It’s January — the holidays are over, don’t let the big numbers on these financial statements rid you of your leftover holiday cheer. Make a plan for how you can pay these bills intelligently and quickly. Here are two ideas:
1. Choose a payment strategy - There are a number of different ways to go about paying back numerous credit cards, but the most logical is to pay them off by interest rate — highest to lowest. This makes the most sense because, if you were to keep that debt for longer, it would be costing you the most money in the long run. Another popular strategy is the snowball method. Made famous by financial pundit Dave Ramsey, you put all your extra bill-payment money into the smallest debts first. This is more of a psychological method, as it is best for those people who are motivated by the instant gratification of seeing a balance of $0.
2. Consider a balance transfer - “If you consider yourself disciplined,” then consolidating your debts may help,” said Erin Burt, a contributing editor to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine. Many credit card companies offer 0 percent or other low-interest options on balance transfers for a limited amount of time — typically anywhere from six to 18 months.
“If you qualify, such a deal will help you wipe out your debt faster because all or most of your payments would go toward your principal, not the interest. It could also buy you the time you need to pay off your purchases entirely,” Burt explained.
However, this strategy could backfire if you don’t pay the balance off before the introductory period is over. APRs generally skyrocket after that low initial rate period ends. “There are other fees to look out for when doing a balance transfer as well,” said Bill Hardekopf, CEO of credit card comparison site LowCards.com, to MarketWatch.com.
“Before you do it, make sure that what you will save in interest penalties via the transfer outweighs the upfront balance transfer fee you may incur (usually 3 percent of the amount you transfer),” he said.
No matter which method you choose, always remember to pay at least the minimum amounts due on all cards every month, in order to avoid late payment fees and not damage to your credit score. Also, put the credit cards away until they are paid off. Remove that temptation to continue to spend and snowball your debt; by next holiday season, you will be ready to start this process all over again, this time with some experience under your belt.
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