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Although credit card debt can be quite easy to get into, the high interest rates can make it hard to get out of. Luckily, there are many resources that can help you learn how to pay off credit card debt as fast as possible, so you can save money.
The good news is that if you’re reading this article, you’ve already taken the first step to paying off credit card debt — you’ve taken the initiative to learn about your options.
Here are nine strategies to pay off credit card debt fast:
- Call your credit card company first
- Figure out a debt payoff plan
- Use the debt avalanche method
- Use the debt snowball method
- Consider a 0% APR balance transfer
- Consider a credit card consolidation loan
- Tap into your home’s equity
- Cut out the non-essentials
- Find help through debt relief
1. Call your credit card company first
Consider this your first step toward paying off credit card debt.
Before diving into a plan for paying off your debt, a good first step is to contact your credit card company (or companies if you have multiple cards). You should make sure you’re up to date on all of your balances and also ask what your options are as far as any help they can offer.
In some cases, you might be able to secure a lower interest rate, temporary payment reduction, or change in payment due date. You’re more likely to get a good result if you indicate you’re looking for low-interest credit cards from other companies.
2. Figure out a debt payoff plan
Consider this if you’re just starting to figure out your credit card debt payoff solution.
Once you’ve done everything you can with your credit card issuers, it’s time to make a plan for paying off your debt. While you certainly want to make the minimum payments on all cards to avoid a negative impact on your credit score, if you have multiple sources of debt it’s worth taking some time to figure out the most effective strategy for your budget.
Take stock of all your sources of debt, including all credit cards and all types of loans (student loans, auto loans, mortgage, personal loans, etc.). Write them all down or create a spreadsheet and note the interest rate on each.
If you have a personal loan (or are considering one), you can use our calculator below to estimate your monthly payments. Simply enter the loan amount, interest rate, and loan term to see how much you’ll pay over the life of the loan.
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3. Use the debt avalanche method
Consider this if you want to save the most money on interest.
Now that you have a plan, it’s time to get the ball rolling on paying off that debt. One option you can consider is using the debt avalanche method. With this strategy, you’ll find your debt with the highest interest rate — that should be your priority.
The reasoning here is that, over the same period of time, a higher-interest debt will cost you the most (relative to the amount of debt you owe), so you want to pay it down as soon as possible. Then, pay down the debt with the next highest interest rate, and so on.
If you’ll be most encouraged by saving the most money by prioritizing the highest-interest debt first, this can be the right choice for you.
4. Use the debt snowball method
Consider this if you’re motivated by smaller wins.
If you prefer consistent, smaller wins as an encouragement to pay off all their debt, you could use the debt snowball method.
This strategy focuses on paying off the debt with the smallest balance first, no matter the credit card interest rate. So if you’re worried you’ll lose steam paying off a large sum first, think about first focusing on a smaller balance that you can check off the list sooner.
If you need small wins along the way to motivate you, this strategy might be your best bet.
5. Consider a 0% APR credit card balance transfer
Consider this if you can pay off all your debt before the intro period is over (and if the balance transfer fee doesn’t outweigh your savings).
If you need some time to get your finances back in order and would like to avoid accruing tons of credit card interest charges, a 0% APR balance transfer card could be a great option.
These cards typically offer up to 18 months of 0% APR for balance transfers, which means you can move your old balance onto a new credit card and avoid accruing interest for a number of months. Keep in mind that most 0% APR offers charge a balance transfer fee — and any purchases you make after opening the card will start accruing interest right away, so be sure to pay those off as soon as possible to avoid racking up more interest charges.
Don’t use the balance transfer as an excuse to ignore your debt for the period of 0% APR, as interest will start accruing right when the introductory APR offer is over. Instead, shoot to save enough so that you can pay off the balance by the end of the introductory period or divide the total by the months you have to pay it and pay off that amount of debt each month so by the time the introductory APR is over, you’ve paid it all off.
6. Consider a credit card consolidation loan
Consider this if you have good credit, can secure a lower interest rate, and can pay off the loan before the term is up.
If you have good credit, you may be able to pay off your debt with a credit card consolidation loan, reducing the total amount of interest you’ll owe.
If you go this route, you’ll need to use a low-interest personal loan to pay off your credit card company, meaning future payments will go to your new lender. But, unlike with compounding interest for credit cards, a personal loan is paid off in installments; you’ll receive a lump sum of cash upfront and pay back the loan in fixed installments until the loan and interest are paid off.
Some personal loans charge an origination fee, so keep an eye out for fees you might not be expecting. But Credible makes it easy to see prequalified rates from our personal loan partners in the table below — as well as transparency into all fees and rates.
|Lender||Fixed rates||Can be used for credit card consolidation?|
|9.95% - 35.99% APR||Yes|
|6.79% - 17.99% APR||Yes|
|4.99% - 35.99% APR||Yes|
|5.99% - 24.99% APR||Yes|
|7.99% - 29.99% APR||Yes|
|7.04% - 35.89% APR||Yes|
|9.99% - 35.99% APR||Yes|
|2.99% - 19.99% APR||Yes|
|6.99% - 19.99% APR1||Yes|
|18.0% - 35.99% APR||Yes|
|5.99% - 24.99% APR||Yes|
|6.95% - 35.99% APR||Yes|
|6.99% - 21.78% APR10||Yes|
|8.93% - 35.93% APR7||Yes|
|5.94% - 35.97% APR||Yes|
|4.37% - 35.99% APR4||Yes|
7. Tap into your home’s equity
Consider this if you want a lower interest rate and are comfortable using your house as collateral.
If you own a home, you could tap into your home’s equity to pay off debt. Here are a couple options you might consider:
- Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC): As a source of funds to pay off high-interest credit card debt. A HELOC doesn’t necessarily require excellent credit to secure a good rate, and you can generally get a lower rate than with an unsecured personal loan.
- Cash-out refinancing: A cash-out refinance allows you to pull money out of your home by refinancing your current mortgage for an amount greater than the existing loan.
8. Cut out the non-essentials
Consider this if you still need to free up some money in your budget to pay off your debt.
If you have other significant monthly expenses that you can live without, consider making some sacrifices that can help you get back on your feet.
If you’re ready to make a big change to get out of debt, consider downsizing your house or apartment to something that will decrease your monthly expenses. You could even get a roommate to help offset your housing costs.
Even smaller things, like bringing lunch from home to work or school or making an effort to cook at home more (rather than eating out) can help your budget if you make a habit of it.
Every little thing adds up, and might even be costing you more if you’re leaving it on a credit card and paying interest on it.
9. Find help through debt relief
Consider this if you have a large amount of debt that you’re unable to pay off.
If you are really struggling to tackle your credit card debt and aren’t sure you’ll be able to pay off what you owe, then you might need to consider taking more serious action.
Here are some potential options to consider:
Many nonprofit organizations — such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling — offer debt management plans. If you sign up for a debt management plan, the creditor will help set up an agreement between you and your creditors. You’ll then make payments to the counseling agency each month, which will pay your creditors directly.
In some cases, your creditors might be willing to reduce or waive fees or finance charges in return for you completing a debt management program. Additionally, the on-time payments made to your creditors on a debt management plan could help you begin to reestablish your credit.
Another option to consider is negotiating a debt settlement with your creditor, often for less than what you owe. If the creditor agrees to the settlement, you’ll typically have to make a lump-sum payment to resolve the debt.
You can try to negotiate with a creditor directly, but there are also several for-profit debt settlement companies that will do this work for you. However, keep in mind that a debt settlement company will likely encourage you to stop making payments while they attempt to negotiate with your creditor, which could severely damage your credit.
If you’re overwhelmed and unable to pay your debt, filing for bankruptcy might be a good option. However, keep in mind that while bankruptcy could help you take control of your finances, it will severely damage your credit — so it should only be a last resort.
Two main types of bankruptcy are available to individuals:
- Chapter 7: This kind of bankruptcy allows borrowers to discharge most types of unsecured debt, such as credit cards and medical bills. To qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must pass a means test to prove that you can’t afford to pay your bills. Note that if you’re eligible, you might have to sell your assets (if you have any) to repay your creditors. Also keep in mind that Chapter 7 bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for 10 years.
- Chapter 13: Unlike Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Chapter 13 bankruptcy doesn’t discharge your debt — instead, your debt will be reorganized, and you’ll make payments on a court-mandated repayment plan that typically lasts for three to five years. If you successfully complete your repayment, you’ll be allowed to keep your property. Keep in mind that Chapter 13 bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for seven years.
Learn More: Debt Consolidation vs. Bankruptcy: How to Choose
How to avoid future credit card debt
Once you get out of credit card debt, it’s a good idea to build good habits so that you can avoid a similar situation in the future. These strategies can help you stay away from credit card debt going forward:
1. Budget wisely and track your spending
If you don’t already have a set budget that you follow, now might be the time to start. Make sure your budget includes any non-negotiables, such as rent, utilities, food, and loans first, as these categories take priority. Then you can determine how much money you can realistically spend on your credit card each month with respect to your discretionary categories.
When your budget is in place, use it to track your spending over the course of the month. You can either do this manually by taking stock of your spending every few days or perhaps once a week or by using a budgeting app.
Reevaluate the budget you’ve created for yourself in two months to make sure you accounted for all of your spending accurately. Then, going forward, make a habit of checking in with your accounts regularly.
2. Build an emergency fund
An emergency fund is simply a savings account where you keep enough money to pay a few months’ worth of expenses in case something unexpected happens with your income.
There’s no set amount you’ll need, but most experts recommend between three and six months of expenses. For example, if you typically spend $3,000 every month, it’s best to work toward having between $9,000 and $18,000 in your emergency fund.
An emergency fund can also be used to pay off credit card debt before interest starts accumulating, so it’s a good idea to get one established as soon as possible. If you end up dipping into your emergency fund for unexpected expenses, make a point of building it back up as soon as possible.
3. Pay your balance in full every month
While it can be tempting to pay just the minimum on your credit card each month, make a point of paying as much as you can — preferably the full balance. Any credit card balance carried over to the next month will start accruing interest and that costs you more every day.
Carrying a balance on your credit cards also impacts your credit utilization rate on your credit report — which can decrease your credit score if it exceeds a certain percentage of your available credit. A decreased credit score may result in higher APRs on loans or other credit cards you take out in the future.
4. Spend excess funds wisely
If you have extra money a certain month, like a tax refund or a bonus from work at the end of the year, you should use those funds strategically.
Think of it this way: Using your tax refund to pay off credit card debt or a loan, for example, will leave you with more money in the long run because you’ll save on interest by paying the debt off sooner.
While it’s hard not to use the extra cash to treat yourself, think of it as a long-term investment, and promise yourself a reward down the road.
5. Set up automatic payments
It’s generally good practice to set up autopay for your credit cards and any other monthly payments so that you reduce the chances of missing a payment — particularly if you have multiple accounts and multiple due dates to keep track of.
Late payment fees for credit cards can exceed $30, and some will charge a penalty APR for late payments, so it’s well worth the setup to avoid these consequences.
But this doesn’t mean you should ignore your bills. Make sure you review every bill that comes in to make sure there aren’t any fraudulent charges on your account and to ensure any refunds you’re expecting come through.
6. Stop adding to your credit card debt
It should go without saying, but don’t continue the cycle of high-interest debt. Focus on paying off the credit card debt you have and don’t continue to use your credit cards.
If you’ll be too tempted, you might want to consider cutting up your cards or giving them to a trusted friend or family member to hold onto so you don’t use them so you can focus on paying off your debt now. Either way, paying off credit card debt will only be effective if you avoid racking more up, so keep that in mind as you go through this process.
Find the best products to help you pay off debt
Some of the most effective strategies for getting your head above water financially often involve a balance transfer credit card or personal loan.
Once you’ve decided the best route for your situation and budget, the next step is choosing the right card or loan from dozens of available options. Credible is here to help you make the right decision by allowing you to compare credit cards and personal loan options, so you can find the right fit for your needs.
About Rates and Terms: Rates for personal loans provided by lenders on the Credible platform range between 4.99-35.99% APR with terms from 12 to 84 months. Rates presented include lender discounts for enrolling in autopay and loyalty programs, where applicable. Actual rates may be different from the rates advertised and/or shown and will be based on the lender’s eligibility criteria, which include factors such as credit score, loan amount, loan term, credit usage and history, and vary based on loan purpose. The lowest rates available typically require excellent credit, and for some lenders, may be reserved for specific loan purposes and/or shorter loan terms. The origination fee charged by the lenders on our platform ranges from 0% to 8%. Each lender has their own qualification criteria with respect to their autopay and loyalty discounts (e.g., some lenders require the borrower to elect autopay prior to loan funding in order to qualify for the autopay discount). All rates are determined by the lender and must be agreed upon between the borrower and the borrower’s chosen lender. For a loan of $10,000 with a three year repayment period, an interest rate of 7.99%, a $350 origination fee and an APR of 11.51%, the borrower will receive $9,650 at the time of loan funding and will make 36 monthly payments of $313.32. Assuming all on-time payments, and full performance of all terms and conditions of the loan contract and any discount programs enrolled in included in the APR/interest rate throughout the life of the loan, the borrower will pay a total of $11,279.43. As of March 12, 2019, none of the lenders on our platform require a down payment nor do they charge any prepayment penalties.