How to pay off multiple credit cards

Simplify your credit card debt 

Do you really need more than one credit card? Here's how to get rid of your debt and feel the stress melt away.

Keep up your credit card repayments

Pay off as much as you can every month to reduce interest. Make sure you pay at least the minimum monthly repayment to avoid late payment or default fees.

Your monthly statement gives you information about how long it will take to pay off the entire balance by making minimum repayments.

Pay the highest interest rate or smallest debt first

When choosing which credit card to get rid of first, you can:

  • Pay off the credit card with the highest interest rate first - In addition to making minimum payments on all cards, pay more on the card with the highest interest rate, so you pay off the total amount on that card first. Then work your way through your other cards.
  • Pay off the card with the smallest debt first - Keep making minimum payments on all cards, and pay more on the card with the smallest debt, so you pay off the total amount on that card first. Then work on paying off the next smallest debt, and so on.

Whatever option you choose, stop using all but one of your credit cards, and try to only use it for emergencies.

Work out the fastest way to pay off your credit cards.

Credit card calculator

Credit card case study: Emma's smart choice

Young woman working out how to pay off her credit card debtEmma owes a total of $10,000 on her three credit cards. The interest rates on the cards average 20%. The minimum monthly repayments for the three cards total $200.

If Emma only makes the minimum repayments, it would take her 66 years to pay off her debt and she would pay over $44,000 in interest.

Instead, she decides to pay $300 a month towards her debt. This will pay off her debt in about 4 years, and save her almost $40,000 in interest.

Credit card balance transfer

Another option is to move your debts across to a balance transfer credit card with a lower interest rate for a set period.

To get the full benefit of a balance transfer credit card, make sure you pay off the full balance transfer amount before the balance transfer period ends.   

To avoid any nasty surprises, make sure you check what interest rate will apply:

  • After the balance transfer period ends - because you will pay this higher interest rate on any balance you transfer across but do not pay off in time
  • On new purchases - as any purchases you make using your new card will usually attract a higher interest rate than the special balance transfer rate.

Close each credit card account as you pay it off

As you clear the debt on each card, close the account by contacting your provider. If you don't close the account properly, you may still have to pay fees, even if you no longer use the card.

Lower your credit card limit

You may decide to keep one credit card for emergencies and online payments. If so, lower the credit limit on it to an amount that you can repay within 3 months, say $2,000.

Get debt help if you need it

If you are having problems juggling your debts, it is important to act quickly to get help. If you just ignore it, you may have difficulty obtaining credit in the future if your credit report is affected.

If you need help with your debts:

  • Contact your credit provider straight away - You may be able to organise an agreed repayment plan until you pay off your debt or until a temporary financial problem is resolved.
  • Get help from a financial counsellor - Financial counsellors offer a free service and can
    help you sort out your debts.

Having multiple credit cards means more debt and more stress. Try to reduce the number of credit cards you have, and make sure your credit limit is one you can afford.

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Last updated: 18 Apr 2017