Three ways to bust out of credit card debt

By Nina Cuturic

Aussies continue to struggle with credit card debt, and it sometimes feels like one of those problems that might never go away. In an ASIC report that studied credit card lending trends nationwide between 2012 and 2017, it was revealed that credit cards were putting 1 in 6 consumers into a “debt trap”.

Whilst credit cards offer people financial flexibility, and it’s important for people to continue having access to credit, the findings revealed that many of the credit cards being handed out were not meeting people’s needs, and four major lenders were charging interest rates that were considered too high.

As many Aussies dream of having their credit card debt wiped clean, they are often faced with the struggles of achieving such a goal whilst still meeting the costs that come with running a household and balancing other important living expenses – not forgetting to mention the stress of watching the interest charge kick in. How does one even start?

It all comes down to a financial game plan if things are to change for the better, so here are 3 strategic ways to get you on the right path to seeing your credit card debt become history.

1. Choose between the high-low
If not knowing where to start, one of the best ways to approach your credit cards is to prioritise them. There are two ways to go about this; start with the card that is subject to the highest interest rate, or the one with the least debt.

Placing down all your spare income onto the card with the hefty interest rate means that you stop yourself from falling into further debt, which can pick up steadfast momentum when high interest rates and late payments come into play. Tens of thousands can be saved in the long run, and the time taken to wipe the debt clean can be drastically shortened.

Another approach, which can provide a borrower with satisfaction and motivation, is paying off the credit card with the lowest balance. This can close the number of accounts you have open sooner and pull back on interest rate charges.

But no matter what way you go about it, it’s important to continue tending to all your credit cards at once by meeting their minimum repayments.

2. Cut back on spending for maximum effect
Draw up a spreadsheet and document all your living expenses – the necessary and the ‘wants’ included. Of course, this is for the means of looking at all your outgoing money in an effort to reel it back in, which can sometimes mean sacrificing a few luxuries.

Temporarily cutting back on daily takeaway coffees and lunches throughout your working week can save you a sizeable sum. Or switching your summer gym membership for the outdoors is also a good strategy. Whatever money you pull back from the budget can be classified as ‘extra income’ and put towards paying off your credit card debt.

Organising your expenses into an easy-to-read document is also effective in stopping further use of your credit cards while maximising paying them off. You are able to understand your spending habits and gain more control over them. It’s also important to refrain from carrying your credit cards around during this process, as the sparkly plastics are known to make consumers more inclined to impulsively purchase items they would have otherwise considered expensive or ‘over-priced’ if they happened to have carried cash.

Tracking all your spending also helps remind you to aim to live within your means – an important mind-frame to embody if you are to cut ties with your credit card debt.

3. Consolidate your debts
If you find that you have been living within your means, and you are still falling behind on credit card payments, or you have a number of credit cards and paying them off has become overwhelming, it’s worth considering consolidating their separate debts into one – and there are a few ways to go about this.

One way is to take advantage of the promotional 0% per annum interest rate, obtained when moving your individual credit card debts across to a balance transfer credit card. This interest rate pause will alleviate some of the pressure off payments, without needing to worry about the debt increasing.

But to reap the most benefits from the 0% interest rate, you need to make sure you pay off the debt within the lifespan of the promotion, which is usually for a period of 12 months, but can vary between banks. It’s important to keep in mind that a bank can charge you up to 25% interest per annum if you haven’t paid off your card within the promotional period – and be aware of certain usages of your card, as these can cause the interest rate charges to kick in again.

If you don’t liken to a balance transfer, the next option is taking out a low interest personal loan from the bank, with the assets used to immediately pay off your credit card debt. Although this may mean a longer loan period, it wipes off your entire credit card debt and stops interest rate charges.

There are a few options available to remedy the stress of credit card debt, especially when interest fees kick in. It’s important to talk to your bank about the ways they can assist you, and to also gain first-hand information from them regarding their balance transfer credit card and personal loan options.

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