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Clearing Credit Card Debt

If you’ve got credit cards, you know they’re both a blessing and a curse. They’re a handy tool for getting the things you need before you get paid, but with the average American carrying about $6200 in credit card debt, it’s clear that they’re also a problem. If you’re in over your head with credit card debt, how can you get out of it?

  • Take a good look at your debt. The first step in getting rid of credit card debt is to understand exactly what you’re facing. Make a list of your creditors, account balances, interest rates, and monthly payments. A big-picture view of your financial situation can inform your plan.
  • Are you an avalanche, a snowball, or a blizzard? There are three common ways to knock out credit card debt. Your choice depends on your personality and your priorities.
    • The avalanche method involves paying off the balances with the highest interest rates first. You do this by paying as much above the minimum payment as you can afford on the card with the highest APR. Once that debt is paid off, you continue paying that amount of money, but you put it toward the card with the next highest rate. This is an aggressive plan that’s great if your goal is saving money.
    • Choosing the snowball method means paying your smallest balance first. It’s the same concept as the avalanche method, but you start with the card with the smallest balance. Once that card is wiped out, you go to the next largest balance. This is emotionally satisfying because you pay off balances more quickly.
    • The blizzard method combines both strategies. In this scenario, you put money towards both goals, first paying the smallest balance and then moving on to the highest-interest balance.
  • Doubling up reduces interest. If you don’t have much money to pay down your credit cards, a good strategy might be paying your minimum payment twice each month. Because interest accrues throughout the month, paying every two weeks can reduce debt much more quickly.
  • Slow and steady wins the race. Reconcile yourself to the idea that paying down debt will take time. While you’re working on decreasing your debt, work on improving your financial habits as well. Differentiate between wants and needs, prioritizing necessities, debt reduction, and saving. By sticking to a strict budget, you can turn your financial situation around.

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