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3 ways to trim credit card bills

Katherine Farber

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1. Look for Low-Rate Balance Transfer Options

If you have good credit scores, you can find some relief by looking for a 0% or low-interest balance transfer offer. When you make a balance transfer, you move existing debt from one or more credit cards onto a new a card that typically offers a lower interest rate that can last anywhere between three and 24 months, typically.

2. Call Your Issuer to Negotiate a Lower Rate

If a balance transfer isn’t in the cards, you may still be able to get a lower interest rate. It never hurts to contact your credit card issuer and ask if they can lower your APR, even temporarily.

Start by making sure you have a good recent track record of paying your credit card bill on time. Recent late payments or delinquencies are unlikely to work in your favor. Next, shop around for better rates on other cards, as well as balance-transfer offers. Have this information at the ready when you call to make your request.

Call customer service and ask if there’s any way you can reduce your card’s APR. If the customer service rep doesn’t have the authority to do that, ask for a manager or someone who does. When you make your request, explain that you’ve been a good customer who would like a rate closer to X. You can research other cards to see the going rate for your credit score range and also share competing offers. If they are unwilling to permanently reduce your rate, ask for a temporary reduction.

3. Devise a Smart Repayment Plan

If you have debt on multiple credit cards, you must get organized. Figure out which of your credit cards have the highest interest rates and which cards have the highest balances. If the card with your highest interest rate is also the card with the highest balance, it’s a no-brainer: Focus on paying that one down first.

However, it’s more likely that you have different cards with different balances, and the highest balances may be on cards with lower APRs. One strategy to pay off your debt is to focus on whichever card carries the highest interest rate—that is, the costliest debt—and focus most of your repayment efforts on that one.

For example, say you’re carrying debt on three credit cards, and you have $500 a month to pay toward your debt. Each card has a minimum payment of $29 a month. On the two cards with the lower interest rates, simply pay the $29 and move on. On the card with the highest APR, direct the other $442 a month until that card is fully paid off. Then, move on to the next card until you’ve paid off all your cards.

 


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