Credit card debt can be a brutal burden to carry around. With every passing day, each card’s average daily balance is calculated, and interest charges are assessed on every dollar of debt. Because unsecured debt that is never tax deductible, credit card interest charges can be far more costly than most home mortgages or student loans.
Although there are no quick fixes to credit card debt, here are some proven ways to manage the debt, make it less onerous, and pay if off sooner.
Here are five ways to get control of your credit card debt with the goal of eliminating it entirely.
1. Consolidate it with a home equity loan.
Part of the problem with credit card debt is its high interest cost, due to the fact that credit card debt is unsecured by collateral, and is not tax deductible. By using a home equity loan, often called a second mortgage, to pay off your credit card debt, you are can lower the interest rate by essentially converting it to a a secured loan. In addition, home equity loans of less than $100,000 are often tax deductible, but check with your accountant or tax preparer to be sure. Of course, this strategy works only if you own your own home, and have considerable equity. (It also puts your home at risk if you are unable to repay the loan, so make sure you can make all of the payments.)
2. Open a new credit card with 0% APR on balance transfers.
When you have credit card debt, the thought of opening another credit card account can seem counterintuitive, but it can make sense in some situations. There are many credit cards that offer 0% APR balance transfers, allowing cardholders to avoid interest charges on their debt for a limited period of between six and 18 months. In most cases, these interest-free balance transfer offers charge a 3% balance transfer fee that gets added to the new account. Nevertheless, the Slate card from Chase is currently the only 0% APR balance transfer offer that does not have a fee. Slate offers 15 months of interest-free financing on both new purchases and balance transfers, with no annual fee. To qualify for these offers, you must have good or excellent credit, and the transfer may not be made between two accounts from the same credit card issuer.
3. Consider a low-interest balance transfer.
Instead of a 0% balance transfer offer with a 3% balance transfer fee, there are some cards that offer unusually low rates on balance transfers, and no balance transfer fee. For example, the PenFed Promise offered by the Pentagon Federal Credit Union features a 7.49% APR on balance transfers for 36 months, with no balance transfer fee. In addition, the Barclaycard Ring offer a standard APR of 8% that applies to balance transfers, with no balance transfer fee.
These low-APR balance transfer offers can make sense to cardholders who might not want one of the more limited time offers, or those who may pay off their balance within a few months, and can save money by avoiding the customary 3% balance transfer fees.
4. Ask for a lower rate.
Many credit cards offer a range of standard interest rates that varies based on the applicant’s creditworthiness at the time the account was opened. However, a cardholder’s credit may have improved since then, and the cardholder may be paying a higher rate than what he or she may now qualify for. Thankfully, the solution may be as simple as contacting the card issuer to request a lower rate. At that time, the card issuer may re-examine your credit and approve you for a lower interest rate. (You can see where your credit scores stand for free every 14 days on Credit.com.)
5. Talk to your card issuer.
If you will be unable to make your monthly minimum payments, it is best to contact your card issuers as soon as possible and inform them of your situation. In some cases, card issuers can offer new terms, often referred to as workout arrangements or forbearance programs, which can lower your interest rate and minimum monthly payment amounts, or reduce punitive fees. If you are uncomfortable negotiating with creditors yourself, you could seek the services of a nonprofit credit counseling agency affiliated with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.
More on Credit Cards:
- How to Lower Your Credit Card Interest Rates
- 6 Smart Credit Card Strategies
- Tips for Paying Off Credit Card Debt