With credit card debt balances in the U.S. climbing, you might want to rethink your credit card strategy ahead of a possible recession.
That’s because credit card debt is up 13% since last year, and that debt will only get more expensive as more interest rate hikes are expected later this year. Here’s a look at what you can do, as recommended to CNBC Make It by certified financial planners:
1. Pay down your credit card debt now
“This should be a top priority regardless of where we are in an economic cycle, but very important in times of high inflation and potential economic downturns,” says Kendall Clayborne, certified financial planner at SoFi.
That’s because outstanding balances tend to rise with interest rate hikes. Over the past few months, credit card interest rates have climbed from just over 16% to 17.42%, but that could be closer to 19% by the end of the year, according to Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate.com.
2. Call your credit card company and ask for a lower rate
One of the easiest ways to lower credit card costs is to simply call up your credit card provider and ask for a lower interest rate. They might say no, but if you’ve been a loyal client with an improving credit score, they might say yes.
To help your case, quote credit card offers from competing companies if they come with lower interest rates than what you pay on your existing card. You can also ask them to waive your annual fee, too.
3. Consider a credit card balance transfer
A balance transfer is when you move debt from one credit card account to another for a lower interest rate.
Credit card companies typically offer 0% interest for an introductory period of up to 21 months. This means lower payments, at least for a while. But you’ll still need to make regular payments after the 0% introductory period expires.
Lately there are fewer offers of 0% for 21 months, but they can still be found. Just note that you typically need a good or excellent credit score to qualify, and that you might have to pay a balance transfer fee of about 3% – 5% of the total debt transferred.
4. Get a cash-back card if you aren’t traveling much
The rewards for travel cards typically have good redemption rates, but that might not be worth it if you don’t plan to travel much in the next year. Plus, they typically come with annual fees.
If you’re focused on making ends meet, a cash-back rewards card might be a better option. These cards don’t have a lot of perks, but they typically offer 2% – 5% cash-back on spending on essential shopping categories like groceries or gas. These cards are a great way to offset some of the costs of inflation.
5. Do a subscription audit of your credit card expenses
Nearly 90% of consumers underestimate the money they spend on subscriptions, often by hundreds of dollars, according to a 2021 survey from consulting firm West Monroe.
That’s why you want to do a regular subscription audit on your credit cards — at least once a year. It’s easy to do: Examine credit card statements going back a few months and identify recurring expenses you’ve either forgotten about or don’t need.
This could include subscriptions to TV streaming services or iPhone apps. Whatever it is, you can cancel those subscriptions and save money.
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