Strategies for Managing Your Credit Card Debt
Managing credit card debt
Credit card debt in Ohio households is the lowest in the United States but is one of the fastest-growing forms of debt among American consumers.
ValuePenguin recently found an average Ohio household carries $5,446 in credit card debt, the least of any state, while the typical household in Alaska carries the highest average at $13,048.
“Though credit card debt varies widely by state and region,” said Mike Losneck, CEO of Eaton Family Credit Union, “it’s clear there is a crisis in America with debt approaching $14 trillion. Credit cards are a big contributor, making up over a quarter of that amount.”
According to Debt.org, more than 189 million Americans have credit cards. The average household has at least four cards and carries roughly $8,400 in credit card debt.
Credit card debt has been on a steady climb since 2015 becoming the second-fastest-growing type of debt behind personal loans, Experian reported.
This comes at a cost, Losneck explains.
The average interest rate for new credit cards is 17.3%, down three quarters of a percentage point since the Federal Reserve cut rates in Fall 2019, CreditCards.com reported. Even with this drop, the annual percentage rate still is at a near-record high, up from 16.8% in 2018.
“Credit cards certainly have their advantages if used responsibly, especially if you’re able to pay off the balance in full every month by the due date,” Losneck said.
Losneck recommends consumers should look to a local credit union for a credit card.
Credit unions are not-for-profit financial institutions owned and democratically-controlled by their members, Losneck said. We’re built on the philosophy of “people helping people” and focus on better serving our Members by providing great financial benefits, including making life more affordable when dealing with credit card debt.
“If you do find yourself struggling with credit card debt, you’re not alone,” Losneck said. “We, or your local credit union, may be able to help you get back on top of your finances.”
The Ohio Credit Union League offers these tips for managing credit card debt:
- Assess your financial situation. Come up with a list of everything you owe, including monthly bills, credit card balances and the annual percentage rate (APR) for each card. Then, compare expenses with income.
- Prioritize your spending. Before tackling credit card debt, be sure to cover the basics first, such as food, housing and clothing. Next, pay the minimum amount on all secured debts, like your home and car loans. Then, start working on paying down credit card debt with useful tools like the Credit Karma Debt Repayment Calculator, followed by student loans. Try to use cash or debit cards only while paying down debt. Above all else, pay at least the minimum balance on all outstanding debt to avoid hefty late fees.
- Establish a budget. Once your debts have been prioritized, it’s important to come up with a budget to track spending and minimize credit card debt. Use online tools like YNAB (You Need a Budget) to get started. Try to adhere strictly to your newly established budget.
- Secure a better rate. Negotiate a lower interest rate on your credit cards. According to CreditCards.com, sometimes all it takes is a simple phone call to (politely) request a better rate. Shaving off even a percent or two could save you hundreds of dollars while repaying your debt.
- Decide on a strategy. When paying down credit card debt, it’s important to settle on an action plan. There are two main ways to do this. One is to focus on paying down the card with the highest interest rate first, while making minimum payments on the other cards. This is the fastest way to decrease credit card debt, eventually freeing up more cash to pay toward the lower interest rate cards and creating a snowball effect. The other strategy is to pay the lowest balance first, while paying minimums on the others. Though not as cost-effective, this is the fastest way to get rid of debt on a single card.
- Stay focused by creating concrete goals and staying motivated. Keep your eye on the prize! Perhaps getting rid of credit card debt will afford you a down payment on a house, new car or dream vacation. CreditCards.com suggests writing your goals down and keeping them in your wallet or purse. When tempted to overspend, take a peek at them for a big picture reminder.
Dave Godek, MBA
Business Development Manager
Eaton Family Credit Union