3 Ways to Stop Wasting Money on Interest

Category: Credit Card Debt Published: Sunday, 27 December 2015 Written by Super User

Credit card debt costs the average US household more than $2,500 in interest per year, according to a November NerdWallet study of over 2,000 adults. That's more than 3 percent of the average household income - just for the privilege of carrying debt on a credit card. It's enough to pay for two months' rent in the US, based on average costs, according to Numbeo data.

If you've got better things to do with your money-building an emergency fund orsaving for retirement, for example-you can reduce or eliminate your credit cardinterest with these tips.

1. Transfer your balance to a 0 percent APR credit card.

One of the easiest ways to stop incurring credit card interest is to transfer your balance from your current card to one with a 0 percent introductory APR. You won't be charged interest on the transferred balance for a set period of time, usually 12 to 18 months. If you pay off the card before the 0 percent rate expires, you won't owe any interest on the amount you transferred.

However, you should aim to use a 0 percent card only if you can pay off the balance before the introductory rate ends. Some cards apply retroactive interest to your initial balance if it's not fully paid off when the 0 percent period ends.

It's easy to get caught up in the balance-transfer game-transferring your balance fromone 0 percent card to another, making only the minimum monthly payment, then repeating the process when the 0 percent period ends. But play the game too often, and you'll end up losing. Besides the possibility of retroactive interest, applying for credit cards in a short period of time affects your credit score. Hard inquiries to your credit-like those from applying for new cards-can hurt your score, especially ifyour credit history is short.

Get one 0 percent APR card, and make a plan to pay it off before the introductory rate expires.

2. Make frequent payments.

A 0 percent APR card is a great tool for reducing debt, but it isn't an option for everyone. Most 0 percent cards are available only to those with good or excellent credit, which doesn't help those with subpar credit scores. But you can reduce interest costs in other ways.

For starters, you can make more than one payment per month. For example, if you get paid twice a month, and you can afford to pay $500 a month on your credit card, then pay $250 each time you get your paycheck. Credit card interest accrues on your daily average balance; making payments more often will reduce the daily average balance and therefore the amount of interest you will pay.

Say you have a balance of $5,000. If you make one payment of $500 on the 30th of the month (the due date), your average daily balance for the month is $4,983. Assuming an interest rate of 20 percent, you would accrue $81.92 in interest. If instead you made two $250 payments-one on the 15th and one on the 30th -you would accrue only$79.87in interest. This may not seem like a life-changing amount, but it can make a significant difference over time and with large balances.

3. Cut expenses and increase income.

Once you have a strategy for reducing or eliminating interest, you can focus on putting more money toward your debt on a monthly basis. There are two ways to do this: Make more money or spend less. If you can, do both. If that's not possible, work on whichever method makes the most sense for you.

To cut expenses, evaluate your current budget. Do you have any monthly expenses you don't need or value? Are there more affordable alternatives for some of your existing expenses? Challenge yourself to cut $100 from your budget the first month. Then try to beat your previous month's savings each subsequent month.

You can also try to make more money. If your employer pays by the hour, ask whether you can work overtime. If not, can you pick up a second (or third) job at night and on the weekends? You could also use a skill such as writing, carpentry, tutoring or design to earn money as a freelancer.

Other money-making options include selling homemade goods online or at your local farmers market or craft fair, or selling items you're no longer using. Maybe you have an extra room in your home that you can rent out on an accommodations website. As with cutting expenses, challenge yourself to make an extra $100 this month, and try to earn more next month.

Whether you cut expenses or increase income, it's critical that the extra money go toward your debt. Use the newfound cash to make extra payments on your highest-interest credit card balance. As with making multiple payments a month, your monthly savings may not seem significant, but they truly add up.

The bottom line: As your credit card balances decrease, you'll accrue less interest, so make debt payment a top financial priority. In the short term, reduce or eliminate interest by taking advantage of 0 percent offers, making multiple payments per month and freeing up money in your budget by making more, spending less or both.

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