Stuff happens. And sometimes it happens at a time when it is impossible to pay cash for it. So you whip out that rectangular piece of plastic and use it to pay for an unexpected car repair or medical bill. Before you know it, the amount of money you owe the credit card company becomes a cash sink that finds you paying more for the privilege of using their money than paying for the actual charge.
With credit card interest rates running anywhere from 12% to 25%, paying down these debts can be a difficult job. In addition to putting that card away for good, there are a few other things you might be well-advised to do to at least shrink the debt if not eliminate it altogether.
LendingTree suggests two steps consumers can take to pay down or pay off those bills more quickly while minimizing the amount of interest they pay.
The first step is to shop for a new credit card. While that may seem counterintuitive, card companies are competing fiercely for consumer business and one of the competitive points is transferring the balance to a new card at a temporary interest rate of 0% for a specified number of payment periods.
Some cards offer up to 18 months of 0% interest on a balance transfer. The difference between 0% interest and 18% interest on a balance of $10,000 makes a big difference in how fast you can pay down that balance. LendingTree calculates that on a $10,000 balance with a monthly payment of $200, you would be paying about $150 a month in interest and just $50 on the outstanding balance. At that rate you’re paying just $600 a year on the balance and it could take 20 years to pay off the actual loan.
That’s where the second step comes in: continuing to pay the same $200 a month at a 0% interest rate reduces your balance by $2,400 a year. For 18 months that rises to $3,600, a significant dent in the total balance. And there is nothing stopping you from repeating this process when the promotional period runs out.
Your ability to obtain one of these 0% interest cards depends to a large extent on your credit score. The higher your credit score, the more likely you are to qualify for one of these cards. Here’s a list of cards maintained by LendingTree that might help you get rid of that unwieldy debt.