Curt Sheldon, Financial Advisor
There are two opinions (that I'm aware of) on the best way to pay down credit card debt.
1. Pay as much as possible on the card with the highest interest rate. Pay the minimum on the remaining cards. When the highest rate card is paid off, then focus on the card (of those remaining) with the highest interest rate. You will pay the least interest, overall, with this method.
2. Pay as much as possible on the card with the lowest balance. Pay the minimum on the remaining cards. Then focus on the card with the next lowest balance. This method is best if you need motivation and want to "knock off" cards "quickly".
The key with both methods is to "roll" your payments. i.e. when you pay off a card, roll the amount you were paying on that card to your next card.
Dmitriy Fomichenko, President, Sense Financial
Use debt snowball strategy, pick the card that has lowest balance and highest interest rate and pay it off first (it will be easier and faster to pay off smaller debts rather than larger), pay minimum payments on all other accounts and devote all available cash to the small one. Once you don't with the small, take all of this available funds and apply towards second card with the smallest balance, and so on...
Ryan Fuchs, Financial Planner
There are generally two schools of thought: (1) Pay the highest interest rate balances off first so that you pay the least amount of interest during the payoff process, or (2) pay off the smallest balances first regardless of interest rate so that you see the "fruits of your labor" and don't get discouraged.
I tend to suggest option #2. (A) Write down all of your debts, balances, and minimum payments in order from smallest to largest balance. (B) Figure out what you budget allows you to put toward the debts (obviously, at least the minimum and, ideally, as much as possible so that you can get them paid off as quickly as possible). Ideally, you can limit your variable expenses (e.g. eating out, entertainment, etc.) to put as much as possible toward the debts. (C) Pay the minimum payments on all but the smallest balance debt and pay the rest that you have budgeted for debt payments to the smallest balance. (D) When the first balance is paid off, keep making minimum payments on all but the smallest remaining debt, and move the money that you were putting toward the first one to the second one. (E) Repeat the process until the debts are paid.
You might pay more in interest (if the lower balances are also at lower rates) using this method, but it will help avoid discouragement if you work on higher balances first and don't chip away as quickly. And at the end of the day, if you get discouraged and quit the process, then you will not end up clearing the debts.
You can use these two calculators to help structure a payoff plan:
You plug in the various credit cards you have, balances, minimum balances, interest rate, etc. and then plug in how much extra you plan to pay per month. There is a box to check or uncheck with regard to whether they should run the calculations paying off the highest interest rates first, so you can see the difference in payoff terms. Again, you will potentially pay more in interest using the above method, but the actually payoff time may not vary much.
Hope this helps and good luck.
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