By Robert Stitt
The average American has credit card debt of over $5,000. That means half of Americans have credit card debt in excess of $5,000. The NAACP claims that Black Americans have improved in this area and owe thousands of dollars less for credit card debt each year than they did in 2009. While things are looking better, Blacks are still more likely to have larger debts than other races, with the average African American holding $5, 784 on their cards.
Bruce McClary, from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, shared some strategies to combat this debt.
- Credit card payments should never be more than 10-15 percent of your income. If you make $4,000 each month, you should have a maximum payment (for all of your cards combined) of $600. If you find yourself over this percentage or only making the minimum payments, you need to get some help getting those balances down, even if it means foregoing some niceties in the short term to make it possible.
- When deciding which accounts to pay first, always put the ones that are past due at the top of the list. After you have dealt with delinquent debt, either pay off your highest balance card first, or the one with the highest interest rate. Regardless of which method or card you choose, give up whatever you have to in order to get the cards paid off. Keep making the minimum payments to your other cards and when you pay off one card, the money you were putting towards it goes to help pay off another card. Do this until all of your cards are paid off.
- You should call your credit card company regularly to ask about lowering the interest rate. Negotiating better rates can save you thousands of dollars every year. It can also help you to pay off the debt faster, which is key to being debt free and starting to build wealth.
- Keep saving. While you want to pay off your debt as fast as possible, it is important to have some money set aside in case there is an emergency. If there is, and you don’t have some money set aside for it, then you end up going deeper in debt. While there must be very serious limits, putting a little aside for emergencies should not stop when you get serious about tackling your credit card debt.
- Look at what debt is doing to you. McClary says that one thing that will help you get angry at debt and take serious steps to get rid of it is to finally understand how it is really impacting you negatively. A great resource is annualcreditreport.com . Get a free copy of your credit report to see how much debt you have and how it is holding you back from better interest rates.
In the end, the right strategy is whatever gets you motivated to slow down the spending and pay off those credit cards.