Ask an Expert: How Do I Reduce My Credit Card Debt?

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Joanne is stuck paying off credit cards with high interest rates. What should she do? These three things.

I review dozens of credit card offers each week to find the best deals. Check out more on our credit card page.

A reader recently asked me a question that I hear a lot…

I have a credit card with Discover at 9.99 percent, which I haven’t been using and have been paying down.  I also have a Chase Freedom card with a 15.24 percent interest rate – which is way high. I haven’t been using that one lately either, because the interest rate is killing me. I always pay the minimum or higher. I have been trying to get a balance transfer, but I keep getting turned down, and they say the more you apply it isn’t good for you. What should I do?

Thanks,
Joanne

Joanne finds herself in the classic position of trying to pay off her credit card debt while being hampered by high interest rates. In fact, it could be worse – the Discover card’s rate of 9.99 percent is actually on the low side for a credit card, while the Freedom card’s rate is in the middle.

On the other hand, it’s unfortunate that Joanne hasn’t been approved to receive a card with a zero-percent balance transfer offer. These offers can be an outstanding way to help retire your credit card debt sooner and with less interest payments (see Credit Card Debt? Zero-Percent Balance Transfers Can Help).

But here’s what Joanne can do in three easy steps…

1. Ask and you might receive

The first thing I would do is call both Discover and Chase. Ask if they can move your existing line of credit to a card with a zero-percent balance transfer offer. While you won’t be able to transfer a balance from an existing account in the same institution, you can move your Discover balance to Chase or the other way around. While your Discover rate is about as low as it’s likely to go, you can ask Chase if they might reduce your rate a little further based on your payment history. It never hurts to ask.

2. Look at the Blueprint

Another step you should take immediately is to activate the Blueprint program with your Chase Freedom card. This is a great feature of the card that costs nothing to use. With it, you can set payment goals that will help you pay off your debt in a certain amount of time. Each month, your statement will show a “Blueprint balance” that’s calculated to pay off your debt by a date that you determine. Blueprint also allows you to pay some new charges in full while carrying a balance on others. This feature alone can save money on interest and effectively reduce your rate.

3. Reassess those rewards

Now is a good time to look at your overall strategy with credit cards. The Freedom card and most Discover cards are reward cards, and better interest rates will always be available from non-reward cards.

Earning a small reward from spending is the last thing that should be on your mind when you’re trying to reduce your debt. Finally, it would be wise to request a copy of your credit report. Hopefully, you’ll be able to use that information to correct reporting errors or to find ways to raise your credit score – because improving your credit score will be the key to getting approved for balance transfer offers in the future.

Stacy Johnson

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