Credit card debt

Banks sometimes hand credit cards out like sweeties. Which is all very exciting until you’re suddenly stuck with a hunking great dollop of debt, and no idea how to get out of it. Here’s our simple guide to paying off credit card debt.

girl with credit card

"I spent how much on lunches?"

Which credit card should I pay off first?

If you’ve got multiple credit card debts, you need to work out which one’s costing you the most money. Then you need to focus on blitzing that one first. Look at the interest rates on your cards – the one with the highest is the one you want getting rid of. Any extra cash you have should go towards this turkey of a debt.

However:

  • Always prioritise paying rent and bills over debt. Keeping warm and eating come first.
  • Keep paying the minimum repayments on your other cards to keep everyone happy.

Try and transfer your debt to 0% interest

Keeping your debt at an eye-watering interest rate is going to a) cost a lot, and, b) take a lot longer to pay off. It’s best to transfer the money to a lower interest deal. You can do this in two ways:

1. Switch to a balance transfer credit card

These cards offer a period of time where there’s no interest on your debt. This means all your payments go towards cutting down your actual debt rather than interest. However, there is a fee to transfer your debt over, usually about 3%. And you need a good credit rating to be eligible. Make sure you can pay off your debt in the interest-free period though, otherwise you’ll be stung with high interest on the remaining debt.

2. Switch to a low-interest credit card

Need a bit longer to pay off your debt than a balance transfer card gives you? It may be better to switch to a low-interest credit card, which will still make it easier to pay off than your existing bill. Plus, you don’t usually get charged for switching. There are loads of credit card comparison websites so try a couple to see which cards might be right for you.

Pay more than the minimum repayments

It’s not fun, we know. But paying off more each month than the minimum repayment is the only way to get rid of your niggly debt. If you just stick to the minimum, you could be 30 by the time you’ve paid the debt off. Even if it’s just a tenner or two extra, do put whatever you can towards your bill.

I’m really overwhelmed with my credit card debt – help!

If your credit card feels like such an overwhelming monster of doom, it sometimes seems easier just to hide all your bills down your trousers and pretend they don’t exist. It may even seem like you’ll ever get out of all this debt. But there are helpful lovely people out there who can help you feel less suffocated and sort out a repayment plan.

Good places to go for debt advice

Debt advice charities like Step Change, National Debtline, and the Debt Advice Foundation can all help you with your money worries. Give one of them a call for free, impartial advice.

Beware of dodgy debt-help companies though, and only stick with registered charities. If they ask you for any money, run away with your arms flailing.

If you need further support on this, give us a call on 0808 808 4994. We’re unable to give specific money advice but can guide you to the best places for expert support.

Next Steps

  • The Money Advice Service offers free, unbiased and independent advice about all financial matters. 0800 138 7777
  • StepChange offers free advice on your debt problems, basing it round what's right for you. 0800 138 1111
  • Moving out for the first time? Get the real Home Truths.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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debt

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015

Photo of credit card girl by Shutterstock