Has this ever happened to you? You’re sending your credit card payments faithfully each month, but for some reason you’re credit card balance isn’t budging. There are a few reasons this can happen. And the good news is, you can make some small tweaks and start actually seeing some progress with your credit card balance.
Your payments aren’t big enough to reduce your credit card balance.
I know your credit card issuer only requires you to send a small payment each month. The minimum payment is easy to make and lets you keep more of your money for other things, but it’s not good for paying off a balance.
The minimum payment barely covers your credit card interest. Didn’t know you were paying interest on your balance? Check your credit card statement and you’ll see a transaction called “finance charge.” That’s your interest. Chances are, your minimum payment isn’t much more than your finance charge. That’s why your balance is only going down by a small amount each month.
For example, if your credit card balance is $1,000; your finance charge is $15, and your minimum payment is $30. Your balance actually will actually go down by $15 rather than the whole $30. You’ll have to pay much more than the minimum to really see a difference in your balance.
Your finance charge is based on your credit card’s interest rate and your balance. The higher these two numbers are, the higher your finance charge will be and the more you’ll have to pay to make a dent in your credit card balance.
Here’s how to get a rough estimate of your finance charge. Divide your interest rate by 12 and then multiply that by your credit card balance.
For example, if your interest rate is 16% (or .16) and your balance is $1,000. You would multiply .013 by $1,000 to get an approximate finance charge of $13.00. If you want your balance to actually go down by $50, you need to cover the interest and pay an extra $50. That means you need to send a total of $63 for your balance to truly decrease by $50.
If you have a high interest rate, you can call your credit card issuer to request a lower rate. A good credit score and payment history will help you negotiate. If you’re successful, your finance charges will go down and more of your monthly payments will go toward actually reducing your balance.
You’re just charging as much as you’re paying.
If you’re paying a large lump sum toward your balance, but also using your credit card for just as much as the payment. Your balance will remain about the same.
Say, your balance is $1,000 and you send in a $200 monthly payment. Your balance would drop down to $800 once your payment is applied. However, if you spend $180 on purchases, then you’re charged $15 in interest, your balance will go back up to $995 on your next credit card statement.
You have to stop using your credit card to see real progress in paying off your balance. That might mean paying a little less on your credit card, e.g. $100 instead of $200. That will leave you with another $100 to spend on necessities and you won’t have to use your credit card.
You’re paying more fees than you realize.
Your credit card balance may not go down if fees are being added to your account each month. Most people know they’re charged a late fee whenever the payment is received after the due date, but there are other credit card fees to watch out for.
You could be hit with cash advance fees if you’re taking out cash advances, using your credit card for overdraft protection, or making cash equivalent transactions. Cash equivalent transactions include purchases of things like money orders, wire transfers, and traveler’s checks.
Any fees charged to your account are listed on your credit card statement, so pay close attention to all the transactions. If your payment doesn’t cover the fees, your credit card balance may actually go up instead of down.
You can offset credit card fees by increasing your monthly payment. But, the better move is to reduce, or eliminate, the fees you’re paying. Make your credit card payment on time to avoid late fees. Avoid balance transfers and cash advances if you’re trying to pay off a balance since these incur fees.