When it’s been a long, expensive month and you want to stroll through that last weekend somehow, credit cards can be a lifeline for many of us.
When used the right way, credit cards are the perfect solution to minor financial problems. It’s just a little extra money after all.
But if we’re careless with our credit card debt, they can pile up, getting increasingly difficult to pay off as the days pass by, eventually forcing us into a tight spot financially.
Credit card debt is one of the leading causes for bankruptcy across the world. Credit card bills often compel people to borrow money, on top of outstanding bill, trapping them in an endless cycle of paying debt, otherwise known as a debt trap.
Citizens of USA, despite their relative financial prosperity have managed to rack up over 1 trillion in credit card debt. In the consumerist culture we live in, with a plethora of online payment options, it is easy to be tempted by the extravagant purchase once in a while.
India is also not far behind in this department.
In India, credit card debt is rising at an exponential rate. As of May 2016, the total credit card debt incurred by Indians was 42,100 crore, compared to 27,000 crore during the great recession of 2008.
The number of credit cards being used has also increased from 1.75 crore in 2011 to 2.5 crore in 2016. With global credit debt climbing rapidly and economic conditions starting to look grim, it’s a good idea to make a plan to clear any credit card debt you may have as quickly as possible.
6 Ways to Pay Off Your Credit Card Debt Faster
1. Take Stock of the Situation
The first thing you want to do is write down all the money you owe on different credit cards.
Often, when we think of debt, we tend to either think of it as a fuzzy amount we don’t clearly keep track of, or as an insurmountable hurdle. Both extremes are dangerous.
When we think of credit card debt as a large amount that we owe a bunch of nameless, faceless companies, it tends to be harder to come to terms with.
It’s much better to divide and conquer.
Make a table of how much money you owe on each credit card and tackle each of them individually!
2. Tackle the Biggest Problem First
While paying off credit card debt, it can be tempting to pay off the card with the smallest balance first.
On paper, this has a few advantages. It gives you a small mental boost, and it may make a seemingly insurmountable problem look a little more manageable.
However, in practicality, this approach interest, can end up costing you more money in the long run.
That’s why the best approach, in this case, is to start by paying off the credit card debt which has the highest rate of interest with respect to principal. This might keep your CIBIL score in check as well
A high rate of interest means that your debt piles up faster, so it’s a good idea to arrest the losses first. The idea while paying off credit card debt is to reduce the principal amount you owe in order to cut down on the interest accrued.
So, it’s also important to focus on paying off not just the interest, but also the principal.
3. Pay Off Your Bills Regularly
This may sound quite obvious, but it’s actually very practical because it increases the number of payment you make per year.
Most people pay their credit card bills on a monthly basis. It’s a better idea to make this payment twice a month. If you pay your credit card bills twice a month, you make twenty four payments a year.
This is more than the number of payments you would make if you paid a monthly bill. Making more payments means that you have a better shot at reducing the principal balance.
It’s also worth making a little extra effort. For example, if you get your yearly bonus or a raise, it’s not a bad idea to use some of that money to reduce the principal amount on your credit card debt.
Since there are no pre-payment penalties on credit card bills, you can make the payment pretty much any time!
4. Get Creative with Your Credit Card Options
Imagine if your credit card didn’t charge you any interest on purchases for an entire year!
It sounds like a dream, right?
What if I told you this is possible?
Presenting: the 0% APR credit card. APR stands for annual payment rate, or the interest that the credit card company charges over a year’s period.
A 0% APR credit card gives you 0% interest on your credit card debt balance for a certain amount of time, usually, a year or longer.
The idea is to get a 0% APR credit card, and then transfer your existing credit card balance to the new card. This way you can avoid paying interest on it till the 0% APR period ends.
However, you do need to pay the minimum amount every month.
The advantage here is that you can use this grace period to focus on your principal amount and try to pay your credit card bills off fully before you start accruing interest.
5. Take a Loan!
That’s not a joke.
We don’t mean take a loan in addition to your credit card debt! We mean convert your credit debt into a personal loan.
This is called a consolidation loan. The advantage here is that in the case of a personal loan, the interest rate is fixed.
Credit cards have variable interest rates, which make them hard to plan for. Also, the interest rate for credit cards is usually in double digits; much higher than the interest you would pay for a personal loan.
Consolidation is a great way to reduce the total amount of interest you have to pay, and also to give yourself some breathing room in terms of time.
6. Other Alternatives
If your credit card bill is still somewhat manageable, you can always talk to your bank and ask them to convert your outstanding bill into monthly EMIs.
However, banks do charge 2-3% monthly fee if they avail the EMI option.
The gist of money management is essentially to pay your bills on time. Some of us are forgetful and tend to miss our monthly payments.
If this is an issue for you, you can also talk to your bank and avail the automatic payment facility. This way, even if you’re traveling or have a hectic week at work, you don’t have to worry about missing the payment deadline because the amount will be automatically deducted from your bank account every month.
credit cards are useful, as long as you pay attention to payment deadlines.
If you’ve racked up a credit card debt, there’s still no reason to panic. With a little planning and strategy, you can pay back your credit card bill in a few months.
However, always be careful to keep your credit card debt in check!