Should I pay off my credit card debt right away?

Credit & debt, Credit cards

Illustration of a credit card statement, calculator, pen and credit card

Is it better to pay off all your credit card debt right away, or to make smaller payments over time? The simple answer is: You should pay off your credit card balances as fast as you can comfortably afford to. In this article we’ll look more closely at the process of paying off credit card debt.

Here’s what we’re going to cover:

  • What’s the best way to pay off credit card debt?
  • How debt affects your credit score
  • How to reduce your credit utilization ratio
  • Strategies for paying off debt
  • Oportun: Affordable lending options designed with you in mind

Key takeaways:

  • Should you pay off your credit card debt immediately, or over time? The simple answer is: You should pay off your balance as fast as you can comfortably afford to.
  • By paying off your credit card debt quickly, you may be able to save money on interest and improve your credit score.
  • You can speed up the payment process by reducing your spending. Or you might try to earn some extra money on the side. Either way, putting more money toward debt payments can help you get out of debt faster.
  • Debt consolidation can streamline your debt and make it easier to pay off.

What’s the best way to pay off credit card debt?

As fast as you reasonably can.

You want to make at least the minimum payment on all your credit card accounts each month, and pay more of the balance as soon as you’re able to.

The major benefit to paying off your credit card debt quickly is saving money on interest.

What is interest? Interest is the amount of money you pay your lender to borrow money. This is in addition to paying back the original loan amount.

 

Typically, the longer it takes to pay back a debt, the more interest you’ll pay. By paying off your credit card debt faster, you’ll owe less money in interest.

How debt affects your credit score

Many people believe that carrying a credit card balance improves their credit score. This is true if your balance is low. But carrying a lot of revolving debt—the type you have with credit cards—can actually bring down your credit score. Why is this?

What is a credit score? Your credit score is a number between 300 and 850 that gives businesses an idea of how likely you are to make payments on time. The higher your credit score, the better.

 

Your credit score is based on several factors, including your credit utilization ratio. This ratio compares your total credit balance to your overall credit limit. In other words, it shows how much of your available credit you’re currently using.

A high credit utilization ratio tells lenders that you already rely heavily on credit to meet your expenses, which could make it difficult for you to take on new payments. Lenders want to be sure they’ll be paid back, so they may not approve your new credit application until you reduce your credit utilization ratio.

How to reduce your credit utilization ratio

First, you’ll want to calculate your credit utilization ratio. To calculate it, divide your total current debt by your total credit limit. Then multiply this number by 100 to see it as a percentage. 

It’s easier to maintain a high credit score when you keep your credit utilization ratio below 30 percent. Here are some suggestions for reducing your credit utilization ratio.

  • Pay down your credit card balances as quickly as you can
  • Spend less using credit
  • Request a higher credit limit from your lender

Strategies for paying off credit card debt

Here are some steps that can help with paying off your credit card debt.

1. Make all your minimum payments on time

It’s very important to keep up with your minimum credit card payments each month. You also want to make sure your payments are always on time.

You can set up automatic payments to make this process a little easier. Automatic payments transfer money from your bank account to pay your bills, so you don’t have to do it manually each month. Just be sure there’s enough money in your account to cover the payments.

2. Make debt payments a priority

To speed up the debt payment process, you’ll want to make larger payments whenever you can. Here are some ways to free up more money in your budget.

Eat out less often

Buy only what you really need

Pause subscription services (such as Netflix, Hulu, gym memberships, etc.)

Downsize to a more affordable home

Increase your income with extra shifts, a second job, or a side hustle

By reducing your expenses and increasing your income, you’ll be able to pay down your debt much faster.

3. Avalanche or snowball? Choose a strategy

Having a clear plan to follow makes it easier to pay off your debt. Either of these two strategies can help you stay organized and on top of your debt payments.

With the avalanche strategy, you pay off your debts in order from the highest interest rate to the lowest interest rate. This allows you to save the most money on interest while you’re getting out of debt.

With the snowball strategy, you pay off your debts in order from the smallest balance to the largest balance. This allows you to experience the feeling of success as soon as you cross that first debt off your list. This sense of accomplishment can motivate you to keep going until all your debts are paid.

4. Consider debt consolidation

Debt consolidation is the process of grouping all your debts into a single account. By moving your debt to a single loan or credit card, you enjoy the convenience of having to make only one debt payment. You might also be able to get a lower interest rate on your loan. And many balance transfer credit cards offer an introductory period when you pay no interest at all.

Oportun: Affordable lending options designed with you in mind

Now that you understand the benefits of paying off credit card debt early, you can learn about how Oportun may be able to help you if you’re looking for affordable credit options.  Visit our homepage to learn about:

  • Personal loans
  • Credit cards
  • Secured personal loans
  • And more!

Sources

Experian. What is a credit utilization rate?

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. How do automatic payments from my bank account work?

Experian. Balance transfer credit cards

 

The information in this site, including any third-party content and opinions, is for educational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal, tax, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Oportun product or service to your unique circumstances. Contact your independent financial advisor for advice on your personal situation.

Personal loans through Oportun subject to credit approval. Terms may vary by applicant and state and are subject to change. If you refinance, you may pay interest over a longer period of time or at a higher rate and the overall cost of your loan may be higher. Loans in AZ, CA, FL, ID, IL, MO, NJ, NM, TX, UT, and WI are originated by Oportun, Inc. California loans made pursuant to a California Financing Law license. NV loans originated by Oportun, LLC. In AL, AK, AR, DE, GA, HI, IN, KS, KY, LA, MI, MN, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, VA, VT, WA and WY loans are originated by MetaBank®, N.A., Member FDIC. Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply.

Ready to build a better future? Apply now.

Personal loans

Ready to build a better future? Apply now.

Personal loans Credit cards

We use cookies to bring you the best experience on our site. We never sell your information to third parties. When you use our site, you agree to our cookies policy. Find out more.