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Is Credit Card Debt Costing You?


Credit card debt is something that hangs over many Americans. According to the Federal Reserve, in April 2013, the average credit card debt equaled $ 3,364 per U.S. adult. This assumes that EVERY adult has a credit card and that those cards carry debt. Of course, not all adults own a credit card. Young Americans are among those ditching their credit cards.

The only way to reduce credit card debt is to make payments each month and not add to that debt. The main way to reduce this even faster is to pay more than the minimum payment each month.

Save Nearly $ 4,000 by Paying More than the Minimum Balance

By only paying the minimum monthly balance, you are guaranteed to pay this debt for a longer time and pay more in total cost. For example:

Total Credit Card Debt

Monthly Payment

Years to Pay Off

Total Cost

$ 3,364 (at 14.96% Interest)

$ 67.28 (min. payment)

19 Years 5 Months

$ 7,618.63

$ 3,364 (at 14.96% Interest)

$ 87.28 (min. payment +$ 20)

4 Years 4 Months

$ 4,533.67

$ 3,364 (at 14.96% Interest)

$ 107.28 (minimum payment +$ 40)

3 Years 4 Months

$ 4,225.11

$ 3,364 (at 14.96% Interest)

$ 167.28  (minimum payment +$ 100)

1 Year 1 Month

$ 3,841.40

Similar information is available on your monthly credit card statement.  It will identify how long it will take you to pay your debt if you only pay the minimum or if you pay a little extra.  More info on how to read your bill is found at:  http://www.federalreserve.gov/creditcard/flash/readingyourbill.pdf

You also can use an online calculator to determine costs and payoff information.

Want to avoid the minimum payment trap completely? Follow these tips from financial experts:

  • Know What You Owe – Make a list of all outstanding debt balances with the names of creditors, monthly payments, and APRs (interest rates).
  • Run the Numbers – Use the Minimum Payment Calculator http://www.federalreserve.gov/creditcardcalculator/ and calculate the cost of making minimum and larger payments on various amounts of debt.
  • Use a “power payment” to pay off your debt.  Visit http://powerpay.org/
  • Read the Numbers – Check your credit card statements about the cost of making minimum payments.
  • Pay Cash – Instead of making new purchases with a credit card and adding them to outstanding balances, save up and pay cash (or use a debit card) to avoid interest charges.
  • Set a Goal – To know how much to save, set a target date and dollar amount and work backwards. For example, $ 3,000 for a big screen television in a year requires weekly savings of about $ 58 ($ 3,000 ÷ 52).

In the example above, finding an extra $ 100 a month to apply to credit card payments reduces the time it will take you to pay off this debt from over 19 years to just over one year AND saves you nearly $ 4,000.

Need help finding ways to save? Take the Florida Saves pledge to make a commitment to yourself to save and to receive emails and/or text messages to keep you motivated.

Contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension office to find more ways and resources to help you manage your money.  Be sure to join us for the Women & Money Program Oct. 1, 8, & 15!



Author: Elaine Courtney – ecourtne@ufl.edu

Family & Consumer Sciences faculty with University of Florida/IFAS Extension in Okaloosa County.

Elaine Courtney

Permanent link to this article: http://okaloosa.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/09/04/is-credit-card-debt-costing-you/