It’s Time to Pay Those Holiday Credit Card Purchases: Here’s How to Manage
This is the kind of hangover that can really cause some damage.
It's a little over a month since Christmas Day, and New Jersey residents are facing the bill for all the holiday gifts and entertainment they may have purchased with the simple swipe of a credit card.
Known in the industry as the holiday debt hangover, credit experts say it's important for consumers to address these charges quickly in order to avoid a hit to one's credit score and overall financial security.
With the average rate on credit cards sitting in the 17 to 19 percent range, missed payments or even minimum payments come with financial consequences that can bury a consumer over time.
"There needs to be a sense of urgency here," said Paul Oster, CEO and founder of credit repair firm Better Qualified in Eatontown. "I suggest three months; come up with a way to eliminate as much debt as you possibly can within three months."
The game plan to cut credit card debt within 90 or so days means some sacrifices may have to be made, such as avoiding the daily coffee trip on the way to work, or cooking dinner instead of ordering take-out over the weekends.
"People are amazed at the amount of money they can save by just paying attention to the amount of money they spend," Oster said.
One could also make a dent by applying their year-end bonus to the debt amount, or the money expected in a tax refund over the next few months.
According to Oster, it's important to make at least the minimum payments on all bills. Beyond that, it's best in most cases to identify the card with the highest interest rate and apply all extra money to that bill, he said.
"Carrying a debt service, especially a revolving debt, is the worst thing that you can do," Oster said.
Using data from the Federal Reserve, CreditCards.com noted on Jan. 20 that U.S. credit card balances have hit $1 trillion. That's the highest mark since January 2009, but it's assumed consumers are in a better position now to pay off debt than they were during the recession.
A new report from the same group found nearly 75 percent of American shoppers made an "impulse purchase" this past holiday season. The majority of these purchases went to the buyers themselves.
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