Credit cards were at the centre of a media storm this week, after an early draft of a speech by Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that households should help deal with the national debt crisis by paying off their credit cards and store card bills.
After consumers angrily pointed out that it wasn’t as simple as that – and that many ordinary people simply couldn’t afford to clear their debts – the speech was quickly re-drafted. When David Cameron finally made the speech at the Conservative Party Conference, the wording had been changed to emphasise that households ‘are paying down’ their credit card and store card bills.
If you’re in credit card debt, you may be feeling worried or even desperate. However, there are several steps you can take to start to drive down that debt:
Work out where you stand
The first thing to do is work out exactly where you stand financially. That way, you can see if there’s any spare cash that can go towards clearing your card debt.
Find out how long it will take you to repay your debt at the current levels you can afford by using our unique repayment calculator. Identify where you could make savings elsewhere to pay more off your credit card.
Cut the interest you pay
If you’re currently paying interest on your credit card debt, consider switching that debt to a card offering 0% interest on balance transfers. Once your debt has been transferred, you won’t have to pay any interest on it for as long as the 0% period lasts. You can use our switching tool to help you do this.
Just be aware that you will have to pay a transfer fee: Typically around 3% of the total debt. And no 0% period lasts forever, so it’s crucial you use the breathing space to clear your debt as quickly as possible.
If you don’t manage it before the 0% period ends, you’re likely to be charged a hefty rate of interest on the remaining balance. Our credit card tables highlight the best 0% balance transfer cards currently on offer.
Clear the most expensive debt first
If you have debt on more than one credit card, make sure you target the most ‘expensive’ card first – the one charging the highest rate of interest. Throw all your spare cash at this card, while continuing to make only minimum monthly repayments on the others.
Once the first card has been cleared, focus on the one with the next highest rate of interest. Keep going like this until all your card debt is gone. Taking this approach, you should be able to clear your card debt as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Ask for help
If you’re struggling to keep up with your credit card repayments, don’t be afraid to seek professional help and advice.
There are a number of charities and government organisations – like the Consumer Credit Counselling Service and National Debtline – that offer excellent advice that is confidential, independent and completely free.
- Find the best 0% balance transfer card
- Read more about how to plan an effective budget
- Work out which is the right debt solution for you