I have one hell of a relationship when it comes to credit cards.
On the one hand I would not have excellent credit if weren't for me signing up for credit cards, so kudos to you credit cards for helping me reach my great credit score. On the other hand, I have an enourmous amount of credit card debt despite this beautiful credit score, so screw you credit.
When it comes to paying off debt, one needs to be strategic to get rid of it once and for all. I have finally found some tips that work for me to battle my debt and also prevent mye from accumulating more debt than I already have. Check it out.
1. Pay your card off as soon as you use it
I know this is the oldest tip in the book, but it is a good one. I heard this tip long before I had a credit card. But it is easier said than done. If you spend $50 on your credit card today you want to make sure to pay off that $50 by the end of the month.
Sounds simple. But why is it easier said than done?
Because typically what happens is I use my credit card for $50 instead of taking out of my checking account and make the mistake of looking at is as “free money”. And then eventually the initial $50 I didn't pay before turns into $200 I now have to pay because of interest.
Now of course, I didn't fully think about the consequences of my actions at the time. But it woud've been nice if I had told myself to pay it off immediately. Luckily there is such a tool that does this for you. It’s called Debitize.
What it does it pays off your credit card balances for you every single week. It keeps a certain amount of money in your Debitize account each week so when you spend money on your credit card, it pays the balance. Something else I love about this tool is that it has the ability to make payments on your credit card son a weekly basis so that way we you are sure to lower your interest payment by paying more than once a month. If you want to learn more about Debitize, you can check them out here.
2. Get a good card with points, cash back, etc.
If you are going to use a credit card, you want to make sure it is a good one. Now fthe hard part is determing which card is a good one for you. If you do a lot of traveling a credit card that gives you frequent flyer miles is probably a good bet.
If you want cashback or points for your purchase there are plenty of those around to choose from too. The key is to make sure you are getting something for using your card. Use the free tool from NerdWallet below to determine which credit card works best for you.
I am a big fan of cash back cards since you can use your posints to get gift cards for items you would buy with your own money. Or better yet, get cash back to add to your savings. Fingers crossed that you get some great options using the tool above.
3. Make more frequent payments
Question for you. Are you aware of how much interest you’re paying on a daily basis? Yes, I said on a daily basis. Because the truth is that if you are carrying debt, you are paying interest on that card on a daily basis. So what is your per diem interest on your credit card? I like to figure out this number to keep my debt payoff in check. To figure out your daily interest you use the following calulation:
Interest Rate/365 x Principal=Daily Interest
If you have $20,000 on your credit card balance with an interest rate of 11%; That means you are paying $6.02 per day in interest!
Now let's think about what you could buy with $6 a day instead of paying interest. That comes up to $2,200 over the course of a year. There is plenty you could buy with that amount. What I like to do is make more frequent payments, (weekly) paying the same amount I would pay over the course of the month. The reason why I do this is to make sure I am paying more than the daily interest to make sure I am actually getting ahead.
So for example, let's say your daily interest is $6 per day, but you realize that with your monthly payment you are only covering $5 a day in interest. It would be difficult to get ahead. So make sure you make more frequent payments that are higher than what you are paying in daily interest.
4. Pay Your bills on time
Yes this is a basic one. But this has to be one of the most important thigns you can do to save money when it come s to your credit. Did you know that if pay your credit card bill late it could stay on your record for up to 10 years? That's a long time to deal with a lowerd credit score that could result in higher interest rates on everything. So paying your bills on time can be a huge factor in saving money in the long term.
Make it easy for yourself and turn on the auto bill pay on all your accounts just to be safe. Of course you want to make sure there is money in your bank account when this happens.
5. Invest your cash back
Now did you sign up for that cashback card I mentioned in point #2? If you did, this is a great opportunity to take that money and put it into investing account.
I personally recommend using robo investors like Stash. It's super easy to set up an account and invest in companies that you personal enjoy or believe will do well. They make it easy for you to invest as frequently as weekly if you would like too. I like to autostash $5 a week in my portfolio. Sign up for Stash using this link to get $5 in your account!
If you are thinking more long term when it comes to your investment plan, another option to consider is Ellevest. While they have a variety of savings accounts you can sign up for, they also have investment accounts that let's you save your cash tax-free baby! But most importantly, they set you up with a free goal-based investment plan just for signing up with a free acount.
Investing can be a little intimidating, but it's actually quite simple when you have the right tools in your arsenal. If you are making extra cash from your credit cards, I say take that free money and make it grow!
6. Ask to lower your interest rate every 6 months
This is by far my favorite way to save money with my credit cards. Because it works so miraculously well.
If it’s been six months since you've had your credit card and you have not asked for your interest rate to be lowered, I highly suggest that you do. Many credit card companies will lower it for you no questions asked as long as you speak up.
I will say that you want to make sure you are paying your bills on time in order for them to want to do something nice for you in return. But I have had more success with this than I have had people tell me no. There have been a few no's here and there, but for the most part, I get people who say yes.
This is huge because it could mean a big difference in how much you end up paing in interest. Sometimes I’ll call to lower my rates as often as every three months and see what happens. Also, this method works wonders in calling to lower your regular bills as well. It's worth picking up the phone and giving it a try!
7. Stay under 30% of your credit card ratio
Your credit card ratio is the percentage of your credit card that you’re using. For example you have a credit card $1,000 and you want to stay winin the 30% credit limit ratio. That means you do not want to spend more than $300 on a $1000 credit card. Makes sense?
This credit card ratio plays a big role in your credit score so it’s a pretty important number to be aware of. One thing to keep in mind is that the credit card ratio if you have includes all of your credit cards, not just one. For example, if you have 3 credit cards totaling up to a $100,000 credit limit, you should not spend more than $30,000 dollars to stay in range. Keep this in mind before cancel any credit cards!
8. Always check your credit card statements
This was one thing that I initially was not doing. I figured that since I was not using a credit card actively, and only paying my debt down on it I did not need to check my balance.
Then one day I did…
I soon realized there were several charges on my credit card statemtnt that I did not make. And since my card is so diligent about alerting me about unknown purchases, I did not see this as a possibility. But because I happened to check my statement that month, I was able to catch the issue and get it removed.
It is so important to make sure you are checking your credit card statements. Regardless of if you actively use the card or not. It is also an opportunity for you to make sure that you were not overcharge for something, or to give you a better idea of how much you’re actually spending every month.
9. Turn on Balance Alerts
While it is important to check your balance on your card every month, it is even more important to make sure you have your balance alert on for your credit card. This means getting either an email or a text notification for any purchase made on your credit card. This makes it easy for you to spot if someone else is using your credit card so you can resolve an issue faster than waiting for the statement to arrive. It is just an easy precaution to make sure that your card does not fall into the wrong hands.
10. Don’t close old credit cards
Unfortunately, I this lesson by making the mistake of closing my oldest credit card recently. This card was 10 years old compared to my other cards which were only a amir 6-years old.
Your credit card age plays a big role in your credit score. And when I canceled my oldest card after paying it off, my credit score went down by 40 POINTS! I freaked out! I could not believe I had made such a huge mistake with my credit.
It will take time to get your credit age back to where it was. But you can also improve your credit score by other factors. For example making sure your credit utilization rate is under 30% (see point #7). Don't make my mistake! Keep your old cards.
These are the tips I've learned from various courses, finance books, and working with a Wealth Coach. But I am sure there are so many other credit card hacks out there. Please leave your best credit card tip you've learned in the comments. I really want to hear all there is to know about paying off your credit card debt.