4 Ways You Are Making Your Credit Card Debt Worse

Written By Jeff Hindenach
Last updated March 6, 2019

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Personal Finance
February 19, 2016

Simple. Thrifty. Living.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans plagued by credit card debt, there’s a good chance you’re actually making the problem worse for yourself. If you make any of these four common mistakes, then it’s time for you to make some serious changes to how you approach debt.

Paying the monthly minimum might keep debt collectors at bay, but it will take you years to repay the full balance. If you have a $5,000 balance on a credit card account that charges 20 percent in interest, it will take 160 months of minimum payments to eliminate the debt. During that time, you’ll spend $3,469 on interest. The minimum payment in this case is 4 percent of the total balance, which is common.

If you commit yourself to paying $200 per month, then you can eliminate that debt in just 33 months. Plus, you’ll only spend $1,522 in interest. That’s clearly the better plan for getting out of debt and avoiding extra expenses. If you are paying too much in interest, consider a debt consolidation loan to lower your interest rate. Many of the best online loan companies offer debt consolidation loans with lower interest rates than traditional banks.

You aren’t necessarily stuck with your credit card’s current interest rate. Companies are often willing to lower rates, especially for customers who make payments on time. It’s their way of making sure you don’t transfer the balance to another company’s card.

To negotiate for a lower rate:

  • Do some research to see what other companies offer.
  • Call the company and ask for a lower rate.
  • If the representative declines, ask to speak with a manager.
  • Remain persistent, but polite, until you get a better rate.

Credit card companies are anxious to steal business from their competitors. That’s why many of them will transfer your current balance to a new card with a lower rate. Many of them will completely waive the interest for several months. This makes it possible for you to eliminate your debt quickly without paying more interest.

There is a big caveat to this approach, though. To really make it work, you need to pay the entire balance before the introductory rate expires. If you don’t, then your credit problems will likely start all over again. If you don’t have a high enough credit score to qualify for a balance transfer credit card, considering hiring a credit repair service to help you fix your credit.

People usually accumulate credit card debt because they live beyond their means. As long as you do this, you will struggle with debt.

It’s important to set a monthly budget that covers necessities while letting you pay down existing debt. While this may take some work, making a budget is the easy part. The harder part is learning to really change your spending habits. As long as you follow the plan though, you can eventually live debt-free.

About the Author

Jeff Hindenach

Jeff Hindenach is the co-founder of Simple. Thrifty. Living. He graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He has a long history of financial journalism, with a background writing for newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Examiner, as well as writing on personal finance for The Huffington Post, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, Newsday and The Street. He believes in giving readers the tools they need to get out of debt.

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