A few years back my husband and I were burdened by credit card debt. The one thing that compounded the problem was late fees. In some cases our balance was doubled by additional late fees. We had so many cards that we could not keep track of what was due when. The physical act of having to write a check for all the bills was so stressful that we tended to put it off which only made the problem worse. Then I discovered a useful tool:
Automatic Bill Pay Service
Management of your credit cards is essential in order to maintain a good credit rating. One way to avoid late fees is to use automatic bill paying. Using this simple tool can get you back on track and avoid costly late fees.
Many banks today offer bill pay service for customers who access their bank accounts online. Some offer this service free if you have more than one account or sign up for other services. If you use Quicken® to manage your bank accounts it also has bill pay built into it and will automatically send instructions to your bank for each online payment you have.
When you take advantage of these useful tools the bank sends a check or Electronic Funds Payment (EFT) to make the payment for you. You can schedule one payment or a series of payments to recur every month. Be sure to schedule payments at least a week before the due date for each credit card you have and keep your grace period in mind so that the least amount of interest accrues.
Now I just schedule the amounts and dates into my online bill pay program. My bills get paid on time and I don't even have to pay the postage!
Want to lower your interest rate?
Ask your credit card company for a rate reduction.
Many of us receive credit card offers in the mail asking to transfer our balance. These offers often come with an incentive such as 0% interest for the first few months or a lower APR.
Ask and You Will Receive.
If you ask your current credit card company they will often reduce your APR immediately, but you have to ask. Remember, they want to keep you as a customer so it is to their advantage to reduce your rate instead of you taking your account elsewhere. Credit card representatives are authorized to reduce your rate within certain parameters. If you did this with all your credit cards the savings could be substantial.
Negotiate your credit card balance.
One way to reduce your credit card debt is to negotiate with the credit card company to reduce your balance and pay off the card. If you've taken out a home equity loan or sold your house recently you probably have some cash on hand. Use this to pay off those credit cards. But there are some things you need to be aware off:
1. The difference between the balance and the reduced negotiated amount is reported as 1099 income by the credit card companies. So you'll have to pay income tax on the forgiven amount.
2. It will create a negative item on your credit score.
Use this tactic very carefully and consult with your financial advisor or attorney.
Using any or all of these strategies can go a long way toward managing your credit cards. The important thing is to be consistent and don’t have more cards in your wallet than you can manage properly.
Karen Morrison is the webmaster of http://www.mycreditindex.com which offers information about obtaining credit and managing debt.