13 Free (or Cheap) Tips or Tricks to Pay Off Credit Cards and Be Debt-Free

Credit card debt is a pain, particularly if you’re juggling multiple bills each month. Here are some tips to help you get rid of it.

1. Transfer Your Balance

Interest is a killer. It’s what keeps your credit card balances high. To pay off your cards faster, transfer your balances to a card that offers a grace period for new balance transfers. This will eliminate your interest charges for 6-12 months, depending on the offer you choose.

Make sure you check the fine print! These offers usually have a catch: While you don’t get charged interest every month, the interest rate still applies. If you have any balance left at the end of your grace period, all of the interest you should have paid will get tacked on to what you still owe, and that balance will be subject to future interest rates. 

READ MORE: Here are the 12 Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards

2. Stop Using Your Credit Cards – Now

But do not close your accounts. Simply take your cards out of your wallet. Delete their information from your Apple or Google wallet. Store them somewhere safe but out of reach. 

You’ll want to keep them accessible enough that they’re available for an emergency but not so handy that you don’t have to think before using them to make a purchase. 

READ MORE: How Many Credit Cards are Too Many?

3. Automate Your Financial Life

Take advantage of direct deposits and automatic payments. This way, your bills get paid on time without you having to remember a bunch of due dates. 

Another reason to do this is that many vendors, like cell phone providers, offer discounts for people who enroll in automatic payments. You can put those savings toward your credit card debt!

READ MORE: 10 Signs Your Credit Card Debt is Out of Control

4: Call your Credit Card Company and Ask for an Interest Rate Reduction

Credit card companies want to work with you, especially if you have a good history of on-time payments. After you’ve automated your bill payments, call your credit card companies and ask them to reduce your interest rate. This can save you tons of money in the long run.

If you’re dealing with something like a medical emergency or sudden job loss make sure to tell them! Some creditors have programs for people in these situations. 

READ MORE: Debt Settlement — Is it the Cheapest Way to Get Out of Debt?

5. Try Debt Snowball or Debt Avalanche

You know how much you can afford to spend monthly on credit card bills. The easiest approach is to make sure that the minimum payments due are taken care of. Then, if you have anything left over in your bill-paying budget, distribute it evenly across your cards. 

A better way is to make sure that every card’s minimum payment is covered and then take everything left-over and apply it to one of your cards at a time using either the “snowball” or “avalanche” method. 

These are great motivators because they let you see real progress being made toward your goals. Here’s how they work:

  • Debt Snowball: Pay off the card with the smallest balance first, then the next smallest, etc.
  • Debt Avalanche: Pay off the card with the highest interest rate, then the next highest, etc.

The avalanche method tends to save the most money in the long term, but the snowball method is fantastic for seeing real progress quickly. Choose the method that works best for you, and go for it! 

READ MORE: 12 of the Best Ways to Eliminate Credit Card Debt

6. Look for Painless Spending Cuts

Are you actually using all of the services you’ve subscribed to? Probably not! Cut the ones you haven’t used in the last couple of months or that don’t give you your money’s worth. 

You can save money on groceries by making a meal plan and a list before you go shopping. When you know what you’re going to buy you can look for deals like coupons, etc. You’re also less susceptible to impulse purchases.

Libraries can provide you with the same entertainment you’ve been paying for: they offer digital and physical books, magazines, newspapers, movies, music, classes, live programming, etc. Take a look at what your local library offers its cardholders. 

If you’re stumped, take a deep breath and head to Google. Hundreds of articles offer suggestions for how to save money on everyday expenses and reduce your spending.

READ MORE: How to Save Money Around the Home

7. Take on a Side Hustle or Ask for Overtime Shifts

Side hustle opportunities are everywhere. Driving for a ride share or delivery service on your days off can help bring in extra bucks. So can working overtime (if your employer allows it). 

Freelancing, pet sitting, dog walking, selling your arts and crafts, etc., can all be great resources for bringing in additional income. Gig Apps can help you find these opportunities. 

READ MORE: Need to Make $500 Fast? Here are 24 Easy Ways

8. Sell Stuff You Don’t Use

Marie Kondo your home. Sell everything that you don’t use anymore and/or that no longer brings you joy. You can have a garage sale or, if you prefer, sell your belongings online. Sites like Craigslist, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, etc., are all great resources if you’d prefer to sell online.

READ MORE: 29 Legitimate Ways to Sell Shoes Online

9. Make Weekly Payments

Just because your credit cards send bills every month doesn’t mean that’s the only way to make your payments. You might have more luck making a payment weekly or every payday. 

When you go this route, you must keep very careful track of your spending. If you find that you’re getting close to going over budget, look for ways to reduce spending so that you’ll be prepared for the next billing cycle.

READ MORE: Do You Need Money Now? 22 Ways to Get Quick Cash

10. Try Debt Consolidation

Debt Consolidation combines all of your individual credit card bills into a single debt with just one interest rate (hopefully lower than the rates you’re currently paying). Having a single payment is much easier to budget for and manage. And since you’re only dealing with one interest charge, you might even save money in the long run.

There are a couple of ways to consolidate your debt. If your credit score is still good, you could simply take out a loan to pay off your existing debts. If your score is bad, you can sign up for credit counseling. 

READ MORE: 8 Ways to Consolidate Your Credit Card Debt

11. Sign up for Credit Counseling

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you first start working on paying off your debt. Credit counselors can help you evaluate your current spending habits, your debt obligations, etc. They can also help you create a Debt Management Plan to repay your debts. 

Make sure that you work with a non-profit credit counseling agency. These agencies won’t charge you nearly as much for their help as private counselors will. Some of these agencies even offer their services for free!

READ MORE: Credit Counseling — How Does It Work?

12. Use a Budgeting App

There are a lot of fantastic free or low-cost budgeting apps out there. Budgeting apps are great because they can break your spending down into easy-to-understand metrics. Many will also offer ideas for reducing spending and identifying weak spots in your budget. Some will even help you save money by automatically sending “extra” money into a savings account.

To learn more about the best budgeting apps, check out this video:

13. Put Extra Money to Work

Tax refunds, birthday gifts, work bonuses, etc. can all be put to work helping you pay off your debt. Put all of these toward your debt to reach your goals faster.

READ MORE: A Complete Guide to Debt Relief Programs

Why Being Debt Free Is Important

Carrying debt is stressful. It wreaks havoc on your credit score. That, in turn, affects your ability to obtain funding when needed. Having debt payments also reduces how much money you can save for emergencies, retirement, etc. 

Being debt free erases all of those problems. Your credit score will go up. When you don’t have that cloud of debt hanging over you, you’ll have an easier time renting an apartment, saving to buy your own home or car, etc. You’ll also be able to treat yourself once in a while without feeling guilty. 

READ MORE: Why Did My Credit Score Drop? Here are 10 Possible Reasons

Understand How the Debt Happened

The last thing you need is to find yourself right back where you started. It’s important that you understand not only how to pay off your debt but how you accumulated all that debt to begin with. 

Go over your credit card and bank statements. Pay attention to where your money was going and your spending habits. You’ll likely be able to identify a bunch of ways to reduce your spending and increase your savings. 

Building up your savings and emergency funds is crucial to avoiding future debt. When you have an emergency fund and a healthy savings account, you won’t have to rely on credit cards if an emergency expense pops up.

READ MORE: American Consumer Debt Statistics

Credit Card Debt Statistics

The total amount of outstanding credit card debt as of the first quarter of 2022 was a whopping $1.103 trillion The average credit card debt in 2021 was between $5,525 and $8,701 per household.

There are 511 million credit card accounts, and 205 million are new cards.

In more promising news, however, Americans are getting better at managing their debt. In 2009, almost 11% of cardholders were delinquent. However, in the second quarter of 2021, that rate was down to 3.39%.

READ MORE: U.S. Credit Card Debt Statistics

The Bottom Line

Carrying credit card debt is bad for you. It hurts your financial health, and the stress it causes can also hurt your physical and mental health. The sooner you can get out of credit card debt, the better. 


How Can I Boost My Credit Score?

First, make sure that your credit report is error-free. Correcting errors can raise your score! 
Paying off your credit card debt is an important step in boosting your credit score. The more you pay off, the better your debt-to-income ratio becomes. 
Another step is to start using your credit responsibly. Opening up a secured line of credit or taking out a credit-builder loan can help here. 
Look into programs that report your on-time bill payments (for utilities, rent, etc.) to the credit bureaus. These on-time payments can help offset late payments or delinquencies that might still be on your report.

Do Subscriptions Build Credit?

They can! Programs like Perch and Experian Boost allow people to use their subscriptions to help boost their credit scores. 
You could also transfer your subscription payments to a secured card (or a card whose balance you’ve paid off) and then pay that balance in full every month. 

How Can I Fix Errors on my Credit Report

Some credit monitoring programs have built-in mechanisms that facilitate error reporting between consumers and credit bureaus. 
Alternatively, you can file error disputes directly with the three major credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Each bureau has an online portal that consumers can use to simplify the process.

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