University of Illinois Extension

Get Rid of Credit Card Debt

Choose strategies to cut your debts as soon as possible.

Pay High-rate Cards First - At higher interest rates, more of your monthly payment goes toward finance charges. Quickly paying off balances on cards with high rates can free up cash to pay other bills.

Pay Off Cards with the Smallest Balances First -Paying off cards with small balances gives you extra money to pay on the bigger balances.

Once you pay off a bill, next month add the amount you've been paying to pay on one of your remaining creditors. For example, let's say you pay $35 a month on your J.C. Penney's account. Once it's paid off you can start paying $35 to your VISA account. Then when you've paid off your VISA, add that amount, including the $35 from the Penney's account, to pay your MasterCard account, and so on until all the accounts are paid in full.

Stop Making New Charges - If you have to, cut up your cards, hide them, or lock them in a drawer.

Stay Flexible - The key to sticking to your credit card debt repayment plan is to stay flexible. If you find that you set unrealistic spending limits in the beginning, revise your spending plan the next month.

Get a Cheaper Credit Card - Find one or two low-rate cards and cancel all the others. Switching from a high-rate credit card to a low-rate card can easily save you $200 or more a year.

For more information on credit, see other Credit Card Smarts fact sheets. Related fact sheets are "Decide How Many Credit Cards You Need" and "Decide How Much Credit Is Too Much".

Written by Patricia Hildebrand, Consumer and Family Economics Educator, Effingham Extension Center, University of Illinois Extension, September 1997. Updated 2009.

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