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6 Ways to Pay Off Credit Card Debt Fast

7 min read
6 Ways to Pay Off Credit Card Debt Fast | RC

With the cost of consumer goods increasing, many Americans have less available cash to pay down credit card balances. At the same time, rising interest rates make carrying a balance on your credit cards even more expensive.

Under these circumstances, quickly paying down credit card debt may seem overwhelming. However, knowing your options can help you pay off thousands of dollars of credit card debt, putting you back in control of your finances. When you're looking to pay off credit card debt fast, here are six ways to consider doing it.

How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt Fast

  1. Debt avalanche method

  2. Debt snowball method

  3. Personal loan (for debt consolidation)

  4. Balance transfer credit card (for debt consolidation)

  5. Debt management plan

  6. Bankruptcy

1. Use the debt avalanche method.

The debt avalanche method prioritizes paying off credit cards with the highest interest rate first, regardless of the balances. Start by making a list of all your credit cards, their current balances, and their interest rates. Then, make sure you’ve got a debt repayment budget that allows you to pay more to the credit card with the highest interest rate in addition to making the minimum payments on all of your outstanding card balances. Once you’ve paid off your highest-interest rate card, focus on the card with the next highest rate, and so on. Paying off the balances of credit cards with the highest interest rates first (while simultaneously maintaining payment on all of your other cards) can reduce the overall amount of interest you’ll pay over time. And the more you can allocate to repayment, the faster you’ll pay down that debt.

Pros

  • Reducing the total amount of interest you pay can save you money in the long run.

Cons

  • If you don’t allocate enough to your debt repayment budget, it may take a long time to pay down a high interest rate credit card that also has a high balance

  • If you don't feel like you’re making progress, you may lose motivation for paying down debt.

2. Consider the debt snowball method.

If you want to know how to pay down credit card debt fast, the debt snowball strategy can help you stay motivated by having you pay off your smallest debts first before tackling the larger balances. Start by making a list of all your credit cards and their current balances. Then pay the most you can toward the card with the lowest balance debt, and the minimum balance on the others. Once you’ve paid off the first card, move on to the card with the next lowest balance, and so on, until all your card balances are paid off. While you might wind up paying more interest versus the avalanche method, the snowball method can help you build momentum and maintain motivation, keeping your attention focused on debt repayment.

Pros

  • Paying down smaller balances first give you “quick wins,” building momentum needed to keep you motivated to tackle the rest of your credit card debt.

  • As you pay down each card, you’ll have fewer monthly payments to keep track of.

Cons

  • Balances on higher-interest credit cards will continue to accrue compounding interest, costing you more in the long run.

3. Get a personal loan to consolidate and pay off debt.

A personal loan can pay off your credit cards fast by consolidating them into a different type of debt. Depending on your financial situation, it’s possible you could get a personal loan with a lower interest rate than the combined average rate on your current credit cards. And unlike credit cards, the interest rate on a personal loan is often fixed, which means your payment remains stable over the life of the loan.

With cash personal loans, you receive a lump sum and use it to pay your creditors. However, some lenders such as LendingClub Bank offer a balance transfer personal loan that may be simpler. Generally, you choose which account balances to consolidate and how much of your loan amount you want applied to each. Any funds remaining from your loan amount after your creditors are paid are deposited directly into your bank account. A balance transfer loan can be a good option if you think you might be tempted to spend a cash loan on something other than paying down your debt.

Pros

  • One fixed monthly payment can make budgeting easier than keeping track of and paying multiple credit card bills.

  • You can reduce your credit utilization and improve your credit mix, both of which may help improve your credit score.

  • You may be able to qualify for a personal loan with a lower interest rate than the average interest rate on your current credit cards combined.

Cons

  • A personal loan is another form of debt.

  • Less flexible than credit cards in that you must pay the same fixed amount every month.

  • You may have to pay loan fees, such as an origination fee.

  • Depending on your credit score, you may not qualify for a personal loan, or you may only qualify for a loan with a higher interest rate than your current credit cards.

  • You may be tempted to accumulate new debt balances on the credit cards you just paid off.

4. Use a credit card balance transfer to consolidate and save on interest during the promotional period.

Some credit cards offer promotional, 0% interest rates for a limited period on balances transferred to the card. While you might have to pay a balance-transfer fee, transferred balances won’t accrue interest during the promotional period, potentially giving you time to catch up and pay down the debt faster. Of course, this assumes you don’t accumulate additional debt on this new card. Balance transfer 0% credit card offers aren’t for everyone; you’ll want to compare balance-transfer offers for both credit cards and personal loans.

Pros

  • You won’t accrue new interest during the 0% interest promotional period, potentially saving your money.

  • During the promotional period, 0% interest keeps your balance from growing (as long as you don’t accumulate new debt), which may make it easier to pay down debt faster.

  • You may be motivated to pay off the balance before the promotional period ends.

Cons

  • A balance transfer credit card transfers debt from one card to another.

  • You’ll likely pay a balance transfer fee, typically 3% to 5% of the transferred balance.

  • Balance transfer credit card offers generally require good to excellent credit.

  • If the amount you transfer is close to the new card’s credit limit, it will increase your credit utilization, which may adversely impact your credit scores.

  • If you don’t pay off the card balance before the promotional period ends, your remaining balance will begin accruing interest at the card’s regular interest rate.

  • A late payment could eliminate your promotional offer and trigger a higher penalty annual percentage rate (APR).

  • You may not be able to transfer your entire balance to the new card.

5. Consider a debt management plan.

If you’re having trouble paying off credit cards using the options above, credit counseling organizations may be able to help you set up a debt management plan (DMP). A credit counselor may be able to negotiate lower interest rates and monthly payments on your behalf and get you on a plan to pay off your debts, typically within three to five years. Make sure you understand all the rules that come with debt management plans. For example, in certain cases, you may need to close and stop using all of your credit cards while on a DMP.

Pros

  • A debt management counselor may be able to negotiate lower interest rates on debt, saving you money.

  • A debt management counselor could negotiate lower monthly payments, which could be more affordable than making multiple minimum credit card payments.

Cons

  • Debt management plans may prohibit applying for or using credit cards until the debt is paid off.

  • Some plans require closing your credit card accounts, which could negatively impact your credit score.

  • Some plans may have set up and monthly maintenance fees.

6. Consider filing for bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy should be a last resort. However, if you’re overwhelmed by debts and the methods above haven’t worked or aren’t available to you, it’s something to consider.

Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy may help provide some relief from creditors, however, every situation is different. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy, called liquidation bankruptcy, may require selling your nonexempt assets to pay your debts. You may also need to meet certain income requirements to qualify. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to keep more personal property and creates a court-mandated plan to repay your creditors, typically within three to five years.

Generally, filing for bankruptcy is a major decision that will have a significant impact on your ability to obtain credit in the future. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy typically remains on your credit report for up to 7 years after the date you file, while a Chapter 7 won’t be removed until after 10 years. Although you can eventually rebuild your credit, many consumers struggle to access loan products in the first few years after filing for bankruptcy.

Pros

  • Debt collectors cannot try to collect on debts that were discharged in bankruptcy.

  • Bankruptcy eliminates some unsecured debt (such as credit card debt) entirely.

Cons

  • You may have to sell certain personal property to pay debts.

  • Bankruptcy has a major negative impact on your credit score; it can take years to recover.

  • Not all debts may be discharged by the bankruptcy.

The Bottom Line

How to quickly pay off credit card debt depends on your financial situation, credit score and motivation. There are many options, and for some people, using a combination of strategies works best. A personal loan may help you consolidate your debt into a lower-interest payment with a fixed monthly interest rate, saving you money and time in the long run.

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