How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt When You Have No Idea Where to Start

  • March 20, 2019
  • 9:58 pm

We know how easy it is to rack up credit card debt. Over 41% of American households carry a credit card balance, and the average balance for those households is $9,333, according to a study from financial data website ValuePenguin.

But here’s the thing about credit cards: They only benefit you when you’re building credit and receiving perks — but not paying interest. If you’re carrying a balance beyond an interest-free period, your cards only benefit the card issuers.

With average interest rates on new credit cards north of 17%, paying off credit card debt is a smart move.

If you’re ready to get rid of credit card debt, be prepared for inconvenient choices and a lot of saying no. But you can do it. And every difficult step will be worth it.

How to Pay Off Debt From Multiple Credit Cards

Before you start, you should stop using your credit cards altogether until you can use them without putting yourself in financial risk. Though the specifics will vary based on your situation, we only recommend using credit cards if:

You don’t have any consumer debt.

You have an emergency fund with three to six months’ worth of expenses saved.

You can pay off your balance in full every month.

However you do it, make paying off your credit cards — and learning to use them responsibly — a high priority.

Credit card usage has a huge impact on your credit score. If you spend too much of your overall limit or miss payments, you’ll hurt your score. If you keep your balances low and make on-time payments, your score will probably increase over time.

1. Debt Snowball vs. Debt Avalanche: Determine Your Plan of Attack

First, determine how much credit card debt you have. You can do this using a tool like Credit Sesame.

Instead of looking at your debt in its entirety, we recommend approaching it bit by bit. By breaking your debt down into manageable chunks, you’ll experience quicker wins and stay motivated.

Two popular ways to break down debt repayments are the debt avalanche and debt snowball methods.

Using the debt avalanche method, you’ll order your credit card debts from the highest interest rate to the lowest. You’ll make minimum payments on all your cards, and any extra income you have will go toward the highest-interest card.

Eventually, that card will be paid off. Then, you’ll attack the debt with the next-highest interest rate, and so on, until all your cards are paid off.

With the debt snowball method, you’ll order your debts from the lowest balance to highest, regardless of the interest rates on the cards. You’ll make minimum payments on all your cards, and any extra income will go to the credit card with the smallest balance.

Starting with the smallest balance allows you to experience wins faster than you would with the avalanche, but you will spend more money on interest. While both have trade-offs, you can’t go wrong with either method.

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