Did your credit card debts just sort of sneak up on you? Did you feel you were doing okay until you received one of your statements and realized, “holy smoke, I owe a lot of money and I have no idea how I’m going to pay off those debts.”
Whether you’re having a problem with credit card debts or some other kind of debt, it’s no fun. Fortunately, there are seven good ways to pay off credit card debts.
1. Get a loan to pay off your credit card debt
Probably the fastest way to get out of credit card debt is to borrow the money and pay off all of your creditors. Just negotiate a loan with your bank or credit union, which it then uses to pay off your debts. That would stop any harassing phone calls you might have been getting from your creditors or, worse yet, from collection agencies. However, do keep in mind this doesn’t really get rid of debt. All it does is move it from one set of lenders to another.
2. Borrow money from your retirement account
There are both pros and cons to this just as there are to getting a loan to pay off your debts. The plus side of this is that like a debt consolidation loan, this will get all of your debts paid off practically immediately. Another pro is that you’ll be borrowing money from yourself. That means that when you pay interest on the loan, you’ll actually be paying yourself. What’s the downside? It’s that the money you take out of your retirement account will not be earning interest. And if you fail to pay back the money within five years, it will be treated as ordinary income and taxed accordingly.
3. Sign up for consumer credit counseling
Consumer credit counseling can be a better way to pay off your debts than borrowing the money or taking it out of your retirement account as it doesn’t require that you take on any new debt. You could go to a non-profit credit-counseling agency, where a counselor would help you develop a debt management plan that could get you out of debt in about five years. Your counselor will also probably work with your lenders to get your interest rates reduced. If all your creditors sign off on your debt management plan, you will have consolidated your debts because you will no longer be required to pay them. You will pay the credit-counseling agency once a month instead.
4. Borrow from your life insurance
If you have what’s called a whole life insurance policy, it probably has cash value. If it does, you can borrow from it. This could be better than borrowing from your retirement fund because you can pay back the money whenever you want or not pay it back at all. Of course, if you die before you pay back the money, it will be subtracted from your benefit. In other words if you had a $100,000 policy but had borrowed $20,000, your heirs or estate would get only $80,000.
5. Do a balance transfer
A balance transfer is where you transfer the balances on high-interest credit cards onto one with a lower or zero interest rate for some period of time. If you haven’t yet received an offer for one of the many 0% interest balance transfer cards now available, contact one of your credit card companies and see what it has to offer. There are now cards available where you would be required to pay no interest for six, 12 or even 18 months. This would give you time to pay down or pay off your balance and become debt free. Just make sure that before you sign up for a balance transfer you understand whether or not there will be a fee involved. Some of these cards charge a fee as high as 5% of the balances being transferred, which could virtually eliminate the savings you would get from making the transfer.
If you put your mind to it you should be able to think of anywhere from three to a half dozen ways to make extra money, which could be used to pay down your debts. We’ve read stories of people who took on second jobs and used the money from them to pay off as much as $100,000 in debts.
7. Snowball your credit card debt
There is a strategy for paying off credit card debts that has worked for many people. It’s called snowballing them. The way this works is that you make a list of your credit card debts from the card with the highest balance down to the one with the lowest balance. You then do everything possible to pay off the card with the lowest balance. Once you’ve done this, you will have new money you can use to start paying off the card with the second lowest balance and so on. Conversely, you could order those cards by interest rate from the highest to the lowest and then do what you can to first pay off the card with the highest interest rate then the card with the second-highest rate, etc. This is called snowballing credit card debt because as you pay off each card, you will build up more momentum to pay off the rest – like a snowball rolling downhill.
To see exactly how snowballing credit card debt works, just watch this video.
Once you get your credit card debt paid off
It will probably take some time and a lot of self-discipline to pay off those credit card debts. But the feeling you’ll get the day you become debt free should be well worth the effort. Just make sure you don’t fall back into any of those bad habits that got you into debt in the first place. In fact, you might do as one woman did and shred all of your credit cards except one and then freeze it in a block of ice – to be used only in the case of an emergency.