(WHTM) — More than a third of Americans added personal debt this past holiday season, with a lot of it on credit cards. If you’ve got credit card debt you need to spend down, and there are smart ways to do it.
Credit cardholders owe, on average, more than $5,000 in debt on their cards. And with holiday bills now coming due, it can be hard to manage that debt.
Experts say there are different strategies for paying down your credit card balances.
“One is called the debt avalanche method. The idea is that you attack the card that has the highest interest rate on it. Pay minimums on all of your cards, but put more towards this card with the highest interest rate because again, it is your most expensive debt,” Farnoosh Torabi, Editor-at-Large for CNet Money said.
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Another way is to use the debt snowball method.
“With debt snowball, it’s all about baby steps, starting with the smallest balance first. Why? Because in theory, this should be something relatively easy to overcome,” Torabi said.
You can also lower your payments by transferring your balances to a card that charges no interest for a period of time, typically 12-15 months.
“Now the caveat to this is that if you exceed 15 months and you have still a balance on that balance transfer card, the interest rate will increase in some cases very high. And you’ll be back to where you were a little bit over a year ago and you’re going to have to pay interest again,” Torabi said.
Another option is to consider a personal loan with an interest rate lower than your cards.
No matter how you tackle your credit card debt, experts say you should always have a spending plan.
“You can’t get out of debt if you don’t have a budget. These two things go hand in hand. So while you’re thinking about reducing your debt load, you also want to be mindful of how you’re spending and making sure that that is aligned with your debt payoff goals,” Torabi said.
Other simple tips for staying out of credit card debt — try to pay more than just the monthly card minimum and automate your payments to avoid paying costly late fees.