Swiping your credit card is more expensive than ever before and lower-income households have been especially impacted by inflation, using credit for necessities such as groceries, gas, and rent.
The Federal Reserve has signaled its commitment to keep raising interest rates in an effort to fight inflation, and average credit card APRs — now at a record 19.42 percent — are expected to surpass 20 percent in 2023.
If you have an unpaid balance, you are probably in shock at how fast rates have risen. In 2017, the average APR on a credit card was lower than 13 percent. From 2018 to the early 2022, it hovered around 14.5 percent.
Early in the pandemic, many Americans paid down credit card debt thanks to government stimulus checks and relief payments and no place to spend money during protracted travel and leisure shutdowns.
Credit card APRs could go as high as 20.5 percent by the end of 2023, according to Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, CNBC reported.
Bankrate found that 45 percent of cardholders who make less than $50,000 tend to pay their monthly bills in full while 63 percent of cardholders who make $100,000 or more pay on time in full every month.
Since most credit cards have a variable rate, there’s a direct connection to the Fed’s benchmark. As the federal funds rate rises, so do the prime rate and credit card rates. Cardholders usually see the impact within one or two billing cycles.
Here are some ways experts suggest you can manage high-cost credit card debt and pay less in APR charges.
If any of your cards are charging more than 19 percent interest, negotiate them down by asking your credit card provider to lower them, The Penny Hoarder suggested.
Mention it if you have a history of making your monthly payments on time, mention it if you are getting offers in the mail from other credit card providers and mention it if you’ve had the same credit card for a while. Your credit card company wants to keep your business.
The worst they can do is say “no.”
Pay down credit card debt aggressively and with a sense of urgency, McBride advised. That means transferring your balance to a 0 percent rate card and not charging unless you can pay the balance in full at the end of the month, he said.
Cards offering 15, 18 and even 21 months with no interest on transferred balances “are still in abundance,” McBride added. “This gives you a tailwind to get the debt paid off and shields you from the effect of additional rate hikes still to come.”
Instead of finding a card with the lowest interest rate, many people prioritize rewards such as cash back. That can be a mistake if you’re carrying a balance.
“If you have debt, I would say forget about rewards entirely. Because it doesn’t make sense to pay 20% interest to get 1 or 2 or even 5% back or airline miles,” said senior industry analyst Ted Rossman of Bankrate. “You’ve got to put that interest rate first and then worry about rewards later on, once you’ve paid it off.”
A loan with a lower interest rate could be used to pay off credit cards and potentially savethousands of dollars in interestwith little or no money down. It’s easier than you think to get a personal loan online or from your bank, according to The Penny Hoarder. If you’re a homeowner, another option might be a home equity loan.