If you have a number of credit cards with balances on them, you might feel overwhelmed by having a large number of monthly payments or a total balance that is higher than you are comfortable with. If you have finally decided that it is time to take action and pay off some of this debt, there are several different ways to approach the task. While each will get you ahead financially, it’s important to understand that they offer different advantages. Let’s discuss some of the common ways that you can pay off your credit cards and get ahead.
Determining Where to Start
There are several ways to approach the problem. Different strategies will appeal to different people. Think about the debt that you have, and what you think will help you most. For some, paying less interest is important. Other people find that minimizing the number of monthly payments is important. For others still, freeing up liquid cash each month matters most. There is no “one size fits all” type of plan. Consider which part of your credit card debt bothers you most and then consider the options below.
Highest Interest Rates First
Many people aim to pay off the credit card with the highest interest rate first because this means that they will be paying lower interest in the long run. If the idea of paying a lot of interest is the part about your debt that bothers you most, this is a good place to start. Often store cards have higher interest rates, and many people will opt to begin by paying these off.
Importantly, you should review the interest rates for all of your cards. Ensure that you are not paying a penalty APR for making a late payment at some point. If you are paying a credit card balance that has a high-interest rate, such as over 22%, you probably want to focus on getting rid of this kind of debt first.
Highest Balance First
Some people become worried when they have a credit card with a large balance or one that is nearing the credit limit. Focusing on putting some extra cash toward payments on these cards can help minimize the stress of having credit card debt. When you put extra money toward this card each month, you will be able to watch the balance drop, getting you closer to financial freedom.
It can be very motivating to watch that high balance get a little lower each month. You may be inspired to devote even more of your extra cash to this project, therefore paying it off more quickly.
Pay Off Smallest Balances First
For some, paying off the smallest balances first can help to eliminate the number of monthly payments that must be made. The fewer the payments that need to be sent out, the less likely it is that you might accidentally forget or miss one and end up with a late payment penalty fee. Plus, as you pay off these smaller-balance cards, you will slowly have more money to make payments on the larger-balance credit cards. Close the credit cards that you don’t plan to use—unless you have had them for a long time and have a great credit history with them.
Understanding your credit is important. Keeping track of your credit cards and balances and making all of your payments on time is critical to your financial health. Each of these strategies can help you get closer to being debt free. Plus, each has their advantages.
Make a plan of attack by making a list of all of your debts. Go into detail listing monthly payment options, total balance, interest rate, etc. Then make a plan and stick to it. You will be delighted when you start to see progress!