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.
You Only Pay the Monthly Minimum
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.
You Don’t Negotiate for a Lower Interest Rate
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.
You Don’t Take Advantage of Balance Transfer Options
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.
You Keep Living Beyond Your Means
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.