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Paying off credit card debt is key in becoming financially fit

Posted January 10, 2012

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— Getting physically fit is always a popular choice when people start coming up with New Year's Resolutions, but getting financially fit usually isn't too far behind. 

For many, that means getting rid of credit card debt.

According to CreditCards.com, the average credit card debt for households that have at least one card is $15,799.

A simple calculation of the interest on that number might be motivation enough to pay off the debt fast, but money experts have some specific suggestions on doing it the right way. 

First, get an honest assessment of the total amount of debt that needs to be paid off. Don't consider monthly payments alone, especially when making minimum payments has become the norm. 

Paying off credit card debt is key in becoming financially fit Paying off credit card debt is key in becoming financially fit

Try to negotiate a lower interest rate. This has gotten tougher to do in the last few years, but it's definitely worth a call. If the credit card company won't negotiate, shop around for a new card with lower rates and transfer the balance. That can help manage the debt before the payments to eliminate it even begin. 

Once you start paying, be sure to pay off the card with the highest APR first. Try not to make minimum payments whenever possible. 

If times are tough and making payments becomes too difficult in a given month, call the credit card company and explain the situation. Some companies might lower interest rates or even help set up a completely new payment plan. 

Once that debt is paid off, financial experts recommend keeping it off for good.

Most experts still recommend not using credit cards at all. 

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  • junkmail5 Jan 13, 2012

    Pseudonym writes:
    "Everything you said made sense until this sentence. If you play with snakes, you WILL get bitten. So don't be surprised when your credit card company scams you."

    Must be the longest con ever.

    I've been using rewards cards for at least 15 years and never gotten anything but a small % of my money back. No fees, no gotchas, no problems, since I actually pay my bill in full and on time every month.

  • SouthernBornSouthernBred Jan 13, 2012

    I'm surprised to hear this, since the SECU recommended that I get a credit card to help my credit score. The only thing my husband and I have is the house payment.(paid on time) Our 4 cars and boat are paid for. But when I went to get a care loan 6 years ago they told me that I need revolving credit, since the only thing that is on our credit report is the house. Not having enough credit is not a good thing either. I'm just glad they know we don't do credit cards and approved my car loan.

  • Equinox Bandingo Jan 12, 2012

    To make a comparision to the debt of our federal government, the federal government has about 6 times more in credit card debt than what it has coming in. So if the average family has about $50k in income, that would be like this family having $300k in credit card debt - with the debt getting deeper and no ideas how to pay it off. Our federal government is financially bankrupt, due to irresponsible votes from federal politicians such as Rep. David Price, who only care about getting re-elected. jesmyopinion
    ----------------------
    just don't forget that it was bill clinton that balanced the federal budget. simply by having the rich pay their fair share of taxes. it's easy to balance the budget.

  • Pseudonym Jan 12, 2012

    Quote from superman: "I use my credit card every chance I get so I can get money back."

    Everything you said made sense until this sentence. If you play with snakes, you WILL get bitten. So don't be surprised when your credit card company scams you.

  • superman Jan 12, 2012

    The first step is to learn to live within your income. I had two jobs for 15 years working 60 hours a week. Everthing I have is paid for including my house and 3 cars. Paid for our son's college. I have no credit card debt and receive money back from using my credit card. Worked my way thru school including obtaining a master's degree. My parents were poor but they taught me the value of hard work and saving my money. If times are rough-- buy a big bag of rice and a box of margarine. Cancel all those cell phones and have the cable turned off. Last week I received a check from my credit card company for $100.00 since I pay off my credit card every month. I use my credit card every chance I get so I can get money back. Last advice--dont have children you cant afford.

  • Just the facts mam Jan 11, 2012

    To make a comparision to the debt of our federal government, the federal government has about 6 times more in credit card debt than what it has coming in. So if the average family has about $50k in income, that would be like this family having $300k in credit card debt - with the debt getting deeper and no ideas how to pay it off. Our federal government is financially bankrupt, due to irresponsible votes from federal politicians such as Rep. David Price, who only care about getting re-elected.

  • Pseudonym Jan 11, 2012

    I'm really impressed with WRAL in publishing this story. Especially the last 2 sentences. Ordinarily, articles like this would quote some financial "expert" claiming that keeping your credit score high is the key to your financial health. It's only the key to financial health if your financial plan includes making rich Wall Street bankers even richer by borrowing more money from them and paying it back with interest. Kudos, WRAL!

    GET DEBT FREE AMERICA!!!

  • JohnnyMcRonny Jan 11, 2012

    To misquote Jung - consumerism is the opiate of the masses.

    $15,799 - seriously? STOP BUYING STUFF YOU DON'T NEED. Don't submit to mass marketing. Learn to ignore advertisements. Don't buy gadgets that will be worthless before you've finished paying for them. IF YOU CAN'T AFFORD IT, DON'T BUY IT.

    It's all psychological - breaking an addiction isn't easy and the first step is to recognize you have one.

  • dougdeep Jan 10, 2012

    I would add that before transferring balances, verify the fees for transferring those balances. They can be significant.