21% of Americans Are Stressed Over Credit Card Debt: How to Pay Yours Off Efficiently

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Carrying credit card debt? Here's how to knock out those balances.

Sometimes, credit card debt is unavoidable. If an emergency expense arises that your paycheck can't cover, and you don't have money in savings to fall back on, whipping out a credit card may be your only option.

But the longer you carry a balance on your credit cards, the more damage it causes. For one thing, carrying credit card debt means continuously racking up interest that only makes your debt more expensive to pay off.

Plus, having too high of a credit card balance can lower your credit score by raising your credit utilization ratio (a measure of how much of your total credit you're using at once). And the worse shape your score is in, the harder it becomes to borrow money affordably when the need arises.

If you're grappling with credit card debt, you're certainly not alone. In fact, 21% of respondents in a recent survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education say credit card debt is causing them stress. Here are a few things you can do to pay off your debt quickly.

1. Tackle your highest interest debt first

If you owe money on several credit cards, you may be inclined to first pay off your lowest balance before moving on to cards with a higher balance. But a more cost-effective way to go about things is to tackle your credit card with the highest interest rate first. The sooner you pay it down, the less your debt costs you overall.

2. Consolidate your debt with a balance transfer

If your credit score is in pretty good shape (which, to be clear, is possible even if you have credit card debt), you may qualify for a balance transfer. A balance transfer allows you to move your existing credit card balances onto a new card with a lower interest rate. Some balance transfer cards even offer a period of 0% interest for a preset time -- often 12 to 18 months.

By doing a balance transfer, you can slash your debt's interest rate and make it less expensive. Just read the fine print before doing one, though, to make sure you won't pay hefty fees that negate your savings.

3. Move your debt into a personal loan

Like a balance transfer, a personal loan is a good way to consolidate your debt while lowering its interest rate. A personal loan lets you borrow money for any purpose, so you can take one out, use it to pay off your credit card debt, then repay that loan over time.

The stronger your credit score is, the more likely you are to qualify for a competitive interest rate on a personal loan. And if you make your monthly payments on time, it could actually help your credit score.

Being in debt can be extremely stressful -- especially when that debt is of the credit card variety. If you're in that situation, it pays to explore these options for knocking out that debt as efficiently as possible. The sooner you do, the sooner you can move forward with a clean slate.

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