South Africa has recently experienced a credit rating downgrade to junk status. What follows will likely be a rise in interest rates.
That considered, there has never been a more pressing time to fast track clearing debt, particularly unsecured debt, than right now.
Why Pay Your Credit Card Debt Off Faster?
In light of the downgrade, Crue Invest’s Craig Torr, advises all consumers to settle short-term, unsecured debt “as a matter of priority”. And because credit cards typically charge high interest rates of between 16% and 22%, you should settle your credit card debt as soon as possible.
Here are are a few ideas to help you do just that.
1. Focus On One Credit Card
If you lie out on the beach for too long in summer, the heat from the sun’s light can give you a slight burn. Concentrate that light through a magnifying glass and you could start a fire that could burn a field (not recommended). A laser is light so concentrated that it can cut through steel.
Where are we going with this? Well if you have more than one credit card, trying to pay them off all at once is going to take a long time. And it’s overwhelming.
Pick one card and pour all of your extra cash into paying that one off quickly and shutting it down. Ideally, you’d go for the credit card with the highest interest rating and focus on clearing that first (saving the most money).
For a more psychological boost, pick the smallest debt that’s easiest to clear and kill that first. The satisfaction of clearing just one account is sometimes all you need to take on the bigger accounts.
But don’t neglect the other credit cards, pay the minimum payment and the interest charges on those until you’ve ‘burned up’ the card of focus with concentrated payments.
2. Pay More Than Expected
If paying the minimum amount owing on your credit card each month is enough to clear the debt quickly, you would’ve done that by now. Credit Card companies make their money from keeping you in debt as long as possible. The fast you pay, the less you pay (in interest).
Look at your credit card bill to get an idea of how long it would take to pay off your card just paying the minimum every month. Also look at how much extra it’s costing you to stick to that payment strategy.
Any interest that isn’t covered by your minimum payment will be added to your balance. Do you want to be charged interest on interest? Didn’t think so.
3. Pay Off Your Credit, With Credit
This sounds counterintuitive, but credit cards (together with retail accounts) are among the highest interest bearing accounts. This is due to the higher risk to the borrower because the debt is unsecured (by an asset like a house that could be repossessed should the payer default).
In other words, credit card debt is more expensive to pay off than other debt. Like home loans (secured by the property), for example, that attract average interest rates of 10.5% depending on the terms of the loan.
If you are a homeowner and can access credit through your bond to settle your credit card, do so. But because a bond has a much longer payment term, concentrate all of the money you were paying on your credit card, towards your bond repayments.
You will increase your monthly home loan repayments and shorten the term of your home loan.
Personal loans can be used in a similar manner provided you get a lower interest rate than your credit card.
4. Go Debt-Free
The biggest temptation of a paid off credit card is the 0 balance.
In order to avoid the cycle of debt you’re trying to break. you have to look at how you spend your money, monthly, and make adjustments. Change the spending behaviour and only spend money you actually have every month. Make a budget accordingly.
Even if you keep the accounts open for your credit rating, just cut up those cards.