Tips Once You Are In Debt


Once you are in credit-card debt, bearing that heavy balance each month, it's still possible to get some relief. Here are some tips to help alleviate the burden and get to the debt-free finish line.

• Lower your APR. Even a slight decrease in your APR can help save money. The first step is simple: Just call your credit-card company and ask them for a lower rate, advises U.S. PIRG, the umbrella group for state public-interest research groups. If you never ask, you will never know. U.S. PIRG suggests calling with the following script in hand: "Hi, my name is (your name). I am a good customer, but I have received several offers in the mail from other credit-card companies with lower APRs. I want a lower rate on my card or I will cancel my card and switch companies."

• Never pay only the minimum. If you can help it, always try to pay more than the minimum so that you begin to actually cut into the principal on the card. If you are juggling more than one card, allot your payment schedule so that you make the biggest payment on the card with the highest APR.

• Send in your payment before the due date. Some credit-card companies are slow to post payments, sometimes charging consumers a late fee for a payment that is still being processed. Also, due dates and times vary by company. Credit-card companies sometimes require payment by 1 p.m. on the due date. To avoid getting snagged, pay early.

• Don't pay your balance by phone. Many credit-card companies have a little-known policy of charging up to $10 to process a payment by phone.

• Transfer your balance. If you are battling an exorbitant APR, you can try to transfer your balance onto a card that offers 0% APR for a promotional period, often 12 months. Be careful when transferring a balance, and also try to stop charging to the new card. Work instead on whittling away the balance. Research the best cards for a balance transfer. According to creditcards.com, a site that rates credit cards, Discover (DFS) card is the No. 1 consumer-rated card. But remember, the generous 0% APR will quickly rise to a penalty rate if you make late payments.

• Check the credit calculator tool—provided by U.S. PIRG at truthaboutcredit.org—to calculate the best monthly payments to reasonably lower your debt.