Credit cards can be a much-needed lifeline if you need access to credit in an emergency or if you have to pay down a large purchase over time. Unfortunately, the interest rates most credit cards charge make carrying debt a costly proposition. It’s important you choose your next credit card carefully to make sure you get the best deal on interest if you plan to carry a balance.
Unfortunately, the average credit card interest rate is hovering around 16 percent for now. This means if you pay down a $10,000 credit card balance for five years (or 60 months), you would pay $4,590 in interest during that time.
The good news is that you have options for securing a lower interest rate on your credit card debts or, at the very least, can ensure you pay less in interest over time. There are even situations where you may be able to qualify for a 0 percent APR on a credit card for a limited period of time, although you’ll typically need good or excellent credit to qualify for that type of offer.
Whatever your situation, this guide aims to explain how to lower your credit card interest rate, as well as best practices you can use to get out of debt faster.
What’s a good interest rate?
A good interest rate is subjective, and it depends a lot on the credit rating of the individual applying. For example, you may be able to qualify for a lower APR than the average rate if your FICO score is in the very good range of 740 to 799 or the exceptional range, which includes FICO scores of 800 or higher.
Most lenders also consider FICO scores in the 670 to 739 range as being good; however, other factors can come into play and impact the interest rate you’re charged, such as your income or current debt-to-income ratio.
Because what it means to secure a good interest rate is so subjective, you should aim for one that matches your credit rating and that makes it possible to carry debt without financial hardship. Ideally, you’ll pay the lowest interest rate you can possibly qualify for.
How to lower your credit card interest rate
There are quite a few ways to lower your credit card interest rate and the steps involved may not be as arduous as you think. If you want to lower your credit card interest rate, these tips can help you achieve that goal:
Improve your credit score
A good way to land an interest rate that you can comfortably afford is to take some steps toward improving your credit score before applying for a new credit card. One of the easiest ways to give your credit rating a boost is to pay your credit card bill early or on time every month. You should also refrain from opening too many new accounts, which leads to multiple hard inquiries on your credit report, and closing accounts, which can lower your credit utilization. Both moves can negatively impact your credit score, along with other factors.
If you have a lot of debt in relation to your credit limits, you can also improve your credit score by paying off your debt. Most experts recommend keeping your credit utilization rate below 30 percent for the best results, which means maintaining $3,000 or less in revolving balances for every $10,000 in total credit you have.
Call your card issuer and ask
Even before you’ve taken steps to improve your credit score, you can give your credit card issuer a call to request a lower interest rate. You know what they say—it never hurts to ask. If you have kept up with payments and have a solid history of responsible credit use with your credit card issuer, it’s possible they’ll lower your interest rate just to keep your business. The worst they can say is “no.” You can also try calling again once you’ve spent some time building up your credit score.
You can also threaten to cancel your card to put a little fire under your credit card issuer. Tell the customer service representative that you connect with that you’re considering cards from other issuers and you may find they’re more willing to negotiate.
Still no luck? You can also try the HUCA method. HUCA stands for “hang up, call again” and, as the name suggests, involves hanging up and trying again if you don’t like the first response you receive. It’s possible a second (or third) customer service representative might be more accommodating to your requests than the first.
Apply for a balance transfer card
One way to pay less in interest for a limited time is to apply for a balance transfer credit card, most of which let you secure a 0 percent intro APR on transferred balances for at least 12 to 18 months. Just keep in mind that balance transfer fees are typically required for these offers, so you won’t get access to that 0 percent APR for free.
With a top balance transfer card like the Citi® Double Cash Card, for example, you get a 0 percent APR on balance transfers for 18 months followed by a variable APR of 13.99 percent to 23.99 percent. However, a 3 percent balance transfer fee (minimum $5) applies. That may not sound like a lot, but a 3 percent balance transfer fee on $10,000 in transferred debt would tack on $300 to your balance right away.
Pay down debt faster
Whether you secure a lower interest rate or not, you always have the possibility of paying less in interest by paying down your credit card debt faster. Every dollar you pay over your credit card’s minimum payment goes directly toward the principal of your balance. By paying more each month, you can lower your total interest and get out of debt on a shorter timeline all on your own.
It’s important to keep in mind that it will be easier to get out of debt if you stop using your credit card to make new purchases. If you continue racking up debt just as you’re trying to pay it off, you can end up in a cycle of debt that lasts for decades—or even your entire life.
How to avoid paying interest
There is one tried and true method for avoiding credit card interest altogether. If you only make purchases you can afford to pay off and you pay your credit card bill in its entirety every month, you will never get charged a dime in interest payments. Which means you will never spend more than you need to on your purchases and you won’t damage your credit score by making late payments.
Most people know it takes discipline and financial planning to get into a position where you are entirely free of credit card debt. However, the work it takes to get there can be well worth it. Since many credit cards don’t have an annual fee, it’s possible to use credit cards to your advantage and never pay a dime for the privilege.