What’s the Best Way to Pay off Multiple Credit Cards?

Credit card debt, especially across multiple cards, can be one of the most debilitating forms of debt. Roughly 54% of Americans struggle with credit card debt, damaging their credit scores and leading to financial headaches.

But with a solid plan, you can get that debt under control, sometimes without even paying it all. To learn how, read on.

15 Ways to Eliminate Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt is a major issue in the United States. Credit card debt totaled $840 billion as of the first quarter of 2022. On an individual level, the average household in 2021 had between $5,525 and $8,701 in credit card debt.

Americans are dealing with this on top of skyrocketing student loans and medical bills, making the juggling act to balance all of these payments almost impossible. High interest rates and variable APRs cause debt to accrue quickly, digging people into a hole before they’ve even realized what happened.

Credit scores take a major hit too when cards are maxed out or close to the credit limit, limiting the financial options people have to better themselves.

Despite this reality, there are a multitude of ways for borrowers to pay off their credit cards, enabling them to regain financial stability.

1. Debt Consolidation

One way to tackle your credit card debt is through debt consolidation. This method involves taking out one loan to pay off many other smaller loans. There are few different ways to do this, but the main benefits are:

  • It makes repayment more manageable by cutting your total loans to one
  • Lower interest rates mean you’ll pay less over the life of the loan
  • Consolidating everything helps to ensure you don’t accrue multiple late fees or penalties across your loans
  • It makes repayment more manageable by cutting your total loans to one
  • Lower interest rates mean you’ll pay less over the life of the loan
  • Consolidating everything helps to ensure you don’t accrue multiple late fees or penalties across your loans

A debt consolidation loan allows you to take out a new, bigger loan, ideally at a lower interest rate, to pay off your high-interest credit cards. The lower interest rate will save you money in the long run and, with only a single monthly payment, this will help ease your budget crunch and give you extra money to cover your daily expenses.

2. Balance Transfer Credit Card

This is the process where borrowers transfer their credit card balance to a new credit card to take advantage of a lower, introductory APR. This new rate can be as low as 0%, though you’ll have to pay a balance transfer fee. That said, having up to 20 months with no interest helps you tackle your debt faster. Citi, Discover, and Wells Fargo all offer products with an intro APR offer and no annual fee.

3. Hire a Professional

Sometimes the best way to pay off multiple credit cards is to work with the experts. Two of the most common strategies are building a debt management plan or reaching a debt settlement.

Debt Management Plan 

By visiting a nonprofit credit counseling agency, you can work with a counselor to design a debt management plan (DMP) to repay your credit cards. This can make your debt more manageable to pay back as the counselor will create a plan in agreement with your creditors that rolls multiple loans together into a single debt, typically with a lower interest rate.

Debt Settlement

By working with a debt settlement company, you can negotiate with your creditors to reduce your debt total. The company will offer a lump-sum payment to the creditor in exchange for a portion of the debt being forgiven, usually up to a max of 50% of the original loan.

READ MORE: Here are our top picks for best debt settlement companies.

4. Negotiate with Your Credit Card Companies and Other Creditors

At the end of the day, card issuers want to get paid. Some will work with you on repayment plans and reduce the amount you owe to ensure they get something. While it can seem intimidating, there’s no harm in trying to negotiate with your creditors. Do your homework before you contact your lenders to give yourself the best chance.

5. Debt Snowball Method

This debt repayment method is where you pay off the credit card with the lowest balance first. By paying off a debt completely, this can serve as a motivator to tackle the next loan, thereby creating a “snowball” effect where one repayment leads to the next.

6. Debt Avalanche Method

The avalanche method is where you pay off the credit card accounts with the highest interest rates first, working your way down from there. This strategy ensures you eliminate the most damaging loans right off the bat, decelerating the pace at which interest is accruing against you. Whichever method you choose, make sure you continue to make monthly payments on your other bills to avoid late fees.

7. Find a Side Hustle or Ask for Overtime

A second job can help with some extra income to tackle your debt. Or, you can always try to ask for overtime at your current job. Uber can be a great side hustle that fits neatly into your schedule, and what you earn can be allocated directly toward debt repayment.

Looking for a side hustle? Here are a few options:

8. Downsize and Cut Expenses

Downsizing and cutting expenses is a smart way to stretch your budget. Moving to a cheaper place, getting a less expensive car/paying off your auto loan, cancelling subscriptions can all help you allocate more money toward repaying your debt. Finding a roommate to share in expenses is another great strategy.

9. Automate Payments

Automating your payments will help ensure you never miss a payment again. No more late fees and no more worrying about manually repaying the debt. This step will allow you to take control of your finances, even if you just pay the minimum amount. Just ensure there’s adequate funds to pay the bill each month and you’ll be all set.

10. Use Your Home’s Equity

By utilizing a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit (HELOC), you can borrow against the value of your home and put those funds to use by paying down your credit card debt. You could also explore mortgage refinancing to see if you qualify for a better interest rate that can help you put more money aside.

11. File For Bankruptcy 

Bankruptcy should be considered an absolute last resort option and only one you’d make if you exhausted all other routes. There are two main types of consumer bankruptcy: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. The main difference between the two is how you repay your debt. With Chapter 7, you’ll surrender all your non-exempt property to pay off your debt. Chapter 13 meanwhile involves creating a court-mandated repayment plan lasting three or five years to cover your debt.

This option will ruin your credit score for 10 years and certain types of debt won’t be forgiven (like student loans), but it could offer you a fresh start from credit card debt if you’re in dire need.

12. Review Your Credit Report and Learn Your Credit Score

People with bad credit pay the highest interest rates. By regularly checking your credit reports, fixing any errors you might find, and working to boost your credit score, you will have better loan options and more financial freedom. There are three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You get one free credit report from each per year. Some services will even give you a score boost for making your monthly subscription payments.

The most common credit score is FICO Scores, which are calculated using many different pieces of credit data in your credit report. This data is grouped into five categories: Payment history (35%), credit utilization (30%), length of credit history (15%), new credit (10%) and credit mix (10%). The scores go from 300-850 with rough ranges looking like this:

  • Poor credit: 300–600
  • Fair credit: 601–660
  • Good credit: 661–780
  • Excellent credit: 781–850

By making on-time payments and keeping your credit utilization low, you can start building your credit score month by month.

13. Assess Your Debt

Look through your credit card bills to figure out the total amount you owe. If you don’t know where you stand, coming up with an effective repayment strategy will be challenging. Once you know how much debt you have, start thinking about which loan you want to tackle first, and what the minimum payments are you’ll have to make on your other debts.

14. Track Your Income and Spending

Start tracking your income and spending so you can get a sense of how much money to put towards credit card repayment each month. Budgeting apps like Goodbudget and EveryDollar can be great for making it easy to see where all your money goes. Ensure that you track all of your monthly payments, expenditures, loans (including credit card, student, car), groceries etc. and your total interest charges so you know how much your debt is growing by.

15. When Your Credit Card Bills are Under Control, Start Saving

Once you’ve gotten a handle on your credit card bills, you can start putting more money aside into savings. This can help you build an emergency fund, start investing in your retirement, or enable you to save up for a big purchase.

The Bottom Line

The best way to pay off multiple credit cards is by utilizing one of, or a combination of any of the listed options above. Find a repayment strategy that works for you, and start chipping away at your debt one month at a time.

FAQs

Where Can I Get a Free Credit Score?

You can view your official free credit score here. Unofficial versions are available through your credit card company or bank.

Can a Credit Card Company Sue Me for Not Paying My Bills?

Yes they can. However, this is usually a last resort. Credit card companies will typically try to work with you before looking for a court judgment.

How Many Credit Cards Should I Have?

This depends, but generally two-to-four credit cards is considered a healthy number

What is a Secured Credit Card?

A secured credit card is designed for borrowers with bad or no credit. To receive a card, you must hand over a security deposit to your credit card issuer, which they hold while the account is open. This is similar to a security deposit given to a landlord to rent an apartment. If you don’t pay your bill, the credit card company will take from your deposit to cover it.