You’re Not Alone
Credit card debt is the third-largest source of household debt in the United States, behind home mortgages and student loan debt. According to recent credit card debt statistics from the Federal Reserve, total credit card debt in the United States for May 2014 was $872.2 billion, with the average household having credit card debt of $7,221.
During good economic times, consumer spending on goods and services can lead to more jobs and higher incomes. However, when wages and employment rates are rising at a slow rate, increased consumer spending can be a sign that families are using credit cards to make ends meet.
Paying Off Credit Card Debt
For individuals whose credit card balances are causing financial problems and stress, experts recommend the following suggestions for trying to get credit card debt under control:
Know Where You Stand
The first step in getting control of credit card debt (as well as other debts) is to gather all monthly statements together and make a list of exactly what is owed. Often peoples’ lives are so busy that they go from month to month scrambling to pay bills, but they do not take the time to sit down and actually focus on how much is owed to whom and at what interest rate. Once a debt list is made, it is easier to develop a plan on how to attack the outstanding balances.
Target One Debt At A Time
For individuals who carry balances on more than one card, experts recommend two possible plans. The first involves determining which card charges the most interest and working to pay off the balance on that card first. Another possible option is to pay off the card with the smallest balance first until that card is paid off, then move to the next lowest balance card and repeat.
Pay More Than The Minimum
Every dollar paid over the minimum payment is applied toward the credit card balance. Because interest is charged on the balance every month, a reduction in the balance will result in less interest being charged.
Consider Consolidating Debt
Consolidating debt can allow an individual to combine several higher-rate interest credit card balances into one with the goal of moving the debt to a lower rate card. However, balance transfers typically involve balance transfer fees of 3 percent to 5 percent so it is important to determine whether the lower interest rate will offset the fees that will be charged for the transfer.
Avoid Dipping Into Retirement Savings Or 401(k)
Using savings and retirement funds, such as those in a 401(k), may be helpful under some circumstances, but it should not be done without serious consideration, especially for individuals who may be considering filing for bankruptcy as 401(k) assets and other retirement funds are generally protected from creditor access in Florida.
Consider A Home Equity Loan
If an individual has equity in his or her home, a home equity loan may be useful if the loan would have a lower rate than the credit card interest rate. Home equity interest payments also may be tax-deductible.