How would you rate your credit card interest rate? Unfortunately, this is a simple question that few consumers take the time to ask, and it can be a costly oversight. High interest rates on your credit card balance can inflict some heavy damage on your wallet. A higher rate means higher finance charges, and hurts your ability to pay down your debt.
If you didnt take a close look at your rate when you got your card, fear not. Here are some simple ways to reduce your high interest rates and get a better handle on your debt:
1. Debate the rate. First things first lets find out exactly what rate youre paying on your cards. Is that your Visa card whacking you at an interest rate of 19.8%? And that department store charge card are they really charging you 29%? Yes, those high rates are not uncommon, and chances are probably pretty good that whatever you are being charged, you are probably paying at rates that are much too high.
Considering that banks are now paying savers from 3 to 4 % interest on savings accounts and certificates of deposits, then turning around and charging consumers 3-5 times that amount to borrow money, youd think they have some room to give you a lower rate. They do its just up to you to negotiate to receive it.
Heres how: Contact each of your creditors directly and see if they will reduce the rate on past purchases to a more reasonable level. Lets say you get them to agree on 12%. If they accept the new rate, youll have automatically shortened the time it takes to pay off your debt without increasing the amount you pay monthly. Our advice would be to increase your monthly payment even more to get yourself out of debt sooner.
2. Go shopping for another card. What if the creditor wont negotiate a lower rate? Then be a good consumer and shop for another card. Your mailbox is probably stuffed with new credit card offers. (The Internet is also a great place to shop for credit cards.) Find one that will give you a low, fixed interest rate – somewhere between 6 and 12% – preferably with a 0% transfer rate on your balance. Once your balances have been transferred, cancel the old credit cards and snip them to itty-bitty pieces with a scissors. You simply dont need the temptation of an open line of credit.
3. How about a loan? There are basically two types of debt consolidation loans consumer and home equity loans. Anyone can get a consumer loan, but you obviously need a house for the second loan. These types of loans only work if the interest rate you pay is low. Be careful of hidden fees and charges and make sure you fully understand what your new interest rate will be.
If you own a home and you’ve built up some value [equity] in your home, youll want to opt for the home equity loan. Rates tend to be lower, and the interest you pay may be tax deductible. Make sure that you can afford the monthly payments of both a home equity loan and a mortgage before you commit to this option.
Debt is no picnic, and it goes hand-in-hand with high interest rates. Its going to take some of the tactics we mentioned earlier, along with a good dose of discipline, to pay down your debt. But if you followed that two-pronged attack, youll soon find yourself debt free and in healthy financial shape.