Millions of Americans rely on credit cards to finance large transactions and grow their credit. But is it normal to have credit card debt? Do you have too much debt? Learn how carrying a credit card balance can impact your credit utilization and credit score.
How Much Credit Card Debt Do Most People Have?
It is normal to have credit card debt. Most financial consumers have a balance, but certain generations carry more credit card debt than others. According to Experian, the average consumer debt balance for credit cards was $5,221 in 2021.
To better understand your financial standing, take a look at the average credit card debt by generation for 2021:
- Generation Z (18-24) – $2,282
- Millennials (25-40) – $4,576
- Generation X (41-56) – $7,070
- Baby boomers (57-75) – $5,804
- Silent generation (76+) – $3,177
There is no correct answer to the question, “How much credit card debt is too much?” Ideal credit card balances depend on your income and financial standing. Too much debt for one person may be manageable for another. However, your credit utilization rate should not exceed 30% of your overall credit limits. Maxing out your credit cards can negatively impact your credit history and cost you extra money.
What Is Credit Card Utilization? How Does It Impact Credit?
There are five key factors that directly impact your credit score. In order of importance, these factors include payment history (35%), credit utilization (30%), length of credit history (15%), credit inquiries (10%), and credit mix (10%).
Credit utilization plays an essential role in the credit score calculation process because your total debt accounts for 30% of your FICO score. Your credit utilization ratio is the difference between your total credit card debt and your total credit limit. To build and maintain a good credit score, keep your credit utilization ratio under 30% of your available credit limit.
To calculate your credit utilization ratio, add up your credit card balances and credit limits. Divide your total credit card debt by your total credit limit, and then multiply the number by 100. The final calculation is your utilization ratio.
Suppose you have multiple credit cards with the following details:
- Card 1 – Balance of $1,200 with a $2,000 credit limit.
- Card 2 – Balance of $500 with a $3,000 credit limit.
Your total balance for both credit cards is $1,700, and your total available credit is $5,000. When you divide $1,700 by $5,000, you get 0.34. Multiplying 0.34 by 100 results in 34%, which is your credit utilization ratio. Since your ratio is higher than 30%, it’s a good idea to consider making higher credit card payments to pay down your total debt.
Risks of Making Minimum Payments on Your Credit Card
The ability to make minimum payments is one of the main benefits of credit cards. The minimum amount depends on the credit card issuer, but typically you can pay as little as $20 to $40 each month. However, paying only the minimum on your credit card can cost you more money and leave you in debt longer.
It’s critical to know how to calculate a credit card payment to clearly understand how long it will take to pay off your credit card debt. The easiest way to calculate your credit card payoff date is to use an online credit card payoff calculator. You will need to know your total credit card balance, APR, and minimum monthly payment amount.
Suppose you have one credit card with a $1,500 balance, 20% APR, and a $40 minimum payment. If you only pay the minimum each month, it will take approximately 60 payments to pay off your credit card. You will end up paying $873.63 in just interest fees! That’s extra cash you could spend on other crucial bills.
Making higher monthly debt payments can help you save money and improve your credit by lowering your credit utilization. Significant credit card payments can help you become debt free sooner! Once you are debt-free, you can start focusing on growing your savings or planning a luxury vacation!
How To Manage and Pay Down Credit Card Debt
If you are struggling with too much debt, know that strategies are available to pay off credit card debt aggressively.
Focus On One Credit Card
It can be challenging to form a payment plan if you have multiple credit cards with high balances. However, the snowball or high-interest technique can help you focus on one credit card. Paying off one credit card at a time can help you stay motivated and on track.
The snowball method helps you pay off your debt by starting with your smallest debt. If your smallest balance is $1,000, that’s the credit card you should focus on paying off first. Paying off your smallest debt first is the easiest and quickest option. Pay as much as possible on that debt and pay the minimum on all other credit cards. Then once you pay off that credit card, you move on to the next smallest debt.
The high-interest plan means focusing on the credit card that has the highest interest rate. The higher the interest rate, the more you will pay to borrow money. You keep more money in your pocket by first paying off the card with the highest annual percentage rate. You can view your credit card APR on your monthly statement or your online account.
Debt consolidation can simplify your life and help you save money on interest fees. Consolidating debt means merging various debts into one account. Most consumers use a personal loan or balance transfer card to consolidate credit card debt because these installment options typically offer lower interest rates.
Use Personal Loans
A personal loan is a great debt consolidation loan option. Eligible borrowers can get a sizable lump sum to pay off multiple credit cards over a few months or years. Repaying credit card debt can be difficult because consumers do not get a repayment schedule. You are forced to calculate a payoff date based on estimated monthly payments. Personal loans provide a dependable repayment schedule with a final payment date so you know when you can expect to be debt free.
To qualify for a personal loan, you generally need a decent credit score and a steady source of income. Do you have a low credit rating? Don’t worry! Many personal loan lenders have flexible qualification requirements, so almost anyone can be eligible to get emergency cash. You can easily find personal loans for people with bad credit online. Bad credit loans are easier to get, although you should still take time to compare loan offers.
When you consolidate credit card debt, you can pay fewer interest fees with personal loans because rates are generally decent. Credit cards tend to have extremely high rates, which can make the repayment process difficult. But you could end up saving money by paying off your credit cards with a personal loan.
Use a Balance Transfer Card
A balance transfer credit card is a particular credit card that you can use to consolidate existing credit card debt. Qualification for balance transfers depends on your credit score and income. You may not get a high credit limit if you have low credit, so you can only transfer balances up to your credit limit.
Balance transfer cards typically come with a 0% introductory APR, which helps you save additional money if you pay off your debt before the promotional period ends. However, the interest rate often skyrockets after the promotional period ends, so you can end up with the exact APR you originally had. If you want to use a balance transfer card, ask about the regular APR before you make a final decision. Or ensure you can pay off the balance entirely before the end of the 0% introductory APR period.
A balance transfer may also incur additional fees for the consumer. Almost every balance transfer card has a balance transfer fee, which is either a flat fee or a percentage of the total balance you transfer. If you have a lot of debt to transfer, a balance transfer card may not be financially suitable for you.
The Bottom Line: Dealing With Credit Card Debt
It is entirely normal to have credit card debt. However, credit card debt can become a problem if you max out your credit limits and only pay the minimum each month. Carrying a credit card balance costs a lot of money since the interest rates are typically high with credit card companies. Working to pay down your debt can save you money and improve your credit score.
Credit card debt affects your credit score by 30%! Your credit can decrease when your total balances are more than 30% of your available credit. Low credit scores can limit your financial opportunities and cost you more money. But by actively working on paying off your balances, you can avoid overwhelming credit card debt! If you have more debt than you can manage, you can consolidate that debt to simplify the repayment process.