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Lower Your APR
Those who paid with plastic over the holiday season may be experiencing a bit of sticker shock once they check their balance after the new year. The reason? The "pay it off later" mindset that a credit card creates.
"When I shell out a 20 dollar bill, I can feel that. When I slide a piece of plastic across the counter, that doesn`t have the same emotional pull to it," said Benjamin Brandt with Thrivent Financial.
And sooner or later, it`s time to pay it off. Not an easy pill to swallow.
"The average family in our country carries about $8,000 worth of credit card debt. I don`t think anybody intended on doing that unless it was a medical bill or something like that. How that $8,000 came about is over-spending by a percent or two or three every month," said Brandt.
That certainly doesn`t mean you`re sunk. If you pay your bills on time, pick up the phone, call your card company and ask for a lower interest rate. They may say no, but you`ll never know unless you ask.
Jesse Tran, Certified Consumer Credit Counselor, said, "It`s obviously to your advantage, you`re going to pay less money in interest. You`re going to get those cards paid off sooner, if you`re only paying the minimum payments, it can take several years to pay off your credit cards."
The second bit of advice, if you`re really in a tough spot, ask for help from a financial counselor.
Tran added, "We can work as intermediaries with you and your credit card companies and we can help lower your interest rates. Sometimes they can get a little lower payments, but the real benefit is they get a real structured plan in place, where they can get the debt paid off within a reasonable amount of time."
And keep in mind, credit card companies make their money by charging late fees and interest on the back of the customer. But if you can pay the card off sooner, you`ll salvage your credit score and leave a little change in your pocket.
If you have a credit card that you no longer use with a zero balance, don`t cancel it. Instead, tuck it away in a drawer. The company will eventually deactivate your account.