Updated December 29, 2022
We know how incredibly easy it is to rack up credit card debt.
More than 50% of Americans carry a credit card balance, with 30% carrying more than $1,000 of debt or more month to month, 15% carrying $5,000 or more and 6% carrying $10,000 or more, according to a recent GOBankingRates survey. The ongoing pandemic and rising inflation have made it even harder for Americans to avoid going into credit card debt, with 45% increasing their overall debt since the start of the pandemic.
But here’s the tricky thing about credit cards: They only benefit you when you’re building credit and receiving perks — but not when you’re paying interest. If you’re paying a lot of interest on your balances, credit card companies are making money off of you.
Your cards are using you, not the other way around.
With average APRs (annual percentage rates) on new credit cards north of 16%, according to LendingTree, paying them off is a smart move. You can do it. And it’ll be worth it.
5 Ways to Eliminate Credit Card Debt
Before you start your journey to becoming debt free, try to stop using your credit cards altogether until you can use them without putting yourself in financial risk. Though the specifics will vary based on your situation, we only recommend using credit cards if:
- You don’t have any debt outside of a mortgage or student loans. (Mortgages and student loan debt are almost impossible to avoid nowadays.)
- You have an emergency fund with three to six months of expenses saved. This is how much money you’d need to survive during that time period, assuming you have no income reaching your bank account.
- You can pay off your credit card debt in full every month — not just minimum payments.
However you do it, make paying off your credit cards — and learning to use them responsibly — a high priority.
First, determine how much credit card debt you have. You can do this using a tool like Credit Sesame, a free credit monitoring service.
Then choose your weapons! We’ll go over five different methods, from debt consolidation loans to repayment strategies to settlement, for paying off your credit card debt.
1. The Debt Avalanche Method
Instead of looking at your debt in its entirety, we recommend approaching it bit by bit. By breaking your debt down into manageable chunks, you’ll experience quicker wins and stay motivated.
Using the debt avalanche method, you’ll order your credit card debts from the highest interest rate to the lowest. You’ll make the minimum payment on each of your credit card accounts, and any extra income you have will go toward the highest-interest card.
Eventually, that card will be paid off, and you won’t have to worry about that monthly payment anymore. Then, you’ll attack the debt with the next-highest interest rate, and so on, until all your cards are paid off.
2. The Debt Snowball Method
With the debt snowball method, you’ll order your debts from the lowest balance to highest, regardless of the interest rates on the cards. You’ll make the minimum payment on each of your credit card balances, and any extra income will go to the credit card with the smallest balance.
Starting with the smallest balance allows you to experience wins faster than you would with the avalanche. This method is ideal for people who are motivated by quick wins, but it has a downside: Those who choose it could end up paying more interest over the long term.