With interest rates on the rise, focus on paying off credit card debt. Get a clear view, adopt a pay off method, refinance your debt and use savings more strategically.
Whenever the Federal Reserve raises interest rates, economists and Wall Street make a lot of noise. But it can be hard to tell what it means for the rest of us.
This year, the news from the Fed is different. And it’s going to reach everybody’s wallet.
Following the Federal Reserve’s increase in interest rates, your credit card interest rates are likely to go up. Rates on many auto loans and personal loans will go up too. Any debt with an “adjustable rate” is going to go up.
The Fed also signaled six more increases are likely this year. Which means interest rates on your cards and loans will rise again each time too.
So now, rather than later, is a good time to pay off credit cards and other debt. The sooner you pay them off, the more money you’ll save.
Let’s look at a few ways to pay off credit card debt.
1. Stay calm and carry on
If your instinct is to hit the panic button, think about what you’re working towards and the money you’ll save. You’ll probably dedicate more money to paying off cards, and you’ll likely have to cut back on extras, which is especially hard with inflation these days.
But it feels good to square your debts. In a recent study, nearly 75% of respondents said “they thought about their financial burden more than they wanted to.”
Take a breath. Get a clear view of your debt. Then check out the suggestions that follow here.
2. Use debt pay down methods
Adopting a debt pay down method can keep you focused and disciplined, removing the guesswork and giving some reassurance that you’re doing all you can.
The Avalanche method might be best suited for our times. It’s a systematic approach that pays the minimum due on all your cards, but you’ll pay more on the card with the highest interest charge each month. With interest payments a major factor now, it’s smart to focus on those charges first.
Another popular pay down method, Snowball, is one of the most popular methods for paying off debt. Instead of focusing on interest charges, you’ll pay off cards with the lowest balance first. If this is easier or more familiar, it’s still a disciplined approach that can keep you on track.
3. Refinance your debt
Now might be the time for a zero- or low-interest balance transfer card. Many offer a break from high interest rates for six months or a year, before returning to a conventional credit card rate.
If you haven’t done a balance transfer card before, they’re easy. First shop for offers with the lowest interest rate over the longest period of time, and once you qualify, transfer the balances from your higher interest credit cards. Then use the no- or low-interest period to pay off the balance.
Consolidating your debt with a personal loan is another option. You’ll use the lump sum from the loan to pay off high-interest cards, then pay off the personal loan instead. But make sure the loan is fixed at a lower interest rate than your credit cards. Not all personal loans are fixed and, as a loan with a variable rate, could be subject to increases as the Fed raises rates over the year ahead.
4. Use your savings strategically
Over the year ahead, while interest rates are rising, try saving strategically instead of relying on credit cards. Create savings funds you can label for special purchases, ones you’d usually use your credit cards for. Like a “Summer Vacation Fund” or a “New Computer Fund” or a “Fall Wardrobe Fund.” Add to the funds regularly, in small increments. Then use those savings instead of your card.
Emergency savings are more important than ever too. With interest rates going up, you’ll want to avoid using your card when unexpected expenses come up, from car repairs to medical bills to losing a job. Most pros recommend an emergency fund with three to six months of living expenses. If you’re just getting started, take it slow, in small regular increments, like any savings fund.
The sooner you pay off your card debts, the faster you can build savings like these. Regardless of future interest rates, using savings instead of credit cards will always save you money.
5. Use a Bright Balance Transfer
Bright offers easy balance transfers with low rates that stick with you for life. There’s no credit check required, and you’ll get approved on the spot. It’s a fast, easy way to avoid today’s high interest rates (and the higher rates coming your way).
With your card balances transferred to Bright, you’ll make one monthly payment at a lower APR. Bright even makes your payments for you, as well as payments on your other cards, moving funds when it makes sense for you and getting you debt-free faster.
If you don’t have it yet, download the Bright app from the App Store or Google Play. It takes 2 minutes to sign up, you’ll get an easy debt solution and you’ll even get a financial plan tailored to you, a step-by-step guide to reaching your goals.
Here’s a few resources to help understand what’s happening with interest rates:
With a postgraduate degree in commerce from The University of Sydney, Pranay has his finger on the pulse of the finance industry. Breaking down complex financial concepts is his forte.