The following guide will help you pinpoint the right solution to clear your credit card debt quickly.
The truth is, one particular debt relief option is never going to be the optimal solution for everyone. Depending on your specific financial goals and current situation will determine which of these ten options is truely your best solution.
For example: do you have high income and excellent credit?
You will want to stick with options 1-5.
Has your income been reduced, and as a result, your credit score has gone down?
Options 6-9 may be the right solution for you.
Why is it so important to pay off your credit card debt in 2020?
Credit card debt is more expensive today than what it was two years ago, due to the Federal Reserve raising its benchmark interest rate four times in 2018 alone. Consequently, credit card debt is now more expensive. The average credit card interest rate rose from 15.7% in 2015 to 17.6% as of the end of 2018.
If your longterm goal is to achieve financial freedom and accumulate wealth, your first step needs to be to clear your credit card balances. Credit card debt and unsecured loans, like PayDay and financial company loans, are the most expensive type of debts.
You cannot achieve financial freedom and build wealth if you have high-interest credit card debt. Think about it, if you invested $50,000 into a mutual fund that makes 10% per year, but also have $50,000 in credit card debt that has an interest rate of 15%, the credit card debt is costing you more than what you are earning on the mutual fund.
Ten Best Ways To Clear High Credit Card Debt in 2020
- 1. Debt Snowball Method
- 2. Debt Avalanche
- 3. Balance Transfer Cards
- 4. Home Equity Line of Credit
- 5. How to Negotiate With Bank
- 6. Credit Card Hardship Program with Bank
- 7. Debt Validation
- 8. Debt Settlement
- 9. Consumer Credit Counseling
- 10. Bankruptcy
1. Debt Snowball Method:
The debt snowball method, created by Dave Ramsey, is when you pay minimum payments on all of your credit cards besides the one with the smallest balance. You’re going to aggressively attack that smallest debt first, by putting all of your extra money towards paying it off as fast as possible.
We go after the small debt first because that’s where we will get the quickest result. And quick is the name of the game here.
After the smallest debt gets cleared away, shift your attention to the next smallest debt in line. One by one, you will continue to knock off each debt, getting closer and closer to the finish line.
A budget will provide you with a visual image of where your money is going, making it easier to find non-essential expenses that can be reduced or eliminated. (example: lower the electric and heat bill, use coupons when shopping to save money at the grocery store, remove the HBO that you never watch, and cancel that old subscription that you forgot was billing you each month).
You can then use this snowball calculator tool to figure out how long it will take for you to become debt-free. The debt snowball calculator does all of the work. Just enter each debt that you want to include in the snowball plan, and let the calculator work its magic. You can then download the information or save it; however, you choose and follow the plan.
Why Does the Debt Snowball Method Work?
Dave Ramsey explains: “The debt snowball works because it’s all about behavior modification, not math. When it all boils down, hope has more to do with this equation than math ever will.
If you start paying on the student loan first because it’s the largest debt, you won’t get rid of it for a while. You’ll see numbers going down on the balance, but pretty soon, you’ll lose steam and stop paying extra. Why? Because it’s taking forever to get a win! And you’ll still have all your other small, annoying debts hanging around too.”
One last tip:
Keep your credit card accounts open after paying off the balances so that your credit score improves. If you close a credit card account, your credit score will decline because your credit utilization ratio will be negatively affected, and the length of your credit history will be reduced.
2. The Debt Avalanche
The debt avalanche method is similar to the debt snowball method, but the difference with the debt avalanche is that you order your debts by their interest rate. Instead of paying off your smallest balance first, you would pay off the credit card balance with the highest interest rate first, the one costing you the most.
By paying off your most expensive accounts first, you can get out of debt faster and maximize your savings.
You may decide to use a combination of the debt snowball and avalanche method, using the debt snowball method to motivate you. For example, pay off all of your balances that are $1,000 or less using the debt snowball method. After quickly clearing these first few small debts and getting that feeling of gratification, then switch to prioritizing your debts by the interest rate and using the debt avalanche method.
At NerdWallet.com, they offer an excellent Debt avalanche calculator tool to help you get out of debt faster with this route.
3. Pay Off Credit Card Debt With a Balance Transfer Card:
“Low Rate Balance Transfers | 0% Intro APR. Apply Now!”
Wow, that’s enticing, until you read the fine print; “after 12-18 months, the introductory rate comes to an end, and the interest rate rises to 19.9%.” Balance transfer cards also come with up-front fees. These fees range from 3%-5% of the amount of credit card debt getting transferred. If you move $10,000 onto a balance transfer card that charges a 4% fee, that’s $400 in up-front costs.
Banks use balance transfer cards as a trap. Credit card companies charge you on the upfront fee, and when you can’t pay off your entire balance within the introduction-rate period, they can jack up the interest rates.
When is a balance transfer card worth it?
- If you can afford to pay the balance “in full” within the 12-18-month introductory period, you could end up paying low to no interest and only a $400 fee. Shop around for a balance transfer card that comes with low costs and only go this route if you can afford to pay the balance in full within the introductory rate period. Use this debt national calculator tool to help you do the math.
- Choose a balance transfer card that pays you cashback. Bank of America offers a credit card that pays up to 3% cashback. If you transfer $50K in credit card debt onto a balance transfer card that pays you 3%, you’ll get reimbursed $1,500 in cash back. Put that $1,500 towards paying off your next credit card debt in line as you continue with the debt snowball method. You can eliminate 100% of interest and earn cash back when using a balance transfer card to pay off high-interest credit card debt.
Final Tip to Improve Your Credit Score
Keep your credit card accounts open after paying off the balances, to keep your credit utilization ratio favorable.
4. Home Equity Line of Credit:
When using a home equity line of credit to pay off credit card debt, you’re taking on considerable risk. You’re swapping unsecured debt for secured debt. If for whatever reason, you can’t afford to continue paying your scheduled monthly payments on the home equity line of credit, you could end up losing your home over a credit card debt, wherein you see the risk.
However, this is still one of my favorite tools for clearing credit card debt. The value of using a home equity line of credit to pay off credit card debt is that you’re eliminating high-interest credit cards and replacing them with a low-cost home equity line of credit.
According to Bankrate.com, 5.56% is the average interest rate on a home equity line of credit as of May 2018, significantly lower than the average interest rate on a credit card.
5. How to Negotiate With a Bank to Reduce the Interest Rate
Try negotiating directly with your creditor to reduce the interest rate and monthly payment. In many cases, all it takes is a simple and quick phone call. You may even be able to convince a creditor to lower your interest rate permanently.
Here’s a simple script that you can use to negotiate with your creditor.
Call your creditor and ask to speak with a Supervisor because only a Supervisor will have the authority to make these changes. Say the following:
“Hello ____, how are you today? I’ve been a loyal client for ___ years now and have always paid my bills on time, so I am hoping that you can help me today so that I can keep my credit card account open with your bank. Your hands may be tied, and you may not have any power to help me here, but I figured I’d try to openly communicate with you about this matter before just closing my card. I want to stay with your bank as you guys have always been good to me. Anyway, here’s my situation; _______ bank offered me a ___% interest rate on a similar card with 3% cash back included. Since this interest rate is ___% less than what your card is offering me, I’ve decided to close this card out and switch to the new card that ____ bank is offering me. Unless of course, you can reduce my interest rate or upgrade my card to match what _____ bank is offering, and offer me some similar cash back. Can you please try to help me so that we can continue working together? ” Then go silent.
6. Credit Card Hardship Program with Bank (e.g., Chase, Bank of America & Citi)
In some cases, you may only be able to get a temporary reduction in the monthly payment, but if you’re going through a financial hardship, that may be your best solution.
To be considered for a bank’s credit card hardship program, you must be behind on your monthly payment, but not to the point where your credit report is negatively affected.
Steps to get approved for your bank’s credit card hardship program
- The trick is to call your creditor in 7-10 days after you miss the monthly payment. Late payment history doesn’t get reported to the credit reporting agencies until you’re more than 29 days past due.
- To strengthen your case, send the creditor a copy of your budget analysis, a financial hardship letter and evidence to validate your reason for needing a lower payment, before calling them.
- When calling your creditor, request to speak to a supervisor because they have the authority to reduce your monthly payment. Let the supervisor know that you’re calling to see if they can temporarily lower your monthly payment. Go over the fact that you could not afford to make your last monthly payment and explain why. Include the details of your financial hardship. Make sure to keep your story in line with what you stated in the hardship letter. Also, reassure your creditor that your financial hardship is only temporary and provide an estimate for how long you’ll need the relief.
- The supervisor will ask you a series of questions about your income. At that point, verify that they received your budget analysis, hardship letter, and whatever documentation you sent. Use this free budget calculator to create your budget.
You’ll be rejected from a bank’s credit card hardship program if your income is too low due to insufficient income. If your income is too high, they may not consider you to have a real financial hardship. There is no set number, but as a general rule of thumb, consider showing that you could reasonably afford about half of the projected monthly payment that is currently required.
7. Debt Validation Plans Last For Three Years (average)
Before signing up for a debt settlement program, consider debt validation.
Debt validation can’t magically erase your debt, but it can be the most effective and least expensive route to dealing with unsecured debt and negative credit. For this reason, we’ve put debt validation above debt settlement and consumer credit counseling plans.
Why debt validation over debt settlement services?
- Pay less than what you would pay if settling a debt
- After a debt is proven to be legally uncollectible it can no longer legally remain on credit reports
- Average plan is for 36 months, versus, 42 months on settlement
- No taxes owed if a debt is proven to be invalid
- Money-back guarantee
The New York Times recently reported; major banks like American Express, Citigroup, Bank of America, Capital One, and Chase
- committed fraud in business dealings
- are using erroneous paperwork
- have incomplete records
- use faulty legal processes
Noach Dear, a New York Supreme Court Judge, estimated that 90% of credit card lawsuits are flawed and can’t prove the person owes the debt.
Possible Reasons for Why a Debt Could Become Invalidated
- Unauthorized fees get added in, making it impossible for a collection agency to prove the debt is valid
- The collection agency may not be able to produce a valid debt collector’s license for a particular state
- Paperwork gets lost or missing documentation, like a collection agency may not be able to produce the original agreement that was signed when the consumer first applied for the credit card
- Incomplete records get transferred from the original creditor to the collection agency
- The statute of limitations on a debt may have expired
- A collection agency may not be able to produce accurate information pertaining: when the statute of limitations on a debt expires, the full account number on a debt at the time it was with the original creditor, specific dates, the debtor’s personal information including their social security number and mailing address
In many cases, after a debt is disputed with debt validation a collection agency will quickly respond with a letter agreeing to stop collection on the debt. The reason that they give up their right to collect on the debt is often unknown, but the outcome is always the same. This letter acts as a defensible record proving the debt to be invalid. Here is an example of the letter:
American Express Agrees to Stop Collection & Remove the $15K+ Debt From All Credit Reports
Do your creditors get paid?
In the example above, the collection agency is agreeing to stop collection on this debt for over $15,000, but rest assured the original creditor was paid back in full.
The original creditor will write off the debt, getting reimbursed 100% of the money through a tax credit (by showing a loss).
Additionally, the original creditor profits by selling the debt to a collection agency and can getting reinbursed through banking insurance. Like how you have car insurance on your car, banks have banking insurance.
Since banks are reimbursed all of the money owed on a debt and sometimes more, they get careless when selling a debt to a collection agency.
Consequently, consumers benefit by using debt validation and consumer protection laws to dispute a debt.
What if a debt is proven to be valid or you get sued?
There is a small chance that a client receives a summons on a debt after joining any debt settlement or validation program. No matter what debt relief program or company a person uses, there’s always the chance of this happening.
If a summons is received while enrolled on the debt validation program offered through Golden Financial Services, the consumer is immediately refunded on that account and referred to a settlement law firm that will settle the debt for less than the full amount owed. That debt becomes priority and gets resolved right away.
Clients are educated on what to do if they receive a summons at the very beginning of their debt relief program, so there are never any surprises. For that reason, Golden Financial Services has no complaints over the last three years and maintains a very positive reputation online, along with an A+BBB rating.
To learn more about debt relief, settlement, and validation options, contact Golden Financial Services for a free consultation today at (866) 376-9846.
Debt Relief Program Infographic (Pros vs. Cons)
8. Debt Settlement Services to Get Out Of Credit Card Debt in Under Four Years
If you can’t afford to stay current on your credit card payments, debt settlement can reduce the balances.
Let’s look at an example:
A debt settlement program could resolve $50,000 worth of credit card debt for $30,602. When paid over three years, that would result in a monthly payment of $850.
When paying minimum payments on $50,000 of credit card debt, the monthly payment would be around $1,400, and it could take approximately six years or longer to pay the debt off in full (depending on the interest rate).
As you can see, debt settlement programs can offer a much lower monthly payment for consumers that are struggling to pay their credit cards.
Additionally, you can avoid bankruptcy.
Try this debt calculator to see your options:
Negative consequences of debt settlement include:
- Credit scores go down, and derogatory notations will appear on credit due to creditors not getting paid every month (including late and collection marks).
- There is no guarantee that a creditor will settle at a certain percentage.
- The IRS could require a person to pay taxes on the amount saved after a credit card settlement.
- Late fees and interest can cause balances to increase over the first year of the program.
- A creditor could issue a person a summons to go to court, and although this is rare, it could happen.
Contact Golden Financial Services Today, and We Can Help You Get Approved For the Lowest Possible Payment. (866) 376-9846
9. Consumer Credit Counseling to Pay Off Credit Cards in Less Than Five Years
If your main problem is paying off credit card debt but you are current on all payments and can comfortably afford minimum payments, consumer credit counseling could be your best solution.
A consumer credit counseling (CCC) plan may lead to lower interest rates and the consolidation of several of your monthly payments into an easier to deal with, more manageable single payment.
It’s common to see 25% interest rates get reduced to 8%-10%. Consumer credit counseling can lead a person out of credit card debt within 4-5 years, versus 9-15 years when paying minimum payments.
Although participation in CCC has a minimal effect on a person’s credit score, there may be some adverse consequences to consider.
For example, anytime you change the original terms on your credit card contract, there’s an adverse effect on your credit rating, and with consumer credit counseling, a third-party notation will be notated on your credit report. The good news is that with consumer credit counseling you don’t have to fall behind on payments, like with debt validation and settlement programs.
Why would a person choose consumer credit counseling over debt settlement or validation?
Depending on what your goal is, will determine what program is best for you.
If your primary goal is to get the lowest possible payment and be done with the program in the quickest timeframe, debt settlement and validation will surely be more appealing.
If you have a 750 credit score and have never had even a late mark on your credit, your goal may be to preserve that perfect credit history.
Even though you can save more with debt settlement or validation, you may decide it’s not worth having to deal with the stress that comes along with debt settlement, pertaining to late and collection marks on credit and the possibility of getting sued.
You have to consider the pros and cons of each option and weigh the benefits versus downsides side by side.
When it comes to financial hardship plans like settlement and validation, you’ll need to be mentally strong and see the big picture, and be ready to stick to the plan no matter how stressful things may get. A reputable debt relief company is experienced in helping their clients get through a hardship program no matter what happens. If they get sued, the company is aligned with attornies that will be ready to resolve a summons. When it comes to debt validation, the best companies include credit restoration for no extra cost.
10. Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Can Clear Credit Card Debt in Under 6 Months
Why is Chapter 7, the preferred way of bankruptcy?
The reason is that Chapter 7 bankruptcy wipes away credit card debt so that it doesn’t have to get paid.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy only lasts for 3-6 months, making this one of the fastest ways to escape credit card debt in 2020.
With chapter 7 bankruptcy (also known as “liquidation bankruptcy”), a debtor’s assets are sold, and the proceeds are used to pay off creditors. However, 95% of debtors do a “no asset filing” because they don’t have any assets to be sold. If a debtor doesn’t have any assets to get sold, their debts are discharged and no longer legally owed.
Credit cards, private student loans, medical bills, and almost all unsecured debts can get discharged and wiped away clean (excluding federal student loans, tax claims, spousal or child support, condominium and housing fees, alimony, and a few others).
Debts NOT Discharged in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
The Downsides of Bankruptcy:
- Your credit score can get lowered by 175 points
- Next to each creditor that gets discharged, it will say, “debt discharged due to bankruptcy.”
- Potential employers, landlords, and creditors will all be able to see that you filed for bankruptcy
- Credit scores will be subprime after filing for bankruptcy, making it difficult to get approved for low-interest rates on any credit
- Premiums on car insurance, cell phone, and monthly insurance payments can all legally increase once bankruptcy goes on a person’s credit report
- Chapter 7 bankruptcy can stay on your credit report for 10-years
Here’s a bankruptcy guide to help you learn more about bankruptcy if this is an option you’re seriously considering.
About the author:
Paul J Paquin is the CEO of Golden Financial Services, a national debt relief company that specializes in helping consumers achieve financial freedom and credit card relief. Paul integrates his experiences and insights from Golden Financial Services into his writing, sharing solutions to the everyday financial challenges that Americans face. Paul’s passionate about empowering consumers with the knowledge needed to improve their finances and take control of debt. He’s created numerous guides on debt-related subjects; a few of the most popular include “A Guide to Understanding Unsecured vs. Secured Debt” and “The Ultimate Guide on How to Get Student Loan Forgiveness.”