A credit card can be a costly piece of plastic when you carry a balance. A recent survey by the Federal Reserve Board found that 46 percent of all American families are drowning in credit card debt and carry an average balance of $7,300.
If you're done paying for the high price of plastic, then give these five debt-busting steps a try.
1. Stop paying just the minimum. Paying just the minimum on your monthly balance increases the amount of interest you pay, taking years to end the debt. Depending on your balance, you may save thousands each year by adding just few more dollars above your minimum monthly payment. For example, on a balance of $2,000 with an annual interest rate of 19 percent, your debt would be paid off in 8 years and 5 months if you paid only the minimum amount -- $80 on the initial balance. The total interest paid would be a massive $1,170. Paying $160 every month (twice the initial minimum payment) ends the debt 7 years and 2 months sooner, and saves you around $924 in interest.
Want to see how much paying just the minimum balance is costing you? Check out this Credit Card Calculator to see how your debt stacks up. Results may shock you.
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2. Ask for a lower interest rate. Picking up the phone and negotiating a lower interest rate with your card issuer is free, and could help you eliminate credit card debt sooner. Many lenders will give you an interest rate break if you've been paying the minimum balance every month. A cut in rate from 20 percent to 15 percent on a $5,000 balance could save you almost $300 a year!
3. Don't pay an annual user fee. Many gold and platinum cards charge a big annual fee, money that could be used to pay down debt or saved for something special. Consider switching your card to a no-annual-fee option to keep maximum dollars in your wallet.
4. 'Loyalty Programs' are for the dogs, so skip them. Are you being a good dog by staying loyal to a credit card program that bites? Throw yourself a bone by doing the math, and check to see if the costs to keep the card add up to more than the free reward. If your points and perks don't exceed the price you pay for annual fees and higher interest rates, then stop chasing your tail for that elusive Scooby Snack and find a better deal.
5. Cut the plastic, pay in cash. Winning the war on plastic can ultimately mean opting to pay in cash over credit. By staying on budget with a simple budget spreadsheet, keeping honest with what you can afford to spend today, and not living off of borrowed money, it's possible to stay debt-free.
Kerry K. Taylor writes at Squawkfox.com, a blog where personal finance and frugal living are sexy, delicious, and fun. Kerry is the author of 397 Ways To Save Money: Spend Smarter & Live Well on Less.