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The excitement of making just the minimum payment on your credit card balance only lasts a while. Millions of Brits, who carry a balance, discover the danger of minimum payments after they feel the sting of the accompanying rotating charge. According the latest statistics, the average UK household owes 6,020 in debt. Such a debt would take 291 months to pay off and cost 8,453.00 in interest if you paid only the minimum payment.
Even if you had a legitimate reason for accumulating high-interest debt, your top priority must be to pay it off. Start with a solid debt reduction plan and stick with it until you’re debt free. Here are five strategies for eliminating credit card debt.
Target one card at a time
If you owe money on multiple cards, it will take a while to wipe out all the debt. It’s hard to see the horizon and stay motivated when you have years of credit card payments ahead of you. Give yourself a boost by paying off one card. Target the card with the lowest balance and put as much money into your payments as you can afford until you’ve cleared the balance.
Alternatively, you can target the card with the highest utilization rate (your balance/card’s limit) and pay it off. Clearing the balance will give your spirits and your credit score an instant boost since credit utilization directly impacts your score.
Negotiate a lower interest rate with your creditors
Although lenders are usually reluctant to negotiate reduced interest rates, it’s still worth a try. If you have a decent credit score and have been responsible with your payments and card use, the lender might consider your request. Reducing your interest by one or two percentage points can lead to hundreds of pounds saved every year. Compare rates and get offers from competing lenders to bring to the negotiation. Your lender might the willing to match the offer.
Take note: Your creditor will need to review your credit report before they make a decision, and they could reduce your card’s credit limit if they don’t like what they see.
Transfer your balance
A growing number of consumers are surfing their credit card balances from one card to another in order to get the best interest rates. While that could potentially lead to hundreds of pounds in savings, there are risks involved if you don’t plan ahead.
Balance transfers are only effective if you commit to repaying the transferred balance within the introductory low rate period. That will give you 12-30 months, depending on the card. After that, the rates will go up, and you’ll be forced, once again, to pay high interest rates.
Important: Balance transfer cards should only be used for paying off debt, not making new purchases. So don’t use the card for shopping, as the low interest rates may not apply to new purchases. Also, most lenders charge a balance transfer fee, so factor that into your costs when you’re comparing cards.
Get a loan
If you’re falling under the burden of high interest rates, consider borrowing money to pay off your cards. Your friends and family may be willing to help. But if not, banks and peer-to-peer lenders offer loans with fixed interest rates that are 20-30 times lower than credit cards. That means you could save hundreds in interest on your debt. If you have excellent credit and a stable salary, you could qualify for loans with competitive interest rates.
Pay the minimum
If you’re cash strapped, you can always pay the minimum, but try to make two minimum payments within the month. Interest is accrued on a daily basis, so earlier payments will reduce your average daily balance and your interest charges. Keep up with the minimum payments twice a month until your debt is paid off.
Spiraling interest rates make it a challenge to pay off debt. Ideally, you should not incur it in the first place, but life is all about learning from your mistakes. The tried-and-true methods listed above should help you to develop your battle plan for tackling your debt. Remember, the most valuable instrument in this battle is your commitment to your financial goals.