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6 Savvy Ways of Paying off Credit Card Debt Without Feeling Stressed

6 Ways of Paying off Credit Card Debt Without Feeling Stressed

Credit card debt can seem like a heavy burden when you have other bills to pay as well. Here's your guide to paying off credit card debt without feeling stressed.

The average American carries approximately $6,375 in credit card debt. For many, the stress associated with trying to pay off this high level of debt is significant.

If you find yourself in the group of people stressed about how to go about paying off credit card debt, you will be happy to learn there are some tips and tricks you can use. While your debt may seem insurmountable now, with time, effort, and dedication, you can get out of debt for good.

If you’re ready to learn what steps to begin taking, keep reading.

1. Focus on One Debt At a Time

Are you carrying a balance on more than one credit card? If so, you need to make sure you are always paying the minimum required on each.

However, don’t stop there. Once the minimums are paid, you need to concentrate on paying down the balance on each card. Be sure you choose one card to focus on at a time.

You can choose the card with the highest interest rate to pay off first, or the one with the smallest balance. Both of these strategies are effective but choose the one that works for you, and then stick with it.

2. Get Rid of the Cards – For Good

If you want to get out of credit card debt and stay out of it – for good – you have to take some drastic steps. One of these is to destroy the cards.

Regardless of what you think, there is no such thing as responsible credit card use. There is no good reason to keep these cards around, especially the department store cards that would not even be helpful in an emergency situation.

While this step may sound somewhat drastic, it’s the only surefire way you won’t get right back into credit card debt once you have paid everything off.

3. Combine and Conquer

Another option is to consolidate your debt. You can combine several of the higher-interest balances into a single payment. In most cases, the transfer fee is going to be three to five percent, but you can compensate for this with the savings you are going to see from the transfer.

If you have any equity in your home, you may be able to use that to pay down your credit card debt, as well. Home equity lines of credit often provide a lower interest rate than what the typical credit card charges.

It’s important to understand that closing costs will apply. However, the benefit is that the equity interest payments are usually tax-deductible.

If you choose the consolidation path, remember, you need to control your spending. This can help you avoid accumulating new debt, along with the debt that’s just been consolidated.

4. Build Your Emergency Fund

If you are planning to pay off and destroy your credit cards, then you still need to ensure you have some type of safety net for emergency situations. This is where an emergency fund comes in.

Building an emergency fund can take some time, but it will also be valuable if you encounter an unexpected expense or some type of income disruption. All you have to do to create an emergency fund is put a little back from each of your paychecks. By doing this, you can avoid missed payments and the need to use a credit card in the future.

5. Rearrange and Reprioritize Your Budget

You need to get a handle on your budget and make sure you fully understand what it is and how you can make the most of it. For example, top priorities should be transportation, groceries, housing costs, and entertainment.

A great way to begin this reorganization process is by looking at your credit card statements, as most issuers categorize your spending.

Be sure you scrutinize this information closely. Find areas where you can cut back how much you are spending. Then take the money that you have “found” and put it toward paying down the debt you have.

6. Don’t Give Up

If you are like most people, you didn’t get into credit card debt overnight. As a result, you are aren’t going to be able to get out of it that quickly either (unless you find a windfall of some sort).

Be patient and continue on the path to living a debt free life. While this is bound to take some time, in the end, it will be well worth it, and you will be in a position to take charge of your finances and finally achieve the financial freedom that you want and need.

Paying Off Credit Card Debt: It Is Possible

There’s no question that paying off credit card debt is something that takes time. However, it’s possible when you use the right tactics and rely on the right information.

Be sure to use the tips and information found here, as they’re going to help you on your journey to financial freedom. You may also want to reach out to a financial advisor, who can provide you even more information on how to best manage your finances to remain debt free.

If you are ready to take control of your finances, rather than letting them control you, we can help. Our team can provide the information you need on any finance related topic. For example, we have a recent blog on how to take the pain out of monitoring your finances.

Stay tuned to our blog for more insights.

7 Life-Saving Tips That’ll Raise Your Credit Score Quickly

Do you want to raise your credit score quickly? If you follow these tips, you'll see improvement in your score in no time.

7 Life-Saving Tips That’ll Raise Your Credit Score Quickly

16% of Americans have a credit score of below 579. This is the lowest level of the FICO score and is categorized as “very poor”.

A poor credit score can have a serious impact on your personal life and can affect your business negatively as well.

While no one can guarantee that you will hit an exceptional score, there are steps you can take to improve your credit score.

Here are seven tips to raise your credit score quickly.

1. Check Your Report for Errors and Omissions

The very first step to take is to get a copy of your credit card report. This is the only way to know where you stand before you figure out the specific actions to take to make things better.

This is, however, not all you will be doing with your report. Go through it carefully, checking for any error and omissions.

Look for things like a repaid debt that’s been listed as a default or a loan you repaid on time that is not listed.

If you identify any of these issues, move to have them corrected. This action in itself can add a few points to your rating.

2. Negotiate on Outstanding Balances

You will be surprised at how helpful your creditors can be. Unfortunately, if you never ask, you will never find out.

If you are having trouble making payments, make contact with your credit card issuer and communicate this with them.

Most providers have temporary hardship programs you can take advantage of. The benefit of this is that you can have your repayment amounts reduced until you get back on your feet.

Smaller, more manageable installments mean you can pay a lot more comfortably. This is better than skipping payments and having a creditor send a negative report that sheds a few points off your score.

3. Get Added as an Authorized User

This is a great way of giving your credit score an immediate boost. This works particularly well if you are just starting out and have little information on your credit rating.

You do this by getting someone with a high credit card limit and an even greater repayment history. Their card issuer sends them a card with your name on it.

Legally, you are not obligated to make payments on any debt accrued on the card. But its usage reflects positively on your credit score.

The key is finding someone with above board transactions. In a sense, you inherit the person’s positive credit history.

However, not all credit card companies report authorized users. Before you get on it, do your research and find out if it will be reported.

4. Ask Creditors to Delete Late Payments

It’s not uncommon to fall behind on payments from time to time. However, these small mistakes lower your credit score.

If you are in good standing with your creditors, it does not hurt to request them to delete some of the reported late payments. Financial institutions regularly communicate with Credit Referencing Bureaus, and all it would take is a quick phone call on your behalf.

If the request goes through, then you will have fewer negative reports, which will add some points to your credit rating. Nevertheless, try and restrict your late payments to 30 days. Creditors will not report late dues failing in this time frame.

If your issue is forgetfulness, rather than availability of funds, you can have your banker or employer make direct payments if this facility is available. If not, there are numerous software tools you can use to remind you when your payments are due.

5. Old Debts Can Raise Your Credit Score Quickly

You might be eager to forget about your car loan or student loan debts once you make the final payment.

However, as long as you completed your payments promptly, those records may help your scoring. The same is true for credit card debt.

All you need to do is keep these debts on your record. If they were entirely left out, then provide all the information to the credit Reference Bureau so they can use it to calculate your credit score.

Bad payment histories are deleted with time. However, bankruptcies stay on your report for 10 years and late payments for seven years. You don’t have much leeway with these.

6. Watch Your Credit Utilization Rate

Credit utilization is the amount of credit card balance you have compared to your credit limit.

This is the second largest factor affecting your credit score. The first is your credit repayment history.

The more credit you use on your credit card, the further down your credit rating drops. This trend indicates you are spending a significant portion of your income to repay debt, which makes you likelier to default on payments.

The best credit utilization is 0, which means your credit card limit is untouched. This defeats the purpose of applying for a credit card in the first place.

As a rule of thumb, keep your credit utilization ratio at 30%. This means using less than 30% of the credit limit availed to you. Anything above this can cause your rating to drop.

Under the FICO system, people with the highest scores have a utilization rate of 7%. The lower your utilization, the better.

7. Jump on Score Boosting programs

The average age and number of accounts you have held are an important consideration in evaluating how you handle debt.

This tends to disadvantage people with a limited credit history.

UltraFico and Experian Boost allow people with limited credit histories to puff it up using other information.

Experian requires access to your online banking data and allows Credit Referencing Bureaus to add utility payments to your history.

In the same way, UltraFico allows you to give permissions for savings and checking accounts to be used alongside your report when calculating your credit score.

Consistency Is Key

All in all, while it is possible to raise your credit score quickly, expect a few bumps along the way and allow yourself some time.

At First Financial, we understand that while you work on your credit rating you might still need help from time to time. No matter your credit score, we have a financing solution for you. Contact us today for more information.

Take the Pain out of Monitoring Your Finance

Go from bad credit to good credit without beating yourself up

Can there be any joy in monitoring your finances? Your bank balance is disappointing more often than not. Trimming expenses doesn’t bring any joy. Reminders of irresponsibility can be a gut punch.

Still, a different mindset can help you make the changes to put you on the path to good credit.   

Begin by forgiving yourself for financial mistakes

The shame and blame we heap upon ourselves for not being where we want to be financially can make our situations worse. It leads us to avoid confronting credit spending, recurring debits from bank accounts, balances on personal loans or car loans, and important conversations with family members.

Shame springs from an idea that the individual has departed from social norms. Start dismissing your shame when you understand that one in three others you’ll meet today also have credit under 601. That’s right—one-third of Americans today have bad credit.

The individual experiencing bad credit has lots of company. And is this all their fault?  With aggressive companies relentlessly bombarding us with messages that we deserve their products and that we must keep up with our peers, it’s no wonder we overextend ourselves.

If you can grab your financial issues “by the horns” so to speak, you have made the first

 step on the path to success. Some psychologists tell us that, “a willingness to endure discomfort and capitalize on challenge is a trademark among successful, fulfilled individuals.” While it will require a little effort, put a budget in place, inform those who may impact it, stick to it. You’ll quickly find positive feelings about yourself and your financial situation multiplying. As Benjamin Franklin told the framers of our constitution, “Once begun, half done.” Those quill pens got to writing, despite their enormous task. 

Gamify Your Savings

Rather than tracking every $3 coffee, focus more on a positive indicator: your savings level. As that rises, set a reward after reaching certain amounts. The reward could be you get to buy a new piece of clothing or 10 shares of SnapChat stock. Set these levels up ahead of time and stick to these commitments. These rewards can offset the sense of loss from avoiding day-to-day overspending.

Take the pressure off when you avoid social media

First and foremost, understand that social media is simply carefully selected snippets of your friends’ and family members lives. What they choose to share is designed to elicit envy. Those of us here at First Financial are constantly surprised at friends’ life-is-so-great posts and how these compare to what we know are their real struggles.

What’s more, when you focus on others, you remove your attention from your own issues. If you have bad credit, all your attention needs paid to your spending and savings plans.

Let the social world turn without you when you use a religious tradition, mindfulness, meditation or good old smart reading to understand how pointless it is to compare yourself to friends, relatives.

Deepen Your Relationships when You Lay It All Out for Loved Ones

Serious conversations with loved ones can be intimidating, particularly when they’re about money. Strategize how to take the sting out of belt-tightening before you tackle it with those you love. In other words, have alternate plans to take the place of lavish habits so that your new financial regimen doesn’t translate as 100 percent loss.  

First, explain how it’s important now to join forces for common goals and how these efforts will unite you. Emphasize that working together for financial fitness by cooking meals together, going to resale and thrift shops and competing for better money saving strategies will get you talking and sharing more. Also, make sure you include your family members’ long- and short-term goals in your planning. Study after study reveals that children and spouses prefer experiences and time spent together over material goods anyway. Shared experiences just connect us better and for longer than shared material consumption. Use that research if you have to!

Your new financial fitness system may benefit from gratitude journals. Everyone should jot down at least one thing they’re grateful for every day. Sharing is optional, but when these grateful moments that include others are shared, it strengthens bonds. These journals, particularly effective when an individual is feeling particularly short-changed, have proven to increase happiness significantly.

Overlooked Benefits of Credit Card Usage

Want to maximize your money and scrutinize your spending? Use credit cards! Most come with no monthly fee, and if you pay them off every month, no interest accrues. In addition to convenience at the parking structure exit and online store, credit cards make life easier in so many ways.

Credit Cards Protect Your Purchases

Hopefully, you choose your purchases only after careful consideration. If you want extra protection, however, use credit cards for online purchases and even large in-person transactions. Money transferred via debit card, check or cash is far tougher to retrieve if the purchase turns out to be defective or not what you have expected. With credit cards, however, you can call the issuer and dispute the charge. This puts the financial transfer on hold until the vendor can satisfy the buyer, until the vendor agrees to return the money, or the bank sides with the consumer and refuses to pay. The protections afforded by the credit card give you a chance to try out the product so you can make sure you’ve gotten what you expected.

Consider, too, putting home and lawn remodeling on a credit card to protect yourself. If you cut a down-payment check up front, that money is gone. A landscaper can leave your yard an excavated mess and never show up again. If you put the down-payment on a credit card, you can dispute the charges and hopefully get your money back from the bank. While a dispute is pending, you won’t have to pay interest charges according to federal law.  If your credit issuer decides in your favor, you won’t owe anything.

Credit Cards Protect You from Fraud

Barely a month goes without hearing about how a large company’s customer data has been hacked. Your financial liability for charges resulting from identity theft depends how quickly you find out about it and alert the card issuer. Federal law mandates that your liability for credit card fraud can never be more than $50.00.

You Want Vacation Benefits

Hotels, restaurants and car rental companies know your credit card most likely has a higher limit than the money in your checking account. They want you to use your credit card and will offer all kinds of incentives if you pull out the plastic. All you need is a little self-discipline to take advantage of the perks without getting into over-spending. And, whatever you do, don’t fall for messages that you can afford more. Stick to your budget. They’re happy to run your credit cards up to the limit, but you have ultimate control.

The cards themselves, too, pass along incentives from time to time. If you read your credit card agreement, you may find extended warranties on large purchases, insurance coverage on rental cars or price guarantees on products bought with the card. Want to leverage every penny you earn? Read your credit card fine print! You won’t find rewards on debit cards.

Transacting business in the United States today often takes credit cards. They not only make life convenient, they make it safer and filled with more fun perks. If you want a credit card that fits your lifestyle and helps you achieve your goal, don’t hesitate to review First Financial’s wide variety of credit cards here.

How Smart Borrowers Will Leverage Credit Cards in 2020

man with empty walletTechnology continues its forward charge and no aspect of our lives is left untouched. Even credit cards are changing based on advances in coding, competition and rewards. When you know the innovations unfolding in 2019 from the best credit card issuers, you can hold out for the best perks, the most iron-clad safety and the best in customer service.

First, understand that that Gen Z, the generation born between 1995 and 2015 uses Google, Amazon and the social networks like the rest of us use laptops and texting. Gen Z will be 40% of of all US consumers by 2020, so credit card issuers will be catering to them as well as the Millennials. That means the rest of us must push ourselves to understand the newest bells and whistles that come with new credit cards. Most of all Gen Z wants highly personalized credit card experiences . . . a good thing, as card issuers will deliver more relevant offers to each of us as the years go by. Keep in mind, too, that GenZers use mobile banking apps more than desktop or tablet access. That could mean that card issuers will spend more money on their apps than on their desktop/laptop interfaces. Getting proficient with every issuer’s mobile app will ensure you get all the convenience available.

Mobile Payments Will Continue to Evolve

Up to now, consumers have dealt with clunky mobile credit card payment options. With advancing APIs and open banking, card issuers will begin to offer more valuable, customer-centric payment experiences. These will include immediate rewards, card balance alerts coming to smartphones and more, as issuers work to bring true value beyond simple credit card transactions.

Better Rewards

American consumers have embraced rewards cards. It’s no wonder. In 2018, they got a total of $15 billion in rewards value through airline miles, cash back and other perks. While the rewards enticements are raising marketing costs for card issuers, they must continue them to keep up with the competition. In fact, these marketing costs have doubled from 2008 to 2016. Still, they’re all the better for the consumer, who consistently demand more rewards. If a rewards program isn’t robust enough, consumers don’t hesitate to switch.

Another rewards-related development is real-time rewards delivery. While today rewards get redeemed after a month or so, experts predict they could come through with every purchase soon. Look for that advantage as you review your options in the coming year!

Credit Cards Getting Even Safer

Chipped cards did help with credit card safety, but even more safety measures are coming down the pike. “Tokenization” is a system that creates a unique code for each customer and purchase on each website. If this code is stolen, it won’t work for any other transaction. Listen for the term, tokenization as credit cards advertise to you via the internet and live streaming.

Cards used everywhere

Babyboomers remember when only department stores accepted credit cards. Now Etsy vendors, salsa makers at the Farmer’s Markets and ecommerce stores ALL accept credit cards. This trend will grow to include service providers as well. This means, soon, you won’t have to stop for cash to go to the resale shops or roadside stands. PayPal, Venmo, Stripe and Square will enable even the smallest businesses to accept payments. Universal acceptance is on its way!

Be alert to these changes and demand them from the credit card issuers you are considering. In the customer-centric era, they will be competing with each other to give you the lowest rates and the best rewards.

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