With nearly half of all Americans currently living paycheck-to-paycheck, it’s not surprising that far too many people are relying on credit cards to make ends meet. This has resulted in crisis-level debt situations for far too many families, with 1 in every 50 households (approximately 2 million families) carrying more than $20,000 in credit card debt. The facts about debt in the United States are staggering; the total consumer debt is nearly $2.4 trillion, or approximately $7,800 per person, and approximately 33% of that debt is revolving credit.
If you’ve found yourself struggling with the enormous weight of outstanding credit card debt, you are already experiencing the effects of high interest rates, late fees, and other penalties. You understand that when it comes to getting out of debt, time is money. The faster you can unbury yourself from the mounting pressure of credit card debt, the more money you’ll save in the long run. So if your goal is to get out of debt as soon as possible, consider the following ways to expedite that process.
Balance Transfers. The first big step you can make toward better managing your debt is to transfer high-interest debt using a balance transfer card. The money you put toward your debt makes a much larger impact when you aren’t paying hundreds of dollars in interest every month. If you’re considering a balance transfer to better handle your credit card debt, you should implement the following tips to maximize the benefits of your transfer:
- Assess all your credit card debt and consolidate as many high-interest credit cards as possible with your balance transfer. Most people have debt spread across several credit cards, so you’ll want to understand exactly where the transfers will be coming from to make the best decisions for the move.
- Compare offers, since every balance transfer is unique and has its own benefits, fees, introductory rates, and interest rates when the promotional period expires. Explore at least a few (3-5) options to ensure you’re grabbing the best deal. Remember that your best bet is to pay off the balance of your debt with little or no interest within the promotional period so you save money, so pay particular attention to those details.
- Initiate the process by choosing your balance transfer card, confirming all relevant fees and waiting periods, and then pull the trigger and move forward. You don’t have to make a rash decision, but you don’t want to drag your feet, either. Remember that the longer you wait to take advantage of balance transfer benefits, the more interest you’re paying.
A balance transfer can be a quick and effective way to start unburdening yourself from credit card debt, especially if you are spending a huge chunk of your budget on interest. This is one way to start making immediate progress toward rapidly eliminating your debt.
Term Negotiations. There is a lot more wiggle room for negotiating your actual debt than credit card companies would like you to think, like debt consolidation, debt settlement, loan repayment plans, and forgiveness programs. But you may also be able to get yourself better terms for a wide variety of expenses related to keeping a credit card; for example, you can negotiate better interest rates, have late fees removed, or even change your payment due date to benefit your financial flow. If you’re consistently paying a late fee because all of your bills are due at the beginning of the month and you are living paycheck-to-paycheck, for instance, this could save you some serious coin. A lot of people are too anxious to pursue term negotiations, but it can be simple and straightforward with these tips:
- Know what you’re working with in terms of credit score leverage or customer loyalty. If you’ve got a good credit score and have spent a lot of money using their credit card, you may have pretty significant sway. Credit card companies are pretty quick to reward customer loyalty and eager to keep people who pay their credit card bills, so don’t be afraid to sell yourself a little.
- Do your homework when it comes to what other credit card companies are offering, especially if there is one that has exactly what you’re looking for. This way, you can explain to your customer service representative that your first goal is to remain loyal to the brand, but you’ll need a similar deal to stick around. A lot of terms are best negotiated with the cards you already have, so don’t be too quick to jump ship — just know the landscape of the industry.
- Remember that it’s a negotiation, so you may not get exactly what you’re looking for, but you could wind up with something just as good or even better if you’re friendly and flexible. Don’t be afraid to ask what the credit card company is willing or able to do for you outright.
These strategies can quickly and effectively help you overcome your debt by saving you hundreds of dollars each month, but you’ll also have to get back to the budgetary basics if you want long-term financial success. Make sure you know where you spend your money and cut back on any unnecessary purchases to put more money toward paying off the debt you’ve accumulated. Once you unbury yourself from the debt, you’ll want to keep from going under again by being more savvy in the future.