hamburger button

The Minimum Carries Maximum Damage

Why paying the minimum on credit card debt is a bad idea

Paying down credit card debt can be daunting when you don’t have a lot of money to go around. However, you should be doing your best to pay more than the minimum amount each month. Paying the minimum might seem like an okay move — at least you’ve kept late fees at bay! Unfortunately, this strategy is likely to keep you in debt for a long, long time.

According to CNBC, the average American household has $8,195 in credit card debt. If you’re taking an aggressive strategy toward that debt — funneling about 15 percent of your income toward paying it down — it will take you about 13 months on average, according to Experian, to climb back into the black. If you don’t have 15 percent to use against that debt, you should still be contributing as much as possible. If you pay the minimum, usually about one percent, you’re basically locking yourself into a lifetime of debt. Here’s the shocking math: The average interest rate for credit cards is now 17.41 percent. If you have roughly $8,000 in debt, and pay only the minimum amount each month, you’ll be digging yourself out of that debt for about 23 years. If that sounds rough, consider that taking this strategy also means paying about $11,000 in interest.

If you’re facing a heap of credit card debt, do whatever you can to pay more toward the balance each month. Using the aforementioned example, if you can just make it to five percent of the balance each month, you’d trim the interest and the total repayment period to just 9.5 years. Another strategy is to use balance transfer credit cards, which are designed to help people pay down their debt. Look for one with a 15-month, zero percent introductory APR on balance transfers. If you pay about $550 toward the balance each month, you could be out of debt in just over a year. Not bad at all.

Chris O'Shea

Chris O'Shea