Pay off Credit Card Debt Without Selling Jewelry or Getting a Second Job

If they made a movie about paying off your credit cards, it would be called “Mission: Impossible.”

Seriously, paying down your credit card debts is a Herculean task. It can feel like you’re trying to climb a mountain that’s made out of quicksand.

You reach a point where you’re paying so much interest, you can’t pay down the principal.  

It’s tempting to take drastic measures. Sell off all your jewelry. Take a second job and say goodbye to your free time. You don’t have to do that. Don’t despair.

We’ve Got Ideas You Haven’t Thought of

Before you drive to the pawn shop or check the job listings, we’ve got eight tips for how to pay off your credit cards.

1. Let This Company Cut Your Interest Rates

When you think about how much debt you have, you might feel a little anxious.

That’s where a company like Fiona can be helpful. It can help you find personalized lending options to refinance or consolidate your debt to potentially save thousands dollars in interest.

Fiona will show you all the lenders willing to help you pay off your credit cards and eliminate the headache of paying bills by allowing you to make one payment each month.

You can borrow up to $ 100,000 (no collateral needed) and compare interest rates, which start at 4.99%. The idea is to secure a loan at a lower interest rate, potentially helping you save thousands. Repayment plans range from 24 to 84 months.

Take, for example, Katherine, who faced $ 12,000 in credit-card debt. Holding her back? The 15.24% interest rate. By refinancing with a 5%-interest, seven-year personal loan, she saved $ 12,000 in interest.

If she’d kept on the same road, she would have paid something like $ 14,000 in interest alone over 25 years. Yikes.

So even if you’re simply curious about what’s out there, know that checking rates on Fiona won’t hurt your credit score — and can probably save you in interest.

2. Get a Strategic View of Your Debt

One of the toughest parts about paying down debt is knowing where to begin.

To get yourself out of this hole, first you have to know what you’re dealing with.

Your credit report will give you this information. You can get a free copy of it once every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus — but they can be tough to decipher.

If you want to keep a closer eye on your credit, get your credit score and “credit report card” for free from Credit Sesame. This website breaks down exactly what’s on your credit report in layman’s terms, how it affects your score and what you should do about it.

It offers personalized tips for how to deal with your debts. Folks who’ve used it tell us it’s a lifesaver.

3. Find out If You’re Paying Too Much for Car Insurance

Woman posing in front of a mural of a car.

You’re probably overpaying for car insurance and wasting money you could use to pay down debt.

Have you shopped around lately? Have you compared rates from the 20 largest auto insurers that do business in your area? That sounds kind of difficult and time-consuming, doesn’t it?

Fortunately, a service called Gabi will do it for you, and you don’t even have to fill out any forms. Simply link your insurance account and provide your driver’s license number, and Gabi will go to work.

Once you link your insurance account to Gabi, it will:

  • Scan your existing insurance plan.
  • Analyze what coverage you have.
  • Compare the major insurers’ rates for that same coverage.
  • Help you switch on the spot if it finds you a better rate.

Gabi says it finds an average savings of $ 720 per year for its customers.

It is a true apples-to-apples comparison at the same coverage levels and deductibles you currently have. Once you sign up, you never have to shop again. Gabi’s software has your policy on file and keeps on monitoring for savings as your life changes.

4. Find Some Hidden Cash

Before you start hashing out a plan to tackle your debt, it might make you feel better to find areas in your life where you can save. Then you can funnel that money directly toward those outstanding balances.

For consistent savings, download TrueBill, an app that’ll negotiate your bills, cancel unwanted subscriptions and refund your bank fees. On average, Truebill says it saves customers $ 700 a year.

You can also try digging up some extra cash with Paribus — a tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. It’s free to sign up, and once you do, it will scan your email for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund when there’s a price drop.

One of our favorite ways to save on everything is with Ebates, a cash-back site that rewards you nearly every time you buy something online. For example, Ebates gives you 10% cash-back on online purchases at Walmart. Plus, you’ll get a free $ 10 gift card to Walmart for giving the site a try.

Disclosure: Paribus compensates us when you sign up using the links we provide.

5. Earn Rewards When You Repay Your Debt on Time

Woman on laptop.

When you were a kid, your mom probably gave you an allowance for washing the dishes and sweeping the floor. Now all you get for doing that is a kitchen that’s clean for, like, 15 minutes.

Now that you’re a grown-up, you no longer get rewarded for just doing the things that are expected of you — like, for instance, paying bills on time.

Not until now, anyway. MoneyLion, a free app for managing your personal finances, will reward you for things like paying your bills and monitoring your credit — even just setting up an account in the app.

Much like that childhood allowance, it’s basically bribing you to be good.

You’ll earn points in the app’s rewards program, and you can redeem them for gift cards to more than 15,000 retailers, including places like Walmart, Applebee’s and Amazon.

If you want to take it a step further and work on paying down debts, for example, MoneyLion can help with a loan to consolidate your debt and potentially reduce your interest rates. And it’ll reward you for that, too!

6. Start Saving Without Trying

Saving money is tough. So what if you could do it in a way where you wouldn’t even notice?

Digit makes that possible.

This innovative app automates saving for you. Simply link it to your checking account, and its algorithms will determine small (and safe!) amounts of money to withdraw into a separate, FDIC-insured savings account.

Bonus: Penny Hoarders will get an extra $ 5 just for signing up! Additionally, savers will receive a 1% bonus every three months.

Digit is free to use for the first 30 days, then it’s $ 2.99 per month afterward.

7. Make Extra Money While You Watch TV

For those times you choose the frugal route and stay in for the night, why not cash in on your free time? Survey sites aren’t the fastest way to earn money, but they’re a great way to build a little savings while you veg out.

Here are some of our favorites:

  • Swagbucks is definitely a reader favorite, probably because of the wide variety of ways to make money beyond taking surveys. Plus, you get a $ 5 bonus when earn 2,500 SB within your first 60 days.
  • InboxDollars lets you actually get paid to watch TV online. The site hosts a ton of stuff to watch, including cooking, entertainment, news and health shows. The shows are sponsored by brands that need to get them in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Every time you watch one, InboxDollars will credit your account with a little bit of cash.
  • MyPoints: This platform lets you earn gift cards for taking polls, answering surveys and other things you do online — a great way to cash in on long lines or an endless commute. You’ll earn a $ 5 bonus when you complete your first five surveys.

8. Negotiate Your Bills

Remember what your grandma used to say when you wanted a cookie? “Ask nicely!”

It turns out that’s amazing life advice when it comes to tackling your debt, as well.

Sometimes you can lower your bills, especially crippling medical bills, just by asking to have them reduced. Let your provider know a good reason why you can’t pay what it’s asking. You might get a little relief.

Also keep an eye on late fees and other sneaky charges that are added on to your bill. Those are easy for your debtors to remove if they choose.

It doesn’t hurt to ask, right?

Mike Brassfield is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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Why Your Credit Cards May Deserve A Second Chance

(AP Photo)

While paying off $ 1,700 in credit card debt in 2014, Jamie Griffin cut up his card. To tackle the remaining $ 90,000 in student loans he and his wife carried, he read personal finance experts’ tips and turned to cash and a spreadsheet to budget. Now that most of their debt is paid off, he’s giving credit cards a cautious second chance.

Griffin has come to see credit cards as a way that he and his wife, Jenna, who are both teachers, can potentially defray the costs of travel. Instead of immediately applying for a travel credit card, though, the 31-year-old from Duluth, Minnesota, let his wife’s longtime rewards credit card lead the way as they transitioned from using cash to credit for most purchases.

“We wanted to practice to make sure we could actually do it rather than reverting back to our old spending habits of just swiping a card because we could,” Jamie Griffin says. “We haven’t had to pay any interest. We haven’t had any late payments.”

If you, too, have developed new spending habits — and potentially higher credit scores — since paying off debt, you might be a good fit for rewards credit cards that earn cash back for your emergency fund or miles for a vacation. Here are factors to consider.

REWARDS CAN HELP WITH EXPENSES

Rewards credit cards generally require a credit score of 690 or higher. They can earn cash back, points or airline miles in specific categories or on everyday spending. Rewards rates vary by card and some also offer sign-up bonuses with introductory zero percent interest rates for new cardholders.

Depending on the card, rewards can be redeemed for things like cash, statement credit, travel, gift cards or merchandise — all of which can help with household expenses, as long as you pay credit card bills in full every month to avoid interest charges.

Since early 2017, the Griffins have collected 38,000 points — that’s over $ 300 in cash back. They redeemed 20,000 points (about $ 200) into their bank account earlier this summer.

YOUR CREDIT MAY DEPEND ON IT

Paying off debt is a worthy goal. But if you later stop using a credit card, it can hurt your credit scores. That’s because credit utilization and length of credit history are key factors in the calculation of those scores, according to FICO.

Say you were to close an older high-limit credit card after paying it off — or that you use the card so infrequently that the issuer ends up closing the account for you. Shutting down the account would not only decrease your amount of total available credit; you would also lose the card’s account history.

Another factor in your credit scores is credit mix — the combination of different kinds of credit accounts. A healthy credit mix might include a mortgage or car loans, for example, and also credit cards.

“If you have a healthy mix of credit, and you’re using them wisely, and you have a good history, that should reflect in your credit score,” says Jeffrey Arevalo, financial wellness expert at GreenPath, a credit counseling agency.

Of course, without piles of cash on hand, you’ll need good credit if you want to qualify for a home or car loan at the lowest interest rates. Keeping a credit card active and using it responsibly is an easy way to maintain good credit.

But if the temptation to overspend is too great, closing a credit card account may be the way to go, Arevalo says.

CREDIT CARDS CAN HELP YOU PLAN

Before moving most of their expenses to credit, Jenna Griffin asked the issuer about benefits for longtime customers. The couple secured a six-month safety net with a zero percent interest rate that they didn’t have to use.

Recently, the couple was approved for a credit card that earns miles to help them save money on travel expenses. Jamie Griffin continues tracking all of their expenses on his spreadsheet.

If you’re ready to give credit cards a second chance, here’s how to use a rewards credit card and maintain good credit:

– Pay your bill in full and on time every month.

– Don’t stray from your budget just to earn credit card rewards.

– Keep charges below 30% of your available credit.

– Use your credit card as a budgeting tool to track your spending and review your purchases.

– Keep your no-annual-fee accounts open and active to avoid hurting your credit score.

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