7 Tips to free yourself from credit card debt | finder.com
reduce your credit card debt

How to reduce your credit card debt

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7 ways to cut down your credit card debt and get your finances in control.

In 2016, over 167 million Americans owned at least one credit card and contributed to the $764 billion worth of national debt that has been accruing interest steadily. It’s no surprise that the average household carries around $16,000. The question is — how do we begin to pay back our debts or just avoid it altogether?

7 ways to reduce your credit card debt

If you find yourself burdened with an outstanding credit card balance and interest charges building each month, consider the following strategies for clearing your debt.

1. Make regular repayments and pay more than the minimum

Budget your monthly expenses, see what you can put towards your repayments and stick to a plan that is comfortable for you. Always try to pay more than the minimum so you can avoid the extra interest and get out of debt a bit earlier. Pro tip: setting up an automatic debit to transfer that amount to your credit card account on a recurring date each month will help ensure that you stay on track.

2. Repay the debt with the highest interest rate

Paying off the account with the highest interest rate first could represent significant savings — the interest saved could be used to repay the rest of your debt sooner. Once you’ve paid that account off, close it to avoid further charges and move on to the account with the next highest interest rate.

3. Apply for a credit card with a 0% balance transfer offer

0% balance transfer credit cards let you transfer your existing debt onto a new credit card with the benefit of paying no interest for an introductory period. It’s important to repay your balance transfer amount within the introductory period since the interest rate will typically revert to a higher interest rate.

Compare balance transfer credit cards

Name Product Annual Fee Credit Score Min. Intro Balance Transfer APR Reward Value per Dollar Secured or Unsecured Introductory Balance Transfer APR APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases Annual Fee Minimum Credit Score
680
0%
1
Unsecured
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 25.99% variable)
14.99% to 25.99% variable
$0
Fair (660-699)
Earn a $150 bonus statement credit after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
680
0%
1.5
Unsecured
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 25.99% variable)
14.99% to 25.99% variable
$0
Fair (660-699)
Earn up to $250 back. Earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 or more in purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn an additional $100 back after you spend an additional $6,500 in purchases within your first 12 months. You will receive the cash back in the form of a statement credit. Rates & Fees
720
0%
Unsecured
0% for the first 15 months (then to variable)
13.99% variable
$0
Good (700-739)
A low, variable APR on purchases, balance transfers and cash advances.
95
680
0%
1
Unsecured
0% for the first 12 months (then 14.99% to 25.99% variable)
14.99% to 25.99% variable
$95
Fair (660-699)
Earn $200 bonus cash back after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
195
0%
1
Unsecured
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then to variable)
16.99% variable
$195
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
495
715
0%
1
Unsecured
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then to variable)
16.99% variable
$495
Good (700-739)
Mastercard Black Card members receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
680
0%
1
Unsecured
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 25.99% variable)
14.99% to 25.99% variable
$0
Fair (660-699)
Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
680
0%
Unsecured
0% for the first 15 months (then 16.74% to 25.49% variable)
16.74% to 25.49% variable
$0
Fair (660-699)
Jumpstart your financial fitness! 60 day introductory balance transfer offer, save on interest, and get your free monthly credit score.
680
0%
Unsecured
0% for the first 15 statement closing dates (then 14.99% to 24.99% variable)
14.99% to 24.99% variable
$0
Fair (660-699)
Transfer high rate balances and save on interest with an Introductory $0 balance transfer fee for the first 60 days your account is open. After that, the fee for future balance transfers is 3% (min. $10).
690
0%
1.5
Unsecured
0% for the first 15 months (then 16.74% to 25.49% variable)
16.74% to 25.49% variable
$0
Fair (660-699)
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic. No minimum to redeem for cash back.
720
0%
1
Unsecured
0% for the first 12 statement closing dates (then 15.24% to 25.24% variable)
15.24% to 25.24% variable
$0
Good (700-739)
Earn more cash back for the things you buy most.
NASA Federal Platinum Advantage Rewards Credit Card
NASA Federal Platinum Advantage Rewards Credit Card
680
17.99%
1
Unsecured
17.99% for the first 90 days (then 11.65% to 17.99% variable)
11.65% to 17.99% variable
$0
Fair (660-699)
Enjoy perks and save money while gaining points that never expire with every purchase.
620
Secured
13.25% variable
$0
Poor (Below 660)
A great way to establish or improve your credit history.
300
10.99%
1
Secured
10.99% for the first 6 months (then to variable)
24.99% variable
$0
Poor (Below 660)
2% Cashback at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus 1% cash back on all other credit card purchases.
24
580
Secured
25.74% variable
$24
Poor (Below 660)
Build, or rebuild, your credit with each purchase.
35
350
Secured
11.65% to 21.65% variable
$35
Poor (Below 660)
Get a card that can help you build credit. Determine your own credit limit. When you apply, you'll open a two-year certificate of deposit (CD) with $250 to $5,000. The balance of your CD is your credit limit.
35
350
Secured
11.65% to 21.65% variable
$35
Poor (Below 660)
You can get travel benefits (no foreign transaction fees), retail benefits and collision damage waiver coverage on your rental car.
650
Unsecured
26.99% variable
$0
Poor (Below 660)
Enjoy no annual fee, plus access to valuable benefits.

Compare up to 4 providers

4. Consolidate your debt with a personal loan

A debt consolidation loan can offer substantial savings on interest payments compared to a credit card. It also often allows a longer term to pay back your debt. When considering a personal loan, factor in related costs such as application, establishment, monthly or yearly fees.

5. Refinance your home loan

While this may sound drastic, refinancing your home loan can offer with it several perks. Refinancing generally gives you access to lower interest rates when you take on a new lender’s deal. Carefully weigh up the pros and cons of this option though, because you’ll essentially be moving your credit card debt onto your home loan, which means stretching your debt over more years.

6. Discuss your options with your bank

By having a chat with your bank, you may be able to negotiate a more comfortable payment plan. You could be approved for an interest reduction or a short payment hiatus, which could help you catch up on your repayments.

7. Look into financial counseling

Financial counseling does not have to be expensive and you can even receive help for managing your debts. Obtaining professional financial and legal advice for your personal situation can sometimes be the first step towards debt freedom. You will be given personalized advice on how to consolidate your debts, manage creditors and protect your credit rating.

Don’t bury yourself in debt

While credit cards can be a convenient way to pay, make sure you’re in control of them and not the other way around. If you have found yourself in credit card debt, follow the necessary steps and seek assistance as soon as possible to regain control of your finances. When considering if a credit card is still the best option for you, compare all your options and be wise about what you need for your own personal circumstances.

How to avoid credit card debt

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To prevent falling into debt, the following tips can help you keep your credit card under control:

  • 0% purchase credit card. Get a credit card that offers 0% interest on purchases. This will allow you to make purchases and repay them without accruing any additional interest for a promotional period of up to 24 months.
  • Pay more than the minimum. Making only minimum repayments on your credit card balance typically means that you’re only paying 2.5% of your statement balance. At that rate, it might take you years to repay even a modest balance.
  • Stick to a budget. Create a budget for your expenses each month and schedule a payment plan to have your debts covered. Set up automatic debits to ensure that payments are made regularly.
  • Move your statement due date. By making sure your statement due date is just after payday, you’ll definitely have the funds to repay your credit card bill on time.
  • Identify why you first fell into debt. Was it overspending, high interest rates or a combination of the two? Try working with a budget or get a card with a lower interest rate.
  • Take measures to curb your spending. Creating a monthly budget should help curb expenditure, but you could also consider reducing your card’s credit limit as a stronger preventive for overspending.
  • Stop using your credit cards. If your spending problem requires more than monthly budgeting and occasionally leaving your credit card at home, consider cancelling your cards altogether. Prepaid credit cards and cash are surefire ways to avoid debt.
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Pictures: Shutterstock

Kyle Morgan

Kyle Morgan is a producer for finder.com who has worked for the USA Today network and Relix magazine, among other publications. He can be found writing about everything from the latest car loan stats to tips on saving money when traveling overseas. He lives in Asbury Park, where he loves exploring new places and sipping on hoppy beer. Oh, and he doesn't discriminate against buffalo wings — grilled or fried are just fine.

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