Get your credit card debt under control

Getting into debt by using credit cards is easy to do: paying for clothes, groceries and power bills by credit card is common, as people carry less and less cash around with them. Added to this is the relative ease with which people can get personal loans or enter into “buy now, pay later” schemes. Australians have over $30 billion in credit debt, according to the Reserve Bank. Some wise people pay off their full credit card balances every month, but there is a significant number who just make a minimum payment and wear the annual interest charges, which could be more than 20 per cent. At the minimum payment level it would take many, many years to pay off a card debt with the interest incurred along the way far outweighing the original purchases. There are three ways to get out of debt:

  • Increase repayments. Pay off the card with the highest interest rate first. Add 5 to 10 per cent to the minimum monthly payment. Get the outstanding balance down and then move onto the next card or personal loan.
  • Consolidate debts by putting all your cards into one with the lowest interest rate and cutting up the rest. If you don't have a mortgage, talk with your bank or credit union and roll all your credit cards and personal loans into one loan. This way you'll probably be paying a lower interest rate and won't have to deal with multiple monthly payments.
  • Consolidate all your debts into your mortgage loan. If you have enough equity in your home, that is owe less than 80 per cent of total value, you could roll all your debts into your home loan. Be aware however that you are now paying all your credit cards and personal debts off over a longer period. If you're in real strife, talk to a financial counsellor at the Credit Helpline on 1800 808 488 between 9.30am and 12.30pm from Monday to Friday inclusive. For more tips and tricks, see InfoChoice's credit card tips and tricks

Published: 23 July 2005