By Brian Acton, Credit.com
If you have a monthly credit card payment you could do without, you aren’t alone. The average American between 18 and 65 has more than $4,000 in credit card debt, and if you carry a balance from month to month, you’re automatically making a larger credit card payment than necessary.
Here are nine common-sense ways to shrink your credit card payment.
1. Make Larger Payments Now
While it may sound counterproductive, making larger credit card payments now will reduce future payments — provided you aren’t racking up too many charges and undoing your progress. By making more than the minimum payment, you can reduce your overall balance — and the amount of interest you’re accruing.
If you have disposable income, this should be an easy step. If you don’t, some budget tightening can help free up cash for a larger payment.
2. Reduce Credit Card Spending
If your purchases are affecting your ability to manage your credit card payments, it could be time to curb your spending. You can analyze your monthly credit card statement to determine what types of purchases are costing the most. For instance, if restaurants and bars make up a large portion of your credit card bill, you may want to start cooking more meals at home.
3. Stop Using Your Card Entirely
If your balance is out of control or way over the recommended credit-utilization rate, you may want to eliminate credit card spending altogether. Instead, you can use only your available funds for expenses as you work to pay down your debt. This way, you won’t add to your balance and over time your minimum payment will drop.
“For many people, the problem isn’t that they aren’t paying money toward their balance but that they keep charging more to it,” said Brian Davis, cofounder of SparkRental.com. “In that case, they should leave their credit card at home, in a drawer, and only spend cash until they’ve paid off their credit card debt. Spending cash feels quite different than swiping plastic — people intuitively track their spending and how much cash is left in their wallet, because it’s real and tangible.”
4. Negotiate Lower Interest Rates
One of the simplest ways to reduce your monthly credit card payment a bit is to lower your interest rate. You can call your credit card company and ask them to adjust your annual percentage APR (more about lowering your interest rate here). If you have a long history of timely payments, they may comply without much fuss. Even if you don’t have success at first, you can keep calling to reach other representatives or ask to speak with a manager.
5. Transfer Your Balance
Balance transfers are another common way to lower interest rates. Many credit cards offer introductory periods of a 0% APR for balance transfers, which gives you an interest-free timeframe to pay down your balance. The APR will kick in when that timeframe is up, so you’ll want to choose a card with a lower APR than you currently have and/or do your very best to pay off the balance before that window is up. Keep in mind you’ll likely have to pay a one-time fee per balance transfer, which usually amounts to $5 or 3 to 5% of the transfer amount, though there are one or two cards out there that will let you avoid that fee.
“One way to lower your monthly credit card bill is to open a new card with a 0% APR for an introductory period, and transfer your existing credit card balances to it,” said Davis. “That will buy you some breathing room to pay down the balance without huge portions of the payment going toward interest.”
6. Prioritize Payments
If you’ve got multiple balances, some strategic resource allocation can help you pay them down more quickly — and ultimately lower your monthly obligations. Make sure you’re making all your minimum payments on-time, but put the most money you can toward the balance with the highest interest rate. That’ll keep that balance from burgeoning and save you more dough in the long run.
7. Ask Your Card Issuer for a Payment Plan
If you’re in serious financial trouble, you could talk to your credit card issuer about a long-term repayment plan. That’s not going to go a long-way to lowering your credit card bill in the short-term, but it can help you avoid late fees, default and bigger money woes while you work to improve your financial health.
Credit card companies sometimes offer alternative payment plans to customers experiencing financial hardship. Keep in mind these plans will differ from company to company and may require you to close your account.
8. Improve Your Credit Score
Better credit usually leads to better interest rates, which can lead to lower payments. Once you’ve significantly improved your credit, you may be able to negotiate a better rate with your current credit card issuer or qualify for other cards that have better rates. If you’re not sure where your credit stands, you can view two of your credit scores on Credit.com for free.
9. Pay Off Your Balance Each Month
Paying off your balance each month is the ideal way to use a credit card. It eliminates interest and keeps you from accruing debt. No matter your financial standing, paying off your balance in full each month should be the ultimate goal.
Trying to lower all your monthly bills? You can find a full 13 ways to lower your car insurance premium here.
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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.