How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt: From Least to Most Extreme

Maybe you went on a wild shopping spree, or maybe you needed help buying groceries. There are many ways to get into debt, but there are many ways to get out of it. Let’s start with the basics, and if the first methods aren’t raunchy enough to reign in your dues, there are more radical options.

The Snowball Method

This one is pretty straightforward. Start paying off your smaller debts, then gradually tackling your larger ones. Make a list of your credit cards with the lowest to highest balances. Make larger payments to the card with the smallest balance while still making the minimum payments on your other cards. Eventually, you’ll be able to move up on your list and pay off all of them. This method can be beneficial when paying off debt quickly but could ultimately be more expensive if you have cards with high-interest rates.

The Avalanche Method

Avalanche is similar to the snowball method, but you’ll look at interest instead of balance. Compile a list and rank your cards from highest to lowest interest rates and APRs. Start by paying off the cards with higher interest rates, then work your way down. Doing this helps limit the amount of interest you accrue on your debts. While the avalanche method is effective, you’ll need extra income and the dedication to stick to it.

Make Multiple Payments Each Month

If you don’t have enough income to attack your debts as the previous two methods require aggressively, this could work better. You can spread it out by paying when your paycheck comes in. Instead of only making the minimum monthly payment, make two. If your monthly minimum is $50 and you get paid bi-weekly, chip in the minimum for each paycheck. Or spend the minimum one week and a lesser amount the next. There are many ways to do it and potentially cut your repayment time in half.

Call Your Creditors

This step is simple but often overlooked. Call your creditors and try to negotiate lower interest rates. While this won’t decrease your bill right away, it’ll make your payments more manageable. Interest can eat away at your monthly payments, shrinking the dent you make in your debt.

Take notes on how long it's been since you’ve missed a payment, how much your credit score has improved, and compare your current interest rates to national averages. Once you have this info, you can call the customer service line for your creditor and possibly negotiate a lower rate.

Speak to a Credit Counselor

Credit counselors will start by giving you a financial consultation. They’ll be able to look at your finances and show you the best method for paying down your debt. Credit counseling is a great option, and if you go to a non-profit counselor, your first session could be completely free.

Credit counselors will also contact your creditors and let them know you’ve worked on a plan. By seeking professional help, your creditors will feel more comfortable trusting you and your progress. If your budget doesn’t have room for your debts, they can enroll you in a debt management program that won’t hurt your credit score.

Debt Consolidation

Consolidating your debt essentially puts all your credit card payments into one, usually with a lower overall interest rate. It’s also possible to do this with certain loans. It’s much easier to keep up with your debt when it’s fused into one bill.

Credit card debt consolidation can be beneficial if you struggle with high-interest rates and meet your monthly payments. If you have multiple debts, consolidation makes your life easier by putting all of your debt into one place. Interest rates are based on your credit score, so a lower rate isn’t guaranteed. And depending on who you go to for consolidation, you could face annual fees and upfront costs, plus missing a payment can set your credit back even further.

Pick Up Another Source of Income

Between your current job and the stress of paying off your bills, it's understandable that the last thing you want to do is take on any more work. Having another job or side gig can speed up the repayment process – especially if you put all of those earnings towards your debt.

Debt Settlement

Debt settlement is a deal made with your creditor that allows you to pay less than you owe. Some creditors will let you settle since they’ll get more money from you that way than if you were to declare bankruptcy, but you might need to hire a professional debt negotiator to get the process going.

It’s not guaranteed, but settling can hurt your credit score, and each settled debt could stay on your credit report for seven years. However, it’s still better than not paying off the debt or leaving it in collections.

Bankruptcy

Filing for bankruptcy is a much more extreme option and has the potential to stay on your credit report for up to 10 years. Bankruptcy can be a helpful tool if you’re desperate to get out of debt, but know that it might not cover all you owe. There are six types of bankruptcy, but only two apply to the average American – Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy means that the Federal Court system will sell your qualifying assets to help pay off your creditors. You can usually pay off your debt within four to six months by doing this. Chapter 13 is better for people with businesses or high net worths. The court will reorganize your debts and help you pay them off over a three to five-year period.

It’s important to note that bankruptcy is unlikely to eliminate tax debt, child support, and student loan debt.

Final Thoughts

Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus, reports that the average credit card balance in 2021 was $5,525. That might seem like a steep hill to climb – especially if your debt sits well above average – but it is possible to pay it off.

Before making any big decisions, be sure to talk to a professional. Depending on your situation, paying off your credit cards can be an overwhelming process, but some people can make the process a lot easier.

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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

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Gillian Manning
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