It might seem contradictory to use debt to pay off debt, but taking out a line of credit to pay off your credit card debt can be a great financial decision.
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Reduce the carrying cost of your debt
Typically, lines of credit have much lower interest rates than credit cards, which will reduce the overall carrying cost of your debt. For example, a $5,000 balance on a credit card at 20% will cost you $1,000 per year in interest. On a line of credit of 6%, the same balance it will only cost you $300 in interest. The $700 you save not paying interest can help you actually make a dent in your debt and start paying it down.
Reducing the carrying cost of your debt not only lowers the total amount you pay, it gets you out of debt faster.
If you’re making payments of $150 per month towards your $5,000 debt, on a credit card at 20% it will take you almost four and a half years to pay off. On a line of credit at 6%, the same $150 payment against the same $5,000 debt will get you to debt free after only 3 years.
However, to actually reap the benefits of using a low-interest line of credit to manage your credit card debt, you have to avoid racking up new debt on the credit card once you pay it off.
Lower your credit card limits
The best way to protect yourself from ever finding yourself in the situation you’re in ever again is is to lower the limit on your credit cards. If your credit limit is $5,000, call your bank and have it reduced to $2,000. This is enough of a a credit limit to enjoy the convenience of a credit card, without putting yourself at risk of accumulating a debt balance that you can’t pay off.
Stop using credit cards
The other step you can take is to stop using the credit card entirely. Leave it at home when you go out, and only use cash or your debit card to make purchases. It might seem extreme to give up using a credit card, but it’s worthwhile to spend the next few months learning how to live comfortably within your means so you’re not tempted to use credit to fill the gaps in your spending again.
Don’t max out your line of credit
Banks are overly generous with credit, and it’s because doing so benefits them, not you. Do not borrow more than you need. If you’re offered a $25,000 line of credit but only need $10,000, then decline the rest.
Once you have your line of credit, do not rack up the entire limit.
Just because you have credit doesn’t mean you have to use it all. In fact, keeping your debt balances low and leaving yourself with lots of available credit is a great way to boost your credit score.
Related: 5 Easy Steps To Build Good Credit
Always make more than the minimum payment
Always make the effort to make more than the minimum monthly payment on your line of credit, even if the interest rate is so tantalizingly low you’re certain you can carry the debt forever without any real consequence. Being in debt a second longer than you have to is always bad.
Remember, credit is not “free money” and even small balances can be difficult to pay off, so approach any with caution. However, when used responsibly credit can be a powerful tool to help you achieve your financial goals, and shouldn’t be avoided — particularly when it can actually help you get out of debt faster!