Tips to Reduce, Eliminate Credit Card Debt

Another new year is on the horizon and many of us are already thinking about the positive changes we want to make in 2011. Some are planning to eat healthier and improve their physical fitness; others will vow to spend more time with family and friends. Topping the list of resolutions for many consumers will be paying off credit cards and getting out of debt.

“Many consumers use credit cards without considering the long term impact it can have on their finances,” said Daru Burdge, regional president for CredAbility. “Interest and finance charges add up fast, and for consumers making only minimum payments or who have even a single late payment, rising balances can quickly outpace their ability to pay.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average cardholder had $5,100 in credit card debt in 2009 and that figure is closer to $6,500 in 2010. If you have an interest rate of 18 percent and make just the minimum payment toward this debt each month, it will take you 25 years to pay it off. In addition to the $6,500 principal, you will pay an additional $9,173 in interest. Your $6,500 in purchases will cost you $15,673. And that assumes that you don’t use the card to make any additional purchases. (This example includes a payment equal to interest plus 1% of the balance).

Just like every other resolution on your list, eliminating credit card debt requires focus and commitment. CredAbility offers the following tips to help consumers:

Stop using credit cards. It may seem simple, but if you are used to buying everything on credit, it is a tough habit to break. Cutting up your credit cards is one way to ensure you won’t use them. Another would be to secure your cards in a safe deposit box at your bank or other hard to reach location to make impulse purchases much harder. Before you make any purchase, ask yourself “Do I really need this? Can I pay for it with cash?” If you answer no to either question, skip the purchase.  Ideally, only use credit as you would cash, when you know you can pay the bill off on-time and in-full.

Resist the temptation of credit card offers. Open your mailbox on any given day and there is likely to be another offer for another credit card. Shred these offers without opening them and you will be less likely to be tempted by teaser interest rates or offers to consolidate your credit card bills. You can further reduce these offers by requesting that your name and credit information not be provided to financial institutions. You can do this by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) or online at www.optoutprescreen.com.