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How Bad Is a $10,000 Balance on Your Credit Card?

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Carrying a credit card balance is a part of life for many Americans. The average American credit card debt is $6,501, according to research by The Motley Fool Ascent. And because of how interest charges add up, people who are in credit card debt often find themselves falling into a deeper and deeper hole.

If you have a $10,000 balance on your credit card, you may be wondering whether that’s cause for concern. To be completely honest, this much credit card debt is a big problem. Here’s a look at how much it could cost you and what you can do to pay it off.

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Here’s how much a $10,000 credit card balance could cost you

To get an idea of how much your credit card balance costs you, multiply your balance by your card’s annual percentage rate (APR). The average credit card APR is 21.59%, according to Federal Reserve data. If this is the APR on your card, carrying a $10,000 balance would cost you $2,159 per year.

One of the dangers with credit card debt is that it seems manageable when you’re only looking at the minimum payment amount. Minimum payments are usually about 2% of your balance. So you could keep up with your credit card payments by paying about $200 per month. This sometimes gives cardholders a false sense of security.

But let’s say you pay that $200 per month on a card with a $10,000 balance and a 21.59% APR. It would take you 129 months (over 10 years!) to pay off your card and cost you $15,779 in interest. And that’s assuming you didn’t charge anything else to your card the whole time.

How to get out of credit card debt

Because of how costly credit card debt is, it’s best to pay it off as quickly as possible. Even with large amounts of debt, there are a few steps you can take to speed up the process.

Stop using your credit cards

People often stay in debt longer than necessary because they keep using their credit cards. This isn’t a good idea. You’ll be charged interest on those new purchases, and any charges you make will add to your debt.

Don’t use your credit cards while you’re in debt. Take them out of your wallet and remove them from online accounts, so you’re not even tempted to pay with them. Stick to payment methods that won’t cost you interest or add to your debt, like your debit card and cash.

Cut expenses wherever you can

Take some time to look at where you’re spending money every month. For any expenses you don’t need, see if you can cut back or cut them entirely.

Groceries are one of the most common sources of overspending. Lots of people could save an extra $100 to $200 or more just by tightening up their grocery spending. Streaming services are another place you may be able to free up some cash. You don’t need to get rid of all of them. But if you’re currently paying for three or four streaming services, trim it down to one for now.

Direct all your extra money toward your credit cards

When you’re in credit card debt, that’s where your extra money should be going. All that money you freed up by cutting back on expenses? Put it toward your credit cards. Earn any extra income from picking up more hours at work? Put it toward your credit cards.

If you’re currently saving or investing any money, redirect most of that to your credit cards. It’s fine to save and invest a little — those are good habits, so it’s good not to completely stop them. But you shouldn’t be putting a large portion of your money into either right now. You’ll get a much better return by paying down credit card debt, since that’s likely costing you 20% or more in annual interest.

Look into debt consolidation loans or balance transfer cards

Depending on your credit score, you may be able to refinance your credit card debt. In general, people with cardholders in the mid-600s or higher can normally qualify for loans or balance transfer cards. Here’s how these work:

  • Debt consolidation loans: You get a personal loan and use it to pay off your credit card debt. Loans normally have lower interest rates than credit cards, and you’ll have a fixed payment amount and timeframe to pay off your debt this way.
  • Balance transfer credit cards: You open a credit card with a 0% intro APR on balance transfers. For the intro period, which can be 18 months or longer with some cards, you won’t be charged any interest on balances you transfer over.

Both of these options can help you save money on interest and pay off your debt more quickly. Just keep in mind that it’s still important to pay as much as you can toward your debt, even if you refinance it.

A $10,000 credit card balance is a significant amount of debt. But if you work hard on paying it off, you could be debt-free faster than you think. If you pay $500 per month, you’ll be out of debt in 25 months — just over two years. And if you’re able to increase your payment amounts or refinance your debt along the way, you’ll pay it off even sooner.

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The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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