Credit card debt can bring your credit score down and keep you from qualifying for loans or additional lines of credit. If debt is keeping your score low, start paying off your credit card bills and follow these six simple tips to help eliminate debt quickly and responsibly:
1. Get organized
When faced with credit card debt, you must have an action plan. U.S. News & World Report suggested organizing the debt you have accrued to determine which bill to pay off first.
"The best move from a purely financial perspective is to attack the highest-interest rate cards first," said Scott Halliwell, a certified financial planner at USAA, according to U.S. News & World Report. "Roll all the money you were applying to [the highest-interest card] each month to the debt with the next-highest interest rate. And so goes the process until all the debt is eliminated."
Bank of America noted that focusing on paying one balance at a time, while also paying the minimums on other lines of credit, can quicken the process.
"If you pay off a credit card, do not close the account."
2. Consolidate Debt
By combining several balances and refinancing to gain a lower rate, you can better tackle your debts. However, make sure you know and understand any balance-transfer fees that your bank may charge.
Once you consolidate, don't add to your your overall debt accumulation, noted Credit.com. Focus on chipping away at what you have already accrued.
3. Commit to more than the minimum
While paying off credit card debt, make sure you are writing a check for more than just the minimum that's due. When you only commit to paying the minimum, you are also committing to the slowest and least affordable strategy, according to Bankrate. Before sending in your payment, determine how much you can afford to pay each month so you can chip away at your debt quickly and avoid paying more in interest.
4. Don't close accounts
If you pay off a credit card, do not close the account. One of the ways your credit score is measured is by your financial history. By keeping a line of credit open after you have paid off the debt, you have created positive credit information, as Credit.com explained. After you close an account, it will be removed completely from your credit report and will no longer work in your favor.
Instead of closing an account, cease using the credit card to avoid developing a high debt-to-limit ratio.
5. Avoid stealing from your other accounts
While it might be appealing to use money that is already in your retirement or savings account for your current debt, avoid this temptation.
"Do not go into retirement savings for credit card debt," said Mary Ellen Nicol, a former counselor at the nonprofit credit counseling organization CredAbility, according to Bankrate. "It's too expensive."
You may face penalties as high as 25 percent if you take out funds from your retirement account too early. This is not only expensive, but it also cuts into your financial security once you near the retirement age.
Emergency accounts are also very important and should not be compromised to address your current debt.
"Losing your job is an emergency. Paying off your credit card is not," noted John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at CreditSesame, according to Bankrate. "It's a financial burden to carry debt."
If you cut into those savings, you are treading in dangerous waters should an actual emergency arise.
Instead, consider putting off savings or retirement account contributions for a bit and use the funds to pay off your credit card debts. Once you have settled, begin funneling money back into your other accounts.
6. Stay current
Your car and mortgage payments remain very important despite any credit card debt. Resist the temptation to skip one of these payments and use the funds to knock out a chunk of your credit card debt. It puts you at a higher risk for foreclosure or repossession.
While credit card debt can wreak havoc on your credit score, you must be responsible and efficient when paying it off. Develop a plan for eliminating the debt you've accrued, and begin seeing the improvements to your credit score. Armed with a better financial history, you can ensure continual financial success.