How many credit cards are in your wallet? According to Experian, the credit reporting company, the average American has about four credit cards with a total combined balance of around $5,221.
With interest rates rising, consumers want to eliminate their credit card debt, but juggling multiple cards with different terms and interest rates can be quite overwhelming.
Choose your method
There are two schools of thought on how to tackle credit card debt. The first, known as the "avalanche method," pays down the account with the highest interest rate first, then moves to the account with the next highest interest rate, and so on. This is the best method for most people and results in the least interest paid over time.
The second approach, known as the "snowball method," pays off the account with the smallest balance first, regardless of the interest rate. This method quickly reduces the number of creditors owed and gives you a sense of accomplishment to help keep you on track.
"Either method will save you time and money, so it is a matter of personal preference," says Barbara O'Neill, author of Flipping a Switch: Your Guide to Happiness and Financial Security in Later Life.
Make a plan
O'Neill recommends using the free PowerPay program from Utah State University (extension.usu.edu/powerpay) to create debt reduction scenarios for each method to determine which would be most advantageous for you.
"Follow your PowerPay debt reduction calendar and try not to take on any new debt while previous debt is being repaid," says O'Neill. She also suggests contacting your creditors to negotiate a lower interest rate.
Consider a personal loan
Consolidating all your credit card debt into a personal loan is another option, since personal loans tend to have lower interest rates than credit cards.
Once your debt is paid, don't cancel your cards unless they have a hefty annual fee. Accounts with low or no balances will help fortify your credit score.
Don't let credit card debt bog you down. Follow your plan, and in time, you can eliminate your credit card debt.