Several people don’t realize the consequences of an over-extravagant lifestyle until it shows up as a considerable debt burden on them. The ease of use and convenience of plastic cards along with several competitive offers has only spurred on the popularity of the credit card as a method of payment.
If you are one of the several people who couldn’t make any purchases without a credit card, think again whether you are accumulating a lot of debt on that card and how long it will take you to pay it back. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you go all out with that credit card and end up with a sizeable sum in debts that takes years to repay.
1. Avoid getting into debt: The best way to avoid debt is to live within one’s means. It is not at all bad to own a credit card as long as one chooses to spend cautiously and with discretion and has sufficient savings to repay the outstanding amount on time.
2. Plan your credit card debt closure: For people who own several credit cards, compute your outstanding balance on each card. Each of these accounts then needs to be settled in a proper manner. Try and repay the smallest accounts first. Then move on to the larger ones. Or you might close the high interest account first based on your debt situation.
Remember one thing – in order to reduce your credit card debt, apart from changing your habits and lifestyle to a more modest one, you would need to pay off more than the minimum due on each account every month. At the same time, you should also take care of all other monthly expenses. Therefore, prepare a list of all monthly expenses, pay off the essentials first and of the remaining debt reducing budget, either pay off the small accounts or choose to start by allocating maximum funds to the account that charge the highest interest rates.
3. Balance transfer: If you can, also try and transfer some of the debt onto the other card if that carries a lower rate of interest. Or you can consolidate your credit card debt by transferring balance from all your credit cards onto a single credit card. The zero APR and other such offers might provide you some relief; but do read the fine print carefully.
4. Home equity loan: Home equity loan could be another option for paying off credit card debt. Even though you would be putting your home at stake, the interest rate on home equity loan would be much lower than the interest rate on your credit cards.
5. Get professional help: All said and done, if your credit score is badly hit and you are contemplating filing for bankruptcy, it may be worth the effort to consult companies that offer help in erasing debt. However, here too, you need to exercise some caution. It is better to still put aside money to meet all your payments rather than trust a debt management company to negotiate your credit card debt bill. There is no guarantee that the company might be able to persuade your card provider to accept a lower partial payment of a debt.
The debt management company may also charge you a hefty fee for arranging to lower your debt and may also ask for a percentage from the money you save. In such a case, the first thing you should do is to contact your credit card company and negotiate your debt with them. Try and arrive at a settlement. If you do decide on a company, do consider other people’s experiences with the company, especially complaints. Do not go in for any company that makes loud claims such as guaranteeing you a debt free life, freedom from debt collection calls and lawsuits and the like.
You may also get in touch with non-profit credit counseling agencies. You will find ways to contact one through a toll free number provided on your statement by the credit card provider, as is now required by law. There are several such agencies that offer help and timely advice on how to pay off credit card debt. They hold various seminars and conferences, workshops and disseminate free information.
6. Be careful in future: One should also add a small proportion of one’s income into savings every month so as to meet unforeseen contingencies. This money after a while will come in handy. Once you have paid off the credit card debt, continue to deposit the amount equal to your credit card debt payment into this savings account and make it a principle to have at least 6 months’ living expenses at one’s disposal.