The difference between carrying a balance on a low-interest credit card, versus a high-rate card, is profound. Make a $137.50 minimum payment on a card with a $5,000 balance and a 21-percent interest rate, and it will take you 23 years and three months to pay off the debt. In the process, you'll shell out $8,124.62 worth of interest. Drop the interest rate to 10-percent, and it'll take you 21 years and two months to rid yourself of the debt. You'll pay $3,762.30 in interest. If you're savvy, you can secure a lower rate.
Pull your credit report. The law entitles you to one free report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus annually. Follow the prompts at the Annual Credit Report website to get yours. If you've already gotten your free reports and you think they might be outdated, you can pay for your report -- as well as your credit score -- at several sites, including Annual Credit Report.
Review your credit file. As Ron Lieber of The New York Times indicates, blemishes on your credit, such as late payments, might impact your ability to obtain lower credit card interest rates. Knowing your options, and how much leverage you have prior to acting, makes sense.
Call your credit card company. You can find the number on your monthly statement, the back of your card, or at the company website. As Lieber advises, threaten to transfer your balance elsewhere if the representative cannot get you a lower rate on your current card. If your credit is good and you have a good, relatively long history with the company, use these favorable circumstances as a bargaining chip. If your credit isn't so good, you might not be able to use quite so much bravado.
Transfer your balance to a card with a lower rate. Again, your credit rating dictates the type of offers you qualify for, if any. If your credit is sound, you're probably already getting balance transfer solicitations in the mail. Investigate them. Alternatively, conduct research online for the best balance transfer deals out there.
- If you choose to transfer balances, beware. While you might be getting a lower interest rate elsewhere, consider the fees the card accepting transfer may charge you. Often, credit card companies charge a percentage of the balance being transferred, or another fixed amount. And, as Kimberly Lankford explains at the Kiplinger website, most low interest rates on balance transfers don't last forever. Usually, you get a good rate for an introductory period.