How nice it would be if there were a single best method to pay off credit card debt. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Each family has to come up with their own tailored solution.
My husband and I have tried many ways to solve our debt problem, each with mixed results. After several attempts, we hit upon a well-known strategy that we hadn’t tried before: consolidating our credit card debt with a personal loan.
Tried and Failed Methods
First, we attempted the “snowball” method by paying our smallest debt balance first, then going down the list from smallest to biggest. Second, since we were determined to eliminate our debt, we started paying it down aggressively.
We would pay off our entire balance, only to eventually end up paying for our regular living expenses and household costs via plastic.
Third, we tried the juggling method of making monthly debt payments while making many, many balance transfers to zero percent APR cards.
The first two methods we used to try to pay off our debt had benefits and drawbacks, but neither was as difficult as the third — juggling.
Yes, the juggling act we did was the easiest on our wallet, but with that came the endless balancing act, tracking, and constant vigilance needed to make sure that everything was getting paid on time.
After many long talks about our money, my husband suggested that we put a stop to this unending tension by paying off all of our credit cards in one fell swoop — use a personal loan to consolidate our credit card debt.
Pros of Using a Personal Loan to Pay Off Credit Card Debt
A personal loan is a great answer to your situation when you’re paying high interest rates on multiple credit card accounts. Here’s why.
Low Interest Rate
The average credit card interest rate in 2019is 16.9 percent, according to the Federal Reserve.
When we were comparing personal loan rates, we compared four different companies and landed on an interest rate of only 10.89 percent. That’s significantly lower than the average credit card interest rate, and it will save us a large chunk of money over the long term.
A Single Payment
The ease of having just one, smaller payment to make each month seemed like a lot less than the four different payments we were making.
It was nice not having to pay multiple small amounts throughout the month.
It was nice not stressing about the next zero percent APR deadline. And it was nice not doing the juggling act — to send only a single check each month.
Simplify Your Debt Payoff
One of the main reasons that we decided to use a personal loan to pay off our credit card debt was that we wanted a simple debt-payoff plan that would finally work for us.
Since going this route, we’ve been able to avoid the long discussions about how to handle our debt. These planning discussions are now quick updates about the progress we’ve been making toward becoming debt-free.
Cons of Personal Loans
Debt consolidation strategies such as using a personal loan have pros and cons. Before making a decision, research all your options and make sure that you know the drawbacks before proceeding.
Paying More Interest
If you don’t have good credit, you may not be able to qualify for a personal loan with a lower interest rate than most credit cards. Personal loan interest rates averaged 9.37 percent for 2018, according to Experian, but can be much higher. You don’t want to end up paying more than the original credit card interest, choose carefully.
You May Go Deeper Into Debt
Once your credit cards are free and clear, it’s all too tempting to use your new lines of credit as a new source of cash and get back into debt even deeper than before.
Just because you’ve consolidated your credit card debt into a personal loan doesn’t mean you can stop creating better spending habits.
Make a pact not to use your credit cards anymore, and faithfully pay back your personal loan every month. Any extra money you save should go to your personal loan balance. If you’re not sure about your willingness to budget and save, a personal loan may not be the best choice for you.
Slower Debt Payoff Plan
When my husband and I consolidated our debt from four credit card accounts into a single personal loan, our monthly debt payment dropped from $891 to $517. While the extra cash flow has helped our budget, it’s easy to use it for discretionary spending. Doing this will slow down our debt payoff plan and keep us in debt longer.
The right answer is to use the extra funds to build up a small emergency fund. This will help prevent you from getting further into debt and to continue trying to make larger payments toward your debt every month. You want to use the personal loan to jump-start getting out of debt sooner — not to stay in debt longer.
Tips for Credit Card-Debt Consolidation
Consolidating the debt into a personal loan can save you the trouble of juggling multiple debts with different companies. However, that doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods yet. There are a number of additional considerations you should take into account when using a personal loan to pay off credit card debt.
Abstain From Using Credit Cards
Once you’ve shifted your debt from credit cards to a loan, don’t slip back to using credit cards. Doing so will amplify your debt, requiring you to focus on paying off both a consolidated personal loan and your plastic debt.
Pay It Forward
If you have some extra cash lying around, put it toward your consolidated debt, if you’re able to. This will eliminate your debt more quickly and avoid additional interest.
See If There’s Budget Wiggle Room
To that end, if you find yourself in the black at the end of each month, readjust your monthly budget so you can aggressively tackle your outstanding balance.
Know Your Interest Rate
Remember, the purpose of debt consolidation is to avoid the hassle of paying off multiple accounts and to lower your interest rate. As such, read the fine print before signing on to a consolidated debt; make sure you don’t actually end up paying more.
Want to learn more about personal loans? Check out our ultimate guide to how personal loans work.
Additional reporting by Connor Beckett McInerney.