The average household owes a little over $16,000 in credit card debt – that’s up 10 percent from 2006. And, according to Gallup data, Americans have an average 3.4 credit cards in their wallets. If that debt is sprinkled over several different cards, it can make paying down that debt a little more challenging. But, boy do we have good news for you!
If you’re looking for a smart way to consolidate your accounts and pay down debt, have you thought about a balance transfer?
A balance transfer is exactly what it sounds like – taking the balances on your existing cards and transfer them to another credit card, usually with a lower rate.Aaron Aggerwal, Assistant Vice President of Credit Cards at Navy Federal
“That lower rate allows you to reduce the amount of finance charges associated with the balance, putting you in a better position to pay off the debt,” Aggerwal continues.
Look for an offer with a low introductory interest rate and no fees associated with the transfer. The whole point of a balance transfer is to consolidate and pay down debt – you should avoid accruing fees in the process.
Some balance transfers even offer a zero percent interest rate for a limited time. Depending on the length of the term, that could be anywhere from 12 to 18 months! When it comes to interest rates, zero is always better.
Once you consolidate your high interest rate balances from other accounts into the account you just opened, the balances will now be at the low introductory rate – saving you money and helping you better manage your payments. This is an especially great option for store-issued credit cards, which usually carry a high interest rate.
“Set up automatic payments along with alerts to make sure you make on-time payments each month,” adds Aggerwal. Not only do late payments negatively affect your credit score, it can also result in a penalty APR. Regular, on time monthly payments can help boost your overall credit score.
If you want to see the biggest value from a balance transfer, avoiding making purchases with your new card until your debt is paid down. New purchases will accrue interest if they’re not paid off by the end of the month – counteracting your goal of becoming debt-free.
Wondering what to do with you other accounts? The good news is, there’s no downside to owning several credit cards. In fact, the longer the accounts are open and managed responsibly – the better it is for your credit. But it’s important you’re living within your means and can spend responsibly if you’re keeping the other accounts open.
“A balance transfer can help to better manage your finances, and managing credit card debt should be part of an overall financial plan and budget,” said Aggerwal. Do the research and find an offer that will best suit your needs. There’s no shortage of credit card offers out there – find the best one to help you pay off your debt.