Top tips to reduce your credit card debt

Posted on: 12 July 2010 by Mark O'haire

Cutting credit card debt is not easy, follow these five top tips on how to cope with credit card debt and ways you can cut the amount of money you owe as fast as possible.

Reduce credit card debt1) Switch credit cards

If you have run up a massive debt on your current credit card, unless you already have an agreed low level of interest to pay, the chances are a hefty sum of the money you pay each month will go towards the interest on your debt, rather than the actual amount you owe. Big spenders on credit cards mean big money for lenders and most are keen to take on new customers with big debts as it means they can make large amounts of money on the interest. To entice customers away from their current lenders they invariably offer attractive deals such as 0% APR on balance transfers for a fixed time period.

A 0% interest rate for 3 – 12 months on balance transfers were once fairly common, and although they are less prolific than they once were – there are still some good 0% deals on balance transfers out there. What this does is effectively freezes the amount you owe for a set time period, rather than incurring unnecessary interest each month. By becoming a ‘rate tart’ and switching lenders whenever your low interest rate comes to an end, you could save a fortune in interest rate payments and pay-off your overall credit card debt more quickly.

2) Beware hidden fees

Other common way lenders try to squeeze money out of potential ‘rate tarts’ is through implementing charges for switching. Many lenders charge a standard fee of £50 for transferring (added on to your new balance), but some charged uncapped fees of two or even three per-cent. Depending on how much you owe on your cards the uncapped fees can prove costly, for example, at the highest rate of 3%, transferring a balance of £5,000 would cost a whopping £150. Check the switching fees a lender charges before switching.

However, with competition in the credit card industry more fierce than ever and numerous lenders to choose from, there are still plenty of opportunities available for debt-laden consumers to lessen their debt if they look carefully at the deals on offer.

3) Destroy unwanted credit cards

As any self-confessed rate tart will be able to tell you, taking advantage of low interest rates and balance transfers can be a very effective way to pay off credit card debt, however, they are only profitable if you destroy your old credit cards, too. If you regularly change credit cards to take advantage of 0% APR, over the course of a year or two you could quite easily end up with three or more credit cards. While you may have paid off the debt on some of these cards through balance transfers, if a credit card with an available credit limit is in your pocket or purse, the temptation for many people is to use it, racking up debt on all cards. A simple tip: once you get a new credit card destroy any others you may have and notify the lender that you wish to close the account.

4) Pay-off as much as you can each month

Interest rates on credit cards are astronomically high compared to most other rates for borrowing; therefore you should try as hard as possible to pay-off as much as you can afford on your cards each month. If you have credit card debts, but are also saving a small amount each month, you would be better off in the long-run putting that money towards paying off your credit card debt before beginning to save. If you can afford it, even by an extra £10 or £20 each month, always pay more than the minimum monthly repayment asked for.

Research by Moneysupermarket.com found that by only paying the minimum monthly repayment on a credit card each month you could quite easily prolong your credit card debt for more than a decade. The company claim that on a typical credit card balance of £2,200 with a standard APR of 13.9%, it would take 26 years to pay off the debt in full if the required minimum payment of 2% was paid each month. What’s more, over that same period, a whopping £2,463 extra would be paid back in interest – more than the initial amount owed.

5) Alternatives to credit cards: Payday Loans

Many people first get credit cards when they need to make a one-off purchase – such as a special item purchase, holiday or emergency spend - often with the intention of only using it once. However, once they get the card – and see the readily available spending limits – credit cards can quickly become an all too familiar part of everyday life.

Before getting a credit card it’s worth thinking about whether or not you actually need one and to consider other forms of lending. For example, if you want a short-term loan for a one-off purchase you could consider a payday loan. Payday loans can be a good tool for quickly and easily borrowing cash. The loans do not require a credit check and with online applications, the money can be in your account in a matter of hours. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is high on payday loans, but the loans are designed to be short-term, so the APR, which is a yearly calculation, can be misleading.

For example if you took out a conventional loan and borrowed £500 at an APR of 16.9% and repaid it over 36 months it would cost you £745 to repay or an actual interest rate of 49%. Whereas if you took out a payday loan of £500, with the aim of paying it back on your next payday it would cost you £625. Despite having an APR of 1,737% the actual interest charged would be 25%.  As this example shows it is crucial that you repay a payday loan as soon as possible, but if you are looking to make one purchase and repay it quickly it could reduce the temptation of getting a credit card and maxing out on it, causing further longer term debt in the future.

Online Resources

  • PayDay Bank - Payday Loans from Paydaybank.co.uk.
  • Money Maxim - Tailored financial advice service that saves you money.

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