5 Steps to Paying off Credit Cards

A few years ago my husband and I paid off our credit cards. Finally. We had dreamed about paying off our credit cards from the day we got married. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a plan at first, so paying off our credit cards remained a dream.

Eventually we made a plan to pay off our credit cards. And our plan worked! So if you have a credit card balance that you’d like to see paid off, maybe our plan will work for you.

Steps to Paying off Credit Card Debt

1. Transfer your balances to a card with an introductory 0% APR. When we did this, I hated the idea of opening up another credit card, but at the same time, I knew a 0% APR would make paying off my credit cards go much quicker.

The key is to find a card with a low introductory rate that will remain low until you can pay it off. In our case, we paid off our credit card before the rate went above 0% APR.

2. Stop using your credit cards. If you are carrying a balance on your credit cards from month to month, you need to stop using your credit cards. Period. You will never pay them off if you keep adding to the balance.

Freeze the cards, if you aren’t ready to cut them up. Eventually we shredded our cards. It was a very scary, yet freeing moment. We haven’t used credit cards since.

3. Snowflake payments. Snowflakes are little bits of money you collect to pay off your debts. Money from selling things on ebay, babysitting, a second job, or whatever extra money you come up with. Set that money aside in a jar. Once a week make a payment on your credit card, using your snowflaked money. Check with your bank first, to make sure you can make weekly payments without incurring extra fees, though.

4. Use the debt snowball. The debt snowball is simple. When you pay off one credit card, add the amount you were paying toward the first credit card to the payment on the next credit card. For instance, if you were paying $100 a month on the first card and $50 a month on the second, when you pay the first credit card off, start paying $150 on the second card. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your debt starts to go down.

5. Make a commitment to never go into consumer debt again. Once your credit cards are paid off, don’t ever carry a balance again. Personally, I can’t imaging carrying around another credit card. But if you do, for rewards or other reasons, make sure you pay off the balance in full every month. It’s the only way to be truly financially free.

Photo by The Consumerist.

18 thoughts on “5 Steps to Paying off Credit Cards”

  1. Whilst an old principle, the debt snowball concept is still one that I use all the time, it works like a charm and it’s great to see debt getting lower and lower! Love it! :) Paying down credit card debt is by far the most important thing given the high APR’s charged.

  2. Gotta love the: Stop using your credit card advice!

    That’s really how you can start paying off debts, the surefire way.

    It’s all about discipline. Don’t shop for anything unless you absolutely need them. Swallow the urge to swipe that card. Better yet, don’t go anywhere with things or stuff that you probably will regret buying later on!

  3. Be very wary of zero percent APR offers. The banks aren’t peddling cheap loans for fun.

    They know that a minority will beat them at their game and use the zero percent financing to retire debt, while the majority end doing the opposite.

    We all tend to over-rate our financial discipline.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is an encouragement to hear from those that have managed to make it out on the other side, so to speak. I am using the help of a credit repair company and have already started to see results. Their price is great and you don’t have to pay anything upfront so it really helped me out. If anyone is interested in learning more about credit repair, check out their blog http://creditrepaircapital.com/

  5. When I was in college I froze my credit cards in a zipper bag. I can remember coming home from the mall and running hot water on the bag in the kitchen sink. While doing this I just thought how stupid am I? Sometimes just a few minutes out of the presence of the wanted object will inject some sanity! Can’t believe somebody else has used this “strategy”!

  6. Do read the fine print with 0% transfers. We have done this twice to move hospital bills over to a credit card (the hospitals here charge interest). The 0% card was great but don’t charge ANYTHING on it after you make the transfer. When we did, we were charged interest on that purchase until after the 0% transfer was paid off fully. Happily, it wasn’t a large purchase so we didn’t get stuck with having to pay a lot of interest.

  7. Just today, I called my bank to open a savings account, and toward the end of the conversation, the lady asked me if I wanted to apply for a credit card. I declined, and when she asked why, I told her I am deathly allergic to credit cards. I’ll stick to cash and debit, thanks. Excellent post, once again, Lynnae.

  8. Sarah – I use debit cards all the time for hotel reservations. After you check in, they will put a hold on a certain amount of money on your credit card, in case you incur any expenses, but the hold is usually released in a couple of days.

    As far as the protection when you buy major appliances? I honestly have no idea if a debit card works the same as a credit card. I never used that kind of protection policy with either.

  9. Congratulations on getting out of credit debt.

    I have slowly moved from using credit cards to pay for everything – I always paid the balance in full each month – to using a debit card. I have two questions about getting rid of credit cards, completely. First, when making a hotel reservation they always request a credit card. Can you use a debit card to make hotel reservations? Second, how about purchasing major appliances and home electronics? With a credit card you get one year of protection – you can return your purchase if something goes wrong. What type of protection do you get using a debit card?

  10. This is such solid advice!

    My husband and I paid off our credit cards and are now only using cash and debit. It’s been such a huge change in how we think, but a relief to not have that big bill arriving each month. Even if we always paid it off, I never really knew how much we were charging. Now, I know what we’re spending down to the dollar!

    There is only one thing I’ll add. Please encourage your readers to READ all the details about special offers. Before we went to cash, we took advantage of a credit card offer that gave us 1% interest on a cash advance. It was perfect for us since we used it to buy a car (almost like an auto loan at 1% financing). However, if we had used that credit card for anything else we would have been in a HUGE pickle. All of our payments would have been applied to the low interest charges FIRST before any new purchases could have been paid for. If we hadn’t read the fine print, we could have been carrying charges that would have racked up the interest rates for a LONG time before we paid off the cash advance. So, we used the cash advance to our advantage but didn’t touch the card for anything else.

    Thanks again!

  11. I like your steps. Clear an easy!

    I also use a method to save more money. Each time I am about to spend money on something that is not necessary (restaurant, coffee, gadgets), I think (try!) twice and not spend this money.

    Then, once home, I write the item I didn’t purchase and the cost of it. I put this money aside until the end of the month. At the end of the month, I take my pot and apply it to credit card debts.

    The fact of writing all the money I save in a month makes me want to save more the next month and so on…

  12. Great info as usual Lynnae.

    One trick I used was to consolidate my high interest credit card debt through Lending Club. I chose this route because I no longer wanted to pay interest money to credit card banks, and because I did not want to pay the fees associated with doing a balance transfer.

    Now I am paying my interest money to regular Joe’s like you and I instead of the corporate banker fat cats that don’t elicit a “happy face” when I think of them! ;-)

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