Carrying too much credit card debt is a major threat to your financial security. High interest rates can cause debt to quickly accumulate beyond your ability to repay, and the potential damage to your credit score can make it harder to qualify for other loans, or even rent an apartment.
Fortunately, there are several ways to tackle debt and get your finances under control. Here are common strategies for paying off credit card debt.
Pay off credit cards one at a time
If you owe money on more than one card, you can pay off each card in sequence. One common approach is to start by paying off the card with the highest interest rate first to reduce your finance charges. After paying down that balance, move on to the card with the next highest rate. But remember: You’ll need to make the minimum payments on all your cards while focusing on one to pay down.
If rates on your cards aren’t substantially different, you might pay off the smallest debt first, as quickly as possible. Doing so can give some people a psychological boost, and help you move on to the larger balances.
Refinance with balance transfer
A more proactive approach to paying off credit card debt is to refinance—borrowing money at a lower rate to pay off all credit cards, then developing a payment plan for your consolidated loan. Refinancing typically results in lower costs due to the lower interest rate.
There are three common refinancing approaches:
- Consolidating debt on a credit card with a low rate on balance transfers.
- A personal loan
- A home equity loan or line of credit
One potential catch: To qualify for these loans or a lower credit card rate, you’ll need a good credit score. For example, you might need a score above 600 for a personal loan or 700 for a zero percent balance transfer.
Read the fine print
While rebalancing offers potential advantages, each method comes with important considerations that borrowers must understand:
- Rates can change: zero percent interest on a balance transfer rate generally lasts for a limited time, and personal loans can have teaser rates that expire.
- Watch out for fees: Balance transfers often carry a fee that’s a percentage of your balance or a fixed amount, whichever’s more. Personal loans and home equity.