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How to pay off your holiday debt
Don't let 12 days of Christmas spending turn into a 12-month debt hangover.
If you overspent on presents this year, a balance transfer credit card or a consolidation loan can help you manage your credit card debt — but watch out for interest rates that are far from jolly.
What options do I have to consolidate Christmas debt?
You have two main options: a debt consolidation loan or a balance transfer credit card.
- Debt consolidation personal loan. These loans are unsecured and allow you to bring a number of debts into one account so that you only have one monthly payment to keep track of. By consolidating separate credit accounts you may be able to reduce interest and fees.
- Balance transfer credit card. If you have debt across one or more cards, you can consolidate your debt to a balance transfer credit card. Some cards offer 0% interest for an introductory period, but if you can’t pay your debt off before that time is up you could end up with a high rate. You’ll also need to keep an eye on balance transfer fees and annual fees.
Which Christmas debt consolidation option is right for me?
The best option for you depends on a number of factors, including how much debt you’ve accrued and how long it will take you to pay it off:
Consider a debt consolidation loan if…
- You have a large amount of debt.
- You need more than a year to pay off your debt.
- You’re credit score isn’t excellent.
Consider a balance transfer credit card if…
- You have a relatively small amount of debt.
- You can pay it off relatively quickly (one year or less).
- You have good to excellent credit.
How do I compare balance transfer credit cards?
There are a number of features to look for when choosing a balance transfer credit card:
- Balance transfer interest rate. This is the promotional rate that will be applied to the debt that you transfer. Most cards offer a 0% APR rate, but you might not qualify if you have bad credit. If your credit score is low, you may still qualify for a card with a low introductory rate.
- Balance transfer promotional period. How long will this promotional rate apply? These periods can be between 3 and 24 months. The interest rate on the card will likely spike pretty high when the introductory period is over, so you want to make sure you can pay your balance in full before then.
- Standard rate. This is the rate that will apply to your balance after the promotional period ends. If you don’t pay your balance in full in time, can you still afford the card?
- Fees. Check whether a balance transfer fee applies and whether you’ll need to pay an annual fee for the card.
- Balance transfer limits and restrictions. Confirm how much you’re able to transfer. For some cards, you can’t transfer a debt that will be more than 80% or more of your credit limit. You’ll also likely need to make the balance transfer at the time of application in order to take advantage of the promotional rate. Make sure you’re familiar with all restrictions so you don’t get any nasty surprises when you apply.
How do I compare debt consolidation loans?
When you compare options for debt consolidation personal loans, check the following:
- Interest rate. First, check whether the rate is variable or fixed. Variable rates may change over your loan term while fixed rates remain, well, fixed. Fixed rates are preferable, but variable rates are common.
- Fees. What fees will you be charged? Check for upfront fees such as establishment or application fees as well as ongoing fees such as annual or monthly fees.
- Loan limits. How much are you able to borrow and will it be sufficient to consolidate your debt?
- Loan purpose. Not all lenders allow you to use their personal loans for debt consolidation, even if they are unsecured. Make sure you’re able to use it for what you need before you apply.
- Loan terms. Check the terms of the loan and use our consolidation loan calculator to find out what your monthly payments will be.
- Repayment flexibility. Are you able to make extra repayments throughout the loan or pay it off early without penalty? Look for early repayment penalties or restrictions.
Compare debt consolidation options
Debt consolidation loans
Other ways to manage your holiday debt
While debt consolidation loans and balance transfer credit cards are the two primary routes to conquering your Christmas debt, there are some other things you can do to prevent future debt from accumulating:
- Make a budget (and stick to it). Having a budget can help you figure out how to best spend your money — and to prevent you from overspending. Tracking your spending and understanding how much you need to pay off your debts can help you figure out where to cut spending — empowering you to cut back in order to climb out of debt.
- Save every month. The more money you save every month, the quicker and easier it will be to pay off your debt. Any extra money you’re saving should either go towards paying off your debts — prioritizing those with higher interest first — or setting up an emergency fund. A good number to aim for every month is $1,000 — but don’t worry if you can’t save that much! Every cent counts.
- Snowball your debt. Using the debt snowball method involves paying off your smallest debts first then your larger debts. After making the minimum payments on all of your debts, use any money left over to pay extra towards your smallest debt. Not only does it make paying off your debt less daunting, but you’ll be erasing it much faster.
A little planning can go a long way when it comes to Christmas spending. Put a plan in place, and if you need a Christmas credit card make sure you carefully consider all of your options. This way you can enjoy, rather than worry about, the holiday season.
However, if you find your credit score on the naughty list, you may want explore debt consolidation options for bad credit.
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