January 07, 2019
*Hometap note: The following options are for informational purposes only. To determine the best financing for your personal circumstances and goals, consult with a financial advisor.
“Debt consolidation means taking out one new loan large enough to repay some or all of your outstanding debt,” according to Credit Sesame. “You get the money, pay off your accounts, and then make a single monthly payment to pay off the new debt.”
But from personal loans to balance transfers, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to consolidating your credit card debt. Here’s what to consider before deciding to consolidate your credit card debt as well as five ways to do so.
Credit debt consolidation may make sense if your debt is spread across multiple cards, making it hard for you to keep track of who and what you owe each month. With one monthly payment, you can ensure you’re paying down your debt and not accruing any unwanted interest.
You may also want to consolidate if you can lower your overall interest rate. Most credit cards have high interest rates, so it’s worth looking into consolidation options to see if you can save some cash.
If you’re in debt because you spend more than you earn, your solution isn’t credit debt consolidation. Instead, it’s reducing your spending or increasing your income—or both. ConsumerFinance.gov suggests taking a look at your spending habits to pinpoint why you’re in debt and where you can save.
Credit debt consolidation also isn’t a solution for avoiding interest rates. According to ConsumerFinance.gov, there’s a time limit to the promotional interest rate for most credit balance transfers. Once the promotional period ends, the interest rate on your card is likely to go up—along with your payment amount.
1. Check Your Credit Report and Scores
First things first: Check your credit reports and scores for accuracy. As Credit.com notes, an error could prevent you from qualifying for the debt consolidation help. Dispute any error you find.
2. Contemplate a Personal Loan
You can take out personal loans to pay off credit card debt. According to Credit Karma, a personal loan may offer a lower interest rate than your credit cards’ interest rates. You may also have a longer time—even several years—to pay off the loan.
3. Read the 0% APR Fine Print
As Discover reveals, an introductory APR of 0% might only apply to credit balance transfers. That means any new purchases you make may be charged the—often very high—standard APR. Check cardholder agreements beforehand to know what 0% APR applies to—and what it doesn’t.
4. Look Into Home Equity Loans
If you own a home, you can take out a loan that gives you a line of credit with your home equity as collateral. A home equity line of credit (HELOC) begins with the draw period when you can access the funds in your credit line. The draw period typically lasts 10 years but can range from five to 20, during which time you may only need to make interest-only payments.
However, as NerdWallet warns, you need to consider fees plus interest, which add up over the years. If your goal is ultimately drawing down your debt, you’ll need to make payments on interest and the principal.
5. Consider Home Equity Investments
Products like Hometap offer homeowners a way to access their home’s equity today without taking on additional monthly payments. (Learn more.)
The path you choose to consolidate your credit card debt depends on your situation and what is going to provide you the greatest benefit. If you’re serious about consolidating your debt, make a budget, stick to it, and consider giving plastic a rest.
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