Depending on whose statistics you trust, the average American owes anywhere from $8,000 to $16,000 in credit card debt.
That kind of debt can wreak havoc on your financial future, and it’s difficult to overcome it. The solution? Take some precautions and don’t build up credit card debt in the first place. Here are some tips:
Keep an Emergency Fund
Often, people get into credit card debt because of a major medical expense, car repair, or some other emergency. Because they don’t have access to savings, they have to use a credit card to pay for that expense. If you’ve got a rainy day fund, you’ll avoid having to run up debt in an emergency.
Stay Within Your Means
Don’t charge things you can’t afford to buy with cash, and you’ll stay out of trouble. If you find yourself paying for your basic needs with credit cards, take a hard look at your budget and figure out how you can better manage your finances.
Don’t Transfer Too Many Balances
Sometimes transferring a balance from one card to another makes sense, like if you’re moving debt to a lower interest rate. However, it’s a bad idea to transfer balances from card to card to avoid due dates.
Keep on Top of Your Payments
It’s important to make credit card payments on time because skipping payments negatively impacts your credit. From a practical standpoint, too, it’s vital that you don’t miss any payments, because then the next payment will be much larger: two payments plus a late fee. If you find yourself avoiding your credit card statements, or skipping payments on one card in order to pay another, you’re already in trouble.
Don’t Charge More Than You Can Pay Off Each Month
If you stick to only what you can afford to pay in full each month, you’ll never get in over your head, pay excessive interest, or have to worry about making the minimum payment.
Be Aware of Red Flags
Often, people build up unmanageable credit card debt because they weren’t really paying attention. If you don’t have a plan to pay off your debt, your cards are all maxed out, or you have past due accounts, you have a credit card debt problem. If you only charge what you can pay and don’t use your credit cards for luxury items, you can usually steer clear of this kind of trouble.
Don’t Take Cash Advances
Pulling cash from a credit card indicates financial trouble. Stick to withdrawing money from your bank account.
Keep Your Cards to Yourself
Lending your credit card to someone may seem a generous gesture, but it’s really putting you at risk. Keep your cards under your own control, lest you wind up paying for a spending spree that wasn’t yours.
Read the Fine Print
Give careful attention to your credit card agreement, so you’ll understand your interest rate, how interest is applied to the account, when you’ll accrue fees, and when the interest rate will go up.
Limit Your Cards
Even if you’re being responsible, having too many cards in your wallet puts the temptation of thousands of dollars at your fingertips. Keep it to just a few cards, and you’ll lower your risk of credit card debt.
If you do find yourself in credit card debt, consolidating with a personal loan may be a good idea. By consolidating your debt, you’ll be able to pay it off at a lower rate.
Revolving debt, especially credit card debt, can be difficult to pay off. The average credit card has a high interest rate. A personal loan, on the other hand, has a much lower interest rate, which means consolidating could help you save money in interest over time. Plus, personal loans have fixed payments so you can budget for a consistent payment amount each month. It’s an easy, affordable way to consolidate your debt.