Credit card debt can be a dark cloud hanging over our heads, often the result of a much-needed holiday in the sun or some heavy spending around Christmastime. If you’re not careful it can quickly snowball, leaving you with a hefty bill that can be difficult to repay. So what steps can you take to tackle your credit card debt?
It might seem simplistic, but the first step is to stop using your card and racking up debt. The more you owe, the greater your interest bill on top of what you already owe. If you’re going shopping, leave it and the temptation at home. Or, if you tend to use your credit card while shopping online, ask someone to hold onto it for you just in case.
Most of us will only pay the minimum amount every month, but this means it will take much longer to clear the balance – pay off as much as you can. If money is tight, take a few temporary cost-saving measures while you clear the balance. You could take your lunch to work rather than eating out every day, walk or cycle to the office if it’s close by, give up that daily coffee or avoid costly outings like the cinema or restaurants for a few weeks or months.
If you need some encouragement, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has a handy calculator that shows how long it will take to clear your debt based on current or potential monthly repayments.
If you have trouble remembering to make your payments every month, avoid late fees and protect your credit rating by setting up a direct debit.
Switch to save
If the interest rate is too high, consider switching your balance to another provider. Some credit cards offer an initial period with 0.0% APR for new customers, which means that if your application is successful, all payments will go directly to reducing your debt rather than servicing interest. Bonkers.ie offers a handy credit card comparison tool if you’re looking to transfer.
If you’re struggling with debt and feel like you’re in over your head, there are supports in place to help you get back on track.
The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) is the State’s official money advice service, helping people to tackle their debt through a network of more than 60 offices around the country.
StepChange Debt Charity Ireland also offers free independent and impartial advice on how to deal with your debt or create a budget.
Once you’ve cleared your credit card debt, avoid getting back into a similar rut by considering your options. Switching solely to debit card usage could avoid this situation in the future, though if you need a credit card, consider a prepaid option – be aware that fees such as inactivity, top-up or card purchase fees can apply.