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From the Experts at

How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt

by Lucy Lazarony

How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt

Determined to knock out your credit card debt once and for all? These tips can help you move from debt-stressed to debt-free.

Start With a Credit Reality Check

Those credit card balances are weighing down more than your wallet. They may be dragging down your credit score, too. If you want to see how your debt is affecting your credit, you can check your credit scores for free using’s Credit Report Card. It’s updated every month so you can monitor your score as you pay down debt.

Pay Off the Smallest Balance First

If you have several credit cards with various balances, this might be the way to go. Take the account with the smallest balance and pay double, triple monthly payments, whatever you can afford each month, all while continuing to make the minimum payment on your other credit cards.

Once that smallest balance is knocked down to zero, move on to the card with the next lowest balance. This pay-off strategy gives you the great satisfaction of seeing a card balance flip to zero early on in your pay-off plan. Once one is down to zero, then two, you’ll be motivated to keep going until all those balances read zero.

Pay Down the Card With the Highest Interest Rate

Are you sick of the money that is being sucked away by the finance charges on your credit cards? And are you looking for a no-nonsense and effective way to slash your debt? Then zero in on the credit card with the highest interest rate first and focus your payments there.

Pay double or triple your minimum payments on the card with highest interest rate and most costly monthly finances charges, while continuing to make the minimum payments on your other credit cards. This strategy is the most efficient way to attack your debt, but it takes discipline to stick with it, especially if the card with the highest interest rate has a pretty hefty balance. Once you pay off the card with the highest interest rate, move on to the card with the next highest interest rate and so on.

Choose a payment strategy that works for you and stick with it. You may even adopt a combination approach. Maybe the card with the highest interest rate also has the lowest balance. So you’ll get the double satisfaction of attacking the card with the highest APR and seeing a smaller balance flip to zero pretty early on in your this-debt-must-go plan.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Paying them off won’t help your credit scores in most cases, but if you don’t pay them you’ll most certainly hear from debt collectors. This article may help: What Happens If I Don’t Pay My Credit Card Bill?

  • Credit Experts

    Paying them off more quickly than agreed might not help your scores — unless it also helps you reduce the amount of your overall available credit that you’re using. You want to aim to use no more than 30% of your limit (less than 10% is even better). has a tool that shows you how much of your credit you’re using, and offers a plan to show you how various actions on your part are likely to affect your score. You’ll find it here:

  • Guest1

    Well, patricia, you’re right. If you pay them off while they are closed, you have the option to reapply for one of your credit accounts.

  • postal_blonde

    I found paying them off did help and making sure you pay everything on time. Not always will it drop off in 7 yrs ….If they attempt to collect from you 6yr and 360 days, it starts that 7 yrs all over again. I paid what i could until they were clear. It shows you are trying.

  • South Dakota

    Thank you for saying that it’s ok to pay the card with the lowest balance first. I find that the satisfaction of paying off a balance is motivation to work on the next bill!

    • Credit Experts

      Different things work for different people — but staying motivated is key! It’s important to find a way that works for you.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Congratulations! No, it won’t hurt at all to pay them off right away. Just don’t close the accounts. Leave them open if possible. Are you monitoring your scores? I’d love to hear what happens to your scores before and after. You can free credit score here.

  • Larry

    pay it off by getting a second job – make more money somehow.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It sounds like they cancelled $9000 of your debt. If so, they must file a 1099-c for that amount. It doesn’t really matter whether you agreed in writing or not. You may not be responsible for taxes if you qualify for the insolvency exclusion. We’ve written extensively about that. Read more here: 1099-C In the Mail? How to Avoid Taxes on Cancelled Debt

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Have you tried to see whether you qualify for the insolvency exclusion?

Sign up for your free account. Learn More
  • Meet Our Expert

    lucy_lazarony GravatarLucy Lazarony is a freelance personal finance writer. Her articles have been featured on Bankrate, MoneyRates, MSN Money, and The National Endowment for Financial Education. Prior to freelancing, she worked as a staff writer for Bankrate for seven years. She earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida and spent a summer as an international intern at Richmond, The American International University in London. She lives in South Florida.
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