Many people have gotten into really bad credit card debt and still managed to get themselves out of it (because they played their cards right). You’ve probably heard me tackle this on my podcast with episodes like “We have $4,600 in credit card debt but we spend $600/month on GrubHub”, “He won’t marry me until I pay off my $15,000 credit card debt”, and “We’re in $400,000 of debt, but we can’t say no to our kids”, where I’ve coached real people, just like you, on crushing their debt.
And if you follow Donell and Monique’s journey — one of the couples featured on my Netflix show, “How to Get Rich” — you’re probably aware that they were able to pay off ALL of their $20,000 credit card debt (and a significant portion of their $100,000 student loans) using the tools they learned during our time together.
Now, I’m bringing those strategies and insights directly to you. So, buckle up as we sift through the noise and navigate some of the best ways to pay off credit cards step by step, complete with my most powerful financial scripts.
Find out how much you owe
You’d be surprised how many people keep paying off those credit cards without ever truly knowing the extent of their debt. Credit card companies love this because it means you’re essentially on autopilot, sending them money without a second thought.
But it’s time to take back control. To find out just how much you owe, you need to log in to your credit card account online. Then, create a straightforward spreadsheet listing each card, the total debt balance for each, the annual percentage rate (APR; a.k.a. how much interest you’re being charged on your debt per year), and the minimum monthly payment:
Total Amount of Debt
Minimum Monthly Payment
This step alone is a game-changer. Why? Because it sheds light on your financial reality and sets the stage for the debt-busting strategies we’re about to dive into.
Decide what to pay off first
Remember, not all debts are created equal. Different cards charge you different interest rates, which can affect what you decide to pay off first.
There are two schools of thought on how to go about this. In the standard method, you pay the minimums on all cards, but pay more money to the card with the highest APR, because it’s costing you the most. In the Dave Ramsey Snowball method, you pay the minimums on all cards, but pay more money to the card with the lowest balance first — the one that will allow you to pay it off first.
This is a source of fierce debate in credit card circles. Technically, the Snowball method isn’t necessarily the most efficient approach, because the card with the lowest balance doesn’t necessarily have the highest APR. But on a psychological level, it’s enormously rewarding to see one credit card paid off, which in turn can motivate you to pay off others more quickly.
My expert tip: don’t spend more than five minutes deciding. Just pick one method and do it. The goal is not to optimize your payoff method, but to get started paying off your debt.
Negotiate down your APR
Alright, let’s talk about putting money back where it belongs: in your pocket. You might not know this, but you can actually negotiate for a better interest rate on your credit cards.
It’s a simple process, usually taking just about 5 minutes, but it’s a game-changer. Think about it: a brief call, a bit of negotiation, and you could end up saving thousands in interest.
Now, I get it; making that call can feel a bit like stepping into the unknown. But here’s where I got your back. I’ve created a simple word-for-word script to successfully negotiate better interest rates… and I’m giving it to you for FREE!
Here it is:
YOU: “Hi, I’m going to be paying off my credit card debt more aggressively beginning next week, and I’d like to lower my credit card’s interest rate.”
CC REP: “Uh, why?”
YOU: “I’ve decided to be more aggressive about paying off my debt, and that’s why I’d like to lower the interest rate I’m paying. Other cards are offering me rates at half what you’re offering. Can you lower my rate by 50% or only 40%?”
CC REP: “Hmmm … After reviewing your account, I’m afraid we can’t offer you a lower interest rate.”
YOU: “As I mentioned before, other credit cards are offering me 0% introductory rates for 12 months, as well as APRs that are half what you’re offering. I’ve been a customer for XX years and I’d prefer not to switch my balance over to a lower-interest card. Can you match the other credit card rates, or can you at least go any lower?”
CC REP: “I see … Hmm, let me pull something up here. Fortunately, the system is suddenly letting me offer you a reduced APR. That is effective immediately.”
Rinse and repeat this process for all your credit cards. Remember, it won’t always work. But if it does, you could save a lot of money in the long term.
Mistakes to avoid when paying off your credit cards
One major mistake you can make when paying off your credit card debt is overcomplicating your repayment strategy. People often get tangled in intricate plans that end up doing more harm than good, adding to the high-interest rates and credit card charges.
To keep things simple and effective, here are some common mistakes you want to sidestep in your journey to pay off that credit card debt:
Making only the minimum payments
Only paying off the minimum payments on your credit cards is like trying to put out a forest fire with a water gun. Sure, you’re doing something, but you’re not really getting anywhere.
In my years of helping people navigate the financial jungle, I can’t stress enough how this is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Why? Because you’re throwing money down a black hole. The debt lingers, and with every passing day, the interest piles up like a snowball rolling downhill.
Paying off just a bit more than those minimum payments can make a world of difference. It’s not just about the dollars; it’s about the psychological weight of debt hanging over your head.
Think about it — that extra amount you pay is not just reducing your balance; it’s buying you peace of mind. It’s a step toward financial freedom, and let me tell you, that feeling is priceless.
Keeping the same old habits
You know what they say: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Well, it holds true for your financial habits, too (did that rhyme?).
When you’re battling credit card debt, sticking to your old spending habits is like trying to bail out a sinking boat with a teaspoon. It just won’t cut it. Sure, you’ve got your repayment plan sorted, but what about the other side of the coin? Managing your spending is just as crucial. You’d be surprised how even small adjustments can make a big difference.
Think about it: if you automate just $20 from every $100 you earn to go straight into debt repayment, you could shave up to four months off your debt schedule. That’s not financial wizardry; it’s smart, practical, and achievable.
Reinventing the wheel
You might have heard about balance transfers as a way to escape the high-interest quicksand of credit card debt. They can sound tempting, offering you a lifebuoy in the form of a lower APR for a few months. But here’s the deal: credit card companies are like magicians when it comes to these offers. They’ll lure you in with the promise of saving money, only to hit you with a pile of confusing terms and conditions.
Now, don’t get me wrong — balance transfers can work for some folks. However, I’m not exactly their number one fan. Sure, it might buy you some time, but it doesn’t change the fundamental problem.
And that’s the truth with most of these so-called solutions: they’re just elaborate ways of reinventing the wheel. Whether it’s a balance transfer, dipping into your 401(k), or tapping into your home equity line of credit (HELOC), it’s all just adding more layers of complexity to your financial life. And trust me, when it comes to getting out of debt, simpler is often better.
Get started finding all your debt and paying it off
The best way to pay off credit card debt? It’s not to dazzle yourself with complex spreadsheets or spend hours crafting the perfect financial model. It’s about taking that first step, and that begins with knowing your enemy: your debt.
Start by facing the numbers. How much do you owe? Where do you stand? Get all your debts out in the open, stare them down, and decide on a plan of attack. Negotiate those interest rates. Take those sure steps into the financial battlefield.
It might seem inconvenient at first, but the relief of watching your debt shrink month by month is worth every bit of effort. So, gear up, figure out your debt strategy, and let’s kick-start your journey to a debt-free life!