Credit card debt is possibly the worst, most insidious debt trap in which to be caught. Not only is your balance attracting extortion level interest, it’s also most likely that whatever you bought and are still paying for has already been used, eaten, or thrown away… Additionally, paying it off can be a situation of one step forward and two steps back, unless you do two things: ignore the credit card company’s recommended minimum payment and; stop adding to the balance.
If you’re struggling with credit card debt you’re not alone, Debt Relief Australia spokesperson Deborah Southon says, “More than 70,000 Australians visit the debt resolution site each year seeking help.” The truly frightening aspect of this statistic is that, generally, people don’t seek help with debt until they finally admit they’re drowning in it. That’s over 1300 families and individuals, every week, finally admitting that they are in trouble.
Apparently, one of Debt Relief Australia’s clients owed $450,000 (10 different credit cards) and earned a salary of only $40,000 per annum. Paying off one credit card with another was rapidly increasing the debt and severely affecting her mental and physical well-being.
The above is an extreme case, but it serves to highlight how easily you can compound your debt with credit cards and how long it can take some folk before they admit they’re in over their head and need help.
So, how best to tackle your debt? There are two schools of thought on this subject: pay off the smallest debt first so you can feel the positive feedback of accomplishment or; pay off the debt with the highest interest rate because ultimately, this debt will cost you more. The option you choose is up to you. The most important thing is making the commitment to act and then following through.
The Australian government site Money Smart has a calculator which enables you to calculate the outcomes of various payment scenarios, for example: interest rate, debt amount and different payment amounts. You can find the calculator here: Money Smart Credit Card Calculator
What else can you do?
You could consider consolidating your debt. Before consolidating your debt, get some professional advice. It can be more overwhelming, and riskier, to have all your debt ‘eggs’ in the one basket. Plus, it doesn’t give you the opportunity to address why you accumulated the debt in the first place.
Lots of credit card companies offer 0% interest on balance transfers. Check the fine print, though. Often the 0% interest is only for a short time. Remember, the credit card companies make these offers in order to get your business, not to help you pay down your debt.
What should you do when you pay off a credit card?
Close the Credit Card Account
This might seem obvious, but… if you have multiple cards, and you’ve paid one of them off – Close the account. Unless you’re as disciplined as a monk, you only need ONE card, for EMERGENCIES.
Roll Up Your Payments
Once you’ve paid off the first card, add those payments to the payments for the next card on your list. As your cards (or other debts) are paid, your payment amount will begin to snowball, accelerating your pay down rate.
Have you tackled credit card debt and lived to tell the tale? Share your story in the comments and we’ll all benefit from your experience.