If you have multiple credit cards or credit cards along with student debt or a personal loan, managing your due dates can become a real headache. Even worse, you may find that you’re unable to manage your credit card bills and repay what you owe due to your spending habits and a lack of knowledge of the “mechanics” of your credit cards.
Understand the basics
The first thing you need to do to take control of your credit cards is to learn the meaning of the basic terms of minimum amount due, billing cycle and grace period. Taking these in order, the minimum amount due is the amount you must pay that month. You can always pay more but you can’t pay less.
Billing cycle is the days between the last statement and the statement you just received. These cycles are generally from 20 to 32 days.
Grace period is the number of days you have to pay your balance without having to pay a finance charge. This is usually 25 to 30 days.
It’s also important to understand the meaning of APR (annual percentage rate). It is the yearly percentage rate of the finance charge. It will be either a fixed or variable rate.
Stop erratic spending
The second thing you need to do to better manage your credit cards is to stop any erratic or impulse spending. It’s so easy to spend money these days what with all the shopping malls and online shopping marts that have been so cleverly designed to part you from your money. They make it so easy to go on a spending spree and completely lose control of your credit cards. Stop and think about your spending habits. If they’re a bit on the sloppy side and you do want to manage your credit card debt, you have to stop those bad shopping habits.
Pay within your billing cycle
The third step in taking control of your credit cards is to make sure that you pay within your billing cycle (as defined above) and that you pay the outstanding amount due.
Of course, this is much easier said than done. However, many credit card holders do use this effectively by timing their purchases and repayments within the billing cycle. Here’s an example of how this might work.
Let’s say you have credit cards with a due date of the 10th of the month. You could use the card to make a purchase on the 11th or 12th of the month, knowing that it will not show up on your credit card statement until the 10th of the next month, which would effectively give you at least 45 days (your billing cycle plus some grace period) to save enough money to pay it off. And you must pay off that balance before putting another charge against the card or you run the risk of carrying a balance forward, which would mean paying interest and accumulating debt.
If your credit card debt has spun out of control
If you’re so far into debt that it’s making you crazy with worry, the worst thing you can do is to do nothing. There are consumer credit counseling agencies available that could help you deal with the mess. There may be one in your area and if not, it’s easy to find one on the Internet. Just make sure that it’s a nonprofit and that it either offers its services free or at a very low-cost.
Alternately, if you have decent credit you might be able to get a debt consolidation loan and pay off all those credit card debts. You might also elect to hire a debt settlement company to help you reduce and consolidate your debts. Thousands of American families have found it to be the best way to cope with debt that’s gotten totally out of control and you might, too.
I am a personal finance blogger for National Debt Relief, a Debt Management Company that has helped thousands of Americans facing credit card debt problems. We help with debt settlement, debt management, and other debt related financial crisis' facing con