If you have a little more credit card debt than what you’d like, you’re not alone. Did you know that 41.2% of all American households carry some sort of credit card debt? (And we aren’t talking about a grocery store visit they plan to pay off the next day). According to the credit scoring agency Experian, the average credit card balance was $6,194 in 2019. When you’re stuck under that much debt, getting out can feel overwhelming. But with a process and some discipline, you can make your way to being free of credit card debt. Here are some tips for crushing credit card debt from Citizens Bank.
Create a Budget
The first step in saying goodbye to credit card debt is to have a plan. While 1 out of 3 Americans don't use a budget, 93% say everyone needs a budget. This is especially true if you are working to pay off debt. A budget can help you answer some very important questions, like… When do you want to be out of debt? How much do you need to allocate towards your credit card payments to reach your goal? What is your monthly budget for impulse purchases, dining out, groceries, utilities, etc? Once you decide on these numbers, create a budget that allows you to stick to them. Make sure your timeline is realistic. Creating overly aggressive goals you can’t stick to will likely be discouraging.
Pay More than the Minimum Payment Amount
Most credit cards require a monthly minimum payment to avoid late fees. This may be a fixed amount or a percentage of your outstanding balance. Either way, these relatively low payments are not calculated to make a real dent in your debt when you consider you are being charged interest on your balance. Still, nearly one-third of Americans only pay the minimum amount due on their credit card each month. The practice of making only the minimum payment will keep you on a debt hamster wheel - i.e. you pay only a little, you are charged interest close to that same amount and make no forward progress on paying down your debt (and knocking down the overall balance). Pay more than your monthly minimum payment on your cards to move forward and pay off your debt faster!
Find an Approach That Works for you
As with many financial goals, paying off credit card debt is not a one-size-fits all approach and you have to find what will work for you. We recommend paying off one card at a time as this will feel more manageable and is more likely to avoid disappointment. But there are a couple ways you can go about this, see below!
Target the Highest APR
The APR, or annual percentage rate, is the amount of interest charged to your credit account when you carry a balance. This interest adds to your monthly payment as well as overall balance and can only be avoided if you pay off your card balance in full each month. You’ll save money in the long run by paying off the card with the highest interest rate first. The card with the highest interest rate is costing you the most money each month. Paying off this debt first will cost less overall and free up money for you to focus on paying off other debt.
Use the Snowball Method
Instead of selecting the card with the highest APR, the snowball method uses your sense of accomplishment as motivation. Using this approach, you prioritize your credit card debt by amount, focusing on the smallest balance first. When you’ve paid off one credit card, you roll that payment amount into the amount you’re contributing toward your next smallest balance, and so on. Like a snowball rolling down a hill, you’ll gradually make bigger and bigger payments, ultimately eliminating your credit card debt.
Talk to an Expert
Last, but not least… Don’t go it alone - talk to an expert. Credit card debt can feel overwhelming, but rest assured with Citizens Bank, you have a team of experts on your side. And if your goals are to buy your dream home, save for your child’s college costs, or get a new vehicle, we can help make those a reality too. We work hard to give our customers all the information they need to make the right calls. We’re happy to help you plan for whatever lies ahead, including paying off your credit card debt. Contact Citizens Bank today and let’s get started.