As the first post-holiday credit card bills hit mailboxes and email inboxes nationwide, paying back holiday debt is officially a priority for consumers.
According to the American Research Group, Inc. the average American spent $854 on holiday gifts alone in 2012, up a full 32% from the previous year. That means holiday debt is a real concern for those consumers that opted to splurge last December.
With that in mind, Creditnet.com, a leading online authority for credit repair and debt management advice, came up with three ways to help shoppers kick holiday debt quickly.
“The worst thing consumers can do is to procrastinate on paying back holiday credit card bills,” Jason Bushey, Vice President of Operations at Creditnet, said. “The longer it takes to pay back holiday purchases made on a credit card, the more interest will accrue, and that’s where shoppers can run into that snowball effect of increased credit debt that we always warn against.”
To help expedite the elimination of holiday credit debt for the average shopper., Creditnet today announced three tips to kick holiday debt quickly:
1.) Consider a balance transfer
0% interest balance transfer credit cards give consumers the opportunity to move debt from an old credit card with high interest to a new, 0 interest credit card.
The best balance transfer cards apply 0% interest during the intro period to balance transfers, allowing consumers to take the credit debt accrued on one card and move it to another. This is perfect for consumers struggling with holiday debt because it can eliminate some or all interest fees, which could add up to anywhere from 11% to 30% of the total minimum payment owed each month.
Eliminating interest will allow consumers down the balance owed on a credit card directly, and helps to erase the possibility of snowballing debt; this is a primary consequence of interest fees, according to Creditnet.
Consumers with exceptional holiday credit debt should consider balance transfer cards with the longest intro periods. The Discover it™ – 18 Month Balance Transfer Card is the newest balance transfer card on the market to offer consumers 18 months to pay zero interest on purchases and balance transfers. The fee to transfer debt is 3% of the total balance transfer being made – the standard rate for credit card balance transfers.
2.) Use tax returns to pay down debt
American consumers that receive a tax return in the upcoming weeks should use that return to pay back holiday debt, says Creditnet.
According to the IRS, the average tax return in 2012 was $2,289. Unfortunately, the average credit card debt per borrower in Q3 was close to $5,000, that according to a report from the credit bureau TransUnion. So while the average tax return wouldn’t pay back the average credit debt, it could go a long way towards paying back holiday debt for the average consumer.
Creditnet.com says that the only con to this strategy is that it could take a while to actually receive a tax return; perhaps longer than initially hoped when attempting to pay back credit debt quickly. However, since consumers will have a good estimate on an expected return and the comfort of knowing a free check is eventually on the way, Creditnet encourages making paying back holiday debt a priority, then enjoying the fruits of the tax season later on.
Essentially, pay up front to alleviate holiday debt, then use a tax return later on to make up the difference in checking and savings accounts.
3.) Stop charging, start saving
Finally, Creditnet.com recommends that the average consumer take a break from charging and put a new priority on saving in the new year.
After all, adding debt surely won’t help to pay back holiday debt. In order to make a concerted effort to pay down holiday debt in 2013, credit experts like Creditnet stress the importance of paying back debt and building up savings as a priority in the post-holiday months.
Consumers are encouraged to hold off on credit card purchases for as long as it takes to pay back respective holiday debts, and Creditnet urges consumers to make credit card payments a No. 1 priority since even one credit card default can be a credit score killer.
Overall, Creditnet recommends transferring debt to a new, 0% interest credit card or using a tax return to pay back holiday debt, and to make paying back holiday debt the number one priority to maintain a high credit score in the post-holiday months.