Borrowing money against your credit cards has always been among the most expensive ways to borrow money, and when you fail to pay your bill in full each month, borrowing is exactly what you’re doing. You’re not alone; the average American household now carries more than $8000 in credit card debt. It’s easier to accumulate credit card debt than other types of debt for the following reasons:
They’re easy to use. It’s far easier to borrow spend money on a credit card, even thousands of dollars at a time, than it is to go to the bank and secure a loan. Convenience can easily lead to overindulgence.
The interest rates are higher than for other types of debt. The interest rate on your mortgage may be 6%. The interest rate on your credit card may be 25%. That adds up in a hurry, especially if you are carrying a balance.
There is no set repayment schedule requiring you to pay back a set amount each month. The only requirement is that you pay at least 2% of your outstanding balance. Many people pay exactly that, and no more, causing the interest to accumulate quickly
Credit card lenders tend not to be very forgiving. If you make a late payment, you could end up with a late fee of as much as $39 in addition to having your interest rate increase.
Many credit cards come with annual fees, which can add to your debt, especially if you don’t pay them in full. Then you end up paying interest on the annual fee!
There are number of solutions available. All they require is a bit of time and diligence. Besides shopping around for the card with the best rate and doing a bit of debt consolidation to place all of your credit card debt on the lowest interest card you own, you might also consider the following:
Ask your lender to waive your annual fee. The competitive nature of the credit card business means that your lender will often waive these fees just for the asking. They would usually rather waive your fee rather than lose you as a customer. It costs nothing to ask. If they do waive the fee, add the fee amount to your next payment.
Pay more than the monthly minimum payment. The minimum payment may soon go to 4%, which may place many borrowers who currently pay only the 2% minimum in a bind. Get in the habit of paying more each month, or pay your bill in full, if you can.
Did you get a large tax refund? Send it to your credit card company. Sure, it would be nice to spend it on a new TV, but if you spend it on a TV while carrying a balance on your credit card at 25%, you are effectively paying 25% interest on your TV.
Use your debit card instead of a credit card. They have the same convenience and ease of use, but few of the drawbacks.
Paying off the national average of $8000 in credit card debt can take a lifetime if you only make the minimum payments. That is a trap that you should make a concerted effort to avoid and by taking a few simple steps, you can keep your debt to a minimum.