 3 years and 9 months to pay off, and you’ll pay about $433 in interest. (An 8% minimum payment starts at $160 and tapers to $20.) Remember, these calculations assume you add no more charges to the card.
At the very least, always pay the minimum amount due so you don’t incur a late fee.