How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt

Point of Interest: Paying Off Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt can easily pile up on you while having balances on multiple accounts. There are two key steps to take if you’re currently trying to get out of some debt of your own: identifying your monthly debt payments and spending the most you can in check.

When you have balances on multiple credit cards, you might feel like you don’t know how to get out of debt. Although paying off all your dues can seem impossible, you can handle it by slowly chipping away at it. By lowering the amount of credit debt, you’ll have a smaller debt-to-income ratio, which will benefit you with larger purchases (such as a house) by increasing your credit score. 

We’ll go over two methods for you to consider when organizing your debt repayment. If you’re the type of person who prefers to check things off their to-do list, you might consider paying the smallest debt first and then moving up. However, if you are interested in maximizing your savings on interest, you might start with the debt that carries the highest interest rate. Whichever route you take, we are here to help through this seemingly intimidating process of paying off your debt — and to prove that you are more than capable.

Identify your monthly debt payments

Organizing your debt repayment plan is the first step toward financial freedom, but it can be tricky to know where to start. First off, you’ll need to know exactly how much you owe. Pull up your credit card information to discover how much you owe and what your interest rate on each card is. Once you have these, find your minimum payment for each and add them up. If the sum seems high, keep paying the minimum, however, if at all possible, try to pay off more than the minimum each month.

Which credit card do you pay off first, though? That depends on your preferences. If you feel satisfied when you see debts disappear off your list, go for the card with the smallest balance first, This could in turn  motivate you to get the rest checked off. However, if you prefer to save the most money, you should pay off the credit card with the highest interest rate. That way, you’ll pay less in interest over time.

Keep spending in check

The best way to get your credit debt down is to curtail your spending. First, come up with a budget. To do this, add up how much income you bring in each month, as well as the total of all your fixed expenses like rent and car payments. Then calculate an estimate of your total variable expenses, like utility bills, groceries and nights out. When you subtract the two from your monthly income, you’ll see how much money you have left over. 

Writing down every unnecessary item that you spend on each month can help you see where you can cut back. A good example would be if you have three streaming services and can choose just one favorite to keep, or you’re paying $10 a month for a magazine subscription that goes into the recycling before you have a chance to read it. You can add this extra bit of savings to your debt payments, which will make a significant impact over time.

What if I can’t make all my payments?

If you are struggling to make a payment, don’t ignore it. Missing a payment on a credit card can harm your FICO score and stay on your credit report for years. Instead, call your credit card provider to discuss options. Credit providers are often willing to work with you, but it’s up to you to make the first call. The company may be able to lower your interest rate, change your due date or lower your minimum payment. These options can help ease the monthly burden on your finances. 

The dos and don’ts of credit card debt repayment

Figuring out how to get out of credit debt can be a challenge. Take a look at these three pieces of advice we offer for strategies that could help you along the way and things you might want to avoid while you’re paying down your debt.

Dos

  • Pay off more than your monthly minimum, if at all possible. Even a few extra dollars each month will lower the amount of interest you pay significantly.
  • Plan your attack. Come up with a strategy for debt repayment that you are motivated to complete. Otherwise, you might not bother.
  • Set up automatic payments. If the money is coming out of your account without you having to do anything, you might not even notice it’s gone. Plus, this will save you from possibly forgetting a payment.

Don’ts

  • Miss a payment. Not paying or paying late on even a single payment can lower your credit score and affect your credit for years to come.
  • Take out a new credit card. The more credit you have available, the more enticed you might be to spend money you don’t have.
  • Pay too much each month. Spending all your money on your credit cards without leaving anything for groceries is unsustainable. Make sure you have enough left over for necessary expenses each month.

The final word

Figuring out which debts to pay off first can seem overwhelming when you have a lot of different accounts that are calling for your attention, but it doesn’t have to be scary. Chipping away at small pebbles of debt each month will soon become a boulder. All it takes is persistence, smart spending and a bit of organization. Whether you choose to pay off your smallest debt first to make your debt list shorter or repay the debt with the highest interest, you’ll soon be making your way out from under that mountain of debt.

Tiffany Verbeck

Personal Finance Contributor

Tiffany Verbeck is a personal finance expert. She uses her storytelling skills gained from a master’s degree in writing to run a freelancing business focused on helping people make and manage their money.