How to Pay off Credit Card Debt Fast

The best plan to pay off your credit card debt is to find one that you can stick with. Here we share our best tips and solutions for paying off your credit card debt fast.

Updated: September 20, 2023

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If you’re struggling with mounting credit card debt, it can be tempting to feel like you’ll never get your head above water. But while outstanding credit card payments can be challenging to manage, there are several effective strategies that can help you get out of debt quickly. The secret is to create a debt repayment plan tailored to your personal finance goals. Here’s how to choose the right method for your financial situation. 

1. Identify the problem 

If you don’t know how you got into credit card debt, start by understanding the root of the issue. 

Take a closer look at your spending habits and financial decisions and ask yourself the following questions:

Are you consistently overspending and living beyond your means?

Many Americans overspend simply because it’s so easy to make purchases these days. If you’re constantly swiping your card without first consulting a budget, buying luxury items you may not need, or doing a lot of online shopping, you may be living beyond your means.  

Do unexpected expenses contribute to your mounting debt?

Life is unpredictable, and sudden medical bills, car repairs, or other unforeseen emergencies can quickly drain your finances. If you don’t have a robust emergency fund or other savings account to draw from, you may resort to using credit cards to cover these expenses.

Are you only making minimum payments on your debt?

While minimum payments may seem manageable in the short term, they primarily serve to pay off interest charges, leaving the actual balance of your debt largely untouched. As a result, your debt will continue to accumulate. 

Do you have too many credit cards to keep track of?

It can be hard to juggle multiple cards with different due dates and interest rates. In the confusion, you may find yourself making late payments or missing payments altogether. As a result, you’ll rack up credit card interest and late fees, both of which can escalate your debt.  

2. Pick a debt repayment strategy

Choosing the right repayment strategy can help you become debt-free faster. Here are two popular approaches. 

The debt snowball method

With the debt snowball method, you prioritize paying off smaller debts first. This method is excellent for people who find motivation in small victories and enjoy the psychological boost of crossing debts off their list. Here’s how it works.

  1. First, list all your debts in order from the smallest balance to the largest balance.

  2. Channel any extra cash toward your smallest debt while continuing to make just the minimum payments on all your other debts. 

  3. Once you clear that first debt, start paying that same amount toward your next smallest debt. When that’s paid off, move to the next, and so on. This creates a “snowball” effect. 

The debt avalanche method

With the debt avalanche method, you pay off debts based on their interest rates. The goal is to minimize the overall interest paid. This method is best for people motivated by long-term financial savings. Here how the debt avalanche method works:

  1. Start by listing all your debts in order from the highest interest rate to lowest interest rate.

  2. Make minimum payments on all your debts, but direct any extra money toward the debt with the highest interest rate. 

  3. Once that highest interest-rate debt is paid off, move to the debt with the next highest interest rate. 

Snowball vs avalanche

Consider a hypothetical scenario where you have three credit card debts: 

  • Card A with a balance of $1,000 and an interest rate of 12%

  • Card B with a balance of $3,000 and an interest rate of 18%

  • Card C with a balance of $5,000 and an interest rate of 15%

With the Snowball method, you’d prioritize paying off Card A, then Card B, and finally Card C. With the Avalanche method, however, you’d pay off card B first, since it has the highest interest rate, followed by Card C and Card A.

3. Consider debt consolidation

One way to make your payments more manageable is to consolidate your debt. Instead of juggling multiple credit card accounts with varying interest rates and due dates, you’ll be left with a single debt consolidation loan with a single, predictable monthly payment. There are several ways to go about debt consolidation. 

  • Personal loans: With a personal loan1, you borrow a lump sum from a lender and use it to pay off your high-interest debts. In the end, you’re left with just one loan to manage, typically with a fixed interest rate and a clear repayment term.

  • Balance transfer credit cards: This is a form of credit card refinancing2. It involves transferring the balances from your high-interest credit cards to a new credit card with a lower interest rate. This can help you save money while you pay down the balance. (Be sure to check for balance transfer fees before you commit.)

  • Home equity loans or lines of credit: If you own a home, you may be able to use your home equity to secure a loan. You can use the loan funds to pay off high-interest credit card debt. However, your home may be forfeit if you can’t make your loan payments.

To be eligible for debt consolidation, you’ll need a good credit score, steady income, and a low credit utilization ratio. If you choose to consolidate, just be sure to stay disciplined with your spending and stick to your debt repayment strategy. If you continue racking up debt after you consolidate, you could end up worse off than before. 

4. Create a budget

You may be more likely to overspend if you don’t have any guidelines in place. A well-structured budget allows you to track your income and expenses, giving you a clear understanding of where your money is going and helping you identify areas where you can cut back. A good budget will also help you stay on track once you have a debt repayment strategy in place. 

Start by tracking your spending for a month. At the end of the month, list all your sources of income and categorize all your monthly expenses. Analyze this list to identify areas where you can make adjustments. A sample budget might look like this:

Income:

  • Paycheck: $3,500 per month

  • Side hustle: $500 per month

Expenses:

  • Rent/mortgage: $1,200

  • Utilities: $200

  • Groceries: $400

  • Transportation: $200

  • Insurance: $150

  • Minimum debt payments: $800

  • Emergency fund: $200

  • Miscellaneous: $250

  • Investments: $400

Total income - total expenses = $200

Right now, we have $200 leftover each month. If you don’t have an emergency fund, it may be best to save that $200 each month until you have three to six months of living expenses accumulated in case of an unexpected crisis. But if you already have a well-stocked emergency fund, you may want to allocate this extra cash toward debt payment. 

To accelerate your repayment progress even more, comb through your budget again, looking for non-essential expenses that you can cut. Maybe you can cook rather than dine out, or cut back on subscription services. Any money you can avoid spending can go toward paying down your debts. 

5. Consider debt relief

Debt relief is a broad term that encompasses various strategies for reducing or eliminating debt. It can help individuals pay down their credit card bills and regain control over their financial lives. Here are some available debt relief options. 

  • Debt settlement: With debt settlement, you negotiate with your credit card companies to accept less than the full amount of debt you owe. If they agree to settle, you’ll typically have to make a lump sum payment—or a series of payments—to clear your debt. Debt settlement is a good fit for individuals facing severe financial hardship. While debt settlement can provide significant debt reduction, it may also have adverse effects on your credit report.

  • Debt management plans: Debt Management Plans (DMPs) are an option for those who need assistance but want to avoid the negative credit impacts of settlement or bankruptcy. With a DMP, a nonprofit credit counseling agency works with the credit card issuer to negotiate lower rates and more affordable monthly payments. You make a single monthly payment to the credit counseling agency, and they disburse the funds to your creditors on your behalf.

  • Bankruptcy: Bankruptcy is a last resort option for those facing extreme financial hardship. While declaring bankruptcy can immediately clear your debts and provide a fresh start, it also has severe and long-lasting consequences on your credit score and financial standing.

Compare personal loans on Navient Marketplace

If you want to consolidate your debt, simplify your monthly payments, and save money on interest, consider using a personal loan. Personal loans can help you get your debt under control and pay it off on your own terms. 

Ready to start shopping for personal loans? To help streamline your search, Navient Marketplace partners with Fiona, a leading personal loan search tool. Explore the versatile loans available and discover personalized loan rates by visiting our marketplace today.  

Disclaimer: This blog post provides personal finance educational information, and it is not intended to provide legal, financial, or tax advice.

1 Navient customers are invited to consider personal loan offers through our partner Fiona. Navient has not shared your information with Fiona and is not involved in the personal loan application process in any manner. All information is submitted directly to Fiona and any personal loan offers are made directly by participants in Fiona’s lending platform, powered by Even Financial. Even Financial, Inc. is the industry-leading embedded financial marketplace and independent subsidiary of MoneyLion Inc. (“MoneyLion”) (NYSE:ML). Checking your rate will not affect your credit score. Eligibility is not guaranteed and requires that a sufficient number of investors commit funds to your account and that you meet credit and other conditions. 

Loan proceeds may not be used for postsecondary educational expenses, including refinancing federal or private student loans. 

2 Navient has partnered with CardRatings for our OO\lerage ot credit card products. Navient and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions. reviews, analyses & recommendations are Navient's alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. 

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