How to get out of credit card debt

January 8, 2009 5:18:28 PM PST
Is this the year you've vowed to wipe out your credit card debt? If so, you're not alone.[READ MORE: Transcript of chat with money expert Marilyn Logan]

A recent survey found that nearly one in three people don't pay off their holiday bills until March or later, but two out of three are vowing to do better this year.

Money experts say that if you want to get ahead financially, getting out of credit card debt is the first and most important step to take.

Teresa Coleman has so much credit card debt, she's not even sure how much she owes.

"I would average from $10,000 to $20,000," said Coleman.

She wants to get rid of the debt, but she doesn't want to give up her favorite thing: shopping.

"I can always find something, always find something I need," said Coleman

Money expert Marilyn Logan says Coleman, like so many others, has to make some changes.

"I don't want you using your credit card at all, it's so important to save every penny. There are a lot of people out there today who want pretend like it (debt) does not exist, and put their head in the sand and hopefully when I wake up, it will be all gone," said Logan.

If this rings true with you, you're not alone. Logan offered some advice about how to pay off credit cards.

"Always attack the largest enemy and the largest enemy is the highest interest rate," said Logan.

That means finding out which of your credit cards has the highest interest rate. Tackle that one first. Try to double or triple your minimum payments.

"Cutting up your credit cards is a wonderful idea," said Logan.

That will help to eliminate the temptation. Once you get the card down to a zero balance, don't use it. But don't close the account either. Logan says those zero balances actually help your credit score.

"The older your credit card, the higher your credit score," said Logan.

As for consolidating credit card debt, Logan said, "It could be a good idea if you promise yourself you will not go back to the credit cards that now have a zero balance and charge them up again."

Getting out of credit card debt won't be easy, but drastic times call for drastic measures. We asked Teresa Coleman if she would cut up a credit card.

After some initial hesitation, Coleman did cut up two credit cards, but she couldn't part with the eight others she had.

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