How To Consolidate Your Credit Card DebtBy Howie • Jul 9th, 2010 • Category: Credit Cards
Credit card debt is a serious problem that requires you to come up with a serious solution. The issue with credit card, as opposed to other types of debt, is twofold. The first problem is that credit card debt compounds, meaning that you will be charged interest on the interest you paid in the previous months. This means that even if you have stopped spending on your cards and you make the minimum payment the actual balance can, and often does, continue to grow.
The second problem is that credit card debt is considered ‘bad debt.’ A mortgage is ‘good debt’ because once it is paid off you have a valuable house, which is not the case with credit card debt. Most of us spend on our credit cards with things that have no value after the fact, groceries, clothes, and petrol are all necessities but could not be part of our personal finance portfolio.
Even though you probably know that credit card debt is bad and that you could use the extra cash each month if it was paid off you might not know how to go about doing that. The first step in any debt repayment process is to sit down and make an honest analysis of your debt and your income. Try not to be too hard on yourself as you look at the numbers. Many Australians, and other humans in general, are in your same position. The debt is probably higher then you ever imagined and your income pales in comparison to it. Next, look at how much you are spending on interest and fees for those credit cards. Once you know how much your credit card debt costs, you can more easily figure out how much you can spend to consolidate it.
What Is Credit Card Debt Consolidation?
If you choose to do credit card debt consolidation you are simply choosing to combine your debt into one large bill instead of the several small bills you are currently paying each month. Although it might seem scary to have one huge bill instead of a bunch of little bills, it will usually make paying it back cheaper. You will often be able to get a lower interest rate and a significant reduction in fees by consolidating your debt. Of course, as with everything, you will have to take the time to calculate all of the costs of your consolidation plan to make sure that you are saving money. This will include your new interest rate and any fees that you may have to pay to complete the transaction. In most cases, the savings will be significant.
There are typically two paths people take to pay off their credit card debt. A personal loan or a balance transfer. The first option, a personal loan, is fairly straightforward. You will have to apply for a loan from your bank. The loan gives you money that clears off your credit card debts. The advantage to this is that the interest rate you pay on the personal loan is usually significantly lower then what you are paying on each individual card. A personal loan will probably have some account maintenance and application fees associated with it an possibly an early repayment fee. The monthly payment and the interest rate on this loan should be fixed which will make budgeting simple for you.
A second option is to do a credit card balance transfer. The balance transfer is usually offered by card companies as an introductory offer that is intended to lure you into giving them your business. The beauty of these cards is that you can transfer your current balances over to them and take advantage of significantly low rates. Balance transfer rates can range from as low at zero interest for three months to just under five percent for twelve months or even for life. Be careful though, because these introductory offers come with significant rules. For example, if you miss a payment or make a late payment you are likely to lose that introductory rate which puts you back to square one. In order to avoid this situation you should consider setting up a direct draft that will pay the bill on time each month. However, do not just make the minimum payment. Pay as much as you can each month and make sure it is enough to pay off the balance before your introductory rate expires.
The best choice is to make sure that your balance transfer offers you enough time to pay off your debt, even if it means paying a slightly higher interest rate. It is also important not to use these cards for purchases until the balance transfer is completely clear. If you do you could wind up in an allocation of payments trap that costs you loads of money in interest. This is because credit cards companies will put all of your payment toward the cheapest debt first, so those purchases will sit, unpaid and collecting interest, until after you pay off your balance transfer. If you can manage it, a balance transfer is an excellent option but, you must have fairly good credit to get a new balance transfer card. In addition, there are some fees associated with this option so you will have to make absolutely sure that by doing it you are still saving money.
Working your way out of credit card debt can seem like a scary prospect. However, by choosing the option that best suits you and your finances you can free yourself from those staggering credit card bills once and for all. After you have done that you might try switching to a debit card or sticking to a strict budget to make sure that you never again wind up in this spot. Most of us got into credit card debt because we were not paying attention and wound up spending far more money then we actually make. That, added to the incredibly high interest rates on most credit cards and fees for missed and late payments cause a debt spiral that is feels impossible to escape. It is not impossible, it just takes creative thinking and dedication to getting out of debt forever.
This article was written by Timothy Ng who is a regular writer and part of the team at Credit Card Finder a 100% free Australian credit card comparison and application service. Visit the Credit Card Comparison website for more related information.