Best credit cards for helping to cut your debt

September 28, 2012 4:01:55 PM PDT
Consumers are doing their best to cut their credit card debt. In July, credit card debt went down by more than $3 billion. Even so, Americans owe billions on their credit cards and need helping paying off the balance.

Robert Muthumbi says he hasn't bought his kids a Christmas tree in two years and eating out is a rare treat, all in an effort to chip away at $10,000 in creditcard debt.

He said, "I've been really making efforts to pay them down, two or three times more than what the minimum payment that is due."

But with interest rates on his cards at 16 and 22 percent, he says he's barely making a dent. For families like the Muthumbis, Consumer Reports recommends transferring the balances to a card with a lower APR.

Greg Daugherty with Consumer Reports said, "You can often find cards with very low interest rates, even down to zero, for balance transfers. But look carefully at the terms because they can vary a lot from card to card."

You're often charged a balance transfer fee -- usually three to four percent up front. And the zero percent or low APR often lasts only 12 to 18 months.

Consumer Reports found the Chase Slate card is good for people who can pay off the balance quickly. It has zero interest for 15 months and no transfer fees in the first 60 days.

"But if you calculate that you won't be able to pay off your debt that quickly, you're better off with a card with a low, fixed interest rate," Daugherty advised.

Consumer Reports found one of the best such credit cards is the Penfed Promise. It currently has a low APR of 4.99 percent on transfers made before the end of the year and has no balance transfer fee. Be aware you need to be a member of the Penfed Credit Union, which can cost $15.

If Robert does transfer his balances, Consumer Reports recommends he try to get another card for any new purchases. He'll need to pay that one off in full every month to avoid going deeper in debt.

If you pay off all your credit card bills each month, Consumer Reports says a better choice for you is a card that offers rewards or cash back. A good choice is American Express Blue Cash Preferred. If you pay a $75 annual fee, you get six percent back at supermarkets, three percent back on gas and at department stores and one percent back everywhere else.


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