These Are the Best Ways to Consolidate Credit Card Debt – Money Perception

Consolidating credit card debt at a low interest rate enables indebted households to pay down debt faster while paying less interest along the way. From balance-transfer credit cards to personal loans, we’ll review some options to find the best way to pay down debt quickly and inexpensively.

Here are three of the best ways to consolidate credit card debt, and the pros and cons of each method.

1. Use a balance-transfer credit card

It’s somewhat ironic, but credit cards are one of the best tools for consolidating and eliminating credit card debt. Many cards are designed with indebted cardholders in mind, with offers that include 0% interest rates on balance transfers for up to 21 months.

There are two things to consider when picking a balance-transfer credit card: the duration of the 0% introductory interest period on transferred balances, and the balance-transfer fee a cardholder incurs.

Those who can pay down their debt faster might prioritize a card that has a shorter 0% introductory APR period on balance transfers in exchange for a 0% balance-transfer fee. Others may find it preferable to pay a small balance-transfer fee to unlock a longer 0% introductory interest period.

The three following cards were selected from Fool.com’s list of the best balance-transfer credit cards.

Credit Card 0% Intro APR Period on Qualifying Balance Transfers Balance-Transfer Dee
Chase Slate 15 billing cycles No fee on balance transfers within the first 60 days of approval. After that, fees rise to $5 or 5% of amounts transferred, whichever is greater.
Barclaycard Ring MasterCard 18 billing cycles (on balance transfers completed in the first 45 days of account opening) No fee
Citi Simplicity 21 billing cycles $5 or 3% of amounts transferred, whichever is greater.

DATA SOURCE: CARD ISSUERS.

For balances that can be paid off in 15 billing cycles (approximately 15 months), Chase Slate is an obvious winner. Qualifying cardholders can theoretically transfer their balances in the first 60 days of opening an account, pay off their balances during the 15-billing-cycle 0% interest period, and thus pay off the entirety of their credit card debt without incurring a dime of interest or fees.

Citi Simplicity may be a better choice for cardholders who expect to pay off their balances over a longer period. Notably, the card offers an eye-popping 0% introductory period that spans 21 billing cycles, or approximately 21 months. However, the balance-transfer fee may make it less lucrative for balances that can be paid off faster, given that the 3% fee would add up to $150 on a $5,000 balance transfer. It’s inefficient to pay a fee for more time to repay a balance if you don’t need it.

The best strategy is to start with cards that lack a balance-transfer fee, even if they have a shorter 0% introductory period. Start with Chase Slate, for example, pay down balances as much as possible during the intro period, and then move the remaining balance to Citi Simplicity or Barclay Ring MasterCard to finish paying off the remaining balance.

Note that the Barclay Ring MasterCard requires “excellent” credit for approval, and thus it may be out of reach for some indebted cardholders. By contrast, Citi Simplicity and Chase Slate require only “good” credit scores, thus making them a better first card for a balance transfer, particularly if your credit score is weighed down by high credit card balances.

CONSOLIDATING CREDIT CARD DEBT AT A LOWER RATE CAN MAKE IT EASIER TO PAY IT OFF. IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

2. Consider a personal loan

A personal loan may be a good way to consolidate and pay off credit card debt, but it’s an inherently more expensive way to pay down debt than a balance-transfer credit card.

According to data from the Federal Reserve, the average interest rate on a 24-month personal loan was just over 10% per year in February. That’s substantially higher than a 0% APR available from several of the best balance-transfer offers.

Of course, lower rates are available for borrowers with excellent credit scores. Several banks show rates of 5% or so for 24- to 36-month personal loans for people with excellent credit. Again, it’s a solution, but it’s costlier than a balance-transfer card, even for people who have excellent credit. I rank a personal loan as the second best solution, and one worth exploring only if it isn’t possible to find a sufficiently sized balance-transfer card to refinance existing balances.