If you have credit card debt, you might feel like credit cards are the problem.
However, there are tools – including credit cards – that can help you out of debt instead of making your problems worse.
If you’re tired of living with debt and ready to make a big change, a credit card or personal loan could be the solution to your prayers. Both options can help you consolidate debt at a lower interest rate, but each has pros and cons.
Before you decide either way, you should also face a painful truth: Neither 0% APR cards nor a personal loan will help you out of debt until you’re ready.
Balance transfer cards give you interest-free time to pay off your balance
With balance transfer credit cards, you get the option to break the cycle and pay down debt as fast as humanly possible. Cards that fall into this category, which are also called 0% APR credit cards, offer zero interest for anywhere from nine to 21 months.
Some cards do charge a balance transfer fee of 3% or 5% of your balance, but the fee can be well worth it if you’re avoiding interest for months on end. Note that some balance transfer cards waive the a fee if you complete a balance transfer in the first 60 days, so make sure to read the fine print carefully to to get the best deal.
Here’s why a 0% APR is such an advantage:
As an example, let’s say you have $13,048 in credit card debt. If your credit card came with an APR of 17% and you made a minimum payment of $300 per month, it would take you 69 months to become debt-free. Worse, you would pay $7,372 in interest along the way.
Now let’s imagine you transfer your high-interest credit card debt to the Citi Simplicity Card. This card gives you a full 21 months from the date of your transfer to pay down your debt with zero interest, as long as you make your balance transfer within four months of opening the card.
After the 21 months of 0% APR, the variable APR will be 16.24% to 26.24%. Note that you do have to pay an upfront balance transfer fee of $5 or 5% of the amount you’re transferring, whichever is greater, each time you make a transfer. The Citi Simplicity Card also offers a 0% introductory APR for purchases that expires after 12 months. After 12 months, the variable APR will be 16.24% to 26.24%. The Citi Simplicity Card has no annual fee, ever.
So let’s say you open the Citi Simplicity Card and transfer your credit card debt within the first four months. Your total balance after your balance transfer fee of $652 (5% of the debt you’ll transfer) would be $13,700. If you paid the same $300 per month you paid before but had zero interest, you would pay off $6,300 in debt interest-free within 21 months.
If you were able to cut your expenses and bump your payment up to $650 per month, on the other hand, you could pay off the entire balance during that time with no interest at all. That’s a savings of nearly $7,000 versus if you did nothing – even after accounting for the 5% balance transfer fee.
Of course, the Citi Simplicity Card is not the only balance transfer card on the market. Make sure to compare other 0% APR cards to see how they stack up before you decide. For instance, you might consider:
- BankAmericard credit card: 0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days; then a variable APR of 15.24% to 25.24% applies; either $10 or 3% of the amount of transfer, whichever is greater
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: 0% intro APR for 15 months; then a variable APR of 17.24% to 25.99% applies; $5 or 3% of the amount of transfer, whichever is greater
- Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: 0% intro APR for 15 months; then a variable APR of 16.24%-26.24% applies; 3% balance transfer fee
Advantages of using a balance transfer card:
- You get score 0% APR for anywhere from 9 to 21 months
- You can compare offers and apply for a card online
- Some cards don’t charge balance transfer fees
Disadvantages of using a balance transfer card:
- You have to stop using credit cards for this strategy to work – you can’t keep increasing your balance
- Balance transfer fees can add up
- Your interest rate will reset much higher after your introductory offer is over, so you only want to explore this option if you know you’ll be paying as much as you can during the introductory period
Personal loans provide lower interest rates to slow down your debt’s growth
If you’re leery about using another credit card to get out of credit card debt, that’s totally understandable. Fortunately, there’s another option to consider: personal loans.
While personal loans provide yet another way to borrow money, they also come with a fixed interest rate, fixed monthly payment, and fixed repayment period. This means you’ll know exactly how much you have to pay each month, what your payment will be, and when your debts will be paid off.
Personal loans don’t come with the benefit of 0% APR, but they do offer competitive interest rates that can be much lower than credit cards. Where the average credit card APR is well over 17% right now, you may be able to qualify for a personal loan with an APR as low as 5%.
There are plenty of online options to help you tackle your debt. With Payoff, for example, you can apply online to find out your loan rate in minutes (rates start at 5.65%), and consolidate multiple high-interest debts into a single payment designed to help increase your credit score. There are no fees except origination fees, which range from 0% to 5%.
You can also apply for a personal loan through an aggregator that lets you compare several options in one place. With Credible, you can apply once for free and get offers from up to ten lenders.
With a personal loan, you can easily consolidate debt. Simply apply for the loan, receive cash in your bank account, then use the funds to pay off your credit cards.
Advantages of using a personal loan:
- You get a fixed interest rate that will never reset, and you’ll know ahead of time exactly when you’ll become debt-free
- A fixed monthly payment will never leave you feeling surprised
- Personal loans come with competitive fixed interest rates for those who qualify
Disadvantages of using a personal loan:
- You don’t get access to 0% APR like you do with balance transfer credit cards
- Some personal loans come with fees, including an origination fee – although some come with no fees at all
- You’re still borrowing money, which won’t help you if you keep using your credit cards and increasing your overall debt
*This content is not provided by card issuers. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed here are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the card issuer.
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